Crackdown on child porn

By: Raza Rumi
The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) is finally moving in the right direction. Meaning it’s no longer wholly consumed by snooping on the citizenry in a bid to monitor both ‘anti-state’ and blasphemous content on social media. This may or may not have something to do with last year’s change of guard at the Interior ministry.

The FIA this week has publicly confirmed that child pornography networks exist in Pakistan. Naturally, this is something that was known to many; from civil society to ordinary citizens to politicians. But in a country like ours where the state apparatus is always on the lookout for a foreign hidden hand to uncover, not reform, the significance of a government agency confirming child-sexual-abuse-for-profit is not a small step. After all, back in the 1990s much of the population expressed shock upon being confronted with a home-grown serial killer; staunchly believing that this was a purely western phenomenon.

The head of the FIA’s Cybercrime Wing has said that four cases of child pornography have been registered with his department and the accused in each of these have been detained. Interestingly, all complaints had been recorded from outside Pakistan. This could, in part, be explained by the fact that child sexual abuse largely remains the last social taboo. Meaning that victims may well feel shielded from additional trauma by speaking up only once they have left Pakistan. If this is indeed the case then that is another note to add to the long list of ways in which our criminal justice can be strengthened. Or it could have something to do with physical distance from the criminal networks involved. Though it must be noted that the Cybercrime Wing chief has said that oftentimes international gangs are involved; with some members living in Pakistan.

Another important development is that the FIA is looking to set up a fully functioning cybercrime wing patrol to work around-the-clock to unearth child sexual abuse cases and to prosecute all those involved. For as things currently stand the agency relies exclusively on tip-offs or registered complaints. Such a pro-active approach is imperative. Especially in terms of teaching children how to remain safe in digital spaces. Indeed, online child grooming is a growing problem worldwide. Thus the government must also run national awareness campaigns across all platforms. But, and we can’t stress this enough, in addition to all this the FIA must come up with a set of national guidelines both in terms of proposed procedures as well as public information services. This is because the agency needs to rebuild public confidence and to reverse the trust deficit that endured under its former boss. If it does this, we’ll be behind it all the way.