With Zana alert bill, fear should have frozen rapist at risk, but the concentration of cases has not seen any decline, and the situation has yet to see light the day. In recent years, child rape cases have risen that have shaken society at its peak.

By Prof. Dr. Abdullah G Arijo

Although, DNA finger-printing technology has come up as hope to detect the rapist and the Pakistani nation took a fresh breath after knowing that rapist Imran was involved in Zainab’s sexual assault followed by the murder last year. Nothing helped but DNA test that was conducted that help establish the status of a serial killer.   

Ever since the DNA test has brought bright light visible, there is a debate in personal circles and social media aimed at undermining the importance of DNA fingerprinting. 

All relate to the conventional approach and lack of professional knowledge regarding the significance of DNA test, DNA fingerprinting and gene sequencing. 

The use of DNA testing (fingerprinting) in criminal investigations is quite common in western societies. The protocol is novel and legal but some Muslim scholar is divided in their opinion. 

Conventionally DNA fingerprinting has been in different areas including solving  (a) Paternity (sorting out carelessly misidentified babies in hospitals; (b) defining the identity of a missing child; (c) deciding actual paternity of a child attributed to someone when another comes forward with clear proof of a paternity claim, or (d) the rare case of a woman impregnated by two men (through

concurrent fertilization of two different ova), as in cases of gang rape.

(b) Identity (establishing the identities of prisoners of war, abducted children—who have been gone for an excessively protracted period; verifying the identity of claimants of blood affiliation with a certain ethnic group or person).

( c) Culpability (Establishing criminal guilt from the DNA traces left by criminals (i.e., a body cell, semen, saliva, hair, cigarette butt, blood etc.) as in the cases of rape, fornication, murder, theft, child kidnapping, etc.

A DNA test is highly reliable and leaves no question unanswered. One famous case wherein DNA fingerprinting technology was employed to establish guilt is that of the American President Bill Clinton, in his scandalous involvement in an extramarital sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky. The president’s denial of the affair was refuted when evidence showed the existence of the president’s genetic print in the seminal smear found on Lewinsky’s dress.

What is a DNA test and how it may help identify the culprit(s) may be understood from certain questions that have been answered hereunder.

 How long does DNA last as evidence?

Researchers believe that it varies from situation to situation. under ideal conditions, DNA can maintain its molecular shape for about 6.8 million years, after which all the bonds would be broken and sequences may not be readable after about 1.5 million years, researchers believe. The oldest DNA recorded was found in Greenland ice, and estimated to be between 450,000 and 800,000 years. 

In case of detecting a rapist, DNA sample from the victim and rapist is required. It is important to note that, sperm DNA may last in the reproductive tract of the victim for seven days or even longer after ejaculation? After sexual assault (act), semen sample from the reproductive tract is collected using swab and DNA is extracted using nucleic extraction kits. If it is not possible to get a semen sample from the reproductive tract, the sample may be collected from dry seen drops on any part of the body, particularly cloths. 

Once semen is collected from the victim, a complete DNA test may require 24-72 hours. However, researchers are working to increase the speed of forensic DNA testing, and scientists are trying to build a chip that can copy and analyze DNA samples taken from a cotton swab.

To identify the rapist, semen DNA samples from suspected rapist are to be collected, processed and subjected to gel documentation. If DNA from the victim and rapist match, we have a result.  How long does it take to get forensic DNA results is still an area to think about? The technology has limitations. Most genetic tests take 24-72 hours but the time taken for DNA to go from crime scene to identification can span as long as 14 days. 

In the case of Zainab, the dead body was found on 7th day after sexual assault and murder. The semen sample may have been collected on swab on which the DNA should last up to 3 months from the time of sample collection.   

As mentioned above, the semen samples may be collected from various sources. One needs to establish the route of rape. In case of anal rape, three days and vaginal rape up to seven days may help collect semen sample from dry drops on clothes.  Semen can also be detected on clothing despite washing.

Rape in Pakistan came to international attention after the politically sanctioned rape of Mukhtaran Bibi (Khan, Aamer Ahmed, 2005). The group War Against Rape”  documented the severity of rape in Pakistan, and the police indifference to it  (Karim, Farhad

1996). According to Women’s Studies professor Shahla Haeri, rape in Pakistan is “often institutionalized and has the tacit and at times the explicit approval of the state” (Haeri, Shahla 2002) According to lawyer Asma Jahangir, who is a co-founder of the women’s rights group Women’s Action Forum, up to seventy-two per cent of women in custody in Pakistan are physically or sexually abused.

The investigation protocol to identify a rape victim has been conventional and un-reliable. Therefore, there was a dire need to establish facilities to be in line with international standards. 

DNA test for investigation purposes is new for Pakistan, but, some public and private sector institutions have built capacity for this novel protocol.  DNA profiling is used by crime

laboratories for testing biological evidence, most commonly employing the polymerase chain reaction (PCR), which allows analysis of samples of limited quality and quantity by making millions of copies. An advanced form of PCR testing called short tandem repeats (STR) generates a DNA profile that can be compared to DNA from a suspect or a crime scene. Blood, buccal (inner cheek) swabbing or saliva may also be collected from victims to distinguish their DNA from that of suspects (National Criminal Justice Reference Service, 2004).

DNA–short for deoxyribonucleic acid–was discovered in 1869, however, its vital role in defining genetic inheritance wasn’t established until 1943. In the early1950s, Watson and Crick were only two of many scientists working on figuring out the structure of DNA. It is now believed that DNA is a heredity material and a biological CD of a eukaryotic organism and it is never same in the individual of same species, except identical twins as monozygotic twins originate from the same egg/sperm combination, they have the same DNA. 

DNA technology has many applications, so, it must be utilized to resolve disputes. Karen M. Sullivan (1994) concluded that DNA profiling is more sensitive, being able to generate sound data from only a tiny amount of even partially degraded biological material. 

It can resolve mixtures of semen or tissue from up to several individuals.  It has a far greater power of discrimination between individuals sometimes up to 1 millionfold higher than conventional techniques. It provides considerably more information on the nature of relationships, particularly in cases of incest.

In many parts of world DNA technology is being used in detecting crime. Pakistan must also adopt this trend to address criminal issues. 

To begin with, DNA testing labs may be established in each district headquarter. The DNA profile of all adult persons may be done and this information may be made part of NADRA database. In every hospital, DNA profiling of newborn be done and same must be included into NADRA database. 

 This will enable to establish a pool of genetic data of every citizen. It may help in diversified ways. For example, if there has been robing in a house, the culprit must leave some biological signs (such as hand touching on doors, cupboards etc. and even single hair from culprit).  This may help extract nucleic acid, which may be confirmed with a genetic database with NADRA authorities and culprit may be caught. 

A DNA test is not just helpful in the detection of rape culprits, but it may help in paternity and maternity, criminal identification and forensics and personal identification and many more. 

For crime-free Pakistan, it is high time to go for scientific options that the world is getting benefits from. All needed is to establish infra/supra structures once. However, there is a dire need of mass counselling through print and electronic media aimed at curbing this curse. This may help two ways, to detect the rapist and provide legal protection against mere blames, a norm that is on the rise these days.  There is dire need to develop a DNA profile of the population as this may help detect victim and may help have a crime-free country.