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Sorry state of Pak bomb disposal squad

Lahore's squad has only one technician who responds to 35 bomb threats every month.

india Updated: Jan 28, 2006 18:51 IST

Lahore's bomb disposal squad (BDS) has only one technician who responds to nearly 35 bomb threats every month, that too with a screwdriver, scissors and a rope only!

And, he performs the job in the field sans bombproof jackets or blankets and explosive detectors!

The BDS department uses tools like those of hairdressers to defuse all types of bombs and has only one vehicle, which was given to them in 1987.

A new vehicle was approved in 2005, which is used by other officers, reported the Daily Times.

The condition of the poorly manned department assumes significance in the backdrop of several incidents of sectarian violence occurring in Lahore in the past, and law enforcement agencies receiving several threats from extremists.

During emergencies, the technician relies on traffic policemen's wireless messages to guide him and his temporary staff through the Lahore's congested roads.

As people arrive to participate in processions and Majlises, Lahore's traffic will increase, making it harder for BDS officials to respond to threats.

According to the paper, the technician, who is astonishingly the only regular employee at the BDS department, is deployed round the clock to save the lives of nearly 75 lakh people spread over the 1772 sq km area of Lahore.

The squad, which is literally a one-man show, also has four employees on daily wages, out of which two are permanently deployed at Allama Iqbal International Airport.

These helpers earn Rs 255 a day, almost equal to what a labourer earns.

The paper quoted sources as saying that in case of Punjab also, nearly 90 per cent of BDS employees were hired on daily wages.

It further said that the bomb disposal officials, both in Lahore and Punjab, lack proper training for defusing and deactivating bombs and are unaware of new trends in terrorism and new techniques of bomb making and sabotage.

They men are retired Pakistan Army officials and are only familiar with techniques that they learned while serving the Pakistan Army, while the EDC officials are qualified and have proper training from abroad.

A senior BDS official reportedly said that they required safety suits, bombproof blankets, explosive detectors, better training and refresher courses and better salaries.

He added that the department's staff and expertise had not been improved to cope with the new demands, the increasing number of calls and more sophisticated bomb makers.

He added that the BDS officials were trained to deal with simpler devices and equipment only, and could not deal with advanced electronics and radio frequency controlled bombs.

Technicians are not trained in the latest, "render safe" procedures and equipment, he further said.

First Published: Jan 28, 2006 17:13 IST