ISLAMABAD: The first report detailing implementation of Pakistan Electronic Crimes Act, PECA, due to be submitted in the parliament by April 2017 is still pending.
According the Section 52 of PECA, the designated agency, Federal Investigation Agency, FIA, is bound to submit a report every six months to both houses of parliament “for consideration by the relevant Committee in Camera, in respect of its activities without disclosing identity information.” However, since FIA’s nomination in September 2016, no report had been presented in the parliament.
Earlier, on September 19, 2017, Federal Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal assured the Senate that the report would submitted within a week. This assurance was given as a response to a question raised by PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar about the non submission of the report. However, despite the assurance, and the passage of committed time, the report is yet to be submitted.
Meanwhile, agitation over alleged misuse of PECA is growing. There have been multiple reports of journalists and activists being harassed in the name of the bill. A journalist Taha Siddique had petitioned the Islamabad HIgh Court after being intimidated by an officer of the Counter Terrorism Wing of the FIA. Other media reports claim the use of Section 22 to bring charges against social media users tweeting against the Army. The non availability of the mandatory report by the FIA makes the situation more murky.
“Despite repeated reminders in Senate, no report has been submitted about performance of investigating agency even after 11 months”, said Senator Farhat ullah Babar.
He recalled the alarming incidents where cyber crime act was used against dissenting bloggers and activists and expressed his disappointment at the non submission of the report. “The purpose of this bi-annual report was to allow parliamentarians to evaluate, to what extent the implementing agency (FIA) had been successful and what challenges it encountered (in implementation of PECA)” he said.
Senator Babar said that he came to know about 1000 cases where PECA was misused.
Attempts to seek FIA’s comment about the non submission and status of this report were unsuccessful due to lack of response from the agency.
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.