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Playing with fire

The Lahore Bomb Disposal Squad is not adequately equipped with latest training and technology

Playing with fire
The squad is supposed to respond rapidly to any eventuality. — Photos by Rahat Dar

In order for the bomb disposal squads to play their role effectively, they require greater technology that can help them detect and defuse an explosive device. Sadly, the Lahore Bomb Disposal Squad is lacking majorly in this area — it possesses only one vehicle, one commander and just four bomb technicians for a city of over 11 million people.

Lahore Civil Defence Deputy Director Shahid Pervaiz says, “Ever since Rescue 1122 was established, the Civil Defence Department has been neglected.

“The department has not been released the funds to upgrade its squads in Punjab. The Lahore Bomb Disposal Squad is facing a staff shortage. It has only one bomb disposal commander and four technicians who have to work round-the-clock putting their lives at risk. Sadly, they aren’t given life risk allowance like the Rescue 1122 personnel are.”

“Homemade bombs, Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and suicide jackets are the most effective weapons in the hands of the terrorists and the law-enforcement agencies and bomb disposal squads must be adequately equipped with latest training and equipment to detect, defuse and neutralise explosive devices.”

According to Pervaiz, the interior ministry shall soon be getting 50 bomb disposal vehicles from the US and 14 from the UK. But “12 [of these] vehicles will be handed over to the Punjab Civil Defence Department and one to the Lahore Bomb Disposal Squad in March or April this year.

“The Lahore Bomb Disposal Squad… has only one bomb disposal commander and four technicians who have to work round-the-clock putting their lives at risk. Sadly, they aren’t given life risk allowance like the Rescue 1122 personnel are.” 

“The Civil Defence Bomb Disposal Squad personnel are getting training at the Military College of Engineering, Risalpur, from the British trainers to operate these state-of-the-art bomb disposal vehicles. Three batches have completed their training and the fourth should complete its training by the end of this month,” he reveals.

The deputy director says the Lahore Civil Defence office has sent a proposal to the Punjab Home Secretary to set up 10 bomb disposal squads in nine towns of the city and one in cantonment area, and to hire one bomb disposal commander and six bomb technicians for each squad.

Civil Defence Director Rashid Kamal-ur-Rehman believes the “Lahore Bomb Disposal Squad is working effectively despite its limited resources. The Squad is proactive and responds rapidly to any eventuality. It has one sophisticated bomb disposal vehicle which was donated by the European Union. The Rs45 million state-of-the-art vehicle boasts a robot which has the ability to detect and diffuse explosive devices. Additionally, the vehicle is equipped with an X-ray machine, a ladder, a laptop, a camera and other gadgets besides having a capacity of producing power to diffuse an explosive device.”

“The department has not been released the funds to upgrade its squads in Punjab.”

“The department has not been released the funds to upgrade its squads in Punjab.”

Talking to TNS, Lahore Bomb Disposal Squad Commander Riaz Ahmed Shah says the Squad has only one bomb disposal vehicle which lacks a high-frequency jammer. “Terrorists are adopting novel ways to claim more and more lives of the people, they hide bombs in satchels, tie them with bicycles, vehicles, carts and animals. Recently, they spread round explosive devices in streets to deceive kids into thinking these were balls. The killing of six kids in Hangu was the result of this ‘novel’ idea. Apparently, one of the kids brought the explosive home taking it for a toy, which exploded while they were playing with it. These clever ways of the saboteurs need to be defeated with the help of state-of-the-art tools and training.

“A bomb disposal squad has a very important role to play in the scheme of things. The Lahore Bomb Disposal Squad has qualified and trained ex-army personnel,” the commander adds.

He also says the Lahore Railway Station bomb blast was carried out with a homemade device which claimed three lives and injured 45. “The IED was strapped with a counter.”

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