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‘Sindh’s first forensic DNA and serology lab is functional now’

By Our Correspondent
August 29, 2019

Sindh’s first and country’s second forensic DNA and serology laboratory has finally been established and made operational at the Dr Panjwani Centre for Molecular Medicine and Drug Research (PCMD), University of Karachi, to help the law enforcement agencies in detection and identification of DNA and human biological fluids from the crime scenes, officials said on Wednesday.

“By the grace of Almighty Allah, we have successfully established Sindh’s first the only forensic DNA and serology lab at Dr Panjwani Centre for Molecular Medicine and Drug Research (PCMD). It is a world-class facility and now we don’t have to send the samples to the Punjab Forensic Authority for DNA and serological analysis,” said Prof Iqbal Choudhry, director of the International Centre for Chemical and Biological Sciences (ICCBS), while addressing a news conference at the University of Karachi.

The Sindh government provided Rs220 million for the establishment of the lab on the directives of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, but Prof Choudhry said many private organisations including pharmaceutical companies also provided funds for the purchase of equipment and for other heads which enabled them to set up the state-of-the-art lab functional within six months time.

Project Director Forensic DNA and Serology Lab Dr Ishtiaq Ahmad Khan and other senior officials of the ICCBS were also present on the occasion. Experts said forensic experts would collect minute samples of biological materials from crime scenes, graves, charred bodies and piles of unidentified bodies to match samples with the suspected criminals and to help the authorities in identifying unclaimed bodies.

Prof Iqbal Choudhry said experts from the lab would be able to detect, identify, classify and study body fluids, including blood, semen, saliva, urine, vomit, fecal matter and perspiration. “This state-of-the-art laboratory was set up in six months merely. The laboratory owns a capability of analyzing 100 cases in a month, while in any untoward situation, extra cases could be divided among other national research facilities,” he added.

He mentioned that this project was a part of the Sindh Forensic Authority. Following the orders of the Supreme Court, this lab war set up at the initial stage, he added. By following a comprehensive execution plan, he said, this laboratory had been established at par with international standards. As per directions of the Supreme Court, necessary but sophisticated research equipment had been procured, he said.

The laboratory staff had qualified international proficiency tests, he said, adding that the laboratory had successfully set up at the Jamil-ur-Rehman Centre, which works as a part of Dr Panjwani Centre. Justice Faisal Arab had already reviewed the progress of the project, he said.

Prof Iqbal Choudhary said that it was a team effort as different departments and sections of the international centre worked very closely to complete this task, while Justice Faisal Arab provided continuous support and guidance in the formation of the lab. He informed the media that Sindh Health Minister Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho and his team extended all- out cooperation and support.

He said that the forensic DNA and serology laboratory was an innovative laboratory in the province, providing all DNA and serology services. He added that this state-of-the-art facility was built to aid the police and prosecution department during investigation and trial using modern technology. With the help of this lab, it would be easy for police to gather reliable and probative evidences against a suspect which would help bring justice to him, he said.

Responding to a query about DNA, he said that DNA was present in all forms of life on earth. Every cell in human body contains DNA or the genetic code that differentiates one person from others, he said, adding that DNA carries the instructions for the development, growth, reproduction, and functioning of all life.

Dr Ishtiaq Ahmed said this forensic lab met all standards set by modern international research institutions. The salient features of this laboratory include well-trained staff, purpose-built laboratory space, biometric access and security cameras in every laboratory, separate independent work flows for evidence and reference sample, state-of-the-art laboratory equipment, SOPs as per international standards, and quality assurance mechanism as per international standards etc., he said.