LAHORE - The first international conference on “Forensic Science and Justice” Wednesday began at the Government College University under the auspices of the university’s Chemistry Department, Punjab Forensic Science Agency (PFSA) and the Higher Education Commission.

Above 500 lawyers, judges, forensic experts, police officers and academicians are participating in the three-day international conference which was spread over six technical sessions on ‘Jurisprudence’, ‘Forensic Toxicology and Drug of Abuse’, ‘Crime Detection and its Investigation’, ‘Forensic Biology’, ‘Forensic Psychology’ and ‘Cyber crimes’.

Addressing the opening ceremony, Vice Chancellor Prof Dr Khaleequr Rahman said that it was the first time in Pakistan that a conference was being held on forensic science to discuss latest methods to overcome obstacles affecting judicial system. About 11 eminent forensic scientists from the US, UK, Canada, Egypt and Australia are practicing in the conference, he added. In his keynote address, Dr Garth Glassberg, the executive director of Chicago Regional Crime Lab USA, said that forensic science made the dead speak. “Humans can lie, forget or get frightened from the crime scene, but physical evidence is always present at crime scene, as a silent witness,” he said, adding that the change from oral testimony to scientific physical evidence testimony was a paradigm shift in the America’s criminal justice system.

He also told participants that like human fingerprints, every firearm in the world leave unique print on its ammunition, and how it could be proved in the court that ammunition were fired form the specific firearm.

Terrey H Gilbert, an eminent defense attorney from Ohio, USA, said DNA analysis and other forensic evidences were being used to revisit closed cases in USA in which biological crime scene specimens were maintained.  “Questionable convictions based on non-scientific evidence such as ‘eyewitness’ identification are now being reversed by new testing using this advanced science. As a result, hundreds of innocent people in the last 20 years have been released,” he said, adding that these DNA exonerations had now called into question widely accepted notions of the reliability of traditional evidence. PFSA Director General Dr Ashraf Tahir said prior to the establishment of PFSA, forensic techniques were applied in less than one per cent of the over-all crime investigations in Pakistan.

“Above and beyond sanctioning wider discretion to the investigators, this practice also leads to a situation where large number of evidentially fragile cases is submitted to the courts and resultantly the fraction of cases resulting in convictions remains low,” he added.

Tahir said PFSA had proved its excellence at the international level, and they were receiving cases from America, UK, Egypt and other countries of the world. He laid stress on establishing more state-of-the-art forensic science agencies in the country to support the judicial system.

Speaking on the occasion, GCU Dean Faculty of Science and Technology Prof Islam Ullah Khan said about 70 papers would be presented by the eminent forensic experts at the conference which stressed on refining objectives, deliberating delivery plan details, discussion and dissemination of emerging results from it.

Lahore High Court former chief justice Khwaja Muhammad Sharif also spoke on the role of physical evidence in criminal justice system. Eminent Chemist Dr Muhammad Akhyar Farrukh presented a paper on Green Synthesis of Magnetic Nanopowder for the Development of Latent Fingermarks.

Prof Dr Harpal S Buttar from University of Ottawa, Canada, GCU Chemistry Department Chairperson Dr Adnan and Tanta University, Egypt Forensic Medicine Department Head Dr Mona Elghory also attended the opening ceremony of the conference.