Customized Practical Guide for Pakistan on Requesting Electronic Evidence Across Borders Launched!

28th January 2022, Islamabad – UNODC in collaboration with the Government of Pakistan organized a launch ceremony of a “Customized Practical Guide for Pakistan on Requesting Electronic Evidence Across Borders” at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Islamabad under the framework of a European Union (EU) supported project entitled “Pakistan’s Action to Counter Terrorism” (PACT).

Pakistan was the pilot country in Asia to partner with UNODC in customizing the global Practical Guide in line with its domestic legal framework and procedures with the aim of providing national and provincial practitioners with necessary methods and skills to access the critical electronic evidence needed to prevent, investigate, prosecute and adjudicate terrorism offences. The Customized Guide would assist law enforcement and criminal justice officials in drafting country and service provider specific requests for preservation, voluntary disclosure, emergency disclosure and Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) in terrorist cases involving electronic evidence.

During the process of customization, UNODC and the Counter Terrorism Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs convened a series of meetings with representatives from the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA), Central Authority of Pakistan at Ministry of Interior, Sindh Judicial Academy and Counter Terrorism Departments to solicit their input and feedback. 

In his opening remarks, Director General Counter Terrorism Division, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Mr. Asim Khan mentioned that “international cooperation is a key pillar of Pakistan’s counter terrorism strategy” and with the customization of this guide we aim to improve the quality of requests submitted to service providers for obtaining electronic evidence which is critical in successfully prosecuting terrorism cases. 

The Global Electronic Evidence Programme Coordinator of UNODC Ms. Arianna Lepore delivered a short presentation to brief the participants on the Global Initiative on Handling Electronic Evidence and reiterated her commitment to provide tailored technical assistance for Pakistan. She also highlighted the growing need of public-private partnership, which will be strategically addressed together with all relevant stakeholders within the Data Disclosure Framework (DDF).

UNODC Country Representative Dr. Jeremy Milsom highlighted that internet users have doubled in Pakistan during the last decade and this trend is expected to grow exponentially in the coming years. In majority of terrorism cases some sort of electronic evidence is relevant therefore it was essential to consult with all stakeholders in the country in the process of customizing the guide which would immensely assist investigators and prosecutors in understanding preservation, pre-mutual legal assistance, mutual legal assistance, and emergency disclosure requests.

The Ambassador of the European Union to Pakistan Her Excellency Androulla Kaminara appreciated accomplishments of the EU-supported Pakistan’s Action to Counter Terrorism (PACT) Sindh project in capacity development of the 2500 investigators, prosecutors and judges including 300 females in cases related to terrorism despite the Covid-19 challenges.  EU Ambassador Kaminara said, “At a time when internet penetration and online businesses are growing at exponential pace in Pakistan it is vital that all such platforms remain secure from criminal activities. The Electronic Evidence Guide will go a long way in securing evidence-based information against any unlawful activity online according to international regulations. EU-Pakistan cooperation enters a new phase in 2022 marking 60 years of successful bilateral relations.”  

In his closing remarks the Foreign Secretary of Pakistan Mr. Sohail Mahmood “congratulated all those who remained involved in developing the guidebook and expressed hope that it would become an effective resource in the toolkit of practitioners to effectively perform their duties and fight transnational crime and reiterated that the Government of Pakistan was fully aware of the threat posed by misuse of cyberspace by terrorists. He said that in line with the new cyber security policy, the government remained committed to modernising its systems, enhance their efficiency, and improve connectivity and the Guide being launched today is a step in that direction.