Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication (MoITT) has approached the Interior Ministry to finalize viewpoint on the matter of signing Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT)/ Budapest Convention with United Stets of America (USA), which allow for the 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 has yet to sign a MLAT as well as the cyber crimes clause of Budapest convention.
To Finalize Treaty on Cybercrime Data With US, MoIT Approaches Interior Ministry
MLATs allow generally for the exchange of evidence and information in criminal and related matters. MLATs are negotiated by the Department of State in cooperation with the Department of Justice to facilitate cooperation in criminal matters. Around 61 countries have signed MLATs with USA including India, Malaysia and Turkey, revealed in the documents.
Contrary to India and most of the Middle East countries, Pakistan has no access to cyber crimes data due to absence of MLAT with US where the data resides, obstructing in curbing cyber crimes. Due to this agreement New Delhi is able to get access to objectionable contents within 24 hours.
Previously Cyber Crime Winf of FIA was dealing the cyber cases under the Electronic Transaction Ordinance 2002 under section 36 & 37. Prevention of Electronic Crime Act was notified in 2016 and FIA designated as the Agency to deal under this act on November 8, 2018. However the cyber crime wing of FIA is facing several issues including non-provision of social media/web mail services data i.e. twitters, whatsapps, Google, yahoo, hotmail snapshot etc and non-signatory of MLAT UNDER SECTION 42 of PEECA (International Cooperation), signing of MLAT/Budapest convention for gathering digital evidence.
Further PECA Law 2016 is also being considered as big hindrance as only 4 sections are cognizable , section 10 9cyber terrorism), 21 (modesty of natural person), 22 (child pornography), section 17 (illegal issuance of SIM, on the complaint of PTA) while the rest of punishable sections are non-cognizable, bail able and compoundable. Further defamation of state institution does not cover PECA.
Official sources revealed that MoITT has taken the matter of MLAT with the Ministry of Interior and Federal investigation Agency (FIA). The MoITT has written a letter to FIA being the mandated organization along with lists of countiores /signatories viz-a-viz MLAT/Budapest convention, with the request to furnish a report regarding improvements after signing the treaty/convention by them. Further as the matter pertains to international cooperation with respect to investigations and law enforcement, therefore ministry of interior may finalize the viewpoint in consultation with all stakeholders/agencies and share with MoITT for further process.
Sources said that with each passing day and more technological advancement, the challenge is going to be complicated. The number of complaints registered after the enactment of PECA-2016, total numbers of complaints registered are around 42500, enquiries registered 9780, complaints disposed off around 17000, pending complaints around 16300, FIRs registered around 1000, and accused arrested 950 and 70 convictions during the said period. The fine imposed by the courts is over Rs 11 million. However, the ratio of cyber crimes in Pakistan is increasing day by day.
FIA had requested the ministry of Interior to initiate the case for MLAT with USA government back in 2016 for provision of records in the cyber crime investigations.