For hands more used to hauling rice sacks, the grenades were like lethal potatoes. But whether they liked it or not, on Saturday, around half a dozen men dressed in their filthiest work clothes were told to bring in gunny bags filled with hand grenades, count them and load them into another bag.
An inventory had to be prepared on orders from Justice Sajjad Ali of the Sindh High Court. Justice Ali had specifically asked Crime Investigation Department SSP Chaudhry Aslam Khan, the Rangers and a court’s representative to be present after a man identified as Iqbal Hussain, the former owner of Ulbricht Pvt, a licensed ammunition factory which made Arges grenade, complained that nine out of 69 boxes sealed by an army inspector went missing.
Hussain suspected that the missing grenades were being used in the city and had previously been used in the Mumbai attack. “Roughly 10,000 to 15,000 grenades are missing,” he has claimed. “They have been used in Mumbai, Bangladesh and Karachi. I want to find out who is responsible for this.” While talking to The Express Tribune, Hussain said that his factory which was located in Korangi Industrial Area was auctioned off to pay back a bank loan from 2000. He added that the man who bought the factory dumped gunny bags filled with grenades in the godown.
According to SSP Aslam, he was looking into how the grenades went missing and who did it. He added that it was an important case and they had to count the grenades before proceeding further.
What went down at the godown
Soon after Hussain and the others reached the godown, they seemed shocked to find bags filled with hand grenades all over the 160-yard plot covered with dust and cobwebs. The authorities stood stumped, they had no idea how to proceed.
They needed trained professionals to count, load and unload the grenades from one bag to another, otherwise they could explode. At first, the authorities decided to make the inventory at a later date, but decided against it and hired daily wage labourers. Initially, the men refused, but the police insisted and after one labourer stepped forward, more followed.
“No sir,” said a scared labourer when he was asked to count the grenades. “I will not do this. These are bombs. I have never played with fire-crackers, why would I count bombs.”
Since the authorities were short on manpower it was impossible to count all the grenades in one sitting. However, they still managed to put 3,950 grenades in new bags and left the others for Tuesday. While counting the grenades, some labourers noted that not all of them had a fuse.
“We were afraid, after all it was a matter of life and death,” said Adil, a labourer. “I feel a lot better now. I felt like I was packing potatoes and onions.”
The Bomb Disposal Squad was also present at the godown. “I was brought here to ensure that nothing went wrong,” said a squad official who wished to remain anonymous. “The other thing I did there was to check which grenades were duds and which was still dangerous.”
The Arges grenade, which was only manufactured at Hussain’s factory, is made of plastic and has 5,000 ball bearings and weighs 995 grammes with 75 grammes of explosives. So far, the factory has sold over 2.5 million grenades through the Pakistan Ordinance Factory at the rate of $13.5 per grenade. The factory was also known for making bullet-proof jackets, jerry cans, water bottles, helmets and anti-tank mines.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 22nd, 2012.