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Pakistan struggles with its gun problems

The Karachi-based Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) party has submitted a draft bill in Pakistan’s parliament seeking to limit the production and use of arms and ammunition in the country.

world Updated: Jan 20, 2011 01:39 IST
Imtiaz Ahmad

The Karachi-based Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) party has submitted a draft bill in Pakistan’s parliament seeking to limit the production and use of arms and ammunition in the country.

The proposal comes amidst rising political violence in the country, particularly in Karachi, where this week over 22 people have so far died in target killings.

The MQM accuses its political rival, the Awami National Party of instigating the violence. The interior minister, Rehman Malik, blames a “third force” which he says is bent upon causing violence in the country. Regardless, the use of sophisticated weapons in political fighting has drawn much criticism from various quarters.

The Deweaponisation of Pakistan Bill of 2011, filed as private members’ bill, calls for banning the production, proliferation, smuggling, import and use of firearms and ammunition and explosives aims “to restore public order in the country”.

The bill provides “measures for banning the unauthorised production, illicit trafficking, possession and use of arms and weapons, so as to eradicate killings, kidnapping for ransom and extortion by terrorists, criminals and anti-social elements...,” MQM leader Farooq Sattar said reading from the bill.

Highlighting statistics, Sattar said that between 2006 and 2009, terrorists and criminals had struck 6,894 times using illicit arms across the country, killing 9,643 people, injuring 18,788 more, besides kidnapping thousands of citizens.

Many Pakistanis blame the Afghan crisis that started in 1979 as being the turning point for flow of drugs and weapons in the country.

However, others say that the real proliferation of weapons came into Karachi with the advent of MQM in the mid-80’s when the party asked its supporters to “sell their household goods and have at least one gun in the house.”

The irony, now, say observers, is that the MQM wants the weapon proliferation to stop. Many say that it cannot happen overnight.

Most weapons in Pakistan are unlicensed and despite several attempts to register them, efforts have come to naught. Arms licenses are issued by the home department and the figures reflect a fraction of the actual numbers on the streets. Registering them is next to impossible.

The bigger issue now, say many, is not whether it will be passed through parliament but more on whether it will be implemented.