PESHAWAR: Female students from Peshawar can now rest easy as two boys who were harassing and blackmailing many of them through a fake Facebook account were arrested by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA).
According to the FIA investigation, an account was created in 2011 with Gandageer Khan as the username. Initially, the people behind this devious campaign got hold of photos and phone numbers of girls from Edwardes College (EC) and put them up online.
The investigators learnt later that pictures of girls from other colleges in Peshawar were also shared from the same account.
The blackmail begins
Not content with displaying pictures of the unsuspecting victims without their permission, the suspects started blackmailing the girls.
A senior official of EC told the FIA about the fake Facebook account and said another page was also created to harass the girls. He informed the agency that the culprits might have gained access to pictures of the girls by hacking into their personal accounts.
After registering the complaint, the cybercrime branch of the FIA started an investigation. Authorities took permission from a court to trace the IP address.
However, the Facebook account was created through a mobile phone and therefore it was almost impossible to trace the IP. Regardless, the agency managed to block the account.
Buoyed by the fact that they managed to evade authorities, the blackmailing students recreated the account and even issued a challenge to the FIA to trace them. They also wrote hate speech against the FIA and other agencies on their timeline.
By 2014, more boys joined the original creators of the account and the web of blackmail extended itself. The FIA discovered that the culprits would demand money to remove the pictures put up on the page.
What goes around, comes around
The FIA kept going with its investigation and arrested the alleged ring leader, Muhammad Ali Shah, after a years-long struggle. They arrested Shah from Gulshan Colony and another friend of his, identified as Sohail. The agency lodged an FIR under relevant laws to tackle cybercrime.
FIA cybercrime official Adnan Jan said Shah studied at EC and was currently a third-year engineering student. At the same time, his accomplice Sohail was a second-year student of Frontier Law College.
The investigating official said both the suspects confessed their crimes when interrogated, but denied the same in court. He said the court sent them to jail on a 14-day judicial remand.
Jan said the FIA was investigating 50 cases of blackmail against the culprits.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 17th, 2015.