RAWALPINDI - The Heavy Industries Taxila (HIT) officials have alleged that vested interests, eyeing a lucrative over eight million dollars project in the defence production sector, are out to ‘elbow out’ Pakistan’s heavy defence equipment manufacturers.In an interaction with a selected group of journalists here on Tuesday, the senior officials of HIT accused some ‘unidentified’ elements of ‘unduly’ lobbying to sideline the HIT, a potential bidder for an armoured personnel carrier (APC) manufacturing project. According to the officials, the Narcotics Affairs Section (NAS) of the US floated a tender for the manufacturing of 50 Mohafiz APC vehicles last Wednesday (July 18). Roughly, the operational cost of the project is estimated at over $ 8 million. The HIT, a known manufacturer of Mohafiz APCs, is a potential bidder for the tender, officials claimed.In April last year, the HIT officials said, their organisation had won a similar kind of tender floated by NAS for the manufacturing of 25 Mohafiz vehicles. Of these vehicles, 12 are to be delivered to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Police, 11 are to be handed to Sindh Police while two APCs are already delivered to Baclochistan Police. The contract is under execution with 14-month time period, the HIT officials said.The HIT’s operational cost for the manufacturing of Mohafiz vehicles is roughly less than $ 200,000 per APC compared to an average operational cost of over $ 300,000 per APC by other manufacturers, they further said.In this scenario, the HIT men believed, some groups are eyeing the latest NAS tender for the manufacturing of 50 Mohafiz APCs by means of floating incorrect information regarding the HIT’s technical expertise. “We believe incorrect information is circulated to damage our credibility and elbow us out from the project.” Fingers were pointed at Heavy Industries Taxila following reports of substandard APCs, particularly Mohafiz vehicles, the defence manufacturers had handed to Sindh Police. The Mohafiz vehicles were extensively used in the Layari operation, a failed offensive of Pakistan’s security forces and agencies that pointed to the stark weaknesses in their operational capabilities against their otherwise tall claims and repeated rhetoric. Several security men, including some police officers, had lost lives as result of this seemingly ill-planned operation after the security agencies decided to launch a crackdown against armed mafias and gangs in Karachi’s notorious locality in April-end this year. Some pertinent reports recently surfaced are suggestive to convincingly establishing that several security officials were killed inside the Mohafiz vehicles during Layari operation. Still, HIT officials termed these reports as ‘incorrect’. The officials said, ten Mohafiz vehicles were used in Layari operation and “nobody was killed inside these vehicles.” The Mohafiz APCs are classified as B-6 and B-7. In technical terms, B-6 is a level of protection against 7.62 millimetres standard ‘Natoball ammunition’ (Nato weapons) while B-7, a modernised version of B-6, is known as a protection level against armoured piercing (AP) rounds (including steel bullets up to 7.62 mm), according to HIT men. A Mohafiz vehicle can block any bullet up to 7.62 mm from piercing through, they added. In Karachi, ‘only a single’ 12.7 mm bullet had pierced through a Mohafiz APC thus injuring a police official, officials claimed. “It’s beyond protectional strength of a Mohafiz vehicle to block the way of a 12.7 mm bullet from piercing through,” they informed.The HIT officials also claimed that Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Malir, Karachi, Rao Anwaar, who survived a suicide attack recently, was travelling in a Mohafiz APC when the attack had taken place and he remained safe. When confronted by the journalists regarding the alleged killing of a police officer inside a Mohafiz vehicle, the officials said that the police officer who got killed during Lyari operation was not using a Mohfiz vehicle but a Turkey-imported Auto Car. Roughly, some 300 Mohafiz vehicles are used across Pakistan by security forces while Sindh Police and the province’s interior minister had fire-tested the vehicles when these were handed to them last year, officials further claimed.With exception to the KP government that has signed three agreements with HIT for the provision of B-6 level Mohafiz vehicles and an agreement for B-7 Mohafiz APCs, the other three provincial governments have contracted HIT for acquiring B-6 level Mohafiz vehicles only, the HIT officers shared.