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Police to get ‘conventional’ arms again

Police to get ‘conventional’ arms again

LAHORE: Setting aside the critical requirement of sophisticated weapons, the Punjab police department in the annual procurement for 2017-18 is going to equip its force with ‘conventional arms’ again.

Particularly, it has blatantly ignored the concerns of the Rajanpur and Mianwali district police who have been raising the issue of ill-equipped force during fierce clashes with the Chotoo gang and other hardened criminals.

A senior police official told Dawn that new armoured personnel carriers (APCs), helicopters for air cover to the police during major operations in troubled areas of the province, rocket launchers, mortars and heavy machine guns were the major demands.

He said, last year, the Rajanpur district police had also demanded provision of sophisticated weapons for operation against Chotoo gang and other dacoits.

Rajanpur, Mianwali police want sophisticated weapons for combat operations

He said the need for the [sophisticated] weapons again arose when the dacoits kidnapped seven policemen in the riverine area of Rajanpur some days back.

“Many gangs operating in far-flung areas are equipped with latest weapons as compared to the local police,” the officer lamented.

Citing an example, he said, Rajanpur police used two “almost dysfunctional and decades old” APCs in the operation against outlaws in April 2016.

“The APCs had been used in the Russia-Afghan war and were left unattended due to some faults,” he said.

Later on, the APCs were transported to Rajanpur and handed over to the local police after painting some of its parts to give it a ‘new look,’ he said.

The official said a young station house officer and his colleagues used one of these APCs during a fierce clash with criminals some four years back. He said the dacoits fired on the APC and bullets hit him after piercing into the vehicle, killing him on the spot. “The two APCs are still being used in police operations.”

“The Rajanpur police had demanded rocket launchers, mortars and 12.7 anti-aircraft heavy machine guns. However, the demands were ignored which is evident from the fact that they were missing in the list of procurement of weapons,” he said.

The hardened criminals of riverine areas of Rajanpur were highly trained and well-equipped as compared to the local police. They had used rocket launchers and Vickers machine guns (one of the best weapons) against law-enforcement agencies, he said.

“The capacity of police’s weapons is insufficient to target criminals hiding in the riverine areas of Rajanpur as it is largely surrounded by water and islands,” he said.

The police had been using [damaged] boats to chase them, he said.

“The police is in dire need of amphibious APCs to launch operation in deep waters in Mianwahli and Rajanpur districts,” the official said.

He shared details of the weapons the Punjab police department is going to procure for 2017-18.

According to the proposal, the department initiated process for the procurement of 5,000 Sub-Machine Guns (SMGs), 25 sniper rifles, 300 9mm guns, 100 M-4 rifles, 3,000 each bullet proof jackets, bullet proof helmets, handcuffs (American style), 200 paint ball guns with apparatus, etc.

He said a majority of the arms being procured would be used by the anti-riot force instead of [by] those police officials who were taking risks in fighting against criminals.

Assistant Inspector General (Logistics) Rai Babar neither responded to repeated texts nor calls when this reporter tried to get his version.

Published in Dawn, August 22nd, 2017

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