Impacts of Punjab Forensic Science Agency

When investigation system, law enforcement apparatus and judicial mechanism grapple in the darkness failing to find clue in the cases that relate to our daily life and crime scene, Punjab Forensic Science Agency (PFSA) is the sole option to unearth the truth on scientific grounds with high accuracy.

Since its inception in 2009-2011, it has helped resolved a number of high-profile cases in which neither any lead or clue was in sight. Whether it was Zainab rape-murder case that made international headlines, Chunian case in which 4 children were sexually abused and killed, identification of burnt dead bodies in Oil tanker explosion case of Ahmedpur Sharqia and many others daily matters in which government machinery was in state of bewilderment and did not know what to do, PFSA anchored its role in fixing the issues through DNA evidences, audio-video analysis, latent finger prints, chemical examination matters and other forensic advanced techniques.

Even in the cases pertaining to paternity, child legitimacy, animal theft and organ transplant, PFSA makes a difference by providing its forensic services.

No doubt credit goes to PFSA Director General Dr. Muhammad Ashraf Tahir who has been upholding the supremacy of excellence and professionalism along with his capable team. He is going to revolutionize our daily life and crime landscape by equipping PFSA with DNA data collection, Firearms data collection and fingerprints data collections first time in the history of Pakistan.

So far thousands of data of DNA, firearms and fingerprints have been collected. Legislation is in offing to help stockpile DNA data of all convicts in jails.

According to DG Dr. Muhmmad Asharf Tahir, firearms include ammunition, guns, bullets, cartridges, cutter and others sharp or pointed stuff. “Firearm investigation is a specialty of forensic science focusing on the examination of firearms and related subjects. Closely linked to this is ballistics, which relates to the flight path of projectiles, often associated with forensic science during the investigation of firearms. This area of study examines the path of a bullet from when it leaves the firearm up until it strikes the target. During investigations in which the use of firearms is suspected, a number of artefacts may be collected for examination, including firearms, cartridge cases, bullets, live ammunition, trace materials, and any material damaged by a projectile,” he said.

During the manufacturing process, legally produced firearms are stamped with a uniquely identifying serial number. These numbers are stamped into the firearm, a process which also impresses the digits below the surface of the metal. Even though criminals may attempt to erase these serial numbers to avoid the weapon being traced, it may be possible to restore these serial numbers to a state in which they are legible. Serial numbers are often erased by filing or grinding, which will not necessarily remove the digits below the surface. Alternatively the perpetrator may attempt to change the serial number. Various techniques and reagents have been used to successfully restore these original numbers.

It is learnt that PFSA is also trying to seek a law helping to collect firearms used by police department to increase transparency in the system. Similarly, a legal framework is direly needed to collect inclusive fingerprints data. In comparison to NADRA that has data but only tips of 10 fingers. NADRA does not have all sides, full finger and complete palm data. However, PFSA will be collecting fingerprints data to be covering all aspects of finger and palm through modern apparatus.

In the supervision of DG Dr. Ashraf Tahir, Punjab Forensic Science agency management maintain a quality management system to meet the requirements of international standard for laboratories ISO 17025:2005 ASCLD-LAB International (American society for crime laboratory directors Laboratory accreditation Board) to achieve high level of customer (Law Enforecemnt agencies) satisfaction.

Forensic science sits at the intersection of science, law, policing, government and policy. It is a complex ecosystem that has competing demands and drivers to deliver science to assist the justice system.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), in collaboration with the Punjab Forensic Science Agency (PFSA), recently organised a forensic science technician course for the personnel of the UNODC-developed mobile crime scene investigation units located in the districts of Sialkot, Gujrat and Gujranwala.

The Director General of the PFSA, Dr. Mohammad Ashraf Tahir expressed appreciation for the UNODC’s efforts, and stated that the PFSA is fully equipped to process physical evidence as per international standards.

Forensic science is much less cut-and-dried than television dramas might suggest. When a DNA swab or a shoe mark lands on a forensic scientist’s lab bench, it has already gone through many steps, each with their own uncertainties.

These uncertainties are unavoidable, because forensic traces typically represent the aftermath of a chaotic event. The only option is to manage these uncertainties through a better understanding of how these traces are generated, persist, degrade, interact with each other, and how the information they hold can be interpreted.

Establishment of Punjab Forensic Science Agency is a concrete step towards materializing a tolerant society by assisting courts in disseminating speedy justice. It is providing forensic services in fourteen forensic disciplines. Integration and unification of all forensic services under one roof reduce chances of mishandling, manipulation, deterioration and contamination of evidence.

The scientific analysis undertaken at Agency assist investigating agencies in successful investigations and replace oral evidence with the empirical testimony in courts of law. Reliable evidence are available to improve conviction rate. It has been reducing the nominal justice gap in Punjab. The robust independent status of the Agency ensure transparency in handling and processing of evidence.

The establishment of Punjab Forensic Science Agency in Punjab marks new era in our national history. Being a full service, state of the art Forensic Laboratory, having 14 disciplines under one roof is one of few of its kind in the world. PFSA is an innovative, sophisticated, transfer of technology project spreading over 53Kanals. It is fixed cost first of its kind project constructed on Engineering Procurement and Construction (EPC) Mode. Its structure civil works, mechanical, electrical and Air Conditioning System (HVAC) are unique and without any parallel in Pakistan. The establishment of a Forensic Laboratory of this size usually takes 5 to 7 years in developed countries, whereas here this huge task has been completed in a remarkable time less than 3 years.

The change from eyewitness testimony to scientific physical evidence testimony is colossal in our Judicial System. Human can lie, forget, can be threatened to appear in the Court and can be frightened from the Crime Scene but physical evidence is always present at crime scene, as a silent witness. A well-qualified and properly trained scientist can with his / her knowledge make this silent witness speak in the Court of Law.

The forensic training provides affordable continuing education, training and PFSA certification training to professionals according to internationally established competency standards.

The forensic training section serves the entire Criminal Justice System and law enforcement officers throughout the country. Each month, approximately 2-3 programs of varying length and complexity are offered and about 100-150 officers are exposed to technical training. This training concerns the many services offered by agency, so that the laboratory value of the evidence discovered at a crime scene may be recognized and that the evidence may be properly handle.

This training course focuses to the ability of law enforcement officers to demonstrate proper techniques of locating, recognizing and collecting items of physical evidence, properly package storage and submit physical evidence, and interpret a crime scene to develop a profile of a possible suspect.

Dr. Ashraf Tahir is of the option that with the help of modern PFSA, a day will come when we will be able to see a crime free society.

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