ISLAMABAD, Aug 19: The Heavy Industries Taxila (HIT) has swung into action after reports that armoured vehicles manufactured by it have failed to perform in field operations.
Officials of the industry lay stress on the soundness of their products and point to conspiracies which have led to damaging stories about them.
This is not simply the reaction of a branch of the armed forces dealing with bad press to protect its image, but the reaction of a business that is battling bad news. At stake are profits and money. The story began with the so-called Lyari operation launched by the Sindh government in April this year during which some armoured vehicles manufactured by the HIT were damaged.
Contrary to the expectations of the authorities concerned, police not only faced fierce resistance but also faced better weaponry.
“Nobody had anticipated Lyari gangsters, whom we were considering petty criminals with small and medium arms, would be armed with rockets, armour piercing (AP) steel bullets and even anti-aircraft guns,” a police officer said.
As the operation progressed a number of police LAVs were damaged and HIT initiated a joint investigation with the Sindh police to examine the damaged armoured vehicles. A copy of the report prepared by the joint investigation team, available with Dawn, says that two wheel-based Mohafiz class LAV and three track-based LAV were damaged during the operation.
“Mohafiz (SP-9802) was hit by 47 bullets but eight 7.62 AP rounds penetrated its body, while the second Mohafiz (SP-9816) was hit by 22 bullets and only two 7.62 mm AP rounds penetrated the body,” the report said.
The three armoured vehicles were penetrated by 12.7mm anti-aircraft rounds. However, media reports suggested that the vehicles were penetrated by ordinary bullets, killing policemen.
“This does not appear to be true,” the source said. Police confirmed that none of the policemen died because of bullets which had pierced through the armoured vehicles.
The HIT management argued that its competitors were trying to malign its performance because another international tender had been floated by a US agency for purchase of 50 armoured vehicles.
“There are around 90 armoured vehicles of this class with the Sindh Police but only 20 of them have been supplied by us,” said HIT Chairman Lt-Gen Ayaz Salim Rana.
“Now some people are trying to tell that all the armoured vehicles damaged in the Lyari operation were manufactured by the HIT which is not correct as many of them were the imported ones.”
This is not the first time a government department has brushed off allegations by arguing that these had been levelled to subvert a lucrative business contract.
Sources in the HIT said the previous suppliers of armoured vehicles to Pakistan seemed to be worried because HIT had won the previous tender floated in April last year by the NAS, beating international manufacturers.
The LAVs supplied by HIT cost between $180,000 and $200,000 each, which the officials claim is almost half the price of the vehicles manufactured in Turkey and the UK which were earlier supplied through the NAS.
They claimed that the Sindh Police had shown interest in procuring more LAVs directly to counter sophisticated arms being used by militias in Karachi.
The HIT has sold 60 Mohafiz and 44 armoured personnel carriers (APC) to Iraq.