ISLAMABAD: On Wednesday, FIA told a Senate body that Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) is creating hurdles in enhancing powers to more efficiently deal with cybercrime.
The Deputy Director in charge of the FIA Cyber Crime Wing Islamabad, M. Salman Khan told the Senate Standing Committee on Cabinet Secretariat that, “Unlike before, we need to obtain warrants from designated courts before further proceedings, either it is making arrests or seizing computers”.
The officials who met for a briefing on punishments fixed by Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) against derogatory comments spread through social media, urged the committee to revisit PECA in sense of amending it to give more powers to the investigation agency.
Digital rights groups have criticized PECA for being too sweeping in nature and raised doubts in its long-term efficacy since its conception and amendments were made to the first draft.
They claim that law acts as obstruction by delaying action.
Mr. Khan said, “Deterrence will create awareness and we need it against objectionable content posted on social media websites.”
It was informed that since 2012, thousands of websites and URLs have been blocked having been deemed offensive or containing objectionable content.
More than 768,264 URLs containing pornographic material, 31,939 URLs with blasphemous content, 10,196 proxy websites, 4,799 anti-state websites, 3,719 anti-judiciary websites and some 1,00 secretariat and anti-speech websites; besides 850 defamatory sites; have been blocked in the country.
Mr. Khan informed the committee that out of 28 sections, PECA provides only 3 offenses with the unbailable case including child pornography and cyber terrorism. In other 25 offenses, accused can obtain bail before arrest under the law.
He told the committee that most of the complaints are of defamation cases.
Senator Mohammad Talha Mahmood; Chairman of Senate Committee; assuring the FIA support, directed both FIA and PTA to prepare proposals of anticipated changes in law to enrich cybercrime prosecution.
Mr. Mehmood said, “Both organizations are facing problems in carrying out their operations. The proposals will be discussed both in the Senate and the National Assembly as per the requirements of amendments of PECA, if it seem necessary.”
Committee members agreed to Mr. Mehmood about his statement of increasing offensive materials on social media. The latter added that he had personally been a victim of defamation more than once.
He said, “It is a very bad feeling when someone post any derogatory content on the internet and get away and the entire family has to face the issue. Enhancing FIA’s powers will be a huge service to the nation.”
He directed FIA to launch FIR immediately after ascertaining that a crime had been committed, claiming that high number of FIRs would create deterrence on the internet of posting such content that was deemed as objectionable by the state.
Director General of Internet Policy and Web Analysis PTA Nisar Ahmed told that “The regulatory body had started a short messaging service (SMS) through mobile networks and published newspaper advertisements to guide social media users on suitability content.”
”Simply blocking online content is not the solution.” Officials said in pointing out voids that could potentially be exploited in existing cybercrime law.