Thousands attended funeral prayers for singer-turned-preacher Junaid Jamshed, who was killed in the PK-661 air crash last week, after which he was laid to rest at Darul Uloom Korangi in Karachi amid tears and sobs.The prayers led by religious scholar Maulana Tariq Jameel were held at AKD Ground, DHA Phase 8, after Zuhr on Thursday (today) amid strict security Continue Reading…
The Pakistan Army on Wednesday contradicted a news item which it said appeared in a section of media and on social media that Chief of the Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa and Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee General Zubair Mahmood Hayat met Hussain Nawaz, the son of Prime Continue Reading…
The world’s youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai and gamer Sumail Hassan have now made it to Times’ 30 Most Influential Teens of 2016.
Sumail Hassan, now 17, won his team Evil Geniuses the Defense of the Ancient 2 (Dota 2) Asian championship in China last year when he was just 15 years old. The team bagged $1.2 million in prize money at the competition.
“Hassan has become the youngest person ever to earn $1 million playing competitive video games, making him a phenomenon in the rapidly growing world of ‘e-sports’,” states the publication’s website.
The child prodigy moved to the US in 2014 and spent some of his winnings – now at $2.3 million and counting – to buy a house for his family.
Nobel laureate, Malala Yousafzai has been fighting for girls’ right to education for almost a decade now. Her organisation The Malala Fund has received funding from famous personalities worldwide. Currently, the 19-year-old is working towards urging “world leaders to set aside $1.4 billion this year toward educating young refugees,” says Times.
Malala was shot by Taliban when she was 11 years old for braving against the ban on girls’ education in her hometown Swat.
The Times’ annual list includes children from the tender age of 14. The criteria to be a part of this list, Times shares, is: ‘we consider accolades across numerous fields, global impact through social media and overall ability to drive news.
LAHORE: The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) on Monday issued show-cause notices to 72 cable TV operators in the Lahore region for showing excessive foreign content during the last two days after expiry of the deadline, Oct 15.
Pemra had announced on Aug 31 that strict action would be taken against the channels airing foreign content more than the prescribed limit and the traders selling illegal Indian Direct-to-Home (DTH) sets.
Only 10pc of the airtime is allowed for foreign content while the maximum limit for Indian content is six percent in 24 hours.
The Pemra authorities had also fixed the time for Indian news and entertainment channels content could be shown from 4pm to 7pm.
Indian content allowed only from 4pm to 7pm
Pemra Lahore Region Assistant Manager Operations Hafiz Jamil told Dawn that they were taking strict action against the local cable TV networks for showing excessive foreign content.
He said the regional general manager had proposed a comprehensive plan with coordination of sub-offices Faisalabad and Sargodha and constituted 16 teams. During the drive, 124 inspections of cable TV operators were made across the region and only 39 violations were observed on Oct 16 when the teams confiscated 161 equipments.
Mr Jamil added the regional office Lahore, sub-offices Faisalabad and Sargodha had made 102 inspections of cable TV operators across the region and observed 33 violations. The teams issued show-cause notices to the violators of different cable TV operators and also seized equipment of 70 during raids. He said eight
FM radio stations were also inspected and no one was found violating the Pemra rules.
“Pemra teams faced resistance from certain cable TV operators and police were called to establish Pemra writ. The operators were first issued notices and given a chance to defend themselves before the decision to cancel their licences.”
Pemra regional manager Dr Safdar Rehman said the Lahore team had not yet registered any case against the cable TV operators and no one was found guilty of showing foreign content in the area.
According to our Sialkot correspondent, five cable operators’ offices were sealed on Monday by Pemra teams in Sialkot.
Pemra Inspector Qaiser Shehzad Tarar told reporters the operators were found airing Indian channels in Maraakiwal, Merajkey, Uggoki and Sambrial on their cable networks.
Teams seized equipment found in the offices and recommended cancellation of their licences.
Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) Chairman Absar Alam on Tuesday said a request has been sent to the federal government for a complete ban on airing of Indian content.
The federal government had earlier suggested banning airing of Indian content in a tit-for-tat move after Pakistani content was completely banned by India.
“A letter has been sent to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in this regard,” he said, adding that the federal government would decide on the matter within a week.
The Pemra chairman insisted that as India has banned films starring Pakistani artists, “we will have to do the same”.
Alam also said a crackdown was initiated against illegal Indian Direct-to-Home (DTH) sets on Oct 15, adding that action is being taken against cable operators who do not comply with the instructions.
The Pemra chairman said Pemra has received a complaint against three television channels that have been airing more than 6 per cent Indian content.
As per the law, only 10pc of airtime is allowed for foreign content, while the maximum limit for Indian content is 6pc in 24 hours.
“If the channels are found guilty they will be banned”, Absar Alam added.
In regard to the Pakistani DTH licences, the Pemra chairman said that seven more companies have requested the licence, whereas nine companies have already been shortlisted.
He added that 16 requests have been received for three DTH licences and the licences will be granted over the next few weeks. Alam added that the floor price for the DTHs has been kept at Rs200 million.
A company owned by PML-N leaders and Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s son Hamza Shahbaz has also been shortlisted for DTH licence, he said.
Earlier in October, Pemra granted Absar Alam the authority to revoke or suspend licences of companies airing Indian content without providing prior notice.
On Aug 31, Pemra had announced that strict action would be taken against the channels airing foreign content more than the prescribed limit and traders selling illegal DTH sets.
In the heart of the Karakoram mountains lies the fabled Lukpe Lawo ─ the oft-unexplored Snow Lake.
Hopping on the large boulders of Biafo glacier, I was drenched in sweat and panting.
As I paused to catch my breath, my eyes moved towards the path that led to Baltoro glacier, reminding me of the ordeals I faced a few years ago after stepping on the glacial moraine and the boulders of Baltoro glacier.
It was my first encounter with glaciers and that too with Baltoro, [often termed ‘Bal-Toro’ in Urdu, meaning bone breaker].
I remembered all the group members, including myself, using all sorts of nasty names from our personal vocabularies to describe the terrain and varied moraines of Baltoro.
Having left Askole and stepping on Biafo’s boulders, Baltoro’s brutalities seemed like silly little pranks of a mischievous child.
All those words that I had given to Baltoro in 2010, were passed on to ‘honour’ the ‘glory’ of Biafo’s crusts and turfs; most of them starting with B [whether in English, Urdu or Punjabi!].
My mind was set before embarking on this journey, termed as the most difficult trek of Pakistan’s north.
Where I was going had a reputation well above that of word of mouth. The terrain was the most terrifying and tormenting ‘mettle tester’ in every way. But then the destination too was not ordinary.
In the heart of the Karakoram mountains lies the fabled and fabulous Snow Lake
Lakes are often called the mirrors of mountains, but a lake exists that does not reflect anything because its water is frozen.
Lukpe Lawo, famously known as Snow Lake, lies in the heart of Panmah Muztagh range which is a sub-range of the Karakoram mountains. Actually it’s a high altitude glacial basin which was discovered by a British mountaineer, Martin Conway, in 1892.
Only a few lucky souls have seen this 16 km-wide frozen lake located 4,877 metres above sea level on the convergence point of the Hispar and Biafo glaciers.
Both glaciers together form the world’s longest glacial system (100 km) outside the polar regions — 67 km long Biafo alone is the world’s third longest glacier, whereas the Hispar glacier is 49 km long. The Snow Lake traverse uses all of Hispar glacier’s length and 51 km of Biafo glacier’s length.
The ancient kingdoms of Baltistan and Nagar are located in the opposite direction of Snow Lake. We started our journey from Skardu which falls in Baltistan, and after crossing Biafo glacier and scaling the Hispar Pass (5,128m) and its glacier, we would have reached Hunza.
Being a sub-range of the Karakoram mountains the Panmah Muztagh too has some prominent peaks for climbing, such as Baintha Brakk or The Ogre (7,285m), Latok Group (7,145m), Sosbun Brakk (6,413m) and Solu Towers (5,947m). Different features distinguish them from the rest of the Karakoram — Panmah Muztagh range is much rockier and steeper with complex granite formations.
At Namla, the first campsite on the Biafo glacier, a sign board describing Namla as a sighting place for snow-leopards greeted us. Our porters and a very talkative guide told us that markhor too can be seen on the surrounding cliffs.
We were further informed that various hunters come to Biafo to try their luck, and the presence of hunter posts on the way to the Biantha campsite confirmed this.
Hunters come to the posts in summer and stay for several days in quest of their bounty. A few hunt for hobby while the rest hunt for selling and often sell markhor meat for 7,000 rupees per kilo.
We had a rest day at the Baintha campsite to relax our stiff and cramped muscles. Around noon we heard gunshots; somebody whispered “Markhors are being hunted.”
After some time a hunter came and offered markhor meat to us. He had sold almost all the meat and was left with just 5kg which he did not want to carry the entire length of the Biafo.
All of us knew that markhor is one of the ‘near threatened’ species so nobody was interested but the hunter knew all the tricks of marketing and managed to convince most of the expedition members to ‘taste’ the most expensive meat of our lives.
The markhor had been killed and we had no involvement in his cold-blooded murder, so the top management decided to enjoy the ‘God sent’ opportunity.
The meat was handed over to our expert cook who told us that, since we were in the wilderness of mountains with no proper kitchen facility, we should not expect the feast to be ready before two hours.
We spent the long wait relaxing and inhaling the aroma of the food being cooked.
After battling with the kerosene stove for more than two hours, our cook served lunch.
It took me quite some time to chew the first bite; even after being cooked for over two hours the meat was still like rubber.
It tasted good (thanks to the chef’s culinary skills) but climbing on cliffs gave the markhor tough meat. I left the rest in my plate and finished the rice as did a few others.
After coming back from this expedition, I learnt that the Gilgit Baltistan government auctioned off the markhor hunting license for 6.2 million rupees.
The next campsite that we reached was on the upper surface of the glacier which was cluttered with stones of all sizes eroded from the mountain cliffs.
Biafo is notorious for being cluttered with time and energy consuming lethal crevasses and to avoid these we took the longer route.
Fresh snowfall covers crevasses and makes them deadlier. Since it was summer, the centuries-old glacial ice and snow was melting and the water was going deep into the maze of hidden and deep crevasses.
It seemed as though this entire orchestra of nature was perhaps crooning the last couplet of Rumi’s poem,
‘Be melting snow. Wash yourself of yourself.’
Dancing around crevasses and jumping on the boulders, somehow we crossed two more stages and reached the mouth of Snow Lake.
Here we rested for a while, while the porters served us soup in the majestic span of Snow Lake.
Then we started to ascend the Hispar La; the climb was way more toilsome than it appeared, a couple of times the ice cracked beneath the feet and one or the other group member came close to falling down the bottomless deep crevasses but thankfully we were prepared — tied up with rope and group formation, and the expertise of the guides came to our rescue.
By afternoon we were on top of the Hispar La. The view from 5,128m above sea level was spectacular.
The famous Italian climber and mountain guide Hervé Barmasse has won nine international awards for climbing and opening new routes on various unclimbed peaks. He has climbed more than 30 peaks, most of which were ‘first ascents’.
In an article about peaks around Biafo glacier and Snow Lake, published in 2013 in American Alpine Journal, a prestigious publication of the world of climbing, he states, “In five expeditions to different areas of the Karakoram, I’ve climbed virgin peaks and new routes up to 7,000m, but never seen a place like Snow Lake, its particular features making it so aptly named.”
The panoramic view from the top of Hispar La substantiated his words.
This corner of Karakoram is almost unexplored; unlike the Baltoro or main Karakoram, very few climbers turn to this side.
Peaks around Snow Lake are more challenging, but yet to be explored and ascended.
Some of them are not even touched and named; in the language of climbing such peaks are called ‘Virgin Peaks’. Aspiring climbers can try their luck and give their names to unnamed peaks, and enrich the history of climbing.
Pakistan maintains one of the world’s largest centralised citizen databases, which continues to expand at an unprecedented rate. This mammoth task sounds impressive, but it also raises concerns about the vulnerability of our data.
There is no denying the database’s utility. Multi-layered digitisation of big data can offer guarantees for greater transparency. Indeed, in the best-case scenario, sophisticated mobilisation of big data can refine the state’s service delivery mechanisms.
The Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP), for instance, is one biometric transition success story in Pakistan.
The BISP’s increasing automation reflects how biometric verification of credentials acknowledges the non-static, dynamic nature of data. The programme facilitates nearly 5.3 million women in accessing welfare support through real-time thumbprint recognition.
On the other end, insufficient legal safeguards to curb abuse of surveillance knowledge by law-enforcement agencies (LEAs) raises red flags.
These concerns are not unfounded considering the exceedingly vigilant security regime under which rights defenders, citizen activists, and journalists operate in Pakistan’s data territory.
Given the size of biometrically-contained human records in the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) repository and the extent to which data-sharing occurs across, between, and beyond government agencies and LEAs, the scale of this vulnerability is likely to be huge.
Read: CNIC re-verification hit by major technical snag
With Computerised National Identification Cards (CNICs) as testaments of having our consolidated biometric data stored with principally a single entity; and with an inevitably recurrent use of this CNIC and of biometrically-registered SIM cards while conducting our daily consumer mobility and monetary interactions, the ideals of free movement and of unmonitored human communication for the citizens, are breached in their fundamental.
It can be rationally imagined that only when surveillance on communications is regulated exhaustively and when limitations on the jurisdiction of this surveillance are very thoroughly defined – which is possible when there are efficient legal protections accessible to all citizens indiscriminately – the privacy of citizens and the democratic guarantees that their personal data are not exploited, will not be threatened.
The desperate need for biometric data management
The simple fact is that biometric data management is yet to mature.
Accidental data leakage, forgery with identification documents leading to identification theft and duplication, and inaccuracies in the handling of even legitimate documents, are insecurities of scale and have incredible damaging externalities.
Risks associated with these externalities become more profound in the intricate dynamics — including a refugee management crisis, an overwhelming population, and a climate of intense censorship — of countries like Pakistan.
These challenges are exacerbated when infrastructure and staff competencies in the use of biometric technology are not adequate and thorough.
Explore: Afghan refugees’ children can’t get CNICs: Nisar
Opportunities which biometric data amassment has to offer, merit a pragmatic acknowledgement of existing structural and legal voids which prevent the prioritisation of the protection of individual privacy, and which continue to generate pressing questions on the efficacy of this technology for public development and responsive governance.
Mass-scale surveillance and the law
In Pakistan, the space for an autonomous Privacy Commission gains prominence to respond to the critical need for the examination of an exceptionally large surveillance data.
This need grows further in the scenario where the government is investing heavily in mass-scale digital surveillance of its citizens and visitors through projects like the Punjab Safe Cities Project (PSCP).
The PSCP will reportedly have more than 8,000 cameras installed across its premises, and is now being extended to include Rawalpindi, Multan, Gujranwala, and Faisalabad.
Similarly, the Islamabad Safe City Project (ISCP) gives LEAs sweeping intrusive powers through 24 hours of intensively-networked, real-time virtual monitoring with around 1,800 high definition Huawei CCTV cameras worth over Rs13 billlion installed in the capital city and connected to Nadra’s centralised biometric repository.
As shared by ISCP project director Dr Tahir Akram with Dawn, the project’s command centre will be able to “monitor every car coming out of any residential sector in Islamabad”.
Read: Operators to spend more on Sim verification drive
This arrangement between safe city projects and Nadra affords the kind of arbitrariness to data handlers that pervasively encroaches on the civil freedom of sociopolitically vulnerable sections of the citizenry, to claim anonymity.
It therefore becomes important to question what guarantees are being supplied for the protection of this surveillance data during its retention with Nadra, and what extent of this retention carries involvement of Huawei’s equipment.
Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016 and the way forward
The recently-enacted Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA, 2016) further legitimises the demand for independent data protection authorities and an increased jurisdiction of the National Commission for Human Rights as also outlined in the 2015 Charter of Demands jointly prepared by digital rights organisations Bytes for All, Pakistan, and Media Matters for Democracy.
Simultaneously, it is crucially significant that the data-handling and investigative capacities of FIA’s National Response Centre for Cyber Crimes, are rapidly evaluated and optimised. This will ensure that PECA is enforced keeping in view the local dynamics where the government has still not rolled out enough campaigns for the purpose of educating the cyberspace occupiers in the country about the legal implications of this law on their cyber rights and responsibilities.
A glaring void currently exists between the extensive criminalisation of the Internet landscape that PECA’s enactment has mobilised into law and the public’s nascent information and comprehension of the intricacies of its legalities.
Equally concerning is that PECA’s language contains considerable opportunity for the subjectivity of the investigating regulator to claim a determinant jurisdiction.
Explore: The state bytes back: Internet surveillance in Pakistan
In the backdrop of Pakistan’s dictatorial history with digital censorship and the political exploitation of the blasphemy law, to invest potentially unmonitored authority in a regulatory body, will make the ambiance of cyber expression only more precarious.
To refer to PECA as ‘archaic’ is no exaggeration.
In its quite expansive coverage and criminalisation of cyber activism, it criminalises the act of whistleblowing. It also makes highly controversial way for a warrantless collection of one’s personal digital data and its reproduction to Pakistan’s foreign cooperation partners.
With now a fiercer surveillance regime in place, Pakistan currently experiences one of the world’s most desperate urgencies to ensure the presence and preparedness of an assertive oversight and transparency regime.
In terms of transparency, it is expected of the federal and provincial governments to educate the public on the use of their Right to Information for greater documentation on surveillance practices, to be brought into the public domain.