PESHAWAR -- Current and aspiring law enforcement professionals will soon have the opportunity to hone their craft at the Criminology and Forensic Science Institute at the University of Peshawar (UoP).
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) authorities approved the establishment of the institute with an understanding of the need for effective, modern scientific tools to fight crime and terrorism.
"The objective behind the establishment of the Criminology and Forensic Science Institute is to make our society safe by teaching the formal study of crime and techniques through which criminals can be turned into useful citizens," UoP Vice Chancellor Muhammad Rasul Jan said in an August 10 statement.
The university's academic council in September 2014 decided to establish the institute, but it was not until June 2016, when the provincial government earmarked Rs. 200m (US $2m), that work began, Jan said.
"The University of Peshawar is announcing admissions for the master's degree course in criminology at end of September, and classes are expected to start in mid-October," said Akhtar Amin, media and protocol officer at UoP.
"The Criminology and Forensic Science Institute will offer a two-year master's degree as well as short diploma courses for professionals in policing, law, human rights, etc.," Akhtar told Pakistan Forward.
The institute is affiliated with the university's Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS), which began operating in 2015 and offers undergraduate and graduate programmes in conflict resolution.
"The degree in criminology is designed to educate students about the genesis of crime, its various forms, the criminal justice process, human rights and research methodology," Akhtar said.
Professors from the social work and sociology departments will teach courses at the new institute, and they already are co-operating in teaching at the IPCS.
"Initially, classes will be held in any available building, and later a full-fledged institute will be constructed within the premises of the University of Peshawar," Akhtar added.
"This is a very laudable step, and there was a pressing need to initiate studies on the occurrence of crime, its reasons and measures for curbing the menace," said Prof. Muhammad Zafar, a scholar of de-radicalisation who teaches in UoP's sociology department.
The alarming trend of radicalisation and of increasing rates of crime, especially among Pakistan's youth, demands modern solutions to determine the causes of violence and ways to prevent it, Zafar said.
"There was a dire need for thorough research on crime and for chalking out a culturally sensitive recourse strategy both in accordance with local norms and acceptable to the people of the region," he told Pakistan Forward.
"Militancy and terrorism cannot be eliminated through military operations alone," he said. "There needs to be a well-researched home grown policy to dig out the reasons and deal with the causes spreading radicalism and violence in our society."
The Criminology and Forensic Science Institute will provide a platform for students and professionals to obtain the latest knowledge about the application of science in criminal investigations, professionalism and ethics, he said.
"The nature of crime has changed altogether, while [Pakistan's] criminal justice system is old and facing many challenges in meting out punishment to criminals -- especially militants -- due to lack of witnesses and forensic evidence," said IPCS Director Muhammad Jamil.
"To meet this challenge, a specialised and formal study is necessary to bring changes in our justice system," he told Pakistan Forward.
"The Institute of Criminology and Forensic Science will build the capacity of the legal fraternity, the police force, investigators and prison officials, besides generating a new generation of youth qualified in the latest techniques and dynamics for crime control," he said.
"This is a much-appreciated step because the increasing rate of crime, especially violence in the shape of terrorism and extremism, in our society is alarming and needs a very well-researched and worked-out remedy," said Nighat Orakzai, a member of the KP Provincial Assembly who belongs to the opposition Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).
A majority of criminals and terrorists, especially those committing inhuman acts like mass murder of their compatriots, are suffering from mental illness, Orakzai said.
"We need to find out [what] leads them to violence and extremism," she told Pakistan Forward.
"The Criminology and Forensic Science Institute will help greatly in addressing the grave problem of extremism, violence and enhanced crime faced by our society through recommending proposals based on well-researched findings," she said.