Formation of body to probe cybercrime under way, Senate panel told

News Source: Dawn

By: Jamal Shahid

ISLAMABAD: A Senate committee on Thursday called for formulation of an independent body to investigate cybercrime as specified in the law.

The Senate Standing Committee on Delegated Legislation met to discuss the progress made after promulgation of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (Peca) 2016.

Under Peca, while the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has been authorised to block objectionable content on internet on the basis of a complaint, the Federal Investigation Authority (FIA) has been designated — with the approval of the Cabinet Division — to investigate offences committed on internet such as harassment and bank frauds.Chair observes PTA has abdicated its investigation powers to FIA

The meeting was informed that it took two years to draft rules related to FIA’s operations under Peca that were notified in September.

However, rules for the formulation of an independent body to check and investigate objectionable content on internet have not been formulated.

Committee chairman Senator Ayesha Raza Farooq observed that that the PTA had abdicated its investigating powers to the FIA.

She asked the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication (MoIT) for a timeline on how soon the independent body would be set up to figh cybercrime.

Responding to some of the observations made by the committee, MoIT secretary Maroof Afzal said that they were in the process of forming a new independent investigation agency to probe cybercrime. The inter-ministerial committee (IMC) was in the process of deciding its areas of operations, he said.

“Similarly, work on a forensic laboratory that will have advanced capabilities is also ongoing,” he told the meeting.

The meeting was informed that a new inter-ministerial committee was constituted in November that wanted to revisit the law on cybercrime for better understanding and that the new IT minister also wanted to review Peca.

Responding to a question as to how soon the independent body could be formed to investigate cybercrime, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Mohammad Khan assured the committee that he would push the IMC to expedite its formulation.

“While social media is a powerful source for information, it can be a potent tool for abuse and can be used negatively. Social media cannot be allowed to malign anyone’s reputation and lines must be drawn,” the state minister said. He argued that nowhere in the world there was complete freedom of speech.

The committee was informed that after consultations with stakeholders, mostly security agencies, it could take anywhere up to three months before the independent investigation body was formed.

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