Stop Issuing Weapon Licenses, Mr. Prime Minister

Posted on January 14, 2010
Filed Under >Adil Najam, Law & Justice
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Adil Najam

Even as violence of all forms spirals all over the country and even as, in the wake of the recent violence in there, politicians from all parties call for Karachi to be declared a “weapons free” zone (rightly!), it turns out that politicians and parliamentarians from all parties are busy distributing licenses for all forms of prohibited weapons as if these were kids candy.

Equating social prestige with possession of weapons – especially the most lethal, more prohibited, and sometimes outright illegal ones – has always been an absurd idea, but it is absolutely indefensible under the current conditions of rampant and widespread violence.

Yet, giving licenses for prohibited – or difficult to possess – weapons has always been a cheap and easy ‘give away’ for politicians and bureaucrats. In a society where all politics is transactional, a license for a prohibited weapon is an “easy ask” and an “easy giveaway.” Those receiving the “favor” feel privileged and can show off their importance because they are now demonstrably “above the law.” Those doling out the “favor” can justify to themselves that one more weapon in a society so weaponized already will make scant difference.

Indeed, one more weapon might not make a difference; but tens of thousands certainly do. And that is exactly what parliamentarians have been doling out, often with the direct approval of the Prime Minister. If we are at all sincere in stopping the violence, not just in Karachi but all over the country, then this culture of violence and the glorification of violence and of the tools of violence must stop. Of course, it will not stop just because the Prime Minister will say so. But the Prime Minister must set the example, and must do so visibly and honestly. He can do so, at the very least, by stopping the issuance of all licenses for all prohibited weapons. For everyone. Altogether. They are, after all, prohibited weapons!

To give context to all of the above, here is what The News reports:

Since the last week of March 2008, more than 38,800 people have been issued licences of prohibited weapons such as Kalashnikov, MP5, G3 and Uzi, mostly on direct orders of the prime minister and minister of state for interior. Most alarmingly, these licences were issued without any police verification or an official check on the background of the applicants, according to an investigation by this correspondent. A whopping 100,000 licences of non-prohibited bore weapons, such as revolvers and pistols, were also issued without any police verification whatsoever during the same 21-month period.

This issue gets directly linked to parliamentarians and the Prime Minister because the issuance of such licenses is still seen as a parliamentary “perk.” The same report from The News continues:

There is no formal or official procedure in the country for a common Pakistani to properly apply for a prohibited bore weapon license other than finding a member of the National Assembly or the Senate having direct connections with the prime minister or minister of state for interior for the approval of license, hence prohibited bore licenses are a precious commodity and arms dealers charge a premium of up to Rs 200,000 for such a license.

Sources in arms dealers’ community estimate liberal issuance of prohibited and non-prohibited weapons licences by the government since April 2008 has generated Rs 20 billion business for weapons dealers in sale of automatic, semi-automatic weapons in addition to massive earnings in selling the prohibited and non-prohibited licences of weapons. The situation also raised serious questions about the exact source of weapon supplies to arms dealers. Massive monetary attraction, besides other reasons, may have contributed to immense pressure on Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani from parliamentarians to favour them with his special powers to issue licences for all sorts of weapons.

As parliamentarians pressed the prime minister for more and more licences, [the Prime Minister] introduced an unprecedented quota of weapons licences in September last year by allowing 25 licences per year of prohibited weapons and 20 licences per month of non-prohibited weapons for each member of the National Assembly and the Senate. He extended the favour to MPAs also by allotting them five prohibited weapons licenses per year. Since March 2008 till June 2009, the prime minister ordered issuance of 22,541 licences of prohibited weapons, mostly making orders on plain papers with certain names scribbled on them presented to him by various MNAs and senators.

In recent months,the issue of such licenses took an unsurprising turn for the worse. Again, The News reports:

In two months after assuming the office of minister of state for interior in April 2009, Tasnim Ahmed Qureshi issued a record 5,986 licences of prohibited weapons, including more than 100 licences that ended up at the Inter Risk (Pvt) Ltd, the security company contracted by the United States Embassy in Pakistan. Inter Risk owners are now facing prosecution for possessing a large cache of illegal weapons. Qadir Nawaz, the personal secretary of the minister of state for interior, was arrested in the case, while the issuance of about 6,000 prohibited weapons licences in just two months on the direct order of the minister of state is still being probed by the relevant agencies. This incident caused uproar in the government security services about the scale of corruption and security risks in weapons license system. The prime minister, though rejected allegations of ministerial level involvement in the weapons scam, announced a ban on issuance of licences in June last year.

The News report ends by quoting an unnamed interior ministry official: “If parliament believes in accountability, justice and fair play, it should allow a neutral and thorough probe into the prohibited weapons license case and examine who were those 39,000 people whose names were recommended by various senators and MNAs for Kalashnikovs and Uzis licences as well as those 100,000-plus people who received licences for pistols and revolvers.”

The quote, or the interior ministry official, may or may not be a real one, but the sentiment in the quote is right on!

So, Mr. Prime Minister, please stop issuing these licenses.

27 responses to “Stop Issuing Weapon Licenses, Mr. Prime Minister”

  1. Jabbar says:

    Very well said, Mr. Najam.

    I think the first step has to be for all of us to stop all the violence around ourselves, including the silly glorification of violence and weapons. As you point out it is the insecure who do this the most.

  2. Independent Citizen says:

    They are busy for their survival…

    Please visit below for better reading

  3. Proud Pakistani says:

    Why Pakistan is struggling, why poverty yet so much wealth/resources in the country, why so much killing worse than barbarian, why did our forefathers make this country? It is Allah’s Aazaab!
    Imams Abu-Dawod, Ibn-Majah and Ahmad reported that the prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) said: “If any man involves himself in corruption while his people around him are capable of stopping him but choose not stop him, they will be afflicted with punishment from Allah before they die.”
    Muslims are afflicted with various kinds of punishment. Their supplication is being ignored by Allah (S.W.T.). This is a direct consequence of halting enjoining what is good and forbidding what is evil. This will continue until we embrace Islam again in our lives.

  4. Azi says:

    To all my friends who are promoting a gun culture. Remember, guns kill. They do not differentiate between a good or a bad person. For all those who advocate that guns will help them protect their property, how about we look at the other side of the coin? What if we have a gun free zone and then no one will be able to kill the other with a gun? Why should I accept your analogy when it can easily be reversed and used the other way? It is easy to say that guns help protect but you know what, it also helps create an environment where the one with the biggest gun is the king. We do not want to create an environment of “survival of the fittest”. Infact, we need to setup an environment where people can live without worrying that the person next door has a gun pointed at him.

    That said, I am not against guns. The point of the article is also to bring our attention to the fact that the government is issuing licenses for weapons that a common person should not be carrying around. Kalashnikov is not for common people. It was developed for military purpose and it should be that way. Uzis are NOT for common people. Let the pros use it to defend us. I am ok with pistol, revolvers and hunting guns. That, we need in order to protect us against break-ins. We need a system to issue licenses to carry guns and pistols and yes, government needs to fix that.

    I guess the point I am trying to make is that brute force will not fix issues. There will always be a person with bigger and better gun than yours. Strict controls over it will result in better balance of power between citizens. Right now, our police is scared to death to even pull over someone for speeding because they worry that the driver may pull out an Uzi and kill them. We need to better arm our police and disarm our citizens. Unless…ofcourse…my fellow friends like HMD, Rashid Hassan and Reading Lord can answer my “15 Madadgar” call and protect me against a break-in.

  5. Sadia Hussain says:

    The gun culture in spreading phenomena and all for the wrong reasons, agreed that by keeping a tab on the issuance of gun licenses there won’t be much impact to the general lawlessness in the country for the nor Taliban or the bandits bother getting their weapons licensed :P But a major chunk of these weapons are owned by those who take pride in having the prohibited weapons and such behaviors further escalate extremist sentiments in the country

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