National Assembly Standing Committee on Information Technology and Telecommunication has decided to carry out post-legislative scrutiny of laws related to cybercrimes in the wake of the increasing magnitude of the cybercrimes and the shortcomings/handicaps in the legal mechanism to address those complaints.
The Standing Committee on Information Technology and Telecommunication met under the chairmanship Ali Khan Jadoon observed that the laws needed to be reviewed.
The issue of fake IDs on social media was raised in the meeting by Gohar Ali, MNA. He said numerous fake IDs of MNAs have been made as well as on the name of all the members of the IT committee.
The rise in fake IDs has become a challenge, said Additional Director Cyber Crimes Wing, adding that cybercrimes were up 120 percent this year. Efforts are underway to make cyberspace safer for users, he added. Around 19,000 complaints of fake IDs were received last year.
More than 45,000 complaints have been received in the first nine months of this year, said Abdul Qadir Qamar Additional Director, adding that Pakistan’s lack of legal cooperation agreement with social media platforms is also a major hurdle in this regard as social media platforms are out of the country.
Some members of the committee observed that FIA has failed to curb cybercrimes where women are the biggest victims of cybercrime. Naz Baloch claimed FIA does not even have a female investigating officer.
Chairman Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) Amir Azeem Bajwa while briefing the committee said that social media rules have not been notified by the Cabinet so far.
Once the rules are notified, all social media companies will be required to open offices in Pakistan, said Bajwa, adding that social media companies also have to nominate their representatives in Pakistan.
Notification of social media rules will solve many problems related to social media, he added.
Handling social media has become a challenge for the whole world, said Bajwa, adding that it takes a long time to investigate cybercrime. If the affected person reports to the social media platform himself after creating a fake account, it will get a good response, he added.
The Committee observed that the magnitude of the public complaints received by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) related to cybercrimes had increased whereas the pace of resolution was very slow which either owe to the capacity issues of the investigating agency or the application of the law.
The Committee also took serious note of the pace of investigation on complaints lodged by two members of the Committee with FIA regarding defamation and intrusion in their privacy by some individuals. The members of the committee had complained that they had to go through the cumbersome process of complaint registration.
The Committee observed that if the Committee members being Parliamentarians had to go through those problems then what to think about civilian complainants. The Committee directed FIA to submit updates on complaints both the MNAs to the Committee in its next meeting.
The Committee also observed that the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016 was either not being implemented or required amendments to bring it in line with the present-day requirements.
Concept of National Center on Cyber Crimes
The Committee decided to discuss the establishment of the concept of National Center on Cyber Crimes with Representation from HEC and AIR University in its next meeting. The Committee was apprised that the National Center for Cyber Security, a joint R&D project of HEC and Planning Commission had already been established in Air University in 2018 and was amicably providing research with regards to cybersecurity.
The Committee however observed that the said Center was an R&D Center and the functions of Coordination and transfer of knowledge proposed in the National Center on Cyber Crimes were missing. The Committee further observed that in wake of increasing cybercrimes and cybersecurity issues, the inclusion of coordination and transfer of knowledge in the existing National Center for Cyber Security would strengthen the cybersecurity.
The Committee appreciated the concept paper prepared by the M/o Foreign Affairs on establishment of National Center on Cyber Crimes, and input by the M/o Defence, M/o Interior, IB and NACTA. The Committee also appreciated the input of PTA regarding the consultation process on Citizens Protection (Against Online Harm) Rules, 2020.
The Committee while discussing the implementation status of the recommendation made in its previous meeting, appreciated the Digiskills program being conducted by the M/o Information Technology & Telecommunication.
The Committee observed that the program will help enhance IT skills amongst the youth and encourage free lancing. The Committee while discussing the non-grant of Adhoc Relief Allowance-2019 w.e.f. 1.7.2019 @10% & 5% to serving employees & pensioner of Telephone Industry of Pakistan (TIP) in BPS 1-16 and BPS 17-20, respectively despite Government directions asked M/o IT to seriously consider the grant of the allowance in its next Board meeting of the TIP.
The Secretary apprised the Committee that the TIP due to continuous losses and with no earning was placed on the privatization list of the government. However, keeping in view the multitude of economic activity expected to be generated with CPEC being functional, the industry could reinitiate its production activities and be subsequently delisted from the privatization list. He informed that the BoD of TIP will consider it in its next meeting and in case of creation of any fiscal space the employees would be granted the allowance.