FIA submits ‘half-yearly’ report on electronic crimes after a one year delay; asks for 7 offences to be declared ‘non-bailable’ and a ban on ‘Bitcoin’

ISLAMABAD: The Federal Ministry of Interior tabled the Federal Investigation Agency’s report on the implementation of Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016 in the National Assembly after a delay of nearly one year.

The report was presented at the National Assembly by the State Minister for Interior, Talal Chaudhary.

According to Section 53 of Pakistan Electronic Crimes Act, FIA is bound to table the report to the parliament after a delay of one year.

” The agency designated or established under section 29 of the Act shall submit a half yearly report (to both houses of the Parliament for consideration by the relevant Committee in camera, in respect of its activities, without disclosing identity information, in a manner as prescribed under this Act.” — Section 53 of Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016

As per the Act, FIA was supposed to submit the first report in February 2017, the second report in August 2017 and the third in February 2018. However, this is the only report that FIA has been able to submit to till date.

Two months ago, FIA submitted a report to the Senate which was rejected by the Senate’s Chairman, Raza Rabbani for being ‘insufficient’.

7992 cyber crimes complaints after enactment of PECA

According to the report, 7992 complaints were received during 2016-2017 after the enactment of PECA.  According to the report, 1073 of the complaints were converted into enquiries, 149 cases were registered and 132 arrests were made.

This is in contrary to the figures earlier reported by Digital Rights Monitor. In discussion with Deputy Director FIA in December 2017, it was revealed that 12339 complaints were received by FIA since enactment of PECA.  It was also revealed that 1626 complaints were converted into inquiries.

Upgrading FIA’s National Response Center for Cyber Crime (NR3C)

The report also notes that FIA has submitted a proposal for the upgradation of NR3C. This includes hiring of new technical and ministerial staff, the establishment of nine new cybercrime police stations and digital forensic laboratories in Abbottabad, D.I. Khan, Gujranwala, Faisalabad, Multan, Gwadar, Sukkhur, Hyderabad and Gilgit Baltistan and upgradation of six digital forensic laboratories under NR3C.

Seven non-cognizable and bailable offences should be made cognizable and non-bailable

FIA has also pleaded to the Parliament that some offences listed in PECA be made cognizable and non-bailable. This included access, modification, interference , deletion to critical infrastructure, information system or data (Sections 6,7 & 8), electronic forgery (Section 13), electronic fraud (Section 14), unauthorized issuance of SIM (Section 17), tampering of electronic equipment (Section 18), cyberstalking (Section 24) and spoofing (Section 26).

In the report, FIA took the plea that owing to critical nature of these offences, they should be made cognizable. As noted in the report, this would allow FIA to apprehend offenders and cease devices without permission of the magistrate. Otherwise, the report noted that the non-cognizable nature of the offences (which means that court orders are needed to arrest the suspect and seize his/her device) will give enough time to the offenders to remove key evidence from the digital devices.

They also suggested that the aforementioned cases were compoundable and put an extra burden on the state resources. The compoundable nature of the offences meant that the victim could enter into a compromise with the accused at any stage. The report noted that a clause should be inserted in the electronic crime act that will bind the parties to pay back the resources spent by the state in investigating the cybercrimes.

Bitcoin be declared illegal

FIA has also urged the Parliament to declare the cryptocurrency ‘Bitcoin’ illegal and a punishment in this regard should be put in the law. “Bitcoins/digital currency is not recognized by State Bank of Pakistan as a legitimate business and causing huge monetary loss to the national exchequer,” report notes.

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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