By Husna Ali
April 15, 2007
The government has announced that it will install high technology
mechanisms at the National Response Center of the Federal Investigation
Agency (FIA) to counter cyber-terrorism but what cannot be ignored is
that the existing Cyber Crime Wing of the FIA lacks not only the
advanced technology, but is devoid of any infrastructure as well.
Launched on March 13, 2003, the Cyber Crime Wing was established after
the murder of American journalist Daniel Pearl. In this case, Pakistani
agencies had to rely on American investigators to trace the e-mails sent
to the media by his abductors. That is when the need was felt for such a
The Pakistan government was criticized at that time heavily by certain
quarters of the Western media, as controversies kept on pouring from all
corners over the circumstances in which the murder took place.
Born out of this need, the Cyber Crime Wing was launched with a bang -
soliciting international coverage, as well as accolades for this
initiative. However it never evolved completely as an independent unit
and remained under the Crime Circle of FIA. Yes it is not a separate set
up and is still in the offing, and working under crime circle, said
Deputy Director FIA Immigration, Khalique-uz-Zaman.
Such programmes take time and investment, he said, admitting that the
current Cyber Crime Wing, despite the huge publicity it received from
the media, is not effective even after three years of its launch.
Khalique-uz-Zaman, who solved the first cyber crime case involving
Western Union where Rs5 to 6 million were laundered, thinks that cyber
crime is not a very common type of crime in Pakistan. This crime is
still few and far between, but creating a separate facility will help us
control and handle such crime effectively in the future, he disclosed.
However, another official belonging to the Personal Identification
Secure Comparison and Evaluation System (PICES) department of FIA,
contradicts this. He says that the problem is that of detection. He says
that the problem of cyber crime is that it is disguised and people
cannot distinguish between regular and internet based crime.
With its headquarters in Islamabad and zonal directorates in the
provincial capitals, the current Cyber Crime Wing is in dire need of
technical staff to carry out raids and solve complicated net crimes. It
took more than three years for the government of Pakistan to finally
allocate a budget of approximately Rs181.42 million to establish a
separate and fully equipped facility. To tackle this fast growing crime
in the country, many in the FIA hope for a speedy clearance of this
budget to start building the facility soon.
Mehmud-ul-Hasan, the Deputy Director for National Response Center for
Cyber Crime (NRSCC), talking to The News during his recent visit to
Karachi from the capital, said that since its launch in 2003, no
technical or additional staff has been hired for this wing and it stands
in urgent need of trained manpower.
We used to function from the office of crime wing because we did not
have either the set up or the manpower, he stated, adding there was no
appointment as such except that of Ammar Hussain Jaffery, Director NRSCC
and myself were assigned to handle crime related to the Internet, he
The new set up, as promised, will offer state of the art facilities
including a forensic lab and a staff of 184 trained personnel. But this
is still a dream.
The current staff will also be imparted training. Currently the US
Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) is providing training whenever
needed, under an MOU signed between the two agencies in 2005. While
cyber crime has evidently increased over the years, only 33 cases were
registered in 2006 due to lack of public awareness about the existence
of this wing.
Yes people do not know about cyber crime wing because there has been no
proper publicity to acquaint the masses with the department, he said.
A large chunk of the budget will now be allocated to educate citizens
about the new facility of Cyber Crime Wing and its working. A mass
awareness campaign would be launched to enlighten the public on the
concept of cyber crime and the existence of a facility where they can
lodge their complaints, said the enthusiastic Hasan. However he feels
that such awareness should not be limited to the media alone but should
be included in school curricula as well.
The allocation of this huge budget is no surprise to anyone because
right after the US invasion of Afghanistan, US officials had claimed
that the next attack on its soil could be in the form of cyber
terrorism. On account of being a close ally on War against terrorism,
Pakistan had to focus its attention too towards this area.
Pakistan too is also a victim of cyber terror. Hacking of official
government websites is also reported to have increased in Pakistan since
September 11, 2001 attacks and later the invasion of Afghanistan and
Iraq by American forces, making Pakistan also vulnerable to cyber
Right after the US invasion of Afghanistan, some pro-Taliban Pakistani
hackers entered the official websites of India and left threatening
messages, reported a website.
Hasan agreed that hacking of official websites was also a concern for
developing this new facility, along with other Internet based crimes
which ranged from financial crimes to criminal act of aggression, both
against the state and against the citizens. He, however refrained from
giving any more information regarding e-crimes committed against the
As for how many Pakistani websites have been hacked since then, Hasan
again refused to give details but agreed that some important websites
have been hacked in the past. It is interesting to mention here that
despite the immense growth that Pakistan has made in the IT sector,
Pakistan government websites are not hosted locally.
Yes we are on foreign servers and have to rely on them in case of break
down, Hasan accepted reluctantly, adding, we have been asking to host
our websites locally but to no avail. While cyber crime was earlier
limited to financial crimes which included credit card theft, illegal
transactions through online banking and money laundering, it has now
reached new heights and creates new concerns amongst the government and
The new worries are pornography, email-spoofing and cyber defamation
which has increased here over the years but have gone unpunished in
absence of a separate facility and lack of awareness.
A recent addition to the cyber crime, which requires the attention of
authorities here in Pakistan is the telecom sector through which crime
With the boom in the cell phone business, many consumers are complaining
of their accounts being misused or their amount being unduly deducted by
the phone companies. Such theft usually goes unreported because people
do not know where to lodge complaints, he informed adding, and this is s
very lucrative crime for some companies.
Hasan explained that even if 10 rupees, which a very small amount for a
user, was illegally deducted from one subscriber, imagine the huge
amount of money that would come in given the large number of users in
the country. This is a big scam we are talking about.
The new facility promises to control this and many other Cyber Crime
being committed everday. But all this depends on when the promised money
will come through and whether it will be used for the purpose earmarked.
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