LAHORE - Owing to pressure from different influential quarters, Cyber Crime Bill has been made toothless as of its total 55 sections only three fall under the category of cognizable offences, well placed sources in the FIA said. After such a pathetic drafting, the bill would not serve the purpose of the National Action Plan (NAP), a senior officer of FIA on condition of not to be named said.

Those opposing Cyber Bill included Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), different cellular companies, Internet service providers (IPS) and electronic media, sources claimed.

They said these departments/sectors are beneficiaries in one way or the other like PTA receives licence fees from different companies and maximum use of cell phones and ISPs suits it. Although PTA is a regulatory body of the said services, it was not playing its due role in this regard, said an FIA officer. As per data collected by this scribe, after the passage of Cyber Crime Bill from the National Assembly, the number of complaints has surged alarmingly.

The data reveals the number of complaints received by FIA regarding Facebook misuse in the year 2014 was 415, which rose to 1,504 in 2015 and has crossed 2,000 in the current year. Email hacking also increased from 52 to 112 in 2015 and now it is 300.

Illegal business of gateway exchanges has declined for certain reasons, including decrease in international call rates and repeated raids of FIA and PTA on violators.

Other crimes like credit card, lucky draw fraud, email hacking, illegal issuance of mobile SIMs, fake websites’ online job scams, blasphemy and miscellaneous cyber frauds have risen alarmingly. An FIA investigator said innocent people were being deprived of billions of rupees through fraud every year, but no section of cognizable offence had been added to the bill to counter such crimes.

Intellectual property rights are not protected in the bill. FIA investigators are also facing problems in investigation owing to technical problems. “We have to approach America to trace Facebook ID of an accused, which is not an easy task,” said an Investigator. He affirmed Pakistan had no mutual legal assistance treaty with the US because of which they are not bound to pass on required information as and when required. He said Pakistan should sign such treaties with different countries to exchange information for cyber crimes investigations.

The investigator said the second problem the FIA faces is that when an accused is traced and produced in a court after hectic efforts, his crime often does not fall under cognizable category. Since several offences are compoundable, accused and complainant reconcile out of court and proceedings come to a halt. During the current year, FIA Cyber Crime Circle received 4,000 complaints, started 484 inquiries and registered 68 cases while convictions were awarded in 35 cases.

The FIA has forwarded its recommendations to the federal government through its DG for establishment of special courts for cyber crimes. Many known people of the society were also defrauded though Internet and cell phones etc during the year 2016, the FIA officer said.