Thursday, January 22, 2009

Red tape delays automatic fingerprinting project

The American-funded automated fingerprint identification system (AFIS) project in Pakistan has been delayed by two years due to bureaucratic hold-ups and issues over implementation at various stages, it transpires.

The project was scheduled to be completed by June 2007, but the tentative completion date has now been extended to June 2009, official sources here

said yesterday.

The Phase I of the AFIS project was inaugurated by Prime Minister Yousuf Gilani in Islamabad in January last year.

Practically, however, the project has yet to take shape, at least in Karachi. Phase 1 of the project includes the setting up of multifunctional workstations in Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar, Quetta, Muzzafarabad and Gilgit. Fifty-two remote terminal sites will also be set up across the country.

In Karachi, the workstations are to be set up in the Central Police Office (CPO), where space has been arranged for them.

Sources at the CPO say, however, that while the space has been carved out, it may be some months before the project can be handed over to representatives of the AFIS. Earlier, officials from Islamabad and local representatives of AFIS had conveyed their displeasure to the Karachi police over the lack of space allocated to the project.

The AFIS project carries a price tag of US$13m, and was designed by Lockheed-Martin, a US firm. Funding for the project was provided by the US State Department and the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs.

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

AFIS is supposed to bring state-of-the-art law enforcement tools into the hands of law-enforcement agencies in the country. At present, investigators manually compare records, which is a time-consuming and relatively inaccurate method of

police investigation.

Once implemented, the system will allow law-enforcement agencies to create a central database for all known criminals arrested anywhere in Pakistan. Police from across the country will be able to compare fingerprints collected at crime-scenes against prints already registered in the central AFIS database in Islamabad, according to sources.

Under the AFIS project, the investigation officer (IO) in every case is supposed to collect fingerprints from suspects on special cards, called “Standard Fingerprint Cards”.

The cards were sent to every police station, and completed cards were to be deposited at the Sindh Forensic Science Lab (SFSL), situated at

Garden Headquarters.

The sources said, however, that the practice was followed only for about six months before being discontinued.

Inquiries made suggest that, at present, hardly any fingerprint cards are being sent by IOs to the Garden headquarters. Fingerprints are also not being collected from suspects at police stations. Sharing his experiences, ASP (Assistant Superintendent of Police) Dr Khurram Rashid said that when he was posted at Sukkur, the practice of taking fingerprints from suspects was followed religiously. The ASP said that suspects were also photographed.“The system is being followed in the interior of Sindh, but in Karachi it is not being taken seriously,” ASP Rashid added. 
Source ::: INTERNEWS

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