KARACHI: The absence of a law on cyber crimes has given a free hand to blackmailers, including alleged rapists who film their criminal acts.
The Khipro rape case has disappeared from the public domain after initial protests by nationalist political parties. But the case remains alive on the internet, where it is referred to as the ‘Khipro scandal’. Scores of websites have links to the video of the gang-rape, which also spread in Khipro via cell phone multimedia messaging services. Internet users have flooded the comment sections of several websites, asking for a link to the video.
The incident also had an impact on education in some districts in Sindh, as many girls stopped attending schools and colleges after the rape case.
The alleged victim’s uncle Dr Mohammad Amin told Express News that a group in Khipro is involved in blackmailing women with risque photographs of them and asks for money to not distribute the images. In one incident, he said, images of a girl were delivered to her family before her wedding, and the group demanded payment to not show them to her prospective in-laws.
Dr Amin said: “We appeal to the government to deal with these men and punish them so they never do this to any girl again.”
Similar incidents have taken place this year. The Express Tribune reported in October that a 25-year-old woman in Lahore filed (and later withdrew) a complaint alleging that she had been gang-raped by policemen, one of whom filmed the rape and sent the footage to her parents and in-laws. Last May, a bank manager in Mirpurkhas, Sikandar Hayat Shah, accused a man named Fahim Mughal of uploading a doctored video of Shah’s 16-year-old daughter on YouTube.
Khipro Police told Express News it was looking into who was involved in distributing the video.
However, even if they were to find the culprits, there is currently no law to prosecute them under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Ordinance – which included a vague description of cyber-stalking – lapsed in November 2009. Jehan Ara, the president of the Pakistan Software Houses Association, has been actively involved in raising awareness about these issues but said there does not appear to be any movement on drafting a new bill. She said any new legislation “must include multi-stakeholder input to encompass all kinds of cyber crimes, whether it is banking fraud or harassment online and via mobile phones.”
With additional reporting by Malik Ghulam Hussain.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 10th, 2011.