The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) recommended converting Section 11 of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) into cognizable to deal with cybercrimes more effectively.

The National Assembly Standing Committee on Defence meeting was held under the Chairmanship of Amjid Ali Khan, MNA.

The Committee expressed its grave concern over the absence of the Federal Secretary of the Ministry of Interior and directed the Additional Secretary, Ministry of Interior, to convey the message of the Committee to ensure his presence in the next meeting to brief the Committee on the Cyber Crime issues in Provinces and Federal.

The Committee further directed the Additional Secretary, Ministry of Interior, to arrange a meeting with the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA), and Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication, to take this matter seriously and resolve the issues of Cyber Crimes as soon as possible for the sake of national security.

The Representative from Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) apprised the Committee that there is a need to update decision No. 01 regarding “Preparation of draft of Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT), on Cyber Crimes Issues.”

Since it is a policy decision at the National level, therefore, being the telecom regulator does not have the mandate to process or sign MLAT. FIA may take up the matter with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication.

He further apprised that decision No. 02 is regarding the illegal sale of Telecom Data by various Police Offices, and the Ministry of Information Technology is requested to expedite PTA’s recommendation to control increasing violation of information sharing.

Director FIA briefed the Committee over the Cyber Crimes, Security, and objectionable material posted on social media, where they stated that the new Cyber Crime project had been commenced in September 2018.

He also briefed the Committee regarding some of the pressing issues relating to Cyber Crime in Pakistan. He informed the Committee that Cyber Crime in Pakistan includes but is not limited to hate speech, which falls under Section 11 of the Pakistan Electronic Crime Act (PECA) is a very serious offense, which can affect the religious sentiments of any sector.

He apprised that it has been noticed that such kinds of malicious activities are usually committed on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram by undefined and unrecognized actors. Furthermore, these social media outlets are mostly US-based companies, and the government of Pakistan is facing a problem in receiving data of the real culprits due to the lack of any MLA treaty with them.

In PECA, section 11 is non-cognizable in nature, where seeking permission from the magistrate to initiate inquiry is mandatory, and the FIA Cybercrime wing cannot directly lodge FIRS. It must be converted into cognizable.

The Committee unanimously recommended approving “The Pakistan Maritime Zones Bill, 2021.”

The Representative from the Ministry of Defence, Dr. Syed Muhammad Ali Hussain Gardezi SI(M), briefed the Committee regarding “The Pakistan Maritime Zones Bill, 2021,” (Revision of Territorial Water & Maritime Zones (TWMZ) Act, 1976).

He apprised that the Territorial Water and Maritime Zones (TWMZ) Act, 1976, was enacted to provide the declaration of Territorial Water and Maritime Zones of Pakistan. Pakistan’s ratification of the United National Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) on 26th February 1997 led to an amendment in Clause 5 of the UNCLOS regarding the Continental Shelf. TWMZ Act, 1976, as amended in 1997, is currently in force.

The meeting was attended by MNAs Tahir Sadiq, Syed Faiz-ul-Hassan, Ms. Kanwal Shauzab, Ch. Muhammad Barjees Tahir, and Mian Riaz Hussain Pirzada, besides senior officers from M/o Defence, M/o Interior, M/o Information Technology & Telecom, PTA, and FIA.