Peace or weapons?

Gun Rights

ON Feb 28, 2013, the then interior minister Rehman Malik, in a written reply, informed the National Assembly (NA) that his ministry issued 11,776 prohibited bore arms licences in 2008; 27,551 in 2009; 5,789 in 2010; 8,369 in 2011; and 15,988 in 2012, thus empowering parliament with 69,473 prohibited bore weapon licences. A simple calculation suggests that on average every MNA got 203 prohibited bore weapon licences over a period of five years. This must be the world’s most well-armed parliament, whose assets could spark envy in any member of the National Rifle Association (NRA).

On Aug 21, 2019, the government issued SRO (1)/ 2019, lifting the ban on issuance of prohibited bore weapon licences for nine categories of individuals — the president, prime minister, Senate chairman, NA Speaker, governors, chief ministers, federal ministers, Supreme Court and high court judges. They were now free to purchase or receive as gifts lethal weapons of ‘prohibited’ bore category. The notification was objected to by a Supreme Court judge who wrote, “the judges’ code of conduct did not permit receiving such gifts. What moral authority will the government exercise in tackling the spread of weapons by encouraging the spread of yet more lethal prohibited bore weapons?”

On Sept 25, 2021, the government announced a yet more crazy and classist notification extending the list of beneficiaries of prohibited bore weapons licences to include all members of the Senate, the national and provincial assemblies, and all Grade 21 and 22 officers. Generously, it clarified that they were all entitled to not one but two prohibited bore arms licences.

In 2024, information received under the right to information law revealed that KP had issued 68,9510 arms licences in the last 10 years, while Sindh blessed its citizens with 115,467 in the same period.

You Might Like

Pakistan should eliminate arms, instead of promoting them.

It is beyond comprehension that a nation in such dire need of peace and tolerance would engage in such proliferation of the instruments of crime, violence and militancy. One can safely assume that every gun licence in Pakistan was issued without mandatory verification, training, background check or written test. They were either issued as an act of appeasement or through political clout, status, power or bribe. Perhaps, Pakistan could have had greater success in combating terrorism if, instead of the wishy-washy ‘20-point National Action Plan’, it had chosen just a single-point agenda of eliminating all weapons. Here is how it could still be accomplished.

The government must understand that crime and militancy in Pakistan stems from its own flawed arms-promoting policies, its legal and illegal gun-licensing facilities and its failure to monitor the sale, smuggling and spread of weapons. Arms possession must be declared as the exclusive domain of the state; no citizen, regardless of his or her status, wealth, influence or political clout, should be allowed to possess, carry, store, buy, sell or display a weapon — licensed or otherwise.

In compliance with Article 256 of the Constitution, private militias operated by militants in urban, riverine and mountain areas, regardless of their size and patrons, must be disbanded via the full might of the state. The import, sale, purchase, transportation, delivery and possession of all kinds of weapons — except those in use by law-enforcement agencies — must be banned. Issuance of all types of gun licences be banned; those already issued must be declared null and void. The discriminatory and discretionary Arms Ordinance should be struck down. Starting with unlicensed weapons, all citizens must be made to surrender their weapons through an incentivised buy-back scheme.

Private weapons ma­­­nufacturing in areas like Darra Adam Khel ought to be regulated and directed towards export rather than home consumption. The Small Arms Sur­vey (Switzerland), in its 2018 report Esti­mating Global Civi­l-ian-Held Firearms Numbers, estimates 43.9 million guns held by civilians in Pakistan — far more than the combined number held by all the law-enforcing organisations of the country.

We could learn much about gun control from Australia, the UK, New Zealand, Japan, China and Vietnam, which have successfully and smartly tackled this menace. On the other hand, successive Pakistani governments have contributed actively to violence and militancy via the issuance of uncontrolled gun licences, creating special provisions of prohibited bore arms for its militant elite (violative of Articles 25 and 256), using weapons as an instrument of political bribe and neglecting the rampant smuggling and sale of illegal arms. It has two choices: pursue peace and progress or remain embroiled in the world of militancy and armed militias. It would do well to log out of its NRA mindset.

The writer is an industrial engineer and a volunteer social activist.

Published in Dawn, July 4th, 2024

You Might Like

Articles You May Like

Trump Shot at Campaign Rally: What We Know
A Critical Look at AIPAC’s Political Clout
Combat Handgunnery: Avoiding Mistakes
The return of Wayne LaPierre: in 2nd NY trial, NRA’s former ‘king’ fights for the right to resume some role at gun lobby
Smith & Wesson Model 547 9mm Revolver

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *