PESHAWAR -- The Peshawar police have stepped up the fight against terrorism with the addition of 61 armour-plated patrol vans to its fleet and the rehabilitation of six armoured personnel carriers (APCs).
"We repaired six international standard APCs that were placed in storage after they broke down years back," Capital City Police Officer Mohammad Tahir told Pakistan Forward.
The Peshawar police now have 14 APCs ready for action in case of an emergency. Each of these vehicles can transport up to 10 passengers.
"We already had six APCs working, repaired another six and got two new from the central police office [of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Police]," said Tahir, adding that the city direly needed more-secure vehicles since militants have targeted police in recent years.
"These APCs are fitted with heavy machine guns that can accurately hit even a long-range target," he said.
"A few of these vehicles have a functioning air conditioning system as well as a reserve engine to work properly in case one fails," he added.
The APCs will be deployed to various sensitive towns in the suburbs of Peshawar and can easily move to other areas if needed, he said.
Armour, jamming devices save lives
Apart from repairing the six APCs, police completed the armour plating of 61 patrol vans.
The armour "can protect policemen from the rounds of small machine guns, rifles and pistols", Tahir said, adding that the steel sheets also minimise damage from improved explosive devices (IEDs).
"In one such IED attack on May 8 near Khattako Pul, two policemen sustained only minor injuries as these sheets minimised damage from shrapnel," he said.
The doors and rear portion of the 61 patrol vans have been bulletproofed, said Peshawar Superintendent of Police Waseem Khalil.
A demonstration proved that the armour can resist bullets from rifles, pistols and even submachine guns, he said.
"Work is on-going to provide maximum security cars to every police station," he told Pakistan Forward.
Apart from armoured plating, police also installed jamming devices in some of the vehicles, particularly those operating in sensitive areas and those responding to bombings.
The jamming devices prevent terrorists from being able to trigger remote-controlled IEDs planted along roads to target police.
The additional security measures are already saving lives.
On May 8, police rushed to the site of a pre-dawn blast at a school in Shamshato refugee camp, 25km southeast of Peshawar.
A second IED was planted to target the responding police vehicles, but jammers in the car of the deputy superintendent of police prevented the bomb from going off. The KP Police Bomb Disposal Unit defused it.
Reducing police vulnerability
The additions to the Peshawar police fleet came after then-Inspector General of Police Nasir Khan Durrani handed over 12 new APCs to the Elite Force of the KP Police in January.
The Elite Force assists regular police in extraordinary situations such as terrorist attacks.
"The bulletproofing of 61 cars will reduce the vulnerability of police on patrol, especially in rural areas close to the tribal belt," said Tariq Waheed, a Peshawar journalist and president of the Peshawar-based Crimes and Terrorism Journalists Forum.
The APCs and the armour-plated vehicles will help reduce casualties on the police force, he said.
"The force has been doing a great job in restoring peace, but it will do better when it is more secure," Waheed told Pakistan Forward.
"The Peshawar police direly needed [armoured] cars and APCs for safe movement, especially in some troubled towns," said Peshawar police constable Wajid Khan, who works in a suburban police station.
"We have sacrificed hundreds of our colleagues while innumerable officers are injured in attacks on police cars," he told Pakistan Forward. "Now they will be much more secure."