New laws would likely need to be passed
The new version of Pakistan’s National Action Plan to counter terrorism includes cyber security.
The Ministry of Interior recently announced it would introduce NAP-2 and restructure the National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA).
FIA Cyber Crime Wing Director Capt. Muhammad Shoaib said that the agency deals with cybercrime and not cyber security, which requires a legal framework.
He said there was a dire need to have an organization that can work on a “national strategic level” because in many countries national security systems were vulnerable to serious attacks in cyberspace.
Analyst Lt. Gen. (retd) Amjad Shoaib said the security establishment wanted the cyber security organization to be set up as an independent body for numerous reasons. “However, the government believes it could work well under the Nacta,” he added.
The first plan or NAP was created in 2014 as a 20-point strategy after the horrific Army Public School attack in Peshawar in which 147 people, including 132 students, were killed.
Point No. 14 did factor in online spaces. It said the plan would include “measures against abuse of internet and social media for terrorism.” Point No. 7 speaks of “ensuring against re-emergence of proscribed organizations.”
Banned organizations have been resurfacing under new identities and structures with extremists finding refuge in cyberspace.
Cyberspace is regulated under a 2016 law, which focuses more on comparatively mundane violations instead of denying space to terrorists.
“ISIS is known to have employed propaganda using cyberspace out of Virginia and places in Europe to target a vulnerable population,” said security analyst Dr Marya Sultan. Hizbul Tahrir has influenced young talented men using cyberspace. “What do you do when a particular act is classified as a crime here (Pakistan) but not abroad?” she added.
FIA officials say that Pakistan should ideally be a signatory to the Budapest Convention so they can seek cooperation from other countries, where a crime may have originated in cyberspace.
The laws dealing with the spectrum of this threat, ranging from cyberspace to nailing facilitators, are either insufficient or have lapsed. Just in the beginning of November all Pakistani banks were hit with a data breach, in which hackers outside Pakistan stole from accounts.
Just on Monday, Minister for Information Fawad Chaudhry met representatives from Facebook and discussed fighting hate speech and inciting violence online. The prime minister also met them, on Tuesday, and discussed the misuse of social media.
In a recent meeting with the prime minister, the national coordinator for NACTA said that, “multiple areas require further immediate and consistent attention”. Many NAP points such as banning amorphous militant outfits to accomplishing madrassa reforms have yet to be accomplished.
Pakistan has come under international scrutiny to clamp down on money laundering and terrorism financing.
Syed Faisal Shakeel is a court and defence reporter and used to host a current affairs show. He tweets @sfaisalshakeel