PESHAWAR -- Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) authorities have launched a new case management system to help prosecutors better process criminal and terrorism cases.
The web portal, dubbed the Case Management and Monitoring System (CMMS), was inaugurated during a ceremony in Peshawar March 21. The goal is to improve the performance of KP's Prosecution Department through the digitisation of cases.
Although the conviction rate for terrorism cases in KP has increased since 2014, it remained relatively low at 28% in 2016, according to a United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) report from last July titled "Understanding the Counter Terrorism Response -- Case Analysis of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa".
More than 50% of cases result in acquittals, the report said.
"Gaps at the police level also highlight weaknesses in the entire Anti-Terrorist judicial system," the report said. "Investigation gaps also reflect on the prosecution's failure to improve investigations standards. Similarly, the high number of acquittals underlines deficiencies at the trial level."
"Improvement in technology for handling terrorism cases is the need of the hour," Muhammad Jaffar, director general of counter terrorism at Pakistan's National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA), said during the CMMS inauguration ceremony.
Common criminals and terrorists are improving their use of technology in carrying out subversive activities, he said, adding that authorities also have to modernise the investigation and criminal justice systems in order to counter terrorism effectively.
Updating outdated methods
"After the implementation of [CMMS], prosecutors will be able to complete their tasks more effectively, and the system will strengthen oversight, accountability and transparency during the various stages of the criminal judicial process," KP Chief Secretary Azam Khan said at the event.
"The system was designed within the framework of Pakistan’s Action to Counter Terrorism project," said KP Director General Prosecution Adnan Zafar, referring to a $8.6 million (Rs. 1 billion) plan developed jointly by Pakistan and UNODC to improve the processing of terrorism cases.
The Prosecution Department worked with the European Union, UNODC and NACTA to launch the system, he told Pakistan Forward.
"This initiative was the need of the hour as the prosecution practices of case management and monitoring were outdated and mostly relied on conventional methods," Zafar said.
"The system was developed by a leading team of information technology experts from the Lahore University of Management Sciences in close consultation with the Prosecution Department of KP to meet organisational needs and requirements, with an overall aim to modernise their case management and monitoring practices," he said.
Technology use grows, enables province-wide digitisation
"Use of technology in the criminal justice sector is now progressing -- therefore it was essential to design a user friendly system to make it compatible with other technological initiatives," said Shahab Khawaja, a public prosecutor in Peshawar.
The CMMS can be accessed via smartphones and tablets, and can be synced with other databases and systems that the KP government uses, he told Pakistan Forward.
The system is also designed to give senior management the necessary access to review cases and to provide feedback to prosecutors individually, he said.
"The CMMS will greatly reduce prosecutors' dependence on physical case files as it enables the digitisation of cases across the province for the first time," said Attiq ur Rehman, deputy director of KP's Legal Department.
"It provides the Prosecution Department with a secure, in-house database on case laws, a knowledge network and peer monitoring, combined with an advanced scheduling calendar option to improve their day-to-day work management," he told Pakistan Forward.
The system will establish a link between the Judiciary and Prosecution departments, which will help in the hearing of cases, Rehman said.
The CMMS will strengthen the criminal justice system in countering terrorism-related cases in KP, he added.