MQM introduces bill to rid Pakistan of weapons

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

ISLAMABAD - The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) has submitted a draft bill in the National Assembly seeking to rid Pakistan of weapons so as to “restore public order in the country”.

The Deweaponisation of Pakistan Bill of 2011, a private members bill, was submitted Monday. It seeks a ban on the production, proliferation, smuggling, import and use of firearms and ammunition and explosives “to restore public order in the country”, Express Tribune reported Tuesday.

Farooq Sattar, MQMs parliamentary leader in the National Assembly, said his party would contact other parties to secure endorsement for it.

The bill provides measures for banning the unauthorised production, illicit trafficking, possession and use of arms and weapons, so as to eradicate killings, kidnapping for ransom and extortion by terrorists, criminals and anti-social elements for waging guerrilla war against the state, indulgence in vandalism, mass destruction, suicide bombing, desecration of places of worship, killings of innocent citizens, and to restore peace, tranquility, sanity and public order in the country”.

Sattar said that between 2006 and 2009, terrorists and criminals had struck 6,894 times using illicit arms, killing 9,643 people, injuring 18,788, besides kidnapping thousands of citizens for ransom.

The media report said that if the bill was passed, it would be applicable in four provinces, Gilgit-Baltistan and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). However, it would not apply on arms, ammunition in the possession of armed forces and law-enforcement agencies working under government control.

The MQM, founded by Altaf Hussain who has been living in self exile in Britain since the early 90s following an assassination attempt, is centred in Karachi, which has witnessed spiralling violence in the recent months. The MQM has 25 seats in the National Assembly and six seats in the Senate.

Ejaz Haider, a columnist, said: Officially, Pakistan goes by the UK framework, that no one except authorised personnel of the military or police can carry weapons. The other paradigm is the US where everyone can. So while formally Pakistan follows the UK model, de facto weve allowed arms to proliferate…In the US, they do not allow people to buy automatic weapons. In Pakistan, you can find Uzis or Kalashnikovs, which are essentially used by armed forces.”

Imtiaz Gul, author and analyst, said: This is a very complicated matter and it is not in the hands of the government, but of the political parties…The parties dont seem to have the political will. Even if they did have the political will, it would take quite a lot of time for the weaponry that has been amassed to be dug out.

Another analyst Mosharraf Zaidi said: Deweaponisation programmes havent been that successful in Afghanistan - which is geographically closest to us - and that was a sponsored, funded campaign. The top line issue here is that in a society where laws do exist and are misused or not used at all, what value does a new law have.

So a new law is a probably a good first step, but a miniscule step. The idea of deweaponising Karachi - let alone Pakistan - is a big deal. It is ironic and interesting that the MQM is the one to sponsor the bill. If implemented, this would be the first time since in the mid-1960s that Karachi would be free of weapons. It is a good initiative, but there is a bigger structural problem in Pakistani society - a lack of respect for existing laws.

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