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July 23, 2019

First steps


July 23, 2019

The Federal Investigation Agency has done well to arrest in Karachi a man, believed to be the leader of a group involved in harassing minor girls online. The man is reported to be part of a gang who had been blackmailing a 12-year-old girl and forcing her to send them indecent photographs after engaging her in a video chat. This had been happening regularly and the mother of the girl alerted FIA, who carried out a plan in which the guilty man was persuaded to visit the house of the girl and then arrested under the Electronic Crimes Act 2016 and laws pertaining to the prevention of child exploitation. The evidence obtained from the arrested person indicates that other girls of a similar age had also been subjected to harassment.

We fear this is only the tip of the iceberg. Anecdotal evidence suggests a large number of girls, many of them minors, are approached over the internet or on mobile phone and lured into inappropriate acts of various kinds. It is likely that only a very small number of such crimes are reported. The FIA action following a plan they had drawn up with the family is encouraging but clearly more needs to be done. In the first place, schools and parents need to understand that all children are vulnerable when online and need protection from persons whom may be attempting to use them for purposes of their own. Photoshopped images using the pictures of children have appeared on pornographic sites and the Kasur child abuse scandal which came to light several years ago involved the exploitation of young children by persons engaged in the business of pornography. Material designed to warn children of the enormous risks of this are available internationally. We should be translating this into Urdu or design our own and disseminating it widely through the media and social media as well as through other forums.

Parents also need to remember that they hold primary responsibility for supervising children on the internet and basic steps such as ensuring computers are used in a public place within homes should be promoted. Reports of widespread harassment using social media are becoming more and more widespread. Today, pictures can be taken anywhere with a single click of a mobile phone button, necessitating the need for more measures and more caution. We are glad to see the crime prevention agency stepping in and we hope they will do this more often to deter individuals or gangs who prey on children over the internet.

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