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ISLAMABAD: A parliamentary panel, Friday, recommended for reviewing bilateral engagement with Russia on cyber security, while terming it a matter of sensitive nature and national security.

The Senate Standing Committee on Information Technology and Telecommunication met with Kauda Babar in the chair where Senator Sania Nishtar, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Poverty Alleviation and Social Protection raised serious reservations over engagement with Russia on cyber security matters.

The Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication admitted capacity deficit to meet the growing challenge of cyber security. Officials informed the committee that they were engaged with Russia on capacity building for cyber security matters.

The ministry also admitted that the country was far behind in online transaction inclusion compared to other regional countries. "These are national security matters, how can you make bilateral engagements with Russia even on capacity building," said the Special Assistant to the Prime Minister.

The officials responded that they would review the ongoing engagement with Russian on cyber security-related matters. Sania Nishtar also warned the ministry of hardware shortage, which may result in delay of National Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) project titled, "Cyber Security for Digital Pakistan" worth around Rs2 billion to meet the challenge of cyber security threats.

The secretary MoITT informed the committee that the hiring for the project was already advertised and the National CERT would be operational by June 2022. The CERT will consist of components including, CERT and security operation centre setup, IT security audit, cooperation and capacity building, incident detection, prevention and management facility, and supporting digital forensic and screening labs.

The committee was informed in detail about the Cyber Security Policy, and said the policy had been approved by the cabinet and its main objective included protection of critical infrastructure and sensitive information of the citizens.

They said IT was a field which was developing very fast in the world and at present, there were more than four million jobs worldwide in the cyber security sector.

The secretary Information Technology said that after the implementation of that policy, the most important issues such as cybercrimes and cyber security would be overcome.

The chairman committee issued the directive that work plan should be prepared and it should be implemented as soon as possible, so that the most important issues such as cyber security could be overcome. The issues of mobile phone signal from the Universal Service Fund (USF) in Balochistan were reviewed in detail.

The committee was informed that the USF was working on mobile coverage issues on highways and motorways. Officials revealed that two cellular operators were taking least interest in carrying projects in Balochistan under the USF funding. The committee directed to summon the chief executive officers (CEO) of all the cellular mobile operators (CMOs) to be questioned on network coverage in the province.

USF CEO, Haris Chaudhry, said that due to security issues in some of the areas of Balochistan, they were facing challenges to expand services as well as restore towers. The committee was informed that 50 percent area of Gwadar had been covered while some of the area remained un-served due to security issues.

Chairman Committee Senator Khuda Babar said all kinds of security would be ensured in Gwadar. The committee directed that issues of mobile coverage in Balochistan should be resolved soon, so that all the people of the province could benefit from IT facilities.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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