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Blackmailed on internet: When the act is filmed…

By: Riaz Ahmad

The widespread use of camera mobile phones in the country is throwing up an array of challenges.

PESHAWAR: Little did 15-year-old Saman* know what that day had in store for her when she set off for her aunt’s house. On her way back, Saman was taken to a hujra by two friends named Manzoor and Waqas at gunpoint who not only allegedly raped her but also filmed the entire episode in Urmar village near Peshawar on July 25, 2011. On the basis of this video, they allegedly blackmailed the girl by repeatedly raping her.

Threatening to release the video-clip for public viewing, they got hold of gold jewellery worth Rs 2.1 million as well as cash, as she belonged to a well-off family and her father worked in Dubai.

They began extorting more money and gold from the girl until a point came when she had nothing left to give. So they started spreading the video clip via bluetooth in the village. The girl’s father finally lodged an FIR on January 5, 2012 and the police arrested one alleged rapist under section 376(2)-387-388-398/PPC. He had fled to Dubai but was later arrested and sentenced by a sessions court.

In the past few years, the use of camera mobile phones has become common even in the country’s backwaters. The collateral damage of this technology is its misuse; it is now the biggest blackmailing tool used to defame opponents, business rivals and personal enemies.

Unfortunately, cyber crimes are out of the jurisdiction of police. While they could be covered under various other laws, the police hesitate to register FIRs in such cases. One reason is also that in many cases the police are unaware of the laws to be applied.

Offenders who do not have internet access often make videos of girls in objectionable situations and share them with other people via bluetooth for blackmailing or settling personal scores. Those who have access to internet upload them on the net and share them on social media.

Stories like Saman’s are hardly rare. Zeenat*, a 14-year-old student of class 9 from Lodhran, Punjab, made the mistake of trusting a boy but she eventually had to pay a heavy price for that. She considered him her boyfriend and went to a shop to meet him. There, friends of the boy made a video of the two on their mobile phones. Thereafter, they started blackmailing the girl and subsequently gang-raped her for six months. Going a step forth, the video was shared with the girl’s father; they thus started blackmailing the entire family.

The internet is full of such videos these days in the absence of any rules and regulations. Since YouTube is a foreign website it is effectively out of the jurisdiction of Pakistani laws, and despite an official ban the website is still accessed by people with the help of proxies.

Where to register cyber crimes?

Most victims do not know that there is a separate police station in FIA known as National Response Centre for Cyber Crimes (NR 3C) in each province. These were established in 2007 to deal with the growing number of cyber crimes.

An official of the FIA cyber crimes wing told The Express Tribune, on the condition of anonymity, that “an average of 15 complaints” were received every day. Often times the uploading of such videos can be traced to business or family rivalry or plain old jealousy.

“Contrary to popular belief, YouTube is a very cooperative website and its administration provides complete details of members who upload objectionable videos,” he said, adding that they have arrested several people in this regard and FIRs have been registered against them.

“In 90 per cent cases they respond positively but some time they will respond saying ‘the account was created out of your jurisdiction’ which means that a videos was uploaded in another country like Afghanistan or even Dubai,” he said, adding that government should enter into a ‘mutual legal assistance treaty’, after which the website would be bound to make particular videos unavailable in Pakistan, putting an effective stop to misuse, but willingness is not being seen in this regard.

“In 2011, we received a complaint that someone had uploaded a video of a girl on YouTube and that her family members were now threatening to kill her for it. We were finally able to locate the account holder who was a girl and a class fellow who did it as a practical joke,” he informed.

“In cyber crimes, the police cannot take action as it is the exclusive jurisdiction of FIA. If someone is proven guilty, the accused could be awarded seven years in prison, although the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Ordinance (Peco) is no longer implemented,” revealed the unnamed FIA official.

Furhan Hussain, coordinator advocacy and outreach, Bytes For All, said that there should be awareness among the youth because any small mistake could ruin their lives while using the net or their gadgets.

“We know about cases in which girls have been killed by family members in Chilas and other parts of the country,” he said, adding that there were no specific laws about cyber crimes as Peco was incomplete and lacked the individual protective mechanisms. “Peco was not complete and full of faults. It could have been improved, but unfortunately no one paid attention to it and it lapsed,” he said.

“There was a law in British India known as the Telegraph Law which dealt with obscene pictures or books; it could also cover electronics crimes but the police do not apply it in such cases,” he added.

Express Tribune