The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) is facing hardships in obtaining the data of alleged cyber criminals from the United States as the federal government is yet to sign the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) and the cyber crimes clause of the Buddha Convention. The director Cyber Crimes Wing FIA informed the Senate Standing Committee on Information Technology and Telecommunication that contrary to India and most of the Middle East countries, Pakistan has no access to cyber crimes data due to absence of MLAT with the United States where the data resides; obstructing in curbing cyber crimes. The committee met with Rubina Khalid in the chair here on Thursday.
Unlike Pakistan, countries like Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt, Indonesia and Malaysia have entered into agreements with the United States. Even India has signed the MLAT with the US and because of this New Delhi is able to get access to objectionable contents within 24 hours. Pakistan needs to sign the MLAT with the United States to remove the objectionable contents and have access to cyber crimes data, the committee recommended. The FIA is also facing difficulties in getting social media apps (OTT) data. Further content blocking is the mandate of Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) while the FIA has only role of investigation.
The Agency is also facing financial constraints to procure latest equipment and gadgets to eliminate the menace of cyber crimes more effectively, the official added. The committee expressed serious concern over the rising number of cyber crimes in the country and observed that with each passing day and more technological advancement, the challenge is going to be complicated. The committee was informed that the number of complaints registered after the enactment of PECA-2016, is 42,447, registered inquiries are 9,625, while 16,689 complaints were disposed of and pending complaints are 16,163. He added that 936 FIRs were registered, 904 accused were arrested and there are 66 convictions during the said period. The fine imposed by the courts is Rs 10.694 million. However, the FIA admitted that the ratio of cyber crimes in Pakistan is increasing day by day.
The FIA official informed the committee that due to increasing trend of cyber crimes in Pakistan, FIA's Cyber Clime Unit (NR3C) has increased the number of its cyber crime reporting centres from five to 15. The strength of cyber investigators at cyber crime reporting centres needs to be increased to meet the growing challenges and volume of cyber complaints in Pakistan. All the cyber crime reporting centres are to be equipped with the state-of-art digital forensic capabilities, which will enable them to conduct forensic analysis of laptops, computers, mobile, and iPad, etc.
The committee was further informed that there are only 15 investigation officers for the whole country; however, 415 more officers would be recruited soon after the vacation of stay order from the court.
The committee directed the FIA, Ignite, PTA and Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication for strong coordination to overcome cyber crimes as well the increasing trend of child phonograph, kidnapping, raping and murder.
The committee also expressed serious concerns over absence of online money transfer system in the country, depriving entrepreneurs of millions of dollars. The CEO Ignite requested that Prime Minister Imran Khan and the advisor on finance should talk to CEO PayPal and invite him to come to Pakistan. The committee observed that due to lack of online money transfer system, the country is losing huge foreign exchange reserves, while it is also not letting the freelance sector to flourish. Senator Faisal Javed of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf assured the committee that matter of bringing PayPal, a US-based financial services company and online money transfer system, would be taken with the Prime Minister and the advisor. In earlier committee meetings, it was revealed that PayPal is not coming to Pakistan owing to lack of legal backing as well as fear of money laundering incidents in the country.
The National Disaster Management Authority officials informed the committee that India released water in Sutlej River without prior intimation which resulted in some damages; however, no casualty was reported. The committee recommended for the provision of the latest equipment to concerned departments, budget allocation, and coordination among all concerned departments to improve early warning system for forecasting of rain, floods and other disasters.
The committee was further informed that natural disaster costs around $1.2 billion to the national economy on average; however, by 2030 it can reach $10-15 billion if floods occur on the pattern of 2010. The relevant departments admitted that there are some drawbacks in the system and demanded that obsolete equipment be upgraded.