Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication (MoITT) has approached the Interior Ministry to finalize viewpoint on the matter of signing the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) and Budapest Convention with the United States of America (USA), which allows the exchange of evidence and information in cybercrimes.
The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) is facing numerous hardships in obtaining data of alleged cyber-criminals from the US government as the federal government is yet to sign MLAT as well as the cybercrimes clause of Budapest Convention.
MLAT generally allows exchange of evidence and information in criminal and other related matters. The MLAT is negotiated by the Department of State in cooperation with the Department of Justice to facilitate cooperation in criminal matters. Around 61 countries have signed MLAT with the USA including India, Malaysia and Turkey, revealed the documents.
Contrary to India and most of the Middle East countries, Pakistan has no access to cybercrime data due to the absence of MLAT with the US where the data resides, obstructing in controlling cybercrimes. Due to this agreement, New Delhi is able to get access to objectionable content within 24 hours.
Previously, the FIA Cyber Crime Wing was dealing with cybercrime cases under the Electronic Transaction Ordinance 2002 under sections 36 & 37. The Prevention of Electronic Crime Act was notified in 2016 and FIA was designated as the agency to implement the Act from November 8, 2018 onwards. However, the Cyber Crime Wing of FIA is facing several issues including non-provision of social media/web-mail service data i.e. Twitter, Whatsapp, Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Snapchat, etc.
The PECA Law 2016 is also being considered as a big hindrance as only 4 sections are cognizable, while sections 10 (cyber-terrorism), 21 (modesty of natural person), 22 (child pornography), 17 (illegal issuance of SIM, on the complaint of PTA) and the rest of punishable sections are non-cognizable, bailable and compoundable. Furthermore, the defamation of state institutions is not covered under PECA.
Official sources revealed that MoITT has taken the matter of MLAT with the Ministry of Interior and Federal investigation Agency (FIA). The MoITT has written a letter to FIA along with lists of signatories of the MLAT (Budapest Convention), with the request to furnish a report regarding improvements after signing the treaty.
Furthermore, as the matter pertains to international cooperation with respect to investigations and law enforcement, therefore Ministry of Interior may finalize the viewpoint in consultation with all stakeholders and share it with MoITT for further process.
Sources said that with each passing day and more technological advancement, the challenge is going to be complicated.
The number of complaints registered after the enactment of PECA-2016 is around 42,500. Under the act, fines imposed by the courts stand at over Rs 11 million. However, the ratio of cybercrimes in Pakistan is increasing by the day.