ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s anti-crime watchdog has vowed “strict action” against illegal loan apps in the country, the Federal Investigation Agency said in a statement on Thursday, following the widely reported incident of a man who took his own life after being harassed by loan officers.
A 40-year-old man from Rawalpindi city reportedly died by suicide this week after he was unable to return the loans he took from a number of mobile apps. Officials from the apps started threatening him on a daily basis, compelling him to take his own life, his wife told media.
The tragic episode comes as annual inflation rose to 37.97 percent in May, setting a national record for the second month in a row and adding to Pakistan’s problems of a balance of payment crisis and the risk of a sovereign default. Most people in the nation of 220 million are struggling to cope with a surge in living costs triggered by the government’s devaluing the currency and removing subsidies to pave the way for an International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout needed to stave off economic collapse.
“The director-general of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), Mohsin Hasan Butt, has sought a progress report of the incident from the agency’s cybercrime wing and has issued orders to arrest the elements involved in the crime at the earliest,” the FIA’s statement said, adding that Butt had called for the arrest of the suspects and strict action against loan apps harassing citizens.
“The FIA’s cybercrime circle Rawalpindi has initiated an investigation into the calls received by the victim, while the ownership and location data of the callers are being collected as well,” the statement said.
The agency said it had also carried out two separate raids at the offices of the apps in Islamabad’s G-8 locality, confiscated a number of laptops and computers, and sealed the facilities.
“Information related to illegal loan apps is also being sought from the Security Exchange Commission of Pakistan so that further action will be taken against loan apps involved in illegal activities,” the statement said, adding that the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) had also been instructed to block all illegal loan apps operating in the country.
“Effective strategies will be adopted in collaboration with stakeholders to prevent such incidents in the future,” the statement quoted the FIA’s director-general as saying. “In case of harassment by loan apps, citizens can visit the nearest FIA cybercrime circles and file a complaint.”