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KARACHI, March 6 City police personnel will now be required to include `fingerprint cards` in investigation case files, in an attempt by the police department to enforce the practice of obtaining fingerprints from suspects, it has been learnt.

The investigation SP will not approve a case for a charge-sheet if a fingerprint card has not been prepared, except in cases charge-sheeted under Section 512 of the Criminal Procedure Code, officials said.

To enforce the practice, the readers of the SSP Investigations will not accept a case charge-sheet unless case files submitted by the inquiry officer contain the custom-designed cards with the suspect`s fingerprints.

A notification in this connection was issued recently by the office of Capital City Police Officer Waseem Ahmed.

The decision to make the recording of fingerprints mandatory was taken after a meeting pertaining to the present status of the US-funded Automated Fingerprints Identification System (AFIS) project in Karachi, during which a detailed presentation was given to the CCPO by the AIG for Criminalistics, Abdul Khaliq Shaikh.

Under the AFIS programme, a centralised database of the fingerprints of all known offenders and suspects in criminal cases will be put together.

The project carries a price tag of $13 million. It has been designed by US-based firm Lockheed Martin, with funding from the US Department of State`s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs.

The Pakistani partners in the project are the National Police Bureau, the Police Service of Pakistan and the Federal Investigation Agency.

Suspects not being fingerprinted

Earlier, the collection of fingerprints was not being taken seriously by investigation officers and the bulk of suspects were not being fingerprinted by the police in the city.

At present, fingerprints are not being collected from every crime scene, but under the new system it will be ensured that they are collected more frequently from crime scenes in the city.

Fingerprints are only being collected from the crime scenes of high-profile cases, officials said.

In January, 1,749 fingerprint cards were collected from nine districts of Sindh - 1,529 from Karachi, 13 from Hyderabad, 31 from Dadu, 45 from Sanghar, 45 from Nawabshah, 7 from Sukkur, 8 from Khairpur, 51 from Jacobabad and 20 from Larkana.

However, in February there was a sharp increase in the number of fingerprints collected from these nine districts.

From Karachi, 5,594 prints were collected, 151 from Hyderabad, 546 from Dadu, 770 from Sanghar, 157 from Nawabshah, 75 from Sukkur, 106 from Khairpur, 61 from Jacobabad and 83 from Larkana, totalling 7,543 fingerprint cards.

All of the gathered fingerprints are being directly fed into the central database in Islamabad through remote terminals set up in each of the nine districts.

So far, 32,424 fingerprints have been fed into the central database from Sindh, while the number of such cards from Punjab is 230,000, officials said, adding that the central database in Islamabad had over 500,000 fingerprints on record. AFIS is supposed to equip Pakistan`s law enforcement agencies with modern tools.

Earlier, investigators conducted manual comparisons, which was a time-consuming and unproductive method of seeking information. Police from all corners of the country will now be able to compare fingerprints collected at their crime scenes with the prints registered in the central AFIS database in Islamabad, officials said.

Citing a lack of awareness about the collection of fingerprints from suspects as the core reason for poor collection of data in Sindh, an officer said the police force itself was not aware of the importance of the project.

Similarly, the unavailability of fingerprint cards with the police also hampered the collection of data.

According to a notification issued by CCPO Waseem Ahmed, all suspects held at the police station are to be fingerprinted. The fingerprints will be taken on prescribed cards supplied by the AIG, Criminalistics Division, to the concerned investigation SSP.

The investigation SP will distribute fingerprint cards to station investigation officers at their police stations. The investigation officers would be directed to fill in the fingerprint cards whenever a suspect was arrested, the notification said.

Fingerprint card inclusion to be mandatory

The notification further says that when a case file is sent for scrutiny or approval for a charge-sheet to the investigation SP, the duly completed fingerprint cards will be attached to it.

The investigation SP and specialised units will devise a monitoring system whereby they should be able to check the number of suspects held in their police stations and the number of fingerprint cards prepared. Any discrepancy should be properly probed and those responsible should be held accountable.

The reader to the investigation SSP shall be responsible for detaching all such cards from the case file and storing them at a proper place in his office for further processing.

The filled cards so collected will be sent by the reader to the office of the AIG (Criminalistics) every Monday, the notification says.

The investigating officers visiting the scene of a crime should try to obtain fingerprints from the scene and those fingerprints should be sent to the Criminalistics Division for matching and comparison.

The investigation SP will ensure that he has adequate qualified staff at each police station to obtain fingerprints from the crime scene. A training course is being organised at the office of the AIG (Criminalistics) for the investigation staff so that they can learn how to fill in the fingerprint cards, the notification adds.