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December 22, 2014

FIA can’t identify terrorists for lack of equipment

 
December 22, 2014

ISLAMABAD: While Pakistan is in a state of war against terrorists, shockingly its only Criminal Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) has been out of order for the last three years, making it extremely difficult to probe the crime scene and identify persons responsible for heinous crimes in over 85 percent of cases.
A senior official of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) told The News that a foreign company had installed biometric technology at the agency’s headquarters during the era of former president General Pervez Musharraf to maintain a database for counterterrorism activities but the system was locked for the last three years and the country was facing serious difficulty in identifying the criminals despite an increase in the frequency of terror attacks across the country.
In the absence of the Criminal AFIS, he said, the Civil AFIS of National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) was being used but in over 85% cases, the Nadra’s system could not identify fingerprints from a crime scene as it was not designed for that purpose.
Sources said the matter had been brought to the notice of Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan in a recent meeting at the FIA headquarters. A senior Nadra official, who was present in the meeting, told the minister that the authority’s AFIS was only for the identification of duplicate national identity cards and its accuracy in criminal investigation was only 10 to 15 percent.
When contacted by The News, Nadra sources confirmed that the authority had requested the ministry to import the criminal finger identification system to aid the law enforcement agencies.
They added that the authority was helping the law enforcers in identifying the criminals but it had some technical limitations.
“In the case of suicide bombing, Nadra can identify the attacker from his fingerprints and facial images in 95 percent cases but in the absence of a dead body, it is very difficult to match the fingerprints of criminals and terrorists with the Nadra database,” a Nadra official said.
He said the Criminal AFIS was used for cross matching the fingerprints of a person. “This system can match fingerprints with multiple fingers but Nadra’s existing AFIS can only match similar fingers. For accurate identification, Nadra’s system needs exact information about each of 10 fingers of a criminal to identify him or her while the Criminal AFIS needs only one fingerprint to accurately identify the criminal.”
According to Minister for Interior Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, Nadra is assisting the government agencies in identification services in matters of counterterrorism and crime, which is helpful in maintaining law and order in the country.
In his written reply to a question by a legislator, the minister told the National Assembly on December 5, 2014 that more than 500 million fingerprints and 116.5 million facial images had been collected by Nadra and 95.2 million identity cards had been issued by the authority.
When contacted by The News, an FIA official said the agency was not directly operating the Criminal AFIS and only the building of the authority had been used by an American company to operate the system.
“The system was in custody of the Police Bureau and a foreign company was operating it until 2010,” he said.
The FIA sources said the foreign company that was operating the AFIS was also involved in manufacturing fighter jets and the system was locked deliberately by some Pakistani agencies over concerns of data leakage.