Pakistan installs radiology scanner in Islamabad

Published 19 November 2009

There are more than 160 points of entry into Islamabad but four main entry points for goods carrying vehicles; the Pakistani government buys radiation detectors from China to prevent terrorists from smuggling a nuclear or dirty bomb into the city; worries about the health effects of the strong radiation the scanner emit

Critics charge that that the scheme may prove an exercise in futility, but the government of Pakistan is all set to install explosives and weapons-detecting scanners at strategic points in Islamabad to check entry of terrorists.

Munawer Azeem writes in the Dawn that knowledgeable sources believe that this method of countering terrorism is fraught with unacceptable dangers. Essentially, the sources say, the high level of radiation of the scanners is harmful to human beings and would not allow subjecting every vehicle to scanning; scanning only the suspect vehicles would make an explosion a certainty if a vehicle of real terrorists is caught.


Sources in the interior ministry and police told Dawn that only suspected vehicles would be made go through the scanners to be installed by the roadside at a checkpoint. Passengers of the suspected vehicle will be disembarked to protect them from radiation hazard.

The first two of the more than twenty scanners to be installed at entry points of Islamabad and its high security zones are expected to start functioning in two weeks. One will check passenger vehicles and the other goods carriers. Results of this initial exercise would be monitored closely.

China is supplying the scanners, each costing more than a million dollars, against a soft loan, at the interest rate of two per cent, to be repaid over twenty years.

A senior police officer said the site where the first two scanners would be fixed were yet to be decided. The one meant to scan passenger vehicles could be placed either at the entrance of the so-called Red Zone or be kept mobile, he said.

There are more than 160 points of entry into Islamabad but four main entry points for goods carrying vehicles — Islamabad Chowk, Fayzabad, Wheat Godown, and Ninth Avenue.

According to the officer, a team of ten police personnel — an assistant superintendent of police and nine computer-literate constables, received training in operating the scanner in China for fifteen days and returned to Pakistan on 31 October.

A scanner takes about 35 minutes to start, and 35 second to scan a truck or bus and 15 to 20 seconds to scan a smaller vehicle. Operators of the scanner and the driver of the vehicle being checked will wear special gear to protect them from the scanner’s strong radiation.

Radiology experts told Dawn that the scanners used to scan metal and wood emit strong radiation, dangerous to human health. Regular or even frequent exposure could lead to contracting cancer. Radiation also damages reproductive system of male and female, and could be particularly harmful to pregnant women, they warned.