Punjab Police Homicide Unit Launched
Pakistan’s first specialized homicide investigation unit launched by Punjab Police with the improved idea that find evidence, don’t plant it. This will be seen as a positive change in the dwindling state of the Criminal Justice System.
The unit comprises of a 478-strong unit which pairs veterans with university graduates with an additional training of one year in forensic, report writing and interrogation. Such an initiative is essential to ensure that the militants and criminals are not set free and to restore the trust of ordinary citizens in the police and justice system. Furthermore, courts tend to rely heavily on witness testimony and evidence found at the crime scene and both are vulnerable to manipulation. It is hoped by senior police officials that the launch of this new unit will help restrain manipulation. In most murder cases, victims’ families say they know who the killer is, police say. Yet, few officers are trained to collect evidence to prove it, and sometimes make it up. Such a practice will be addressed through this unit. In most of the cases, witnesses are often coached and evidence is planted in order to incriminate the guilty.
However, according to Hassan Abbas, author of “The Taliban Revival”, and a renowned expert on police reforms, the new unit is not sufficient on its own: “Basic problems like lack of police training, political interference and lack of funding are still not being addressed,” he said. “Announcing new units is nice for the media, but the basics are still neglected.”
Moreover, another challenge for the police lies when the families of the victims forgive the killers in exchange of cash which once again allows killers to get away with heinous crimes like murder.
The new unit recently photographed a corpse sprawled in the library, a bloody axe wedged in its back at a mosque in the Punjab city of Lahore. According to Umer Riaz, head of the new unit’s Lahore section,”In the old days, they would have just moved the body immediately and vital evidence would have been lost.” The unit has already started investigating 100 cases with so far 24 people appearing in the courts on basis of the conclusions drawn by the unit. However, it is imperative to mention here that funding and lack of adequate training remains an issue for proper functioning of the unit. It is estimated that the officers should receive 50,000 rupees ($490) per investigation to cover the cost of transport, equipment and forensic tests. “We are in favour of this initiative, but if they don’t do it properly, it will just be old wine in new bottles,” warns a Punjabi policeman serving as a seasoned investigator.