PESHAWAR, Dec 10: Police are finding it difficult to prepare cases against the suspects involved in terrorism as the lone Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) set up over three decades ago is ill-equipped and facing shortage of staff, badly affecting investigation by the law enforcers.

“We need to put the investigation system on scientific lines and prepare solid cases against the people arrested with explosives, firearms and contrabands as they often walk free from courts when police fail to present evidence that proves their linkage with the crime,” official sources said.

They said that police were mostly relying on torturing a suspect during interrogation for extracting facts owing to old and outdated investigation system.

They said that presently only four per cent accused were sentenced in terrorism related cases.

The Peshawar High Court on several occasions had directed police department to improve its investigation so that solid cases could be framed and accused could be convicted.

Police got assistance from the US and other donors for their role against terrorism, but the Forensic Science Laboratory was still ill-equipped and short of employees to trace terrorists, officials said.

The FSL, established in 1976, was supposed to carry out scientific investigations to substantiate field probe into crimes and ensure dispensation of justice but it was becoming redundant, they said.

The officials said that some sections of the laboratory such as firearms, finger and footprints were in bad shape owing to shortage of staff and outdated equipment.

In many cases, police told the court that the accused in certain cases were very dangerous and should not be released because their freedom could jeopardise the lives of others but in the absence of any proof they were acquitted, officials said.

“The FSL is heading for a collapse. No employees have been inducted since its establishment. Many experts in other important sections like chemical analysis of rape victims, vehicle examination, drawing sketches of suspected suicide bombers, narcotics, documents’ examinations and finger and foot printing have retired and some are nearing age of superannuation,” they said.

They said that they had no technical people to replace the retiring lot because people were not joining FSL, which worked under police department.

“During the past few months, at least five experts from different sections retired. Workload has been increased from 2,500 in 1976 to 60,000 cases per year but new people haven’t been recruited by the government to save FSL from becoming ineffective,” officials said.

They said that some efforts to upgrade the laboratory proved fruitless. A few years ago, the government planned a proper service structure for about 80 staffers of the laboratory but the plan couldn’t see light of the day. The employees of the laboratory await promotion.

The officials said that FSL received specimen from the police stations and political authorities of the entire province and Federally Administered Tribal Areas. It required to dispose of al cases within due times but the same were often delayed, they added.

Home and Tribal Affairs Secretary Azam Khan told Dawn that upgradation of FSL was part of recommendations to improve conviction rate in Anti-Terrorism Court.

“Strengthening of scientific investigation is most important in terrorism cases. Along with the operational side the investigation aspect is very important,” he said.

Mr Khan said that they needed transparent scientific and independent investigation to ensure its credibility. “A research cell has also been established that monitors the progress in terrorism-related cases,” he said.