Reluctance to say farewell to arms
With each bomb blast, each massacre and each killing, Pakistan as a state fails one more time. How many innocent citizens need to be slaughtered or blown apart by militants before our delusion gives way to reality. Pakistan stubbornly continues to live in a state of denial – refusing to acknowledge that it is being brutally and systematically attacked by a bloodthirsty enemy from within and without. Already driven to the wall, the only mindless response that the state has to offer is yet more barriers, check posts, bunkers, statements and resolutions. To many it is still not obvious that we are on a suicidal path and unless we can take pro-active and radical measures, the militancy and violence could only conclude in total collapse of the state.
There are many who believe that the problem is already beyond the institutional capacity of Pakistan. This however is not a correct understanding. The fact of the matter is that the state has never made a serious, consolidated and scientific attempt to combat violence. The well-protected ruling class operating out of Constitution Avenue does not seem sufficiently interested or inclined to put their money where their mouth is. Consider the facts stated below to understand how a ruling elite can itself be responsible and be the biggest reason for promotion of crime and militancy in Pakistan.
The Supreme Court in its suo moto case 16/2011 concluded that the Federal government issued 46114 licenses of prohibited bore and 1202,470 licenses of non-prohibited bore during the past 5 years. Not to be left behind, the Sindh government admitted to having issued another 400,000 gun licenses. It was equally incredible to read newspaper reports of the grant of 69000 prohibited bore licenses to the members of the national assembly – an average of over 300 lethal licenses per ‘peace loving’ MNA. Raja Pervez Ashraf, defying the ban imposed by the Election Commission, gifted 288 weapon licenses to his party workers. Even the most benign looking ‘caretaker’ Prime Minister, hours before his final departure from the PM House, approved one prohibited and four non-prohibited bore gun licenses for himself and his cabinet ministers.
What is conveniently overlooked is the fact that the distribution of millions of gun licenses (intended as political and financial bribe) is only partly reflected in official records. Little is known of millions of licenses that were faked, sold illegally, not documented or simply issued and the registers declared as lost. Fake gun dealers , using fake documents, procured thousands of prohibited bore gun licenses and sold them in the open market for up to Rs.100,000 each. (Islamabad High Court case). In May 2013, two NADRA directors were arrested for their connivance in issuing illegal arms licenses. The hollowness and the racket of the license issuance process was exposed by 5 citizens of Karachi who in January 2013 used their ‘right to information’ to demand full details of all weapons issued by the federal and the provincial governments since 2001. Needless to say that the information was illegally concealed and has not been provided so far.
So when the new PM orders a review of 34,000 weapons licenses, he is only scratching the tip of the iceberg. The recently announced ban on the issuance of new weapon licenses, is equally superficial as there are already enough of them around to kill every Pakistani twice and yet be available for other errands.
Pakistan’s survival is deeply linked to its capacity for taking a number of urgent, forceful, well-coordinated and well-planned measures. Begin by striking down the Arms Ordinance. No individual in Pakistan must have the authority to issue any arms licenses. Withdraw all gun licenses and announce a phased program for surrender of all weapons – licensed or otherwise. No individual , regardless of rank or status must be allowed to use, possess , carry or display a weapon or explosive of any class. Understand the deep linkage between vehicles and militancy. Break this link by registering (or alternately impounding) thousands of vehicles that are smuggled, stolen, have fake number plates or do not carry the standard officially issued number plates. These are the ones that are engaged in crime, kidnapping, smuggling and bomb blasts.
Regrettably all this can no longer be possible by the police or the rangers. It may be inevitable to task the army to undertake this massive operation – to purge the country of all kinds of weapons, their possessors, suppliers and sponsors. Will the ruling elite and the political parties continue to remain a hurdle in the path of peace by their unwillingness to say farewell to their own armouries ?
Express Tribune 18 July 2013