Supporting the activation of a robust investigator-prosecutor coordination mechanism in Pakistan

4-5 February 2021, Islamabad – The primary objective of an effective investigation process is to produce an evidentially strong case with a probability of conviction. An effective investigator-prosecutor mechanism therefore lies at the heart of this practice. So far, coordination between police and prosecution in Pakistan is a gap that has not been bridged, giving rise to lacunas at various stages of the trial process, leading to delays and faulty court proceedings. Often, the result is that the accused, against whom there may be little evidence, suffers the hardship of a trial and even the loss of his or her liberty for a long period of time. Coordinating the investigation and prosecution process could also strengthen the victim’s ability to access justice because the probability of conviction is raised. Therefore, improving coordination to strengthen the evidential base has tangible and real benefits to the system and citizens.

Realizing the critical need, UNODC has been engaging with the institution of levies, police and prosecution in Pakistan to jointly sensitize the leadership and officials from both sides, bringing them together at one platform through regular capacity building. To this end, a high-level Consultative Workshop on Investigator-Prosecutor Coordination Mechanism was organized from 04–05 February 2021 by UNODC in Islamabad. The workshop brought together a large fraternity of senior management and leadership, including a cross-section of investigators and prosecutors who dilated for over two days through interactive exercises and presentations moderated by a group of national and international experts.

The event was one of its kind as it helped to bridge the provincial divides, bringing relevant actors from Balochistan, Sindh, Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to cross-share lessons, challenges/limitations, best practices and devise a framework towards delivering a model mechanism for investigators and prosecution coordination with a potential for piloting its application and eventual replication across provinces.

The workshop presented an opportunity to analyze the process cycle of investigation and prosecution with a 360 degrees lens, identifying barriers and appropriate entry points for coordination, including opportunities to ensuring early legal input in the investigation process so that both the investigator and prosecutor are ‘thinking trial’ from the outset.

The high-level engagement also brought on the fore several recommendations and actionable ideas aimed at addressing the entrenched institutional structures and cultural mindset, including a few of highly pertinent suggestions, such as:

  • Early advice in serious cases must be made compulsory
  • Uniformity of legislation is needed which will lead to uniformity of approach and implementation
  • Entry point for coordination need to be carefully identified without undermining the role of both the investigator and prosecutor e.g., visiting a crime scene and writing of the FIR remains an investigators’ responsibility and must not be assigned to prosecutors. However, prosecutor’s role becomes critical soon after the FIR is lodged.
  • A separate coordination unit/team/cell comprising investigators and prosecutors needs to be instituted
  • Both the Investigator and Prosecutor roles are fully understood and clarified by all participants.

The participants also focused on developing province-specific key performance indicators to institute an effective, evidence driven monitoring framework. While all these efforts are ongoing, the workshop was unique for setting in place a process towards recognizing that while the investigation and prosecution functions are independent, there is significant inter-dependencies between them that need to be supported.

The workshop provided an opportunity in articulating this vision and making the participants realize their shared responsibility to set the course right to eventually realize the policy aims of strengthening both the investigations and prosecution processes in Pakistan.