ISLAMABAD: The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) received 178,513 complaints of cyber crimes and made 1,831 arrests since 2019, according to a report submitted to the Islamabad High Court (IHC).

The FIA submitted the report in response to the direction of the IHC in a case related to harassment of journalists.

According to the report, the Cyber Crimes Wing (CCW) of the agency received the highest number of 94,227 complaints in 2020, out of which the agency authorised 9,116 inquires and filed 604 cases in courts. The agency also arrested 551 accused persons last year.

From January to August 31, 2021, the CCW received 53,996 complaints across the country, authorised 10,164 inquiries and filed 733 cases. The report said 706 accused have so far been arrested this year.

In 2019, out of the 30,290 complaints, 6,819 inquiries were initiated and 577 cases registered with 574 arrests.

“The cyber crime unit of the FIA during routine monitoring and cyber patrolling identified private websites involved in glorification of offences like hate speech, interfaith disharmony, racial hatred, blasphemy cases, child pornography, online fraud, anti-social and anti-state activities. Legal action was taken against such offences in accordance with law.”

It said from 2019 to August 2021, 620 accused were charged for trying to harm dignity of complainants, 504 for uploading content against modesty of complainants, 50 for child pornography, 107 for hate speech and 853 for e-fraud and forgery.

“Some YouTubers/journalists have a specific agenda and targeting the country’s most sacred institutions like judiciary and armed forces, and other democratic institutions with the aim of igniting chaos and anarchy in the social segments of the society through racial hatred,” the report said, adding: “They also do not spare the females and target their modesty to molest and contaminate the moral fabric of the society.”

The also report highlighted the case of two senior journalists - Amir Mir and Imran Shafqat - and stated that “they were propagating against state institutions for monetary and other benefits and tried to portray that Park Army is the supreme power in the country.”

During the course of hearing, IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah asked the FIA under which sections of the law the CCW had registered FIRs against these journalists.

The agency told the court that they had been charged under Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (Peca) and sections 469, 500, 505 and 509 of Pakistan Penal Code (PPC).

Justice Minallah observed that section 505 was introduced by Macaulay to suppress dissenting voices, adding this section has become virtually redundant in the democratic system of governance.

CCW’s Director Babar Bakht Qureshi informed the court that the FIA had devised a standard operating procedure (SOP) to summon someone upon receipt of a complaint.

As per the SOP, the summon will contain the names of the complainant, alleged accused, case no, date of registration of the inquiry, gist of allegations and name and signature of the investigation officer concerned.

The court directed the FIA to consult the stakeholders in the matter, including Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), so the court would decide the matter accordingly.

Published in Dawn, September 28th, 2021

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