Pakistan’s Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill came into law in August 2016. This digital crime legislation gives law enforcement agencies wide-ranging powers to detain internet users. The new law, often referred to as “PECB,” turns certain digital activities into dangerous pursuits.
If you are visiting Pakistan and want to get around the regional restrictions that your local TV station’s website operates, you could use a virtual private network (VPN) to fool the site into thinking you’re back home. Others in Pakistan might want to use a VPN to access blocked news sites, or conduct research through foreign databases. However, while these are legitimate and harmless uses of VPNs, trying such strategies in Pakistan may get you into trouble with the law, thanks to PECB. Therefore, you use a VPN in Pakistan at your own risk.
The Pakistani authorities routinely block access to sites that contain pornography, or criticisms of the country’s government. If you are just visiting the state, then you may feel that you are being unfairly restricted – like you just walked in on someone else’s argument. PECB has been extensively criticized throughout the world. Fortunately, the digital crimes sections of the Pakistani police is not that sophisticated. They don’t actually track every internet connection that is made in the country.
PECB is so vaguely worded that a range of seemingly innocent activities on the web could get you into trouble without you realizing it. Covering your tracks with a VPN may actually be a safer option than inadvertently accessing a site that the authorities are tracking. VPNs help anonymize your web surfing and services with additional stealth measures that make your identity and location impossible to trace.
Best VPNs for Pakistan: Summary
|1||NordVPN review||$3.29 / month||Visit Site|
|2||ExpressVPN review||$6.67 / month||Visit Site|
|3||IPVanish review||$5.19 / month||Visit Site|
|4||AirVPN review||$4.82 / month||Visit Site|
|5||BolehVPN review||$6.67 / month||Visit Site|
- No logs policy
- Strong encryption
- Supports P2P
- Multi-hop tunneling available
- Mediocre speeds
The usage tracking policy of NordVPN makes it the safest bet for web surfing in Pakistan. What level of logging does the company implement? None at all. PECB gives the Pakistani government the legal right to stomp around the world and possibly even prosecute foreign companies. That means that they may one day decide to pressure VPN providers into handing over usage logs to enable them to prosecute web surfers in Pakistan.
NordVPN is based in Panama, a country that has no legal requirement for service providers to track the internet access of their customers, or retain logs of connections. Thus any Pakistani legal team that went over to the company brandishing PECB would just be wasting its time. Even better, NordVPN accepts payment by bitcoin, so you can avoid being traced via your bank account details.
One detraction of this VPN provider is that it isn’t the fastest of the bunch. However, it works well for Tor connections, and the service integrates 256-bit AES encryption. A little compromise on speed may be worth the inconvenience, given that this company’s security and anonymity provide you with the maximum defense against a PECB arrest.
- Fast speeds
- Massive server network
- 30-day money-back guarantee
- Hefty encryption
- A little pricey
This VPN provider is also based in a jurisdiction with lax logging requirements. You can also pay for your service with bitcoin. ExpressVPN is a lot faster than NordVPN, while also incorporating 256-bit encryption. Unsurprisingly, the company doesn’t have a server located in Pakistan. However, they do have servers in India, right next door. Perhaps the best option, though, for secure surfing from Pakistan, would be to select their servers in Hong Kong. These operate stealth technology to evade the sophisticated tracking methods operated by authorities in the Republic of China.
The company operates access servers in 87 countries with sites in 136 cities, so is a good choice for those who travel widely, not just to Pakistan.
ExpressVPN is highly rated for its customer support, with online live chat, so you don’t have to fork out for an international call from your Pakistani hotel room.
You may be wondering why ExpressVPN isn’t the number one recommendation in this list. The reason is the price – all the slick bells and whistles that the company has invested in has to be paid for somehow. However, they do offer a 30-day money-back guarantee, and if you refer a friend you get a kickback, so there are ways to reduce the cost of the ExpressVPN service.
- Servers in 60 countries
- P2P allowed
- Strong encryption
- Easy to use
- A little pricey
This service has a few advantages over ExpressVPN, most notably that it is a lot cheaper. The company operates more than 600 servers in 60 countries around the world, which beats the NordVPN network of 54 countries. You can have up to five simultaneous connections with this service – the same number allowed by NordVPN, but more than ExpressVPN, which only allows up to three.
As with the previous two service providers, you get 256-bit encryption and there are no traffic logs retained by the company. You can also pay with bitcoin or PayPal for this service to avoid the authorities tracing your activities to your bank account.
On the downside, the company’s customer service center is not very highly rated by users, and there are cheaper services out there.
- Low price
- Plenty of payment options
- No logs
- Supports P2P
- Server network on the smaller side
This provider gets into the top five because it is probably the most effective service of the cheaper VPNs out there. Given the risks involved in using a VPN from Pakistan, a cheap service is no good to you if it is traceable. This service has all of the security features you need, while keeping the cost down.
How do they get their price so low? They are not very commercial. The business is run by techies and activists, so they don’t spend much on presentation or customer support. This is a good choice for those who have technical skills. You will need to download a program and compile it yourself, because they don’t waste any time or money on slick installer software. Working out which server to connect to might also be a bit of a challenge and the website guides take some exploring in order to get usage instructions.
You can have three simultaneous connections – the same as with ExpressVPN. There is no activity logging with this service and the encryption on connections is above military grade. The company prides itself on being compatible with P2P applications, such as torrent downloading.
The company offers a short, three-day access plan for just €1, so this might be a good option if you just want to protect yourself for a few days while on a stopover in Pakistan. As with the previous VPNs on this list, AirVPN accepts bitcoin.
- Accepts bitcoin
- VPN through Tor
- Two simultaneous connections
- No logs
- Limited customer support options
- Server network on the smaller side
This Malaysia-based VPN company makes in into fifth place on this review of VPNs for Pakistan because of the obfuscation technology integrated into the service. This makes it very difficult for authorities to work out that you are using a VPN service. The company is owner-operated and was specifically set up to help Chinese customers circumvent their government’s “Great Firewall of China.” If they can take on everything that China can throw at them, Pakistan’s tech detectives won’t stand a chance against them!
Just like the other services on this list, you can pay with bitcoin, they have 256-bit encryption, and Pakistani PECB investigators won’t find any activity logs. BolehVPN offers high speeds that are good enough for gamers and they welcome P2P applications. They only operate in 13 countries, despite being more expensive that NordVPN. The closest servers to Pakistan are at the company HQ in Malaysia.
As it is run by its founders rather than marketers, or entrepreneurs, the service tends to cater more to technically-savvy internet users. Regular web surfers might find the technical demands of setting up and using the service a little perplexing. However, they do offer a one-day free trial, so you can ramp up the learning curve for free before you decide to put hard-earned cash into the service.
Pakistan VPN Services: Considerations
You might need a VPN for Pakistan even if you are not in Pakistan. PECB gives the Pakistani authorities the right to track down and prosecute all Pakistani passport holders wherever they are in the world for any of the transgressions listed in the law, or other misdemeanors that can be implied from the bill’s vague wording.
This factor makes it one of the most pervasive cybercrime laws in the world. Beware if you were born outside of Pakistan, but carry a Pakistani passport because of your ancestry: this law could still get you into trouble even if you have never visited Pakistan. Foreign companies can also be prosecuted under PECB and foreign nationals visiting Pakistan are also liable to prosecution.
Be very careful not to give your identity away if you have the habit of writing hot-headed comments on social media, because that will help the Pakistani police track you down despite your use of a VPN. If you are a Pakistani national, keep PECB in mind whenever you access the internet.
VPNs for Pakistan: Conclusion
Bear in mind that articles three and four of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill makes the use of VPNs a hazardous choice. However, the law also restricts your freedom of access to information. If you are a second-generation Pakistani living in another country, you may find this life-long ban on internet usage impossible to bear, which makes a VPN your only option. Choose servers that operate stealth technology, because that feature will make it impossible for the authorities to know that you are using a VPN.