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DNA lab in KP remains a pipe dream

November 16, 2012

PESHAWAR, Nov 16: Shortage of funds has hampered the establishment of DNA laboratory at Khyber Medical College, it is learnt.

The government had planned to set up the said laboratory in Peshawar in 2001 after the war against terrorism began but the plan couldn’t be executed due to unavailability of funding.

Under the plan, a DNA lab and a DNA bank are to be established, according to officials at the provincial Health Secretariat.

The officials said recently, a PCR machine was purchased at the cost of Rs3.1 million for KMC but that couldn’t be used to perform DNA test in the absence of other essential accessories, including sequencer, centrifuge, clinical glassware and refrigerators.

According to them, eight years ago, Japan International Cooperation Agency, as part of its support to the war against terrorism, had pledged to set up five DNA labs in Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi, Quetta and Peshawar.

Representatives of JICA had agreed to set up a DNA lab at KMC, which, under the plan, will receive samples from the sites of terrorism and other crimes in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The officials said a sequencer, one of the basic tools for DNA test, was donated by an international donor to Gomal Medical College, DI Khan but that had yet to be used.

They said the machine valuing around Rs25 million could better be used at KMC, which already had a full-fledged Forensic Medicine and Toxicology Department with all relevant expertise.

“We need a DNA lab with a view to help the government in tracing the origins of terrorists and investigating the terrorism cases sent to it by courts in connection with different crimes and terrorism,” an official said.

He said the province desperately needed a DNA lab in light of a high number of bombings and terrorist activities.

The official said not only terrorism but DNA lab could also be used to provide scientific evidence to the court in cases of murder, attempted murder, sexual assault, paternity and maternity disputes and determination of age.

He said KMC was currently establishing a purpose-built DNA section that would receive samples and furnish results after analysing them. He added that record would be properly maintained there for the use of courts and the government.

The officials said KMC recently submitted a summary to the Health Secretariat highlighting the advantages of the DNA lab and requesting the supply of the Rs50 million equipment for it.

They said the government had also been asked to provide it with a molecular biologist besides the desired machinery to develop expertise and build up infrastructure for research.

According to the officials, the forensic section of the Health Department currently collects samples from the crime scene and hand them over to Forensic Science Laboratory of Police, which dispatches them to Islamabad or Lahore for examination.

When contacted, Special Secretary (Health) Professor Noorul Iman said the Health Department was in the process of developing a Forensic Science Department to cater to the modern day needs in the area of investigation.

He said the government wanted to develop the Forensic Science Departments in all 10 government medical colleges of the province to enable them to receive samples in medicolegal cases from the respective districts and a result, the people could get quick response.

Professor Iman said high-tech tools would be provided to KMC for all necessary investigations.