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Strike down the Arms Ordinance


Parliamentarians in Pakistan are often economical with the  truth when it comes to their   degrees or declaration of assets.  The one notable exception is the Sindh Minister of Food.  His long list of illustrious assets  includes an armoury of weapons costing Rs. 7.5 million (enough to equip a small army) and an  expense of Rs. 2.5 million for  the bullets consumed.   The law only requires declaration of assets and not how and  where  you use the bullets.

In the same league as the  Sindh Food Minister, there are scores of other parliamentarians who also maintain private armies and possess equally large inventories of  prohibited and non-prohibited bore weapons.  However most of the  other members have not  declared  their  costly weapons as a part of their assets.  If there was a genuine, efficient and non-compromised Election Commission, many of  such parliamentarians  could have been easily disqualified, if not sent to jail.

It is estimated  that  some 500 private armies of different shades and sizes are being operated by the rural and urban ruling elite of Pakistan. Some of these, equipped with rocket launchers and anti aircraft guns could easily compete with  regular infantry or artillery battalions. The weapons held by these private gangs are either illegally acquired or bestowed (through formal licenses) by the government of Pakistan.  De facto the state supports and patronises the creation of such private militant gangs. De facto it is also an endorsement  that a small group of powerful and influential people are licensed to use violence  to control their lesser fellow beings.

We need to examine how the state contributes to  the  crime, lawlessness and murder of its ordinary citizens. Article 9 of the constitution states “No person shall be deprived of life and liberty save in accordance with law”.  However this right has been circumvented by introducing another law called the  Pakistan Arms  Ordinance 1965. This Ordinance is designed to do just the opposite.  This law enables the powerful and influential people (often with shady criminal backgrounds) to receive hundreds of licenses for prohibited and non-prohibited bore weapons.  While in a lawless state  nothing stops an individual to form a private army with illegal weapons, the grant of formal licenses brings a measure of legitimacy to this state-sponsored tribal tradition. These militant gangs or mafias, in their respective territories use  violence, killing and kidnapping of those who disagree with them,   not vote for them,   not pay “bhatta’ or   not succumb to other unethical demands.   The life and property of citizens  is thus  rendered  hostage to  either the state licensed or the self-made militant war lords.


The Pakistan Arms  Ordinance is a highly discretionary, discriminatory and arbitrary law. It can be used to give any number of arms licenses of any type to any one – depending upon his power, influence or nuisance value.  On January 25, 2010, a list of such high powered beneficiaries was  submitted to the National Assembly.  It revealed that the  Minister of State for Interior issued 255 prohibited bore  licenses to himself , while the Information Minister  was granted    130   licenses, the  Railway Minister 143 licenses,  Minister of Power 69 licenses, Senator Rahat Hussain 85 licenses, MNA Malik Azmat 65 licenses and the  Defense Minister 51 licenses.  Scores  of other ministers and parliamentarians conveniently  distributed  some  7200 ‘prohibited’  bore licenses  between themselves.   The ex-Sindh Home Minister has repeatedly claimed to have issued 300,000 arms licenses. The Supreme Court in its Suo Moto case 16/2011 concluded that in the past five years the Sindh Home Department issued  180956 arms licenses whereas  the Federal Ministry of Interior issued 46114 licenses of prohibited bore and 1,202,470 licenses of non-prohibited bore weapons.  38,800  licences of prohibited weapons such as Kalashnikov, MP5, G3 and Uzi, were issued on direct orders of the Prime Minister and minister of state for interior.


The arms ordinance is nothing but a discretionary instrument of   political bribe, appeasement and violence. When the state grants arms licenses to its own cronies it creates an arms race and forces others (not as influential or rich)  to acquire them illegally in order to maintain a balance of power and ‘thuggery’.   By permitting (invariably) incompetent and corrupt state officials to grant unlimited  arms licenses, the Pakistan Arms Ordinance has become an important  root cause of    creating militant  urban and feudal warlords.   It needs to be struck down so that  no one in the country could  have the authority to issue an arms license to any one. Security of citizens is a responsibility of the state and it cannot be sublet.  The only way to stop Pakistan from becoming an  “Emirate of Private Armies” is to ensure that no citizen regardless of his/her status, power or designation is allowed to own or carry a weapon  – licensed or otherwise.


The Supreme Court in its Suo Moto case 16/2011 has categorically directed that Karachi be cleansed of all kinds of weapons, even if it requires promulgation of new legislation.  There is perhaps no need for new legislation.   Strike down the existing Arms Ordinance, declare all previously issued licenses as cancelled, and organize a total de-weaponisation programme.  Begin from Karachi and extend this to all cities of  Pakistan.  Will the citizens of Karachi and the captains of industry come out of their artificial cocoons  to lead the struggle for protecting the  life and liberty of all citizens. Their  only other option is to keep sulking privately and await their turn to be mugged, killed or kidnapped.




Naeem Sadiq

The News