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Lahore

January 12, 2015
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Effective law needed to handle cyber crimes

Lahore

January 12, 2015

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LAHORE
With ever increasing popularity of information technology in this part of the world, cyber crimes have become a key area of concern for law enforcement agencies but it seems no concerted effort has been made to monitor and punish culprits of expanding virtual world.
More than 32 million people in the country use internet and a large number of them use internet via mobile phones, about 12 million use Facebook and some two million use Twitter, but so far we lack an effective law to deal with cyber crimes.
Though, after coming into power in 2013, the PML-N government succeeded in drafting a bill called Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2014 with the help of Ministry of Information Technology (MOIT)-led by Anusha Rehman, State Minister for Information Technology, but the bill still has not been forwarded to the parliament for approval.
It is pertinent to mention here that in 2002, as a first step towards dealing with the crimes involving electronic documents, records, information, communications and transactions, the then president Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf promulgated an ordinance called Electronic Transactions Ordinance (ETO). The ETO helped the law enforcement agencies, particularly the FIA, primarily to deal with issues like violation of privacy of information and damage to information systems. The ETO, however, did not cover crimes through cell phones such as sending threatening messages, obnoxious calls, etc.
To cover this aspect, on December 31, 2008, Musharraf promulgated another ordinance called The Prevention of Electronic Crimes Ordinance (PECO) 2008 which empowered the FIA to deal with the rising threats of cyber crimes.
For criminal access, the punishment with imprisonment of two years, or with fine not exceeding three hundred thousand rupees, or with both, for criminal data access, a punishment with imprisonment of three years, or with fine, or with both, for electronic fraud, a punishment with imprisonment of seven years,

or with fine, or with both, for electronic forgery, punishment with imprisonment of seven years, or with fine or with both, for misuse of electronic system or electronic device, a punishment with imprisonment of three years, or with fine, or with both, for unauthorized access to code, a punishment with imprisonment of three years, or with fine, or with both, for misuse of encryption, a punishment with imprisonment of five years, or with fine, or with both, for cyber stalking, a punishment with imprisonment of seven years or with fine not exceeding three hundred thousand rupees, or with both and for cyber terrorism, a punishment with death or imprisonment for life, and with fine not less than ten-million rupees, or with both was defined in the PECO to counter cyber threats.
At the same time, a separate wing called National Response Centre for Cyber Crimes (NR3C) was established in the FIA tasked with dealing with cyber crimes in the country. Similarly, National Digital Forensic Laboratory was established in NR3C HQs, Islamabad to help Police, NAB and other law enforcement agencies regarding forensic analysis of digital devices/evidences throughout the country. Such labs now have also been established at Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar and Quetta as well.
In 2010, When the PPP government did not extend PECO nor the parliament approved it as an act, it lapsed and the FIA once again was made toothless and forced to deal with cyber crimes with the help of ETO which had a very limited scope. In the absence of an effective law, the FIA has to deal with cyber crimes under Sections 36 and 37 of the ETO which deals only with the issues of violation of privacy information and damage to information systems.
On the other hand, due to lack of government attention and weak laws and poor prosecution, not a single accused could be sent behind the bars in Punjab during 2014.
Out of total around 23 challaned related to cyber crimes submitted in courts in 2014 but only one accused was convicted and the remaining were acquitted. “The convicted accused was only fined of Rs 10, 000”, an FIA official revealed.
The major reason, the official said, was absence of an effective cyber law that’s why, he continued, performance of the FIA had not been improved vis-à-vis cyber crimes. He said the government had also not appointed a single designated judge to deal with the cases related to cyber crimes in Punjab which was also damaging the cause.
“Over-loaded with murder, dacoity, rape and other heinous crimes, it becomes uphill task for the Additional Sessions & Judges to complete the cases related to cyber crimes in time, he maintained adding that there were over 100 cases still pending in courts. He argued that PECO was a comprehensive law in which every crime was defined in details with punishments but the ETO was missing those making things more complicated for the FIA. He stressed upon the need that the government should submit the cyber bill in the parliament as soon as possible for its approval to equip the FIA in dealing with cyber crimes.

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