Roundtable on cybercrime: ‘Pakistan facing vacuum since lapse of ordinance’

Speakers emphasised importance of effective legal mechanism and awareness about cybercrimes.

Our Correspondent August 31, 2012


Speakers here emphasised the importance of effective legal mechanism as well as awareness about cybercrimes and its concomitant dimensions. They were participating in a roundtable organised by the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) on Thursday, said a press release.

“Rapid development in information and communication technologies (ICT) has brought enormous advantages and opportunities as well as new risks and threats in the form of cyber disputes and cybercrimes,” one participant said.

Though a comprehensive policy and an effective legal mechanism is required to regulate activity in the cyber world, the growing number of users of ICT in Pakistan are operating in a legal vacuum since the lapse of the Prevention and Control of Cyber Crimes Ordinance (PECO) in 2009.

The speakers urged government departments to enhance their capacity to deal with situations that may undermine the security of individuals as well as organisations and the state. A number of official websites, such as those of the Supreme Court of Pakistan and the President House, have already been hacked.

The session was chaired by IPS National Academic Council member Commodore (Retd) Khalid Iqbal and addressed by Wahajus Siraj, CEO Nayatel and convener of Internet Service Providers Association of Pakistan (ISPAK), Special Prosecutor of FIA’s cybercrime wing Advocate Tariq Bilal, IPS Director-General Khalid Rahman and Advocate Nadia Khadim.

Bilal remarked that there are no standard legal procedures to deal with cybercrimes. He cited a number of cases, especially pertaining to social media network, where even highly educated individuals serving on important position became victims of cybercrimes due to lack of awareness.

He noted that “huge funds” were earmarked by the government for cybercrimes but they were not being properly spent.

“The national agency responsible to check criminal activity through cyber means lacks expertise and manpower cannot compete with the level of excellence being employed by cyber criminals,” he said.

Siraj advocated legislation in line with fundamental human rights that would not give authorities the power to curtail the liberties of the people.

Highlighting the shortcomings of Prevention and Control of Cyber Ordinance, he emphasised the need to draw a line between freedom of speech and crime. He suggested that important national networks should be effectively guarded.

It was more evident among legislators who were primarily responsible for allowing a legal vacuum after lapse of PECO and could not bring forth even a draft law for national consultation during past three years.

Air Commodore (retd) Iqbal in his concluding remarks identified some loopholes as well as contradictions in the Prevention and Control of Cyber Ordinance and stressed the need to formulate a more comprehensive and effective law.

He pointed out that the Indians while negotiating the investment deal with RIM, the company that makes Blackberry OS and smartphones, ensured to insert a clause in the agreement that they will be required to give users’ data to the government in the interest of national security. This should have been done by the government of Pakistan, too, however this important aspect of national security was not taken into consideration, Iqbal added.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 31st, 2012. 


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