LAHORE - Child pornography is increasing in Pakistan on account of toothless cyber laws and less years of punishment to curb the menace while only one criminal was punished to facilitate international pornographers.

In only one case, FIA Cyber Crime Circle arrested one Saadat Amin for facilitating international child pornographers and thus earning US$ 50,000. The transactions were made through Western Union and Money Gram from seven countries. During forensic analysis of the seized digital media, more than 657,538 files (videos and pictures) related to child pornography were recovered from the accused.

Advocate Almas Ali Jovinda said, “Cyber laws to curb child pornography in our country are insufficient. A person committing this offence is punished with imprisonment for a term which may extent to seven years or with fine which may extend to Rs five million or with both”.

In America for the first time conviction, it is from 15 to 30 years while for the second time it is not less than 30 years. In India this crime was punishable from three to five years in 2000. The Indian government, however, revised its laws in 2015 and punishment was increased from five to seven years. Javindah demanded minimum imprisonment of 15 years in Pakistan since he believed child pornography was more heinous than terrorism in certain forms.

Roy Lindholt, a Nordic police liaison officer at royal Norwegian Embassy in Pakistan, appreciated the performance of FIA after a child pornographer Saadat Amin was punished by a court for seven years. In a letter to the DG FIA, he said maximum punishment in this case has only been possible due to international intelligence sharing and a thorough follow-up investigation by FIA Cyber Crime Unit. The police officer also pointed out flaws in Prevention of Electronic Crime Act (PECA) and said FIA’s keen interest may hopefully lead to a stronger legislation.

An FIA investigator, Asif Iqbal, was of the view that cyber laws were not sufficient in the country to punish child pornographers. He said there were only three clauses cognizable out of total 24 while the remaining 21 clauses were bailable. At international level child pornography was considered as the most heinous crime in nature after terrorism. He believed there should be at least life imprisonment for the child pornographers in Pakistan to control the menace.

A Swedish national, Jan Lindstrom, was arrested in Sweden on the charges of possession of images depicting child pornography. On analysis of the seized material, a Pakistani national, Saadat Amin was traced who remained in contact with Lindstrom in terms of offering young boys for sale. Saadat Amin had access to a large group of boys in age group 10 to 12 years and was involved in promoting porn videos and pictures of children from Pakistan and other countries. Saadat Amin also abused vulnerability of the children’s social and financial situation for his personal pleasure and financial gains. The post-arrest bail of the accused was dismissed by the Lahore High Court, Lahore. Trial was carried out by the judicial magistrate for FIA Cyber Crime, Lahore, and he was convicted to seven years and fine of Rs 1.2 million on April 26, 2018. It is the first-ever conviction in a child pornography case under Prevention of Electronic Crime Act, 2016. A complaint was made by Roy Lindholt, a Nordic police liaison officer, to the FIA director general, Islamabad, and an inquiry was conducted by Assistant Director Asif Iqbal. After the inquiry, the accused was arrested.

During the investigation, the accused revealed he was in touch with international child pornographers, including Jan Lindstrom of Sweden, Gianni Betitte from Italy, Max Hunter of USA and Andrew Moody and Mukhtar of the UK. The accused had also struck a deal with Jan and Gianni for sale of two children and asked them to send a visa for one of them. Meanwhile, he was arrested by FIA. As per UK authorities, one pornographer Andrew has gone underground and some other circles of the police believe he has committed suicide after the arrest of Saadat Amin.

After the arrest of Saadat Amin, embassies of different countries like Norway, the UK, Sweden and USA contacted FIA and took briefing on child pornography. All the ambassadors took keen interest in the case and expressed their concern over such activities.

The FIA investigator said at international level some sites related to child pornography are banned while in Pakistan criminals can access those sites through proxy, collect some objectionable stuff from there and sell them to international pornographers.

In the recent past FIA arrested four people of whom two were qualified engineers, one from Sargodha and the other from Jhang. They were involved in selling such stuff to international pornographers.

The FIA investigator urged PTA and Pakistan government to make strict laws to control the crime.

Sahil, a non-government organization working on child protection with a special focus on sexual abuse, has been publishing reports for the last 17 years. According to a report, in 2016, overall 694 cases more than 2017 were recorded. In 2017, 3,445 child-abuse cases were reported in newspapers from all the four provinces, Islamabad Capital Territory, Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan and Federally Administered Tribal Areas. The data reveals that more than nine children were abused during this year. The major crime categories of the reported cases are abduction 1,039, missing children 517, rape 467, sodomy 366, attempt to rape 206, gang sodomy 180, gang rape 158 and 109 cases of child marriages.

In many cases, family members of children do not report the matter to police for certain reasons.