Take away the guns, please

By Zubeida Mustafa

KARACHI is burning again. Almost 40 people were killed in the last week or so of March. Three strike calls disrupted life in the city and the loss to production is estimated by industrialists and traders to be Rs20bn.

Those believed to be provoking violence are not outlaws operating outside the political system. They are parties that were elected by the people whose life and property they are expected to safeguard.

The only one to show some concern was the chief justice of the Sindh High Court who sought a report from the police and the Rangers. The Supreme Court had directed the government last year to form a committee to supervise and ensure that the law-enforcement agencies take action across the board against the perpetrators of disturbances. Not much has been heard about it.

We do not know what is in store because the parties at loggerheads show no signs of reconciliation and the killers roam brazenly in their strongholds. The belligerent noises from their camps are hardly reassuring. They owe their positions to the votes of the people. But not a single one of them has asked the pertinent question. What do the people want?

They are totally off the mark if they believe that the city shuts down in their support when they give a strike call. They should know better. Can one afford to have one’s vehicle torched by ruffians on a day of closure? Fifty cars and buses were burnt during this fateful week. Remember the little boy who was shot in the chest when he refused to shut his tyre shop as a procession was passing by? The poor soul was too young to have learnt from experience. He was barely 13 years.

Ask the daily wage earner what he wants. He will tell you he wants peace and security so that he can go about his business of earning his livelihood. The factory worker whose job is already in the doldrums wants work to go on normally. It brings stability and security to the economy and to his life.

This is also the wish of small traders, rickshaw drivers and many others who are living a hand-to-mouth existence, Their survival depends on peace. Even for those students appearing for their examinations, a missed day can spell disaster for their academic life. Don’t forget to ask the mothers. They will tell you that they want their sons and breadwinners to return home safely every night.

The parties in control, however, cannot give the people the peace and security they want. Strange. On many occasions it is perceived that their leaders themselves create havoc that is rejected by those who voted them into power. Theirs is a ‘turf war’, so we were told by the Supreme Court (SC) which took suo motu notice of the killings in the city last year when the death toll reached 574 in July-August.

In the current bout of violence, we may still be far from that horrendous figure but before things get out of hand it is time to revisit the Supreme Court’s judgment of last October.

Noting the causes of violence as recent demographic changes, ethnicity, sectarianism and factional infighting, the existence of bhatta, land and drug mafias, the infiltration by criminals of political parties with militant wings and most importantly “easy access to illicit weapons and misuse of arms licences”, the SC suggested deweaponisation and directed the government to devise “a methodology … to deweaponise” by following the existing laws and enacting new ones if need be. In this context the court also noted that in the last five years Sindh’s Home Department and the Federal Ministry for Interior had issued 1,429,540 licences for non-prohibited and prohibited bores. Karachi is awash with arms.

The court also spoke of the need for an “honest commitment on the part of the law-enforcing agencies”. Again it observed that without depoliticising the police, positive results could not be achieved. The court had already been informed that about 40 per cent of the police force was appointed “illegally” on political recommendations and was not qualified or trained for the job.Did the government take any step towards this end? With the perpetrators of violence being in the government could one really hope for any honest measures?

A test of the rulers’ commitment to deweaponisation came in January this year when the interior ministry in Islamabad endorsed a proposal seeking issuance of licences for arms of prohibited and non-prohibited bores on the recommendations of MPs and MPAs. According to one calculation this would allow the issuance of 23,500 licences for all variety of arms every month.

Intriguing. On the one hand the court asks you to deweaponise on the other you ensure that arms proliferate in society. The MQM-sponsored Deweaponisation of Pakistan Bill, 2011 has been gathering dust in the National Assembly. But we already have a law in place — Surrender of Illicit Arms Act, 1991 — and a beginning could be made on this basis. Meanwhile, no new licences should be issued and a new law providing for the surrender of arms, even licensed ones, should be enacted.

The underlying factors that have criminalised Karachi are many and will take a long time to eliminate. But if the proliferation of weapons can be checked, at least the killings can be checked. Lives — be they be of Pakhtuns, Mohajirs, Sindhis or Baloch — are precious and sacred. They must be protected. Restore to Karachi the richness of its diversity it was famous for.

Source: Dawn

8 thoughts on “Take away the guns, please

  1. Dear Zubaida, thanks for writing and sharing this article. We would be holding a conference on deweaponisation in the last week of this month. I hope that you would b able to attend and to share your thoughts

  2. Take away the guns, please
    Zubeida Mustafa | Opinion | From the Newspaper
    4th April, 2012

    I read with great interest, your well written article. I am a former Karachite, now living in Canada.
    I have read the responses you have received. Sarcastically speaking, I have this to say.
    You guy's need some, more and more and more of ISLAM infused in every aspect of your very being. To the point, you fanatics have gone MAD with religion. In fact you people, have gone drunk on ISLAM.
    Islam, is brought into the education, cricket, armed forces and politics of the country.
    This indoctrination of ISLAM has not worked in Pakistan. Can't you folk realise it. Do you need to loose, another half of the already truncated Pakistan ? If everbody was so religous, why is the whole country in absolute CHAOS ?
    The best way forward, is to start the gradual seperation of state and religon, it may help, a bit too late though.

  3. One day Buddha was walking through a village. A very angry and rude young man came up and began insulting him. “You have no right teaching others,” he shouted. “You are as stupid as everyone else. You are nothing but a fake.”
    Buddha was not upset by these insults. Instead he asked the young man “Tell me, if you buy a gift for someone, and that person does not take it, to whom does the gift belong?”
    The man was surprised to be asked such a strange question and answered, “It would belong to me, because I bought the gift.”
    The Buddha smiled and said, “That is correct. And it is exactly the same with your anger.
    If you become angry with me and I do not get insulted, then the anger falls back on you.
    You are then the only one who becomes unhappy, not me. All you have done is hurt yourself.”
    “If you want to stop hurting yourself, you must get rid of your anger and become loving instead. When you hate others, you yourself become unhappy. But when you love others, everyone is happy.”
    The young man listened closely to these wise words of the Buddha. “You are right, o Enlightened One, “he said. “Please teach me the path of love. I wish to become your follower.”
    The Buddha answered kindly, “Of course. I teach anyone who truly wants to learn… Come with me.”

    De-weaponize yes!! starting with the mind, also .

  4. of course you are right. But who will take away the arms ? Let us hope that Imran has a solution! In Singapore armed robberies carry a death penalty and so do kidnapping and drug peddling. In Singapore I was amember of gun club(for target shooting) but was required to deposit my shot gun in police st after use. You have done a great job with your writings but in my humble opinion the basis of Pak is flawed and Azad had warned Jinnah about it. A relative of mine use to visit Pak every year but he is not coming because he feels safer in India ! Amazing twist!

  5. I have a simple solution, which I'm sure the so-called democratic governments of this country cannot and–will not–consider: deweaponize the city once and for all through an all-out army operation, without any discrimination. If this doesn't happen, Karachi will continue to burn and its hapless citizens will continue to be killed.

  6. Your worries and description of sorry state of affairs about Karachi must prove mind changer of GUN holders. Though it seems an internal matter of Pakistan but International community suffers. Apart from loosing the internal and local business no one from other country would have a commercial and personal trip to Karachi. Price rise and scarcity of food also becomes a problem.

    Yes TAKE AWAY THE GUNS, PLEASE! BUT where to take them. Now on earth Guns outnumber living (animal, cattle and human) one. Atom Bombs are in good number to destroy earth too many times.


    Let us LIVE KING SIZE (here it means SWITZERLAND LIKE) LIFE!

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