IT Committee questions the hiring of ex-Google staffer Tania Aidrus
“The IT secretary responded that Tania had proposed a five-pillar approach for revolutionizing Pakistan’s digital landscape. Dissatisfied with the response, Baloch said the policy of ‘pick and choose’ is not appropriate as the government offices, including that of the PM Office, are funded by public money”
National Roaming Policy is on the cards which will help in the implementation of the Digital Pakistan agenda, said Secretary Ministry of
Information Technology and Telecommunication Shoaib Ahmad Siddiqui
In a meeting of the National Assembly Standing Committee on Information Technology and Telecommunication raised questions about competency of Tania Aidrus, a former Google staffer, who has been hired by the prime minister to lead Pakistan’s digital initiatives.
Committee member Maiza Hameed and Naz Baloch demanded that Tania be summoned to the committee for a briefing with a report on her plans.
The IT secretary responded that Tania had proposed a five-pillar approach for revolutionizing Pakistan’s digital landscape. Dissatisfied with the response, Baloch said the policy of ‘pick and choose’ is not appropriate as the government offices, including that of the PM Office, are funded by public money. “There must be an explanation for the entire nation even if anyone is called from abroad to serve the country,” she said. The committee expressed its grave concerns over the absence of Ministry of Interior federal secretary in the third consecutive meeting of the committee. The chairman asked the committee’s secretary to summon the IT secretary and additional secretary so that the panel’s agenda could proceed.
National Roaming Policy is on the cards which will help in the implementation of the Digital Pakistan agenda, said Secretary Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication Shoaib Ahmad Siddiqui. “PTA will rationalize tariff after the approval of National Tariff Policy in this regard”, said Secretary while briefing the National Assembly Standing Committee on Information Technology and Telecommunication which met with Ali Khan Jadoon in the chair. The committee observed that the Interior Ministry is not actively working on the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) and Budapest Convention with the United States of America (USA), which could otherwise be helpful in curbing the increasing menace of cybercrimes in the country.
Secretary MoITT said that the government is considering the approval of social media rules aimed at controlling its misuse and propaganda. The Ministry is drafting rules for social media aimed at controlling its misuse/propaganda and would be sent to the cabinet for approval.
The Committee expressed its grave concern over the absence of the federal secretary, ministry of Interior in three meetings of the committee consecutively. The committee directed the Secretaries Cabinet/Establishment Divisions to take stern action against him and decided to take up the matter with the Standing Committee on Rules of Procedure and Privileges.
The Interior Ministry does not seem to be taking this forum seriously, observed the committee. Secretary IT said that letter was written to Secretary IT while seeking their response to finalize viewpoint on the matter of signing MLAT and Budapest Convention with the United States of America (USA), which allows the exchange of evidence and information in cybercrimes. The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) is facing numerous hardships in obtaining data of alleged cybercriminals from the US government as the federal government is yet to sign MLAT as well as the cyber crimes clause of Budapest Convention. Surprisingly, there was no response from the Interior Ministry, Secretary IT added.
FIA needs to be empowered
Secretary IT said that under Section 16 of the Pakistan Electronic Crime Act (PECA), FIA needs to be empowered to control the menace of cybercrimes. He said that FIA needs financial and human resources to upgrade its capacity. A letter was written to Interior Ministry but no response has been received in this regard, Siddiqui added.
This is the third time that Interior Ministry officials have been called and they have not come, said parliamentarians. During the meeting, Ali Khan Jadoon directed Secretary Committee to call Secretary or Additional Secretary Interior to the meeting, but nobody came to attend the meeting.
“We have not signed the MLAT and this work is to be done by the Interior Ministry,” said Jadoon, adding that the interior ministry is not taking the matter seriously.
FIA developing framework
Director Cyber Crimes Wing FIA Waqar Ahmad Chauhan said that the Agency lacks the power to take action on its own unless an individual comes with a complaint, which can be made both online or in writing. He said that FIA lacks resources including hardware, software and human resources. FIA has 15 complaints reporting centers on cybercrime with 10 cyber forensic experts. However, 407 people have been recruited, including experts, and are currently receiving training. He further said that FIA is developing a framework on complaint time frame.
Chairman PTA apprised the Committee that section 37 of Pakistan Electronic Crime Act empowered PTA to just block objectionable contents. At present PTA engages social media platforms for blocking/removal of any content except Twitter, remaining popular social media is cooperative.
In a written response, PTA maintained that the signing of MLAT with countries hosting the content is mainly required to help facilitate the retrieval of records for the purpose of prosecution or investigation. Under section 29 of PECA 2016, FIA has been nominated as the designated agency for prosecution and investigation of the offenses.
The Secretary, MoITT gave a detailed briefing on USF ongoing and future projects. He explained that funds have been utilized on all the projects within the country. In this regard, they have designed the programs to cater to the needs of un-served and underserved segments of the population across Pakistan.