Can polygraph test help Pakistani Police in finding the real criminal?

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A body of a six years old boy was lying on the rooftop of a mosque in the Green Town, Lahore. His name was Mubeen, and he had been raped and killed. The police arrested many of the suspects including Imam of the mosque who had confessed that he molested the child. The confession was the result of the severe torture the Imam had faced for extracting the information. After some days, the investigation turned into different directions. The ultimate result was quite the opposite from the earlier one.

All the suspects were passed through polygraph tests one by one. They were made to sit on comfortable chairs with two straps around their chest, devices covering their fingertips and blood pressure cuff hanging around their arms. The wire followed into a box that looked like a cable modem, which in turn was continuously sending data to the laptop of test conductor.

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Polygraph tests turned out to be very helpful for the police and the investigation officer in this mysterious case which they resolved within a short span of time.

Imam of the mosque and other suspects were found ‘not guilty’ and released in the light of polygraph tests and other forensic evidence collected on the spot. Shoaib, a 17-year-old boy, was found to be a culprit who killed the Mubeen by hanging him with the ceiling fan after he had molested him. He confessed this during his polygraph tests conducted in Punjab Forensic Science Agency (PFSA).

Forensic report of the swabs sent to laboratory proved that accused killed six years old Mobeen after sexually assaulting him. The accused was the source of DNA obtained from sperm fraction of the swabs of the victim. Upon this, police presented the accused before journalists who confessed and described the whole story about how he killed Mubeen after raping him. He confessed he was a habitual rapist and used to pay money to the children for this.

On that night, the victim had pleaded for five rupees, but Shoaib had offered to pay him Rs 50 if he came to play with him. The accused said when he tried to grasp the boy, he resisted, fell and lost the conscious. Then, the accused took him to the roof of the mosque and raped him over there. He admitted his crime. According to the defendant, he strangled him by hanging with a rope and murdered him because he dreaded that the child would expose him. During the interrogation, police found out that Shoaib was the only person who came out of the mosque on the night of the incident.

Polygraph tests are not new to the modern world. James Mckenzie invented it in 1902, and it is in practice in UK, USA and modern world on a wider level. In the UK, probation officers exercise polygraph to screen dangerous sex offenders, which has resulted in sending dozens of people to prison. Whereas in the USA, CIA, and other agencies screen the candidates for sensitive jobs by using the polygraph.

The technology is in Pakistan now; However, the general public seems unaware of this new development. First, Let us have a look at what comprises this test and learn how the polygraph works.

How does Polygraph work?

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“A polygraph is an instrument that measures and records physiological changes in blood pressure, pulses, respiration and skin conductivity. The examiner asks the subject series of questions. During the session, deceptive answers produce physiological responses that are differentiated from those associated with non-deceptive answers,” a scientist from National Forensic Science Agency (NFSA) shared with More magazine on the condition of anonymity.

The scientist further shares “polygraph works by monitoring three physical reactions: sweat, using electrodes attached to the fingers, which gives specific signals to the modem. An arm cuff measures heart rate and blood pressure. A chest strap tells about breathing. Any changes in the responses cause the needles to make lines on paper to rise and fall. After this, the examiner analyzes these patterns to determine the possibility of whether someone is telling the truth or lying.”

Police in this part of the world are practicing traditional methods for centuries. How would it be possible to achieve fruitful results without using technology is today’s question? According to the scientist “polygraph can not be done if the subject is tortured over the last 24 hours. If an accused has not taken proper breakfast, his test would not be conducted. Deficiency of breakfast becomes the cause of headaches and low blood pressure. Sound sleep is critical before the test. The absence of sound sleep will not give accurate results”.

Police resort to inhumane torture to extract confession mostly in third world countries like Pakistan. Most of the time, energies and time get wasted in investigating people who are not mainly involved in crime. It is the technology that can revolutionize the way investigation happens in our country.

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Arif Nawaz Khan (AIG) Operations

Arif Nawaz Khan, Additional Inspector General (AIG) Police, Operations, Punjab, had an exclusive talk with More Magazine on this topic. He told that it has become next to impossible for the criminals to dodge investigators who use modern technology. That is why the use of scientific instruments and gadgets was encouraged in police investigation nowadays. Use of third-degree investigation methods will soon be a matter of history.”

The AIG asserted that the number of cases has increased over time in which polygraph is now helping. The procedure is that an SSP Investigation or a DPO can initiate the request of the polygraph. Then it is sent to Home department; it usually takes two weeks. However, in exceptional circumstances, urgent requests can also be initiated.

According to Khan polygraph is a lie detector, In fact, this gadget is meant to evaluate the truthfulness of suspects. Not only this, it helps to exonerate the innocent who were caught just for being at a wrong place at a wrong time and there was no corroborative evidence against them.

Khan says “Polygraph is not hundred percent accurate. Hard criminals can beat the detector if they are confident. The country, we belong, people tell a lie with confidence, the false evidence is presented, and false FIRs are registered. To cope with this, the experts assess the accuracy of a polygraph examination, administered by a competent examiner, to be about 90 percent. The level of skill and experience of the examiner play a vital role in the accuracy of the analysis. ”

He states “the tools are essential for the detection or deterrence of spying in military and intelligence agencies. They interrogate the terrorists and infiltrators. It is used to detect and deter computer and other workplace crimes like fraud, corruption, and collusion with vendors. Those who sabotaged the system can be identified quickly”.

Khan maintains that this test is conducted while hiring and selecting potential employees in European countries. “If the test is taken before the recruitments of candidates on sensitive posts in Pakistan, the country will be in safer hands. Only capable, honest and truthful administrators bring the country towards prosperity and stability. If used appropriately and timely, it will be helpful in discouraging the incompetent candidates on the main posts.”

When an opinion was sought on the legal status of Polygraph, country’s leading criminal law practitioner, Burhan Moazzam Advocate replied, “The result of a polygraph test is admissible as evidence in our courts. Evidence based on science cannot be rejected. Moreover, other evidence will be collected to support the results of this test. A hardened criminal cannot be released unless other evidence is obtained. In some cases related to lawsuits or criminals’ trial, hard evidence is not available or not always enough. Polygraph testing is sometimes used to strengthen the evidence or to determine the trustworthiness of an eyewitness.”

When Rashid Rasool, legal advisor of Punjab Forensic Science Agency (PFSA), was asked about the qualifications to conduct polygraph tests he stated that “copy of CNIC of a suspect or his/her parents is required. Moreover, the copy of FIR would also be required at that time. After this, a copy of request letter for polygraph would be given. It must be ensured that suspect has not used illegal drugs during last 24 hours. The suspect would not be told about the upcoming test. Before coming, investigation officer is supposed to prepare the case for the briefing fully.”

In European countries, there is also widespread use of private polygraph test such as on the spouse, fiancées, girlfriends, and boyfriends. Today, the polygraph test is practiced in more than 60 countries including China, Taiwan, India, Malaysia, Philippines, Korea, Japan, Israel, Austria, Canada, Russia, South Africa, UK, and the Middle East. In the US, there are more than five thousand active polygraph examiners in the government and private companies. In the Asia Pacific Region, Singapore has more polygraphers regarding widespread usage by the government as well as in private sector.

It is evident and widely published that agencies like CIA, FBI, National Security Agency, US Secret Service and US Department of Defence employ polygraph test for investigations and screening their staff.

The polygraph test is very common in Israel. As it is said that Israel is more sensitive to security issues, therefore, most of the employees have to pass through this test for having a job in private or government.

Taking control of Interrogation

There are many instances where someone is subjected to a polygraph. The tests can be a source of great anxiety, even for people with nothing to hide, and for a good reason, a polygraph examination is an interrogation, and it is all too common or false criminal accusation. Luckily, they are easy to trick, so follow these steps to take control of your interrogation.

  • Only reply to what you are asked. Yes or No.
  • Don’t try to explain your answers in details.
  • Don’t admit anything. It does not matter what pattern of lines the machine is producing. Nothing is more important and damaging than your confession.
  • When the test is going on, just remember the test conductor is trying to extract a confession from you. Answer the questions with full confidence.
  • Be serious during questioning. Respond to the question without hesitation.
  • Breathe normally during the test. Deep breathing will cause problems for you. The count should not be less than 15 breaths per minutes. It should not exceed more than 30 breaths per minute.
  • You can change your breathing pattern when he asks ‘controlled’ questions from you. You can make it faster or slower; it is up to you.
  • Hold your breath for two seconds. Do this, 5 to 15 seconds before returning next questions.

Answer the ‘controlled’ questions in a very strange way. Your goal is to make it difficult for the polygrapher to get desired results. Your response should not be typical for him. When he asks other questions, you must think about the stressful things. Your artificial worries can change the result. You can image scary scenario. It will increase your heartbeat and breathing. Thus polygrapher will not get desired results.

The story was first published in the September 2016 edition of More Magazine and authored by Sher Ali.

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