'Law of the jungle': Govt's new social media policy comes under criticism in Senate.

Byline: Nadir Guramani

The government's new social media policy came under criticism in the Senate on Friday, with lawmakers accusing the government of having bypassed the parliament in drafting the rules.

PPP Senator Rubina Khalid while raising the matter in the House said, "We had been assured that the new rules [regarding digital media] would be brought before the Senate committee but they were not brought before us."

She said that the ministry had promised that the committee would be made aware of the new rules before they were taken to the federal cabinet but that was not the case. She added that a notice should be taken of the matter and protest should be registered against the rules.

Meanwhile, Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party Senator Muhammad Usman Khan Kakar opposed what he called the government move to "control social media", saying that people are not being allowed to use social media the country.

"We do not accept this law of the jungle," he said, adding that journalists are being "restricted" and some have even been kidnapped or murdered.

It had emerged on Wednesday that the government has approved a controversial new policy for regulating digital media. Under the new rules, social media companies will be required to submit information such as subscriber information, traffic data and content data to a designated investigation agency when sought, failing which they can be fined up to Rs500 million.

The social media companies will also be required to establish an office in Islamabad within the next three months and appoint a focal person.

As per the rules, the social media platforms will also have to remove any content deemed "unlawful" and pointed out to them through writing or electronically-signed email within 24 hours or in cases of emergency, within six hours.

'They have lost their minds'

Meanwhile, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) Senator Abdul Ghafoor Hyderi took exception to the prime minister's statement regarding Maulana Fazlur Rehman. The premier had told journalists earlier today that Rehman should be tried for treason for talking about the ouster of the government.

'They have lost their minds," the JUI-F senator declared.

'If the prime minister says this then the Article should be applicable, who is the obstacle?' he questioned, daring the government to 'take the historic step' of filing a treason case.

'Such cases have been made [against us] in the past as well. Pervez Musharraf charged us with treason. Where is he...

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