Interior Ministry Creates Hurdles in Signing MLAT with the USA: National Assembly Standing Committee


National Roaming Policy is on the card which would help in the implementation of digital Pakistan agenda, said Secretary Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication Shoaib Ahmad Siddiqui. “PTA will determine/rationalize tariff after the approval of National Tariff Policy in this regard”, said Secretary while briefing the National Assembly Standing Committee on Information Technology and Telecommunication which met with Ali Khan Jadoon in the chair here on Wednesday.

The committee took serious note of the absence of Secretary Interior for the third times and decided to move the case into the privilege committee for taking action against the said official. The committee observed Interior Ministry is not taking signing Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) and Budapest Convention with the United States of America (USA), which could otherwise be helpful in curbing the increasing menace of cyber crimes in the country.

Interior Ministry Creates Hurdles in Signing MLAT with the USA: National Assembly Standing Committee

 

Secretary MoITT said that government is considering the approval of social media rules –“online harm to person” aimed at controlling its misuse and propaganda. The Ministry is drafting rules for social media aimed at controlling its misuse/propaganda and would be sent to the cabinet for approval.

The Committee expressed its grave concern over the absence of federal secretary, M/o Interior in three meetings of the committee consecutively. The committee directed the Secretaries Cabinet/Establishment Divisions to take stern action against him and decided to take up the matter with the Standing Committee on Rules of Procedure and Privileges.

The Interior Ministry does not seem to be taking this forum seriously, observed the committee. Secretary IT said that letter was written to Secretary IT while seeking their response to finalize viewpoint on the matter of signing MLAT and Budapest Convention with the United States of America (USA), which allows exchange of evidence and information in cyber crimes.

The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) is facing numerous hardships in obtaining data of alleged cyber criminals from the US government as the federal government is yet to sign MLAT as well as the cyber crimes clause of Budapest Convention. Surprisingly, there was no response from the Interior Ministry, Secretary IT added.

Secretary IT said that under Section 16 of the Pakistan Electronic Crime Act (PECA), FIA needs to be empowered to control the menace of cyber crimes. He said that FIA needs financial and human resources to upgrade its capacity. A letter was written to Interior Ministry but no response has been received in this regard, Siddiqui added.

This is the third time that Interior Ministry officials have been called and they have not come, said parliamentarians. During the meeting Ali Khan Jadoon directed Secretary Committee to call Secretary or Additional Secretary Interior to meeting, but no body came to attend the meeting.

So much propaganda is happening on social media and many Members Parliament including Nafisa Shah and Maiza Hameed have been subjected to false propaganda while accusing them among the BISP beneficiaries, said Naz Baloch.

“We have not signed the MLAT and this work is to be done by the Interior Ministry, said Jadoon, adding that the interior ministry is not taking the matter seriously.

Director Cyber Crimes Wing FIA Waqar Ahmad Chauhan said that the Agency lacks the power action of its own unless individual come with a complaint, which can be made both online or in writing. He said that FIA lacks resources including hardware, software and human resources.  FIA has 15 complaints reporting centers on cyber crime with 10 cyber forensic experts. However 407 people have been recruited including experts and currently receiving training. He further said that FIA is developing framework on complaint timeframe.

Chairman PTA apprised the Committee that section 37 of Pakistan Electronic Crime Act empowered PTA to just block objectionable contents. At present PTA engages social media platforms for blocking/removal of any content except Twitter, remaining popular social media is cooperative. In a written response PTA maintained that signing of MLAT with countries hosting the content is mainly required to help facilitate the retrieval of records for the purpose of prosecution or investigation. Under section 29 of PECA 2016, FIA has been nominated as designated agency for prosecution and investigation of the offenses.

The Secretary, MoITT gave detailed briefing on USF ongoing and future projects. He explained that funds have been utilized on all the projects within the country. In this regard, they have designed the programs to cater for the needs of un-served and underserved segment of population across Pakistan. He also informed the Committee that at present, USF is in the process of identification of under-served areas of rural Islamabad after which approval of federal government will be sought.

The committee members also raised questions on the appointment of Tania Aidrus focal person on Digital Pakistan while observing that merit was not followed. Committee member observed that pick and choose method was adopted, which is not appropriate.

The committee asked for the details of her appointment as well as job descriptions in next meeting. Secretary IT said that Tania Aidrus gave the idea of five pillars and Prime Minister appointed her on honorary basis. Naz Baloch said that this is the office of the Prime Minister and it runs on public’s taxes.

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