The death of a bomb disposal squad (BDS) member, Lal Mast, while defusing a bomb in Adezai, has triggered a number of questions over two bomb-neutralising robots gathering dust – or rather, rust.
An official of the BDS, wishing to remain anonymous, said the robots provided to the squad had been defunct for the last two months due to ‘lack’ of petrol for vehicles containing the robot’s controls.
He revealed one such vehicle along with the robot is currently parked at Gulbahar police station, while the other stands useless in Police Lines. “If the government does not take immediate steps to remedy the situation, this extremely valuable machinery will rust, and will become worthless,” the official told The Express Tribune.
On paper, the government allots 400 litres of petrol for the vehicle and 200 litres for vehicles containing signal jammers. However, according to the official, the petrol ends up being utilised by senior BDS officials for their personal use. “If the vehicles were filled with petrol, Mast’s life might have been saved.”
On July 20, 2012, four latest wheelbarrow robots, equipped with state-of-the-art technology, were handed over to Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P). Assistant Inspector General (AIG) Bomb Disposal Squad Shafqat Malik claimed the bomb-defusing robotic systems had been purchased from the government of Britain.
“One system cost approximately Rs10 to 15 million,” he stated in July last year. “The system can scan, locate and defuse bombs, thus saving precious lives.”
These robots would enable the BDS to safely neutralise improvised explosive devices (IEDs), bombs, packet bombs and explosive-laden vehicles, said the AIG.
The K-P BDS started using the robots on November 12, but the practice barely lasted for two months. Instead of continuous function to avert threats in vulnerable areas, the expensive equipment was parked because of ‘unavailability’ of petrol.
Of the four robots, the government has deployed one unmanned system in Kohat and another in Mardan. The current condition of those robots is not known. Two were for missions in Peshawar district. However, according to a senior police official, they are now lying in parking lots “due to technical faults and incompetence of BDS officials in the district.”
AIG Malik could not be reached for comments as he is currently out of the country. Other officials refused to comment in his absence.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 14th, 2013.
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