Without armour: Waiting on new APCs while bullets pierce through old ones

Published: February 17, 2014
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The Lazar II multi-purpose armoured vehicle manufactured by the Serbian state-run company, Yugoimport SDPR, is the most viable option for police, claim experts. PHOTO: wikipedia

The Lazar II multi-purpose armoured vehicle manufactured by the Serbian state-run company, Yugoimport SDPR, is the most viable option for police, claim experts. PHOTO: wikipedia

KARACHI: 

The morale of the police force has understandably hit an all-time low given the number of men it has lost to recent attacks. What is making matters worse is that they still have to go out in the field unprotected and unmotivated. The government has been making empty promises of providing them with armoured personnel carriers (APCs) for the last two years.

The most recent claims were made by Federal Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar and Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah on Thursday last week, when they again reiterated for “emergency procurement of bullet-proof vehicles in weeks’ time.” The officials, however, don’t expect the APCs to reach them anytime soon.

The same was said by the CM on December 15 last year, when he announced to provide APCs to the department but said there were no funds available. For their part, the Sindh government claims it is depending on the federal government to disburse the funds. “The personnel are trying to do their best, but it is quite difficult to perform our job without the appropriate equipment,” the adviser to home ministry, Sharfuddin Memon told The Express Tribune. “Despite having suffered several losses, the morale is still high. It will not, however, stay high if the federal government continues to use delay tactics.”

In desperate need

The APCs that the police department currently have are so badly damaged that bullets can easily pierce through them. In mid-November, 2013, several bullets penetrated through the body of an APC, killing a police official, Muhammad Essa and injuring another, Asad. The attack occurred on Mirza Adam Khan Road and was reportedly carried out by members of the Baba Ladla group. “Our initial reaction was that one of us inside the APC might have opened fire by mistake,” recalls Asad, who sustained a bullet-wound in his upper torso. Investigations later confirmed that the gangsters’ bullets had penetrated the APC.

Earlier in the eight-day long operation in Lyari in May 2012, almost 18 APCs were destroyed by rockets, hand grenades and anti-aircraft guns used by the criminals. The damage was not just limited to the destruction of the APCs however – Civil Lines SHO Fawad Ahmed Khan also lost his life in the attacks.

The failed operation and loss of SHO Khan had compelled the Sindh Police to replace the B-6 level APCs manufactured by Heavy Industries Taxila. Currently, the Sindh Police has around 90 APCs, manufactured by the HIT. The wheeled variety of locally manufactured APCs (B-6) costs about Rs17.5 million each, while the B-7, an upgraded version, costs about Rs55 million. The department had shown interest in buying APCs from foreign countries.

To achieve the plan, the police logistics experts approached at least five countries – Turkey, Ukraine, Russia, Serbia and United States of America.

It was subsequently decided to procure at least 20 Serbian Lazar II armoured fighting vehicles. The vehicles were meant to reach the city by December 2012, but could not be purchased due to the lack of interest by the relevant authorities. The lethargic attitude of the authorities in giving practical shape to the project has caused losses of around Rs150 million because of the increase in dollar rates, The Express Tribune has learnt.

“Serbia was the only country that gave us a live demonstration by firing and bombing the vehicle while we were inside,” said the former Sindh police’s DIG Finance Dost Ali Baloch who was a part of the team of experts who visited Serbia. “Besides this, Serbia also offered to deliver the APCs in two phases by the end of December 2013 with the lowest cost worth around Rs1 billion for 20 APCs.”

Meanwhile, police officials said that the Transparency International-Pakistan’s (TIP) reservations regarding the purchase of Lazar II from Serbia caused a delay in buying the vehicles. In September 2013, TIP had sent a reminder to Sindh IGP Shahid Nadeem Baloch and asked him to examine the rules before buying the vehicles.

Correction: Earlier a photo of Lazar I was erroneously labelled as Lazar II. 

Published in The Express Tribune, February 17th, 2014.

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