Pakistan has ordered three Serbian-built Lazar 2 multirole armored vehicles for evaluation to improve its land warfare capabilities. (Wikimedia image by Srdan Popovic)
ISLAMABAD — Economic problems are hampering Pakistani efforts to acquire needed counterinsurgency vehicles, but domestic and international options offer some hope, officials said.
The deaths of Maj. Gen. Sanaullah Khan and Lt. Col. Tauseef Ahmed in a Sept. 15 Taliban improvised explosive device (IED) attack near the Afghan border hammered home the need to improve counterinsurgency vehicles. Khan and Ahmed had been inspecting troops in the region.
Years of efforts to acquire more suitable counterinsurgency vehicles have not borne fruit, and even the long-awaited indigenous Burraq mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicle has not entered service. A spokesman for state-owned Heavy Industries Taxila said, “Burraq is on hold,” but gave no reason.
Brian Cloughley, former Australian defense attaché to Islamabad, said, “the major problem, as always, is cash.”
Any substantial procurement would be difficult to make as Pakistan is seeking aid from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, he said.
Foreign offers of surplus vehicles have also been declined however, again mainly for financial reasons.
“The Army didn’t want the surplus US vehicles from Afghanistan, not just because they want to cut reliance on US equipment wherever possible, but because of operating costs and complexity,” Cloughley said.
Nevertheless, options are being explored.
At the Serbian “Partner 2013” defense exhibition in June, local media quoted the nation’s Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Aleksandar Vucic as saying that Pakistan had ordered three Lazar 2 eight-wheel-drive multirole armored vehicles developed by state-owned Yugoimport SDPR.
These are thought to be for evaluation, with local production in Pakistan a possibility.
The Lazar 2 is a more multirole version of the Lazar 1 vehicle and is configurable for a wide range of roles with various weapon options.
Yugoimport SDPR would not comment on details of a deal, and the Serbian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Serbian Embassy in Beijing, (from where Serbia is represented in Pakistan), also declined to comment.
The Ministry of Defence here was unable to give any details.
The spokesman for Heavy Industries Taxila, however, confirmed no co-production deal had yet been signed.
Cloughley said the company can quickly manufacture the Lazar 2, but added, “The Army doesn’t need a [multirole combat vehicle] for the eastern front, and the armoured/mech infantry divisions seem to be comparatively low priority at the moment,” he said.
Analyst Usman Shabbir of the Pakistan Military Consortium said the Army may have to think smaller.
The Army “certainly needs better 4x4 vehicles in [the Federally Administered Tribal Areas] region, ... something that could provide a certain level of protection against small arms fire and limited protection against small size IEDs,” he said.
One possible option is a new version of the Mohafiz four-wheel-drive security vehicle developed by Taxila. Now based on a Toyota Land Cruiser 79 chassis, the Mohafiz III offers improved protection.
“The Mohafiz III is most likely the cheapest and easiest solution available,” Shabbir said, but it remains to be seen if it will enter service the Army.