Virtual crimes by Tribune Editorial

Perhaps, a separate division for cybercrime courts would be able to solve this and expedite justice

Interior Minister Ijaz Ahmad Shah recently gave startling insights on the working of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA), 2016, to the National Assembly. He informed the assembly that only 14 convictions had taken place out of the 1,325 cases of cybercrime registered till January 31, 2020, since the act had been passed. He also stated that before PECA, 1,103 cases had been reported to the National Response Centre for Cyber Crimes (NR3C) since 2007, out of which 344 were still under probe.

The dreadfully low number of convictions in PECA’s four-year lifetime is shocking given that an initial 50,505 complaints had been filed last year alone. While the total number of cases registered by September 2019 had been filtered down to 1,071, with 982 arrests taking place, the steep rise in cybercrime should be raising alarm bells. With the 10th largest online population in the world of about 76 million, Pakistan’s internet users face various challenges, including limited knowledge of the online world. With the world shifting everything online, governments have developed thorough cybercrime laws and investigation cells. Meanwhile in Pakistan, FIA has been overburdened with cases of online harassment, bullying, exploitation, financial and identity theft, pornography and human trafficking.

This is disheartening to see as Chapter III of PECA stipulates the training and establishment of government agencies and forensic labs to investigate cybercrimes. Yet, the government has failed to implement a core component as it lacks trained officers and investigators. Moreover, Pakistan is notorious for its low conviction rate in all spheres of crime, and cybercrime remains no different. However, with the evolving world, it is imperative for the courts to be equipped with sound knowledge of technology and cybercrime to adequately deal with such cases. This, too, has been stipulated by PECA, yet prosecutors and courts have not made much progress. Perhaps, a separate division for cybercrime courts would be able to solve this and expedite justice.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 21st, 2020.

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