LAHORE / ISLAMABAD: The government has notified the formation of the National Cyber Crime Investigation Agency (NCCIA), a new dedicated body tasked with fighting cybercrimes and ensuring strict enforcement of social media regulations.

With the NCCIA’s inception, the Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) cybercrime wing has ceased to perform functions.

The development came a day after Information Minister Attaullah Tarar announced that the government was forming a separate authority to “safeguard the digital rights of people” and “counter propaganda and rumours on social media”.

“There must be an end to harassment, including online,” he said, calling for a specific authority to address the issue of online harassment as, at present, there is no law to protect the digital rights of consumers.

Authorities had been working on setting up a separate “empowered body” for quite some time to have strong check on “unbridled” social media.

According to an interior ministry official, the NCCIA will be empowered through legislation giving it sweeping powers to police cyberspace.

As the FIA has ceased to perform functions as a designated investigation agency after the NCCIA, “all personnel, cases, inquiries, investigations, assets, liabilities, rights, obligations, privileges and matters related thereto or connected therewith subsisting immediately before the commencement of these rules in respect of the defunct cybercrime wing of the FIA shall stand transferred to it (NCCIA).”

An FIA official Dawn spoke to expressed concern over the future of over 500 employees of the FIA cybercrime wings in the country.

“The issue of seniority of the officials of the FIA merged/transferred to the NCCIA will also arise. Besides, the first and foremost challenge the NCCIA would face is that of human resources. The FIA’s cybercrime wing was facing a shortage of trained staff. How the government handles this major problem in its new body will have to be seen,” he said.

According to a government notification, the NCCIA will have a director general, additional director general, directors, additional directors, deputy directors, assistant directors and such other officers as the DG may determine.

The appointment and other terms and conditions of service of officers and staff of the NCCIA, including the appointment on deputation or secondment, will be regulated under the Civil Servants Act 1973, unless determined otherwise by the federal government.

The federal government will appoint the director general for a term of two years, which is extendable on performance for a similar term or terms, and he is not more than 63 years of age at the time of appointment. It shows that a retired person may also be appointed the NCCIA’s director general.

The notification said that until new appointments are made in the NCCIA on a regular basis or otherwise, the existing officers and staff members of the defunct cybercrime wing of the FIA performing functions under the Prevention of Elec­tronic Crimes Investigation Rules, 2018, or under any other instrument before commencement of these rules, will continue to perform their functions for one year on the terms and conditions of their service applicable to them on commencement of these rules and their service shall be counted on deputation to the NCCIA.

The administration and control of the NCCIA will vest in the director general, who will exercise, with respect to the NCCIA, the powers of an inspector general of police under the Police Order 2002.

The social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, has been banned in Pakistan since mid-February due to criticism of the government and state institutions.

Published in Dawn, May 4th, 2024

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