FIA having difficulty obtaining data in cybercrime cases, NA body told

ISLAMABAD: A parliamentary committee was informed on Monday that the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) was facing difficulty getting the required data from managements of social media sites to investigate cases of cybercrime, security and objectionable material.

Briefing a meeting of the National Assembly Standing Committee on Information Technology and Telecommunication, with Ali Khan Jadoon in the chair, a senior official of the FIA said the social networking sites took eight weeks to provide details about any account.

“Since Pakistan is not a signatory to the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (Mlat), they share information on their will and normally take eight weeks as they are not bound to share information without an agreement,” he said.

Additional Secretary Ministry of Information Technology Jawad Paul told the committee that so far 63 countries, mostly Europeans, had signed the agreement. He said there was a need to look into the entire episode as how other countries which had not signed the treaty were tackling cybercrime.

“If we sign the agreement, we will have to abide by its rules. Before moving forward, there is a need to look if we signed the agreement how our issues will be addressed,” Mr Paul said.

The committee asked the ministry to carry out a comparison and come up with some working paper at the next meeting so that the committee would decide whether Pakistan should sign the agreement for getting access to data or not.

Earlier, the FIA official told the committee that after the enactment of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (Peca) 2016, the investigation agency had registered 42,477 complaints, out of which 9,625 were probed. He said 16,689 complaints had been disposed of while 16,163 others were pending. So far, 936 FIRs have been registered and 904 suspects arrested.

The official also briefed the committee about cybercrime project phase-III, adding the Rs1,128 million two-year project was launched in Sept 2018. He said no-objection certificates had been obtained to hire 416 new staffers.

Meanwhile, a representative from the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication briefed the committee on the National Incubation Centre (NIC).

While discussing an agenda items related to Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), the committee took notice of the sale of mobile phone Sims in the streets. The chairman of the committee directed the PTA to take action on the matter.

Meanwhile, a PTA working paper about cybercrime, which was shared with committee members, stated that it had a dedicated web analysis cell to receive and process complaints requiring internet content regulations. So far, 925048 URLs have been blocked which included 11,538 anti-state, 6,035 anti-judiciary, 50,331 blasphemous, 2,098 defamatory, 83,1362 related to pornography and 9,127 related to hate speech.

The committee also discussed an agenda item regarding PTCL employees. The head of the PTCL employees union informed the committee about problems being faced by them.

The chair constituted a subcommittee, consisting three members and headed by Sher Ali Arbab, to look into the issues of the PTCL employees.

Published in Dawn, August 27th, 2019

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