Pakistan’s prosecutors lack resources and training and are routinely characterized as the weakest link in the criminal justice system. They seldom work with police, do minimal trial preparation, and are significantly less skilled than defense counsel. These deficiencies have led to a 70 percent criminal acquittal rate. To improve this deficiency, the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL)-funded DOJ Resident Legal Advisor (RLA) began developing a program to improve prosecutorial skills in 2009, including increased police/prosecutor coordination and development of institutional capacity.
Improving the Professional Capacity of Pakistani Prosecutors
The RLA program has developed partnerships with key prosecution entities, including the Punjab Department of Public Prosecution, Pakistan’s largest independent prosecution agency, the Federal Judicial Academy, and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa prosecution service. The partnerships have resulted in improved internal institutional development, including provision of expert legal advice and workshops on development of internal procedures for selection, training, evaluation, review, supervision, and promotion of prosecutors.
The RLA program also developed Pakistan-specific advocacy skills training for rank and file prosecutors. The curricula includes case preparation and organization, direct and cross examination of witnesses, handling evidence, use of experts, presentation of forensic evidence, and delivery of opening and closing statements. The curricula also include programs on use of counter-terrorism laws and handling of sensitive witness as victims, such as women, children, and minorities.
Promoting More Effective Police/Prosecutor Cooperation
Significant barriers exist between Pakistani police and prosecutors. Police are responsible for investigating cases and the lack of communication with prosecutors is a significant contributor to the high acquittal rate. To improve relations, the RLA conducts joint training for police and prosecutors that emphasizes the need for earlier and more regular communication to improve the quality of the investigation. For these joint trainings, the RLA closely coordinates with INL police training programs.
Supporting Reforms in the Judiciary & Development of Alternative Dispute Resolution Mechanism
The Pakistani legal system is plagued by case backlogs and delays, resolution of which is a priority for the Pakistani Supreme Court. The RLA works with the Federal Judicial Academy in their efforts to design and implement mechanisms for reducing case backlogs, better docket management, more effective use of pretrial conferences, and improved trial preparation. The RLA has also begun participating in the quarterly training of new judges in Punjab, as well as providing this group a set of legal texts upon graduation.