ISLAMABAD: The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has just 10 experts to investigate cybercrime in the country, a parliamentary body was informed on Thursday.

“The FIA’s National Response Centre for Cyber Crime lacks the capacity to prevent offences related to the internet, such as internet bank fraud and lottery scams and offences committed on social media,” FIA Cyber Crimes Director retired Capt Mohammad Shoaib told the Senate Standing Committee on IT and Telecommunication.

The committee met for a briefing from the NR3C, the FIA’s cybercrime wing, on its role, performance and achievements since its designation as the investigating agency for cybercrime under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (Peca).

Mr Shoaib told the senators that in addition to the FIA being notified as the investigating agency under Peca with the approval of the Cabinet Division, the courts have also been designated under Peca in various districts, in consultation with the chief justices of the respective high courts.

Cybercrime director asks committee to help push law division to vet rules for FIA working under Peca

He said that since Peca was passed two years ago, the numbers of reported complaints rose from 2,000 to 3,000 to over 18,000 between 2016 and 2018.

More than 7,800 complaints related to cybercrime were reported to the FIA in Punjab in the last two years. Another 4,019 complaints were registered in Sindh, more than 4,600 in Islamabad, more than 1,500 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and 290 in Balochistan.

Official investigations are ongoing in over 2,600 cases, Mr Shoaib added.

“One of the reasons for this number of inquiries is that in most cases complainants, especially women, did not come forward to follow up on alleged offences committed against them. The FIA is in the process of also inducting women investigators to resolve their problem,” he explained.

The committee was disappointed to learn that the rules related to FIA’s operations under Peca, including provisions related to the presentation of statutory reports to parliament, which have been approved by the cabinet are in the process of final vetting by the law division.

“Without the rules, the FIA cannot induct and train more staff to address the huge number of complaints. The FIA is facing serious problems fighting cybercrime without the rules,” Mr Shoaib told the committee.

When asked how the FIA is registering and investigating complaints without rules and procedures, the official said the agency is conducting business under its old act instead of Peca.

Mr Shoaib appealed to the committee to help push the law division to vet the rules.

Committee chairperson Senator Rubina Khalid assured the FIA of support, including increased funding to fight cybercrime.

Senator Mian Mohammad Ateeq Shaikh asked Mr Shoaib for amendments to Peca that could make it more effective.

The committee will meet again on July 5 to ask the law division for the reason behind the delay in vetting rules under Peca.

Senator Khalid also took notice of a video recently posted on social media by a tourist who filmed Kalash women without their consent.

“The committee disregards the apology tendered by the tourist on social media and directs the FIA to take legal action against the tourist. Such individuals should be put to shame publicly,” she said.

Mr Shoaib told the committee the FIA had already taken notice of the case and was working on it.

Published in Dawn, June 22nd, 2018

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