The right to kill
On January 25, 2010, a list of yet another kind of beneficiaries was submitted to the National Assembly. It revealed that a total of 29,000 licenses of both prohibited and non-prohibited bore weapons were issued by the interior ministry since 2008. The Minister of State for Interior issued 255 prohibited bore licenses to himself , while the Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira was granted over 130 arms licenses. Railway Minister Ghulam Billour (143 licenses), Minister of Power Raja Pervez Ashraf (69), Senator Rahat Hussain (85), MNA Rana Tanveer Hussain (59), MNA Malik Azmat(68), Tourism Minister Moulana Attaur Rehman (56), Defense Minister Choudhry Mukhtar (51), and scores of other ministers and parliamentarians conveniently distributed some 7200 prohibited bore licenses between themselves. Interestingly another 713 licenses of prohibited bore weapons were issued to four individuals, whose names the interior minister refused to divulge, as quoted by the News of Jan 26, 2010.
Why is the distribution of licenses for weapons of mass destruction exclusive to the high and mighty ministers and parliamentarians of Pakistan. There are no labourers, plumbers, gardeners, postmen, clerks, or carpenters on this list. Clearly it is a discriminatory benefit used as a political enticement for the people in power. What do our ministers and parliamentarians do with these truck load of weapons. Are they involved in illegal arms trafficking? Do they maintain private armies of their own? Do they patronize killer gangs? After all weapons are not used as seeds for growing flowers. Who are the victims at the receiving end of their barrels? They are people who do not have the connections, resources or the inclination, to acquire these weapons – the unarmed peaceful ordinary citizens of Pakistan. The life and property of citizens has thus been rendered hostage to the powerful warlords who frequently unleash their armed goons to spread shock, awe and terror amongst innocent citizens. In Karachi alone, as many as 1,747 people have been killed in separate incidents of violence during 2009. (Human Rights Commission of Pakistan Annual Report 2009). In just four fateful days of 12 May 2007, 27 December 2007, 9 April 2008 and 28 December 2009, Karachi lost many hundred innocent lives and property worth 50 billion rupees. Only in the first few days of February, over 50 lives were lost to the ongoing battle for control of land and power in Karachi. These barbaric episodes could have been prevented if the armed gangs were not patronised by the powerful politicos of Pakistan.
Article 9 of the constitution states that, “ No person shall be deprived of life and liberty save in accordance with law”. However the Pakistan Arms Ordinance is designed to do just the opposite – to deprive ordinary citizens of their life and liberty in all manners except those stated in law. The Arms Ordinance defacto takes away the right of life and liberty from ordinary people and hands it over to a small powerful group that has acquired the control of weapons through their position and power. The Arms Ordinance thus completely negates the right to life and liberty guaranteed by the Article 9 of the constitution.
What good is a law that serves only to deprive citizens of their life and liberty. That serves only to spread violence. That enables a lawless minority to engage in mass murder. Each time this law is put into practice and a new license issued, it reduces the envelope of life and liberty for some more innocent citizens. It is a law that enables the criminal politicians to promote their greed and power by killing ordinary citizens.
The Pakistan Arms Ordinance is a highly discretionary law. It says nothing on why should a license be issued to any one, or how many licenses should be issued. The issuance of a license is completely dependent on how well is some one connected with people who issue these licenses. The Federal Deputy Interior Minister’s recent announcement that a quota of 25 licenses has been fixed for each MNA speaks volumes about the discretionary nature of this instrument of violence. Not to be left behind, the quota of licenses that may be issued by the Sindh Home Minister is unlimited. If a gun license is such a great thing to possess, why is it not made equally available to all citizens instead of being exclusive to the parliamentarians and people in power.
One could perhaps make an argument that the Arms Ordinance itself never demanded such dishonesty and greed from those responsible for issuance of licenses. However the design and discretion permitted within this law has proven beyond doubt its vulnerability for misuse and discriminatory application. It is tool for political bribe and appeasement. It stands no chance of being used in a fair and equitable manner. It has raised violence to new heights and threatens the life of every law abiding non-weapon carrying citizen. Do we still need a law that acts as an instrument of power and control in the hands of feudals, politicians, criminal gangs and the prohibited bore militant elite of Pakistan. A law or custom that confers the right to kill to a small coterie of criminals should be struck down. Will Pakistan not be a safer country if no citizen, regardless of his party or status was issued a license, nor allowed to own or carry a weapon – licensed or otherwise.
The News Feb 2010