Pakistan Has No Access to Cyber Crimes Data Due to Absence of Treaty with US

Contrary to India and most of the Middle East countries, Pakistan has no access to cyber crimes data from other countries. This is due to the absence of a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) with the US, where crucial data resides. Due to this, FIA faces issues when it comes to curbing cyber crimes.

This was stated by Mohammad Shoaib Director Cyber Crimes Wing Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) while briefing the Senate Standing Committee on Information Technology and Telecommunication, which met with Rubina Khalid in the chair here on Tuesday.

The FIA officials also proposed amendments to improve Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) 2016, as some clauses are impeding effective investigation of cases and successful prosecution.

“FIA neither has a preventive mandate, nor can it indulge in legal monitoring of cyber crimes. It only has a post crime mandate, resulting in obstructions in controlling cyber crimes”, said Shoaib.

The committee asked PTA and FIA to come up with proposed amendment regarding an effective monitoring and investigation mechanism under the PECA, 2016 within a week.

The Committee after detailed discussion came down to the conclusion that monitoring of cyber content should be in domain of FIA instead of PTA so that it can monitor the content and then start inquiries and investigation without any loss of time in getting complaints from PTA or other sources.

The Committee took briefings from PTA and FIA regarding their mandate and initiatives to curb social media offences, especially in cases where children are kidnapped and used for pornography.

The Committee was told that the FIA only has limited investigative powers and cannot initiate an inquiry on its own unless it receives a complaint from an individual and or any organization.

Under the PECA, 2016 the monitoring mechanism has to be developed and followed by PTA, a role which should be ideally given to FIA. The Committee directed the two bodies to come up with an amendment seeking the same and present it before the Committee. The Committee also decided to write to the Secretary Interior to give update as to what are the obstacles in signing MLAT for effective cyber-crime fighting in coordination with global social media platforms.

Unlike Pakistan, countries like Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, Indonesia and Malaysia have entered into agreements with the US. “Even India has signed the MLAT with the US and because of this New Delhi is able to get access to objectionable contents within 24 hours. Pakistan needs to sign the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) with the US to remove the objectionable content and will have access to cyber crimes data, FIA officials added.

The committee was further informed that cyber crime rules for FIA are issued after two years, while for PTA these rules are yet to be formulated/approved by the IT Ministry.

An FIA official informed the committee that due to increasing trend of cyber crime in Pakistan, FIA Cyber Clime Unit (NR3C) has expanded its Cyber crime Reporting Centers from 5 to 15. The strength of Cyber Investigators at Cyber Crime Reporting Centers are to be increased to meet the growing challenges and volume of cyber complaints in Pakistan. All the Cyber Crime Reporting Centers are to be equipped with state-of-Art digital forensic capabilities, which will enable them to conduct forensic analysis of laptops, computers, mobile, iPad etc.

A total of 06 inquiries and 07 cases have been registered at the cyber crime wing of FIA regarding child pornography. Investigations are under-way to finalize these inquiries.

The meeting was attended by Senators Dr. Ashok Kumar, Muhammad Tahir Bizenjo, Rukhsana Zuberi, Sana Jamali, Taj Muhammad Afridi, Mian Muhammad Ateeq Shaikh, Jamal Asghar Additional Secretary IT&T, Muhammad Naveed Chairman PTA, Captain (R) Muhammad Shoaib Director Cyber Crimes FIA and other officials.