Global Human Rights Defence

Cybercrime Towards Children in Pakistan
Shutterstock - AG Connect (2021, March 18) “VS had 4 miljoen aan schade van cybercrime”

According to official figures documented by  the Federal investigation Agency (FIA), in  recent years, Pakistan has witnessed an  immense increase in online harassment,  blasphemous and anti-religious content as  well as child pornography complaints. Last  year, the FIA registered 260 complaints daily,  reaching up to a total of 94,500 complaints in  2020. These complaints concern minor  cybercrimes such as identity theft and  spamming, but also serious allegations such  as child pornography, sexual harassment, financial fraud, hacking, and defamation (Gishkori,2021).

Cybercrime can be defined as “a crime or an unlawful act through an information system” (CCW FIA,  2021). Most often, a computer or another device is used as either a tool, a target, or both, to obtain  unauthorised access to another information system without the permission of the rightful owner.  Cybercrime can also occur when a device uses another’s information system to commit crimes on the  internet, such as online harassment, spamming, hacking, but also the possession of child pornography  and financial fraud (CCW FIA, 2021). 

With children becoming increasingly active online, it must be taken into account that the seemingly  innocent apps they are using can be of great concern. Every child that uses these platforms can come  across computer viruses, ransomware, and identity theft on a daily basis. On platforms such as chat  rooms, social media, video streaming sites such as YouTube, or online video games, children have  become great targets because of their substantial activity on these platforms and their unawareness of  the danger that may lie behind one innocent ‘click’. Anonymous sharing is very popular in apps such as  Snapchat where messages only show up temporarily before being removed. However, children do not  always understand that nothing is temporary on the internet: cyber thieves or bullies take screenshots or  information before a child can think to realise. Direct messaging is a way for cyberthieves to place links  directing children to phishing sites which can be harmful for their devices and the information present in  it. Children love video games and will play all day long when given the chance to. However, they do not  realise that when they leave the game or the game’s website, thieves can use social engineering tricks such as pop-up ads, chat links, or fake login schemes, to lure them in. In sum, while the internet may seem  innocent to a child, it is far from it, and parents must educate their children to be safe online (Corron,  2018). 

In Pakistan, the FIA has created a special wing, namely the Cyber Crime Wing (CCW), for the purpose of  reporting on and eventually preventing cybercrime. The CCW is guided by laws established under the  Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) of 2016, dealing with the growing threats of cybercrimes. PECA  criminalizes violence against minors and sexual exploitation of children on online platforms, with a  punishment of up to seven years imprisonment or a fine of up to 5 million rupees, or both, for the  perpetrators of these crimes (PECA, 2016). Since its establishment in 2007, the CCW is the only unit in  Pakistan that receives direct complaints about instances of cybercrime and that can take legal measures  against the perpetrators behind such crimes (CCW FIA, 2021). 

The magnitude of cybercrimes in Pakistan can be seen from the total complaints received by the CCW,  having received a total of 84,764 complaints in 2020. These complaints can be categorised accordingly as  illustrated in the following chart. 

Source: CCW FIA, 2021.

Most complaints received concerned financial fraud, hacking and identity theft. The remainder of this  article will explain the crimes most committed against children in Pakistan, such as cyberbullying, child  pornography, identity theft, and cyber stalking and harassment (CCW FIA, 2021).


Young people between the ages of 15 to 24 years old that are active online in Pakistan often fall victim to  online violence, cyberbullying and digital harassment. These numbers are the result of a UNICEF poll  which received more than 1 million responses within five weeks from over 160 countries worldwide.  UNICEF calls for concerted action to tackle and eventually prevent online violence against children and  young people (UNICEF, 2019). 

Overall, cyberbullying causes great harm to children due to the rapid rate at which it can reach a wide  audience as well as the relatively permanent nature of the content as it can remain accessible almost  indefinitely. Bullying that occurs online forms continuously damaging behaviour from and towards  children. Victims of cyberbullying sadly engage more in harmful practices and are more susceptible to  skipping or even dropping out of school because of the impact of the bullies. If they remain in school,  they receive poorer grades than the children who do not experience cyberbullying. On top of that, they  have extremely low self-esteem and sometimes suffer from health problems. In the most extreme  circumstances, cyberbullying has led to suicide (UNICEF, 2019). Aida Girma-Melaku, UNICEF’s  Representative in Pakistan, says that by protecting children from the worst the internet has to offer and  expanding the internet’s best to the greatest extent, we can help children to tip the balance for good  (UNICEF, 2019). The internet is not all bad, for it is a place for children to connect with one another and to  learn, however, we must not forget the dangers behind it, and we must inform children to the greatest  extent. Cyberbullying is bullying in all its forms, and it has to be prevented to the greatest extent possible  (Farooq, 2016).

Child Pornography

In Pakistan, pornography, especially involving children, is illegal and considered to be un-Islamic. The  Pakistani Supreme Court has banned online material that was considered to be blasphemous or  objectionable in the socially conservative society of Pakistan. The government has already asked internet  companies to block more than 400,000 pornography websites, but hundreds of thousands have fallen  through the cracks of the internet censors (Bangkok Post, 2016).  

Pakistan’s Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari has sadly confirmed that Pakistan was the number 1  country in the world for child pornography. She said “the menace of child pornography is in every stratum  of our society” (EurAsian Times Desk, 2019). She advised that a campaign should be run in government based schools and that individuals in everyday society needed to get out there to hold a constructive  dialogue concerning child abuse, especially child pornography. This is because, according to the Minister,  “in order to put an end to incidents of sexual abuse of children, we need to launch collective efforts”  (EurAsian Times Desk, 2019). Herein, not only is it important to establish the means to engage in dialogue,  but it is also vital for children to have a conversation with their parents or other adults about this  matter. Children need to be educated on how to be safe online and elsewhere, for only then can we make  sure that Pakistan never ranks number 1 again (EurAsian Times Desk, 2019). 

Identity Theft

Pakistan is one of the very few countries that requires its citizens to have their biometric details registered  and to have a Computerized National Identity Card (CNIC). Unfortunately, even with this seemingly tightly  controlled system, identity theft and fraud remains a rampant issue, affecting both youngsters and  adults (Privacy International, 2014).  

Identity theft is a crime which involves an individual maliciously obtaining and using someone else’s  individual, personal and sensitive information with which that person commits frauds or scams (FIA  National Response Centre for Cyber Crime, 2021). Now that children are heavily incentivised to increase  their online activity, particularly due to the COVID-19 pandemic that has shifted learning to online  platforms, identity theft has become more frequent. Fears are being expressed over the safety and  privacy of children by digital rights groups and child protection organisations. Digital rights activist and  lawyer, Nighat Dad, stressed that it is important for children and adults to know the threats that are  emerging online. Parents and schools need to collaborate on creating a safe and secure space for  children to talk about their online experiences. It is vital that schools provide the means through which  children are taught how they should behave online so that they are able to recognize the dangers  (Bukhari, 2020).

Cyber Stalking and Harassment

Cyber stalking is the use of the internet to threaten or make unwanted advances towards another  person. Cyber stalking causes physical, emotional, and psychological damage to the victim, especially  when involving young children who have a trusting nature and do not see the danger in their online  actions (FIA National Response Centre for Cyber Crime, 2021). According to the Digital Rights Foundation  (DRF), digital harassment and cyber bullying have been increasing in Pakistan, as illustrated by the DRF’s  

Cyber Harassment Helpline which reported a total of 2,023 cases or 146 calls monthly in 2019 alone – that  is 45% of their overall claims from the last three years concerned with digital harassment and cyber  bullying. Of the complaints, 57% were made by women, the majority of them being between 21 and 25  years, the most vulnerable of which were “young women”. The greatest number of complaints of cyber  harassment and stalking were made on WhatsApp and Facebook, which makes clear that social media  platforms have become a playground for online harassment. An exponential increase in the number of  cases received was witnessed during the lockdown period due to the COVID-19 pandemic – a period  within which there was a total increase by 189% (Jamal, 2020). 

The aforementioned DRF has now established a Cyber Harassment Helpline which has become the first  dedicated, toll-free helpline for victims of online harassment, violence, and stalking. The helpline offers  victims free, safe, and confidential services and aims to provide legal advice, digital security support,  psychological counselling, and even a referral system to victims of online harassment. The helpline is a  judgement-free, private and gender-sensitive environment for all its callers – no one will be left to stand  alone (DRF, 2021). 

To conclude, with the COVID-19 lockdown, children have used the internet more extensively than ever  before. This means that they are also more likely to fall victim to the dangers of the internet, such as  cyberbullying, stalking and harassment, identity theft, and child pornography, to only name a few. The  only solution to the growing issue of violence against children on online platforms is education. Either via  their school institutions or through their parents, children need to become aware of the dangers that lie  on the dark, unknown web. Only when children learn how to behave online will it be possible to tackle the  issue of cybercrime.  


Bangkok Post (2016, January 26) “Pakistan orders 400,000 porn sites blocked” https://www. bangkok post.  com/world/840328/pakistan-orders-400000-porn-sites-blocked.  

Bukhari, A., (2020, May 23) “Juveniles in cyberspace: how to ensure protection amid surge in online abuse  cases? In the The Express Tribune: protection-amid-surge-online-abuse-cases.  

CCW FIA (2021) “Cyber Crimes Risks, Prevention and Legal Remedies – Guidelines for Cyber Users” https:  //  

Corron, L., (2018, January 17) “Social Cyber Threats Facing Children and Teens in 2018” https:// stay safe  

DRF (2021) “Cyber Harassment Helpline”  

EurAsian Times Desk (2019, July 4) “Pakistan No. 1 in Child Pornography and Abuse: Human Rights Minister”  

Farooq, M., (2016, March 6) “Stop cyber bullying”  

FIA National Response Centre for Cyber Crime (2021) “Cyber crime categories” http://www.nr3c.  crimecategorie.html.  

Gishkori, Z., (2021, May 6) “Country witnesses massive jump in cybercrime cases” in the News International  

Jamal, S., (2020, July 1) “Cyber harassment on the rise in Pakistan, report says” in Gulf News: 1.72354581.  

Privacy International (2016, July 23) “Identity theft persists in Pakistan’s biometric era” in Free Expression &  the Law: 

UNICEF (2019, February 5) “Safer Internet Day: UNICEF calls for concerted action to prevent bullying and  harassment of young people online in Pakistan” internet-day-unicef-calls-concerted-action-prevent-bullying-and-harassment.  


Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016 [2016] uploads /docum ents/ 147 091 0 65  9_707.pdf. 


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.


Coordinator - Tibet Team

Mandakini graduated with honours from the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights. Her team analyses the human rights violations faced by Tibetans through a legal lens.

Kenza Mena
Team Coordinator -China

Kenza Mena has expertise in international criminal law since she is currently pursuing a last-year Master’s degree in International Criminal Justice at Paris II Panthéon-Assas and obtained with honors cum laude an LLM in International and Transnational Criminal Law from the University of Amsterdam. She also holds a Bachelor’s degree in French and Anglo-American law. 

Since September 2021, she has been the coordinator of Team China at GHRD, a country where violations of human rights, even international crimes, are frequently perpetrated by representatives of the State. Within Team China, awareness is also raised on discrimination that Chinese women and minorities in the country and, more generally, Chinese people around the world are facing.

Kenza believes that the primary key step to tackle atrocities perpetrated around the world is advocacy and promotion of human rights.

Aimilina Sarafi
Pakistan Coordinator

Aimilina Sarafi holds a Bachelor’s degree cum laude in International Relations and Organisations from Leiden University and is currently pursuing a Double Legal Master’s degree (LLM) in Public International Law and International Criminal Law at the University of Amsterdam.
She is an active advocate for the human rights of all peoples in her community and is passionate about creating a better world for future generations. Aimilina is the coordinator for the GHRD team of Pakistan, in which human rights violations of minority communities in Pakistan are investigated and legally evaluated based on international human rights legal standards.
Her team is working on raising awareness on the plight of minority communities such as women, children, religious and ethnic minorities within Pakistan.

Lukas Mitidieri
Coordinator & Head Researcher- Bangladesh

Lucas Mitidieri is currently pursuing his bachelor’s degree in International Relations at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ). As the GHRD Bangladesh Team Coordinator, he advocates for human rights and monitors violations across all minorities and marginalized groups in Bangladesh. Lucas believes that the fight for International Human Rights is the key to a world with better social justice and greater equality.

Nicole Hutchinson
Editorial Team Lead

Nicole has an MSc in International Development Studies with a focus on migration. She is passionate about promoting human rights and fighting poverty through advocacy and empowering human choice. Nicole believes that even the simplest social justice efforts, when properly nurtured, can bring about radical and positive change worldwide.

Gabriela Johannen
Coordinator & Head Researcher – India

Gabriela Johannen is a lawyer admitted to the German bar and holds extensive knowledge in the fields of human rights, refugee law, and international law. After working for various courts and law firms in her home country, she decided to obtain an LL.M. degree from Utrecht University where she studied Public International Law with a special focus on Human Rights. Additionally, while working as a pro-bono legal advisor for refugees, she expanded her knowledge in the fields of refugee law and migration.

Gabriela is the coordinator and head researcher for GHRD India, a country, she has had a personal connection with since childhood. Her primary focus is to raise awareness for the severe human rights violations against minorities and marginalized groups that continue to occur on a daily basis in India. By emphasizing the happenings and educating the general public, she hopes to create a better world for future generations.

João Victor
Coordinator & Head Researcher – International Justice

João Victor is a young Brazilian lawyer who leads our team of International Justice and Human Rights. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Law from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and possesses over 5 years of experience in dealing with Human Rights and International Law issues both in Brazil and internationally, including the protection of refugees’ rights and the strengthening of accountability measures against torture crimes.

João has an extensive research engagement with subjects related to International Justice in general, and more specifically with the study of the jurisprudence of Human Rights Courts regarding the rise of populist and anti-terrorist measures taken by national governments. He is also interested in the different impacts that new technologies may provoke on the maintenance of Human Rights online, and how enforcing the due diligence rules among private technology companies might secure these rights against gross Human Rights violations.

Célinne Bodinger
Environment and Human Rights Coordinator

As the Environment and Human Rights Coordinator, Célinne is passionate about the health of our planet and every life on it.

Angela Roncetti
Team Coordinator and Head Researcher- South America

Angela holds a Bachelor of Laws (LL.B) from Vitória Law School (FDV) in Brazil. Her research combines more than five years of experience conducting debates and studies on the rights of homeless people, the elderly, children, and refugees. Besides that, she also volunteers in a social project called Sou Diferente (I am Different in English), where she coordinates and takes part in actions aimed at the assistance and the emancipation of vulnerable groups in the cities of the metropolitan area of Espírito Santo state (Brazil).

Lina Borchardt
Team Head (Promotions)

She is currently heading the Promotions Team and University Chapter of Global Human Rights Defence. Her background is the one of European and International Law, which I am studying in The Hague. She has previously gained experience at Women´s Rights organizations in Germany, the Netherlands and Turkey over the past years.
She has been working for Global Human Rights Defence in the Netherlands since 2020. Her focus now is concentrated on the Human Rights and Minorities Film Festival and the cooperation of GHRD with students across the country.

Pedro Ivo Oliveira
Team Coordinator and Researcher

Pedro holds an extensive background in Human Rights, especially in Global Health, LGBTQ+ issues, and HIV and AIDS. He is currently finishing his Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations and Affairs at the Pontifical Catholic University of Minas Gerais, Brazil. Moreover, he successfully attended the Bilingual Summer School in Human Rights Education promoted by the Federal University of Minas Gerais and the Association of Universities of the Montevideo Group. Besides, Pedro Ivo has a diversified professional background, collecting experiences in many NGOs and projects.

With outstanding leadership abilities, in 2021, Pedro Ivo was the Secretary-General of the 22nd edition of the biggest UN Model in Latin America: the MINIONU. Fluent in Portuguese, English, and Spanish, Pedro Ivo is the Team Coordinator and Head Researcher of the Team Africa at Global Human Rights Defence. Hence, his focus is to empower his team from many parts of the world about the Human Rights Situation in the African continent, meanwhile having a humanized approach.

Alessandro Cosmo
GHRD Youth Ambassador
(European Union)

Alessandro Cosmo obtained his B.A. with Honors from Leiden University College where he studied International Law with a minor in Social and Business Entrepreneurship. He is currently pursuing an LL.M. in Public International Law at Utrecht University with a specialization in Conflict and Security. 
As GHRD’s E.U. Youth Ambassador, Alessandro’s two main focuses are to broaden the Defence’s reach within E.U. institutions and political parties, as well as mediate relations between human rights organizations abroad seeking European funding. 
Alessandro believes that human rights advocacy requires grass-roots initiatives where victims’ voices are amplified and not paraphrased or spoken for. He will therefore act on this agenda when representing Global Human Rights Defence domestically and abroad

Veronica Delgado
Team Coordinator and Researcher- Japan, Sri Lanka & Tibet

Veronica is a Colombian lawyer who leads our team of Japan, Sri Lanka and Tibet. She holds a master’s degree in Public International Law from Utrecht University. She has experience in Colombian law firms. Here she represented clients before constitutional courts. She also outlined legal concepts to state entities such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ombudsman’s Office on international law issues.

Veronica has an extensive research background with subjects related to public international law. She worked as an assistant researcher for more than two years for the Externado University of Colombia. Here she undertook in-depth research on constitutional, business, and human rights law issues. She was involved with consultancy services with the Colombian Army regarding transitional justice. 

Wiktoria Walczyk
Coordinator & Head Researcher (Nepal & Indonesia)

Wiktoria Walczyk has joined GHRD in June 2020 as a legal intern. She is currently coordinator and head researcher of Team Nepal and Indonesia. She has an extensive legal knowledge concerning international human rights and is passionate about children’s and minorities’ rights. Wiktoria has obtained her LL.B. in International & European Law and she specialised in Public International Law & Human Rights at The Hague University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands. Moreover, she is pursuing her LL.M. in International & European Law and focusing on Modern Human Rights Law specialisation at the University of Wroclaw in Poland. In order to gain an essential legal experience, Wiktoria has also joined Credit Suisse’s 2021 General Counsel Graduate First Program where she is conducting her legal training and discovering the banking world. She would like to make a significant impact when it comes to the protection of fundamental human rights around the world, especially with regard to child labour. 

Fairuz Sewbaks
Coordinator and Head Researcher

Fairuz Sewbaks holds extensive legal knowledge regarding international human rights, with a specific focus on human rights dealings taking place in continental Africa. She holds a bachelor’s degree from The Hague University in public international law and international human rights and successfully followed advanced human rights courses at the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria. She furthermore participated in the Istanbul Summer School where she was educated about the role of epidemics and pandemics in light of human rights.


Fairuz is the coordinator and head researcher for GHRD Africa. Her primary focus is to establish and coordinate long-term research projects regarding the differentiating human rights dealings of vulnerable and marginalized groups in continental Africa, as well as conducting individual research projects.

Priya Lachmansingh
Coordinator and Head Researcher, Political Advisor
(Asia & America)

Priya Lachmansingh is currently pursuing her bachelor’s degree in International & European
Law at the Hague University of Applied Science.
As GHRD’s Asia & America human rights coordinator and GHRD Political Advisor, Priya’s
prominent focus is to highlight human rights violations targeted against minority and
marginalized groups in Asia and America and to broaden GHRD reach within Dutch political
parties and as well seek domestic funding.

Jasmann Chatwal
Team Coordinator & Head Coordinator: North America

Jasmann is a political science student at Leiden University who joined GHRD in May 2021 as an intern in team Pakistan. Now, she is the team coordinator for North America and is responsible for coordinating the documentation of human rights violations in USA, Canada, and America.