CSI Lahore: US forensics big shot comes home to help Pakistan

Mon Jan 26, 2015 11:17am EST
 
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By Katharine Houreld

LAHORE, Pakistan (Reuters) - As one of America's top forensic scientists, Mohammad Tahir uncovered evidence that helped jail boxer Mike Tyson for rape, convict serial killer John Wayne Gacy and clear doctor Sam Sheppard of murdering his wife.

Then Tahir took on his toughest assignment yet – applying his skills in Pakistan, a poor nation of 180 million people beset by crime and militancy.

But catching criminals is not Tahir's biggest problem. It's working with the country's antiquated criminal justice system.

The very notion of producing evidence is a newfangled concept for many involved in law enforcement in Pakistan. Cases often rely on witnesses who are easily bribed or intimidated. Terrorism and murder suspects usually walk free.

So Tahir, a softly spoken man whose passions are reading and gardening, set out on a quest: to promote forensic science.

"Physical evidence does not lie, it does not perjure itself as humans do," said the dapper 65-year-old. "It is a silent witness ... We make it speak in a court of law."

Tahir, a dual Pakistani and U.S. citizen, has his own forensics lab in the Unites States. He spent 36 years working with U.S. police and helped write the FBI handbook on forensics.

In 2008, with militant attacks rising in Pakistan, Punjab's chief minister called Tahir and asked for help: to design a new $31 million forensics lab in the city of Lahore, handpick its scientists and try to enforce new standards of crime solving.   Continued...

 
A forensic scientist analyzes samples in the DNA and Serology department at Punjab Forensic Science Agency in Lahore January 13, 2015. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra