The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has closed almost 7,000 inquiries and actions initiated under section 20 of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes (Amendment) Act (Peca) Ordinance 2022, a couple of days after the Islamabad High Court (IHC) declared the amended law as “unconstitutional”.

Majority of these complaints were registered on charges of defamation and serious threats received by citizens via Twitter and Facebook profiles.

The IHC further directed the federal government to probe abuse of the law and sought a report in this regard within 30 days.


According to Dawn News, quoting sources, “the action was initiated on 70 percent of the total complaints filed by the women who were harassed on social media by “known and unknown persons.”

FIA officials stated that over 60 percent of the total complaints of women were registered on charges of sexually harassment through Facebook accounts.

Furthermore, following the IHC verdict, the FIA’s cyber crime division has stopped receiving complaints under Peca section 20.

Read more- Civil society, political collectives condemn PECA Ordinance

Why was the law so controversial?

PECA received criticism from all quarters of society. According to critics, the law would make it illegal to send text messages without the recipient’s authorisation, be tried and jailed for sending fake whatsapp forwards or to use social media to criticise the government.

Digital Rights activist Usama Khilji, while talking exclusively to The Current said that “the section of PECA related to sexual harassment is sections 21 and 24 which are very much still a part of the law. Only the harm to reputation part of section 20 has been struck down by the Islamabad High court because it had become a tool in the hands of the powerful to shut down any criticism against them through a criminal defamation case. Defamation is decriminalised in most democracies today. “

He continued by adding, “the short-lived amendment ordinance only worsened section 20 by criminalising harm to the reputation of public officials as well as organisations and institutions, and making it non-bailable, non-compoundable and cognizable which means that the FIA could arrest accused without warrant, file a case on their own, and not give them bail. it was necessary to preserve basic rights and democracy the unconstitutional and authoritarian ordinance was struck down.”