ISLAMABAD - The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Tuesday sought more powers to curb cyber crime, especially the “hate speech” on social media requesting the parliament to make amendments in the existing law against “online crime”.

Director Cyber Crime Wing (CCW) of FIA Waqar Ahmed Chauhan told the Senate Special Committee on Child Protection that the present Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) 2016 had many weaknesses and needed to be amended. 

He said that only three cyber offences in the PECA have been declared as cognizable offences and all others are non-cognizable offences. “There is a lot of criticism on PECA but only three sections of the law deal with cognizable offences,” said Chauhan in a briefing to the committee that met under the chair of Senator Rubina Khalid.

The Director CCW added that cyber terrorism, child pornography, and use of sexual images online for blackmailing purposes were cognizable offences under PECA. “Even hate speech is a non-cognizable offence (under the PECA),” he said adding that it was now right time for the parliament to make amendments in it.  

He said that FIA has to take prior permission of the court before launching any investigation into alleged online crime because most the offences in the law are non-cognizable.

A cognizable offence is an offence in which the police officer, under the law for the time being in force, can arrest the convict without a warrant and can start an investigation without the permission of the court.

The civil society and rights activists had criticized the passage of PECA in 2016 by the parliament fearing that it can be used against free speech, freedom of speech and social media activists.

Briefing the Senate panel on child pornography, the director FIA informed the participants that CCW has now started getting information about those accused who are involved in downloading, uploading and sharing material related to child pornography inside Pakistan. He said that there was no evidence available that child pornographic content was being prepared inside the country except a few cases.