December 16, 2018

Rangers directed to ‘control’ cyber crimes in Sindh by the CM. Is that overstepping authority? DRM Investigates

ISLAMABAD, 1 December 2017: On November 15, while overviewing the city’s security situation in the Apex Committee meeting, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah urged Rangers to formulate a policy to control cybercrime. He made this statement while acknowledging that “cybercrime is an important issue”.

The statement was unusual as the federal government had recently designated Federal Investigation Agency as the investigating agency under Pakistan’s Electronic Crimes Act.  Is CM Sindh urging Sindh Rangers to overstep their mandate on issues that are beyond their jurisdiction?

In order to get more clarity on whether Rangers can have a mandate to control cyber crimes, the scribe reached out to legal experts.

According to Shmyla Khan from Digital Rights Foundation, Sindh Rangers have no authority under cybercrime PECA. Under section 29 of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (2016), the Federal Government is to designate an authority to investigate cybercrime offences. In the immediate aftermath of the act, the government notified the National Response Center for Cyber Crime (NR3C), FIA as the designated investigation agency to try cybercrime offences. Since the FIA is a federal agency, the authority within Sindh lies with the Karachi headquarters of the NR3C. Transferring these powers to the Rangers is not supported by the legal schema of the Act.”

Asad Baig from Media Matters for Democracy terms it a ‘confusion’ between Sindh’s provincial government and the federal government. “Its very clear that only FIA is mandated under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act to deal with cyber crimes. The Sindh government may still be confused with the jurisdiction”, he said.

Aleena Alavi, a Karachi based lawyer actively involved in consultation over PECA with the government, agrees with Shmyla and notes: Cybercrime offences do not fall under the mandate of rangers as per section 6 of the Pakistan Rangers ordinance 1959 which describes the functions of Rangers. Further, the Rangers have not been notified by the government as the designated authority under PECA to deal with cybercrimes. At this point, such actions would be considered ultra vires and are going to cause further confusion regarding the relevant authority/agency dealing with such crimes. 

Interestingly, on two different occasions, Rangers have claimed to arrest cybercriminals. In November 2016, Rangers issued a press release claiming to arrest four cybercriminals from Karachi for doing ATM fraud over the internet and making fake credit cards. Using them, they had also allegedly transferred 8 million Euros and 1 million US dollars from banks all over the world. Dawn quoted Rangers spokesperson saying that “Suspects allegedly used magnetic strip reader machine to embezzle money with help of fake (credit or debit) cards”.

In another occasion on October 2017, Geo News reported that Sindh Rangers also arrested another cybercrime suspect Gul Nawaz for allegedly blackmailing people by hacking into their social media accounts.

However, Aleena thinks that in certain cases, Rangers definitely have jurisdiction. “Often there are cases where sections of Anti-Terrorism Act are also incorporated along with cybercrime act. In that situation, the crime committed (through digital means) comes under the jurisdiction of Rangers (through ATA) as well.” She added that in one of the aforementioned cases where criminals transferred 8 million Euros and 1 million dollars, Sindh Rangers could arrest them under Pakistan’s Anti Money Laundering Act.

Meanwhile, Shmyla is concerned at “capacity of the Rangers to investigate cybercrime which is a specialized offence and requires technical forensics.” She insisted that it would be prudent to focus on strengthening the capacity of FIA rather than providing powers to a new law enforcement agency that is Rangers.

Media Matters for Democracy made multiple attempts to reach out to Pakistan Rangers, FIA and MOITT to seek their comments on this issue. However, they did not respond till the time of filing this report.

Image Courtesy: Express Tribune

Written by

Talal Raza is a Program Manager at Media Matters for Democracy. He has worked with renowned media organizations and NGOs including Geo News, The Nation, United States Institute of Peace and Privacy International.

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