National Commission for Deweaponisation, Surrender and Control of Weapons – a report prepared for the National Assembly of Pakistan.
In many parts of Pakistan, the monopoly over violence, an essential instrument for establishing the writ of the state, now rests squarely with the private militias. They operate with more sophisticated weapons than the police, have the often demonstrated power to shut down the cities, launch massive attacks at their chosen targets and kill hundreds of security personnel. With 20 million uncontrolled weapons in the hands of individuals and private militias, Pakistan is not just vulnerable but also highly volatile. Pakistan Army’s new doctrine now describes internal threats as the greatest risk to the country’s security. The national response to this life-threatening crisis is timid, ostrich-like and sterile and can only lead to progressive weakening and ultimate surrender of the state.
This article focuses only on one essential component of this equation i.e. deweaponisation – that is central to all crime and militancy. Pakistan can not look forward to peace unless it makes an unequivocal decision to get rid of all weapons, licensed or otherwise, owned by all individuals and all shades of private militias. The process of deweaponisation is complex but completely doable if approached scientifically and with planning and determination. The following are some of the essential ingredients of a nation-wide deweaponisation program.
- A nation-wide deweaponisation program must begin by establishing a high powered National Commission for Deweaponisation, Surrender and Control of Weapons. It must be headed by a top ranking serving military officer and should include the Inspector Generals of Police of all four provinces, senior serving bureaucrats and apolitical citizens from each province. The task of this Commission must be to plan, execute and oversee a complete program of deweaponisation, surrender and control of weapons in all rural, urban and tribal areas of Pakistan. It must also have the task of defining and implementing controls for manufacture, import, sale, licensing, carriage, display and possession of weapons. The Commission must be formed under an Act of Parliament and must have a wide range of powers and autonomy. It must have the authority to seek the help of army, police and rangers to ensure effective implementation of this program.
- Creating a computerized weapon data management system is the first requirement for establishing a sustainable weapon control program. This would require setting up a central computerized database that records nation-wide data relating to all aspects of weapons. We need to collect at least 10-20 years past data for all weapons imported and sold, all licenses issued (real and fake), weapons confiscated and weapons manufactured in Pakistan and the destinations they were delivered to. It also needs to accurately record the weapons that are surrendered or impounded from individuals and private militias during the course of deweaponisation.
- The deweaponisation program must begin by an announcement of a 10 years complete moratorium on import, sale, storage, transportation, licenses, carriage, display and possession of all weapons. All shops that sell weapons of any kind be sealed and import of weapons of all types be During the 10 year moratorium, no person (not even the President or the PM) would have the authority to issue any weapon license of any category to anyone.
- Declare all licenses (of all categories) issued till date to any one in Pakistan as null and void – unless they are revalidated by a rigorous new licensing system. The new system should include a number of checks such as background security check, mental stability check, a valid CNIC, biometric verification (through NADRA), and the tax paid in last 3 years. No individual must be given more than one gun license and the prohibited bore gun license must actually be PROHIBITED and not issued to any individual regardless of his rank or status. The definition of prohibited be enlarged to include all automatic, high speed and other lethal weapons. Having more than one gun is a step towards building a private army – an act strictly prohibited by Article 256 of the constitution.
- Pakistani legislators have been issued 69473 licenses of prohibited bore weapons and many more licenses for non-prohibited bore weapons in the last six years. These be declared null and void and all parliamentarians be asked to publicly surrender (shown on TV) the weapons they possess. They must also be held accountable for the licenses they may have sold or passed on to their friends and cronies. All quotas of licenses reserved for parliamentarians (or anyone else) be cancelled (as a part of 10 year moratorium) and all such individuals be asked to surrender the weapons they obtained against these quotas.
- The National Commission on Deweaponisation must announce through press, radio and TV that all private militias stand disbanded and every individual and private militia regardless of its location or association must surrender all unlicensed weapons within a period of 3 months. Beyond this date such individuals and militias will be considered enemies of the state and will be dealt with as enemy combatants. The Commission, in conjunction with army, rangers and police must have an elaborate and vigorous plan of action for forced recovery of weapons after the expiry of three months.
- All those who surrender their unlicensed weapons during the 3 months buy-back phase, would be compensated by a publicly defined compensation package. Individuals must know in advance the money or the bonds they would receive for returning a weapon. The compensation amount must be paid immediately and without any bureaucratic hassle.
- Licensed weapons which are not renewed/ revalidated using the new verification process must be surrendered within three months. Licensed weapons which are neither renewed nor surrendered will be automatically considered as unlicensed and illegal after the expiry of 3 months period, and their owners shall be treated as stated at para 6.
- Any private militia belonging to any political or religious party not surrendering its weapons within the 3 months period would result in an automatic disqualification and banning of the political/religious party – besides action against the individuals as stated at para 6. ( Keeping private militias with weapons whether licensed or unlicensed, is a direct violation of the Article 256 of the constitution of Pakistan.)
- A meaningful reward scheme be publicly announced for those who give information about the presence or location of illegal weapons. Confidentiality of informers must be ensured.
- The deweaponisation program must include complete ban on inter-city transportation and movement of weapons. This also applies to weapons that are smuggled using land and sea routes. Well equipped, special monitoring units must be established to research and control the sources, routes and locations of such weapon movements. This is possible only if we can create sophisticated and smart mechanisms for monitoring and detection instead of banking on the traditional check posts.
- The government needs to develop a partnership arrangement with the private weapon manufacturing factories of Pakistan. The relationship could include provision of technology, help in marketing and export of locally manufactured weapons, application of controls over raw materials and finished product, third party manufacturing for Wah Ordinance Factories and even providing opportunities for alternate manufacturing.
- Participation of citizens, NGOs, housing societies, educational institutes and business forums should be sought to introduce and implement gun-free zones, where no one can display or carry weapons in public. These could be based on the concept of neighborhood-watch that includes citizens, police and local authorities. Use of weapons during marriages, new year and other festive occasions must result in immediate raids, confiscation of weapons and very heavy punishments.
- TV, radio and press campaigns should be launched to demand deweaponisation, give details of buy-back scheme, explain incentives for informers, show pictures of people caught and punished for carrying or keeping weapons, and explain why we need to be a weapon free society.
- Surely there are yet other means and mechanisms that could be used to implement an effective deweaponisation program. However a component that often does not receive its due importance is the criminal justice system without which the entire program can come to a naught. Pakistan will not have any success in its deweaponisation program unless it can create a system of speedy trials and severe punishments for those who would not surrender arms or not comply with the associated requirements. Legal issues such as evidence of police, extent of punishments and provision of special trial courts need to be ironed out well before launching the deweaponisation scheme.
What is keeping Pakistan embroiled in an endless quagmire of militancy, terrorism and lawlessness? What is keeping its leaders appear like mindless statues of wax, frozen in time and devoid of all passion, courage and conviction? Will the conscientious parliamentarians of Pakistan stand up and unite to push for a major break-through in the status-quo? Pakistan needs to live in peace with itself, much before it can live in peace with others. Let deweaponisation be the first step towards this path.