September 24, 2021, Islamabad – The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) told the Islamabad High Court (IHC) during a hearing today that the agency has submitted the ‘bi-annual report’ on the implementation of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) 2016 in accordance to the Section 53 of PECA, to the Parliament.
The submission was made during the hearing of a petition filed by Barrister Yasser Latif Hamdani on behalf of Asad Baig in November 2019, over the failure of FIA’s compliance with Section 53 of PECA 2016.
Under Section 53 of the law, FIA – the designated agency under the PECA law to address the cyber crimes cases in the country – is obligated to submit a bi-annual report to both the lower and upper houses of the Parliament detailing the number and nature of cases, as a means of parliamentary oversight, and to monitor and stop any potential abuse of PECA.
Section 53 of PECA states, “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.”
Since the passage of PECA in August 2016, FIA had failed to submit the bi-annual reports to the Parliament in accordance to the Section 53 of the law.
In a previous hearing of the same case on August 25, Barrister Yasser Hamdani informed the Digital Rights Monitor (DRM) that the reports have to outline the number of specific cases on which action has been taken under PECA during a given period. The reports also have to follow a certain template. He remarked that an administrative report had been shown, but it did not follow the template or give the information necessary.
Asad Baig, the petitioner and the co-founder of Media Matters for Democracy (MMfD), says, “It is absolutely important that these reports are submitted timely to the Parliament as they are the only parliamentary oversight mechanism that exists to monitor any abuse of the law”.
“I am glad that FIA has submitted the reports and the data to the Parliament, in line with the procedure”, he added.
Stats on cyber crimes by FIA
According to the submitted report, a copy of which is present with DRM, it covers the period of July 2019 till June 2021. It mentions that there are a total of 15 reporting centers to deal with complaints of cybercrimes, whereas six digital forensic laboratories are established across the country. The report details the actions taken by the FIA in improving the agency’s administration and operations from the second half of 2019 until the first half of 2021. It also outlines the complaints received by the agency and the number of cases that went into court and concluded trial.
As per the reported numbers, the agency received 15099 complaints in July-December 2019, 312 FIRs were registered, 244 accused were arrested and 38 cases were decided.
Between January and June 2020, 38,409 complaints were received, 185 FIRs were registered, 193 accused were arrested, and 29 cases were decided. Between July and December 2020, 43,740 complaints were received, 390 FIRs were registered, 358 accused were arrested, and 42 cases were decided.
Between January and June 2021, the FIA received 44,104 complaints, registered 560 FIRs, arrested 463 accused, whereas 113 cases were decided in the first half of 2021.
Agency’s lack of resources and capacity
The FIA has also included a note highlighting the challenges facing the agency in dealing with the cyber crimes cases, including the “inadequate staff, inadequate training and capacity building, and (need for) up-gradation of the forensic labs.
“The ratio of cyber crimes complaints has increased to 72,000 in 2019 from 16,000 in 2016. However, currently, the number of trained officials / investigators is not adequate to effectively deal with the huge spike of cyber-related offences as the current workload per investigator is 95 complaints per month”, the report reads.