The past few years have seen the rise of leaked information from cases under investigation. From the viral picture of Hussain Nawaz being interrogated by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), to making Sallahudin’s pictures while robbing ATMs public and videos of couples caught on cameras in cinemas; these are deliberate violations of privacy of individuals, whether for strategic gain or as a means to bring about social media outrage.

The intention behind leaking sensitive information does not really matter, even if it was carried out as a means to carry out some sort of social justice. The fact remains that Pakistani law has a glaring oversight where law enforcement agents are not punishable for leaking information that might lead to both suspects and victims getting undue and unwarranted publicity – that might even lead to attacks on social media or in the real world.

Law enforcement agencies have important responsibilities; the most fundamental of which is the protection of citizens and the prevention of harm. This does not only limit itself to providing investigative assistance and protecting citizens from physical injury; the police, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and even officials associated with the safe city projects have a duty to ensure that any cases they are handling are treated with complete confidentiality.

Criminalising the practice of leaking sensitive information is the only way to ensure that those with access to such information are not encouraged to leak it, for whatever purpose. Law enforcement officials must also be held accountable for their actions. Police brutality or using violence is not the only way that individuals associated with law enforcement can abuse their power. Leaking sensitive information must be treated in the same vein, punish those found guilty of leaking private information because it is a criminal act.

Sensitivity training must follow; public officials, especially those in law enforcement need to be trained in handling sensitive information. Privileged information cannot be made the subject of social media activism – unless it is received through the proper channels – or a means to engage in drawing room discussion. The privacy of those who find their information leaked is at stake. Citizens must be able to trust law enforcement agencies, and if behaviour such as this is encouraged in these state institutions, it will not be surprising if the average individual distrusts the law even more going forward. The public only finds the idea of investigations acceptable if those with privileged information keep it to themselves; law enforcement agencies owe privacy and discretion to the public.