Lack of staff, infrastructure: 6,000 samples await analysis at chemical examiner’s lab
LAHORE, Nov 19: Over 6,000 samples are lying pending for the last three years or so for chemical analysis at the Chief Chemical Examiner Lab Punjab that suffers from an acute shortage of trained staff and deficient infrastructure, official sources told Dawn.
He said the samples including specimens of blood, stomach contents, besides liquor, bhang, charas and other narcotics were dispatched mainly by the excise department, police, courts and Anti Narcotics Force to the lab located on Birdwood Road, off Jail Road.
The decisions of the cases to which these samples are related are pending in different courts as the reports to be issued by the Chief Chemical Examiner Punjab were considered vital in this regard.
The lab officials cite shortage of trained staff and infrastructure at the lab as a major factor causing inordinate delay in processing of the specimens. Another reason, they say, is the government’s focus on the newly-established Forensic Science Agency (FSA).
The lab has been given under the administrative control of home department since 2008. Earlier it was under the health department.
“The lab is fast losing its credibility and efficiency owing to an acute shortage of qualified officials and infrastructure as the available staff is unable to analyse over 6,000 samples within the given date,” a senior admin official told Dawn, requesting not to be named.
He said the Chief Chemical Examiner’s office had received ‘clear’ indications from the concerned quarters about stoppage of further funds and fresh recruitment for the lab.
He said under such uncertain circumstances, the lab officials find it beyond their capacity to perform the gigantic task of speedy analysis of such a large number of samples, adding that pushing them for making haste in their sensitive and important work was risky.
“The lab reports were presented to the courts, law enforcement agencies and state-run departments as concrete evidences”, he said.
He said any further delay in the provision of more trained staff at the lab meant delay in decision of 6,000 under-trial or under-process cases lying pending in the courts or different departments concerned.
Quoting an official document, he said the home department had strictly barred the Chief Chemical Examiner office in August 2012 from receiving new samples for examination which meant the government was closing the lab soon.
The official said the lab had two sub-offices – Chemical Examiner’s offices in Multan and Rawalpindi. However, he said, the home department did not bar the sub-offices from receiving samples for the reasons best known to the authorities concerned. Only the Lahore office had been placed under home department whereas the sub-offices in Multan and Rawalpindi had been declared independent, he added.
Punjab Chief Chemical Examiner Dr Waseem Haider told Dawn the available staff was working round the clock for the disposal of pending cases according to the government’s directions to facilitate the people associated with the cases in getting justice.
“Because of the pressure by the quarters concerned, I have assigned target to the staff to dispose of at least 70 cases per week”, he said.
He said the lab had also been receiving samples from various health facilities, including 38 district headquarters hospitals, 190 tehsil headquarters hospitals and 350 rural health centres, which added to the burden of work.