A Surveillance State

10/27/2019

The government of Pakistan is keen on monitoring online traffic. Despite many criticisms of the regime established under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016, the government, it seems, is adamant to carry on as it wishes. The government not amending the said act reveals that it wants to exploit the loopholes in the law to its advantage against any criticism of its policies and actions. The latest news that the government is working with Sandvine to monitor the internet traffic informs one about the true intentions of the government.

That government wants to gag dissent in the country is now an open secret. And the track record of the said firm is controversial. How can the government collaborate with a firm that has a chequered ethical history? Only last year the firm was blamed for its Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) equipment being used by many states to block political, journalistic and human rights content. All such actions of the government are transforming the country into an Orwellian State. Though the government officials deny Pakistan’s engagements with Sandvine, the story published in Coda says otherwise. The allegations made in the report of Coda needs a retort from the government of Pakistan.
However, the report is a thorough piece of investigative journalism. The story details every move of collaboration between the Pakistani government and the controversial firm. Will the government officials still deny its involvement with the Sandvine, as Azam Swati, Minister for Parliamentary Affairs tried to mislead the Senate earlier. Even if for a moment one concedes to government’s argument that doing so is necessary for keeping the country secure, the officials forget that partnering with an international company also grants access to a third party that can make things more complicated.
The government needs to rethink the whole exercise, for going for monitoring internet traffic will result in a violation of citizens’ rights to privacy, expression and information to name a few. Why is it the case that the state is not trusting its people but trusting a firm like Sandvine that is already a controversial entity? Especially after the Cambridge Analytica scandal, the government should be aware of the cons of sharing its citizens’ data with technology companies. Nevertheless, the government will try to penetrate any person’s privacy. It is, however, the job of the opposition parties and civil society to put pressure on the government to give up on such a dangerous expedition of curtailing civil liberties