Islamabad (June 08, 2019). Apropos a news item titled ‘Web System to Measure Traffic, Record Voice and Call Data for National Security’ published in daily Dawn on June 08, 2019, a spokesperson of Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) has clarified that the story has narrated selective information by giving an impression that the proposed system, technical in nature, is focused on the ‘national security,’ which is actually not the case.
The spokesperson clarified that as per the Pakistan Telecommunications Re-organization Act 1996, PTA is the sole body authorized to issue licenses, regulate and monitor telecom services in the country. It carries out its functions and duties in accordance with the contours of the legal provisions of the Act. Among others, PTA issues licenses for the Long Distance & International (LDI) services. These licensees are responsible for bringing international calls (traffic) to Pakistan. The traffic coming without involving legal channels and licensees is called ‘Grey Traffic’ and it results in loss to the LDI license holders and GoP. It is in this backdrop that a technical system, discussed in the aforementioned news item in entirely different context, is being deployed, with the joint efforts of all the stake-holders.
It is imperative to state that grey traffic is a crime under relevant laws and PTA efforts to monitor it through a technical solution is in accordance with the law and as per the directions of the Supreme Court and GoP.
Secondly, limited content filtering is also being done as per PECA 2016 and various directions of higher courts and the GoP. Content carrying blasphemous, immoral material, hate speech and anti-state is being addressed and blocked. An automated technical solution to identify such content would also be strictly in accordance with the mandate and available legal framework. Therefore, portraying that the solution is intended to curtail freedom of use of internet by legitimate users is also incorrect.
The Dawn report quotes an Islamabad based ISP owner on issues related to internet traffic. It is important to note that blocking is limited to the content mentioned above. The process is neither intended to nor adds to red-tape or hardship for legitimate users and service providers. Regarding details of content being blocked, it is clarified that a portal based complaint management mechanism is in place through which PTA receives a complaint and after carrying out verification process, content is processed for blocking. All record for such complaints is being maintained and shared with all authorized forums. Therefore, stating that there is lack of transparency in the internet content blocking process is against the facts.