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July 20, 2012

Bullet-proof cars became death traps in May 2012 operation

July 20, 2012

ISLAMABAD: A horrifying case of gross negligence and corruption has come to light, which not only cost at least 13 lives of Karachi policemen in the infamous Lyari operation, but also grievously damaged the government strategy to combat militancy in the troubled Karachi neighbourhood.
It has now been confirmed that the May 2012 Lyari Operation had to be suspended with an unnecessary loss of police blood, exposing a mega fraud which was hushed up at the highest level. This fraud relates to the substandard armoured and tracking cars, the tyre-mounted and chain-mounted APCs that were provided to the police to enter the troubled areas with confidence and guaranteed protection and safety. But these APCs proved to be death traps for those inside.
Several policemen were killed inside these vehicles by low-calibre bullets though these APCs were supposed to be bullet- and bomb-proof.
At least 18 vehicles launched in the operation were hit by ordinary bullets which pierced them, making holes and killing or injuring the policemen inside. One type of APC cost Rs20 million each while the other was Rs54 million per piece approximately.
The APCs were provided by a Pakistani company, Heavy Industries, Taxila (HIT), and were demanded by the Sindh government to fight the heavily-armed terrorists and urban gangs of criminals.
The basic weakness of these APCs, also supplied to the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa police, was that its protective shield was too thin and fragile and could not even stop low-calibre bullets as experienced during the Lyari Operation.
Named “Muhafiz,” the APCs proved a deadly embarrassment for the police and after more than seven were destroyed by the armed gangs, an urgent joint investigation was launched.
The report of this JIT, obtained by The News, reveals that hundreds of millions of rupees had been wasted as the manufacturer of the APCs received the payments for much better quality APCs.
“Talha”, the chain-mounted tracker

vehicle, had its own problems – again indicating how public money close to Rs04 billion allocated for such purchases was brutally misappropriated, while exposing the police to the dangers of death and injuries and endangering the entire counter-terrorism effort in urban centres.
One senior police official told The News: “With such vehicles carrying the counter-terrorist staffs, the entire security of the country is at risk. This scandal has also put the standard of tanks being produced to fight the peripheral counter-terrorism war into doubt.”
The embarrassment was displayed in Lyari when one of the APCs was not only snatched by gangs, but, after killing and injuring the policemen inside it, was hung up from a tall structure for all to see.
The JIT report revealed two blatant admissions, apart from others, by the Sindh Police as well as the manufacturer of these vehicles: (a) The standard of these vehicles was criminally poor; (b) unused vehicles were returned to the manufacturer for upgrading at government cost, which runs into tens of millions of rupees.
The JIT further points out that 40 (Talha) trackers and 60 Muhafiz APCs were built by use of chassis acquired through an Islamabad-based company, the principal partner of which is a Dubai based company, both traders and not manufacturer.
Muhafiz’s supplied version was designed in 2004-05 with aluminium body, which was bullet-resistant with 110 engine horse power for 2.5 ton load and shield of 7.62 calibre, which is the Nato standard. All eventual orders met the substandard additions which were introduced with steel (not aluminium) body and the low-calibre bullets fired at them in Lyari operation exposed their worth.
Ironically, the JIT suggests that the producer promised to repair the damaged APCs, again at additional cost, but experts say such APCs cannot be repaired because if they are originally vulnerable, welding makes them more vulnerable.
The News contacted Brig Rehmat Khan, Managing Director, APC Factory, HIT, Taxila, for his comments on the quality of the APCs and the JIT report findings, but he refused to talk in detail and just said: “I won’t talk on this issue.”
But Sindh Home Secretary Sohail Akber, however, gave his views on the issue. “We shall take action on the official JIT report produced by experts and the relevant sides to determine the causes of police casualties in the APCs,” he said.
When asked if it would only be the Sindh government taking such action against whoever was found at fault, or if the federal government too would do its part, the Home Secretary said: “Whichever authority is relevant has to play its part in taking action”.
An international expert on APCs, Dr Jan Stegmann, Vice President Composhield A/S, USA, who is also a Professor at Aalborg University, USA, told the News that the Muhafiz cannot do its job even after repairs as it would stay as vulnerable as it already is.
“If you plan to make it secure for the personnel, then you have to upgrade it. You cannot do that too. The B-6 version cannot be upgraded as it cannot carry the weight the B-7 version has to carry.”
Asked if he meant that the Muhafiz needs to be trashed and the billions spent on this version had gone waste, he said: “I am afraid the situation has proved your fear.”
When asked if Pakistan can produce B-7 APCs by importing all the kit-plus material, Dr Stegmann said some of the components can be built within Pakistan but the rest would have to be imported for assembly purposes.
The JIT report reveals that the APCs’ shields were produced applying B-6 protection level, which is used for luxury cars; whereas, the international standard for APCs is 9mm sheet level but in Muhafiz the thickness level was just 6mm.
Furthermore, the manufacturer of Muhafiz and Talha vehicles did not submit with the supplies the manufacturer’s guarantee, warranty and mill-test certificates, and the recipient, mysteriously, did not object.

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