August 20, 2018

Pakistan to establish anti-cyberterrorism agency

News Source: Arab News

Writer: Amir Shah

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s government has decided to establish the National Cyber Terrorism Security Investigation Agency to counter terrorists and militants on online platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.

Islamabad has allocated 100 million Pakistani rupees ($865,000) to the Interior Ministry’s annual budget for the fiscal year 2018-19 to establish the agency.

“We’ve eliminated the militant presence from our tribal territories by launching several military operations,” Mujeeb-ur-Rehman Talpur, deputy director at the National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA), told Arab News on Sunday.

“Now there’s a need to counter the online presence of militants involved in recruiting and brainwashing our youth.”

NACTA is working on the preparation and dissemination of counter-narratives on online platforms, he said.

The government has allocated 24 million rupees to establish the Cyber Patrolling Unit to track down militants guilty of hate speech, extremist activities and recruitment.

Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Director Mohammed Shoaib said he is unsure if the government wants to merge the FIA’s cybercrime wing with the National Cyber Terrorism Security Investigation Agency.

“I think all cybercrime-related institutions and departments should work under a single authority or agency to improve their work,” he told Arab News.

Nighat Dad, director of the Digital Rights Foundation and a cybersecurity expert, said the government’s focus and priorities regarding counterterrorism and extremism on social media are not well defined.

The police, the FIA and NACTA are separately empowered under different laws to act against terrorists and extremists, but there is no synergy between them to implement the laws effectively, she added.

“Our departments lack expertise to counter extremist content online,” she said. “There is a need to improve coordination with corporations like Facebook and Twitter to take down extremist and hate content.”

Groups such as Daesh are recruiting Pakistanis online, Dad added. Regarding the government’s blocking of the messaging service Telegram, she said: “There is a thin line between national security and freedom of expression, so the authorities must recognize this while going after militants and terrorists.”

The government should bring all relevant stakeholders under a single platform to effectively implement measures against extremists and militants, without compromising freedom of expression, Dad added.

“It will definitely take time to purge our online spaces, and the issue cannot be addressed in just a few days or months by setting up new institutions and agencies,” she said.

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