KARACHI: Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) cybercrime cell Director General Captain (retd) Muhammad Shoaib on Wednesday revealed that the agency has received a complaint from Spain regarding the involvement of a Pakistani man in an international child pornography ring.
The FIA cybercrime DG spoke at Geo News’ programme Geo Pakistan about the recent arrest of a suspect, Hamza, in Karachi over child pornography charges and explained, “We are receiving complaints of two kinds of criminals — one working in Pakistan and the other who are involved with foreign groups. We have evidence regarding both kinds of criminals.”
“As far as the Karachi case is concerned, the suspect had added 1,600 women and children who were Pakistani citizens to his [Whatsapp] group and we have evidence of this. We have evidence of international members on the groups as well as they are not only reported in Pakistan but abroad as well,” Capt (retd) Shoaib explained.
Explaining that “1,600 members is the number of group members [on the particular WhatsApp group] and includes victims as well as suspects”, Capt (retd) Shoaib said not all those who are a part of the group can be held responsible or deemed as involved for not exiting or joining the group. “There is still not much awareness between children and even adults regarding why they have been added to a particular group. If someone sends you an invitation to a group sometimes you accept it without thinking or knowing that the person could be involved in crimes.”
The FIA cybercrime cell DG delved into details regarding the first case of child pornography in Karachi and said, “If you consider the Karachi case, a young child was asked by the suspect to make a video so he sent an inappropriate video and it was shared on the [WhatsApp] group. Because the child’s neighbours and children were part of the group, everyone found that his video is available on the internet and after that the child isolated himself and stopped going to the market or school. After this, the child’s parents found out and they reported it to FIA.”
Further, responding to a question, Capt (retd) Shoaib said, “A group with more than two members becomes a network which can include victims and active criminals. It is subject to investigation regarding how many are victims and how many are criminals.”
He added that recently a case has been reported from the frontier. “The suspect saved 1,000s of videos of children and we are investigating who the members of the group are as some have been internationally recorded. He is a part of an international group and the videos recovered from him were mostly of foreign children. Spanish embassy also reported this as after the crime was reported and arrests were made they learnt a Pakistani member is also involved.”
“As for the Karachi case, some members were residents of the US as their embassy reported,” the FIA cybercrime cell DG shared.
He further said that the cybercrime cell has a lot of evidence and it is not essential that a case be reported in Pakistan to ensure action against those involved in child pornography.
“We suspect that there a lot of such cases but people are not reporting them owing to shame or other reasons,” Capt (retd) Shoaib said while adding that the “impact is not the same” when cases are not fully reported.
Regarding the procedure for investigating child pornography rings, the cybercrime cell DG said, “Firstly, when we receive international complaints, we conduct an inquiry, authenticate evidence and then trace suspects.”
“As for the cases reported in Pakistan through families or children themselves either personally or through our Internet portal, we take those up immediately. Thirdly, we proactively monitor our website and register cases – this recently happened in Rawalpindi where the FIA registered the case itself after receiving a report and authenticating it but the family did not want the case to be reported,” he added.
Stating that most people do not want such cases to be reported as it is “not considered good” and they fear backlash from the society, the FIA DG said, “The good thing is that the Internet has given people access and now more people are reporting cases.
“In 2017, we had one case and in 2018, 15 cases have been registered pertaining to child abuse and pornography,” he said.
Creating awareness and increasing punishment
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf leader Ejaz Chaudhry said it was essential to create awareness on this issue. He added that the government would take steps to create awareness on this issue among children buy including it in their curriculum.
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Malik Ahmed Khan called for the punishment of child sexual abuse to be increased drastically. “To stop child pornography, child sexual abuse needs to be removed from the section of PPC in which 337 is applicable and heinousness needs to be attached,” Khan stressed.