By Zia Ur Rehman

October 10. 2013

KARACHI – The Sindh provincial government is pressing on with a campaign to clear Karachi of illegal weapons and ban new firearm licences, even though few owners so far have surrendered their guns or ammunition voluntarily, officials say.

The so-called “Weapon-Free Karachi” campaign started September 27 and will go through October 12. It kicked off when the Supreme Court of Pakistan ordered Sindh Province to rid Karachi of illicit arms and ammunition and to take control of the city’s “no-go areas,” where criminal activity and lawlessness are rife, Dawn reported.

A police officer shows weapons and ammunition seized from a truck on Karachi’s Super Highway in July. The Sindh provincial government’s ‘Weapon-Free Karachi’ campaign will continue until October 12. [Zia Ur Rehman]
“[The] provincial government is trying to make Karachi a city free [of] illegal weapons at any cost,” Sharjeel Inam Memon, the Sindh information minister, said.

“The authorities are asking people through the print and broadcast media to give up their illegal arms voluntarily,” Sharfuddin Memon, an advisor at the Sindh Home Department, said.

Residents are being asked to surrender such items to offices of deputy commissioners and of assistant commissioners and at local police stations, Sharfuddin told Central Asia Online. Those who give up their weapons voluntarily by the deadline will be exempted from prosecution, he said.

But the public response so far has been unsatisfactory, officials say.

“The main reason is that most people may not be aware of the ongoing de-weaponisation campaign even though it has been advertised through electronic and print media,” Ghawar Khan Lagahari, Deputy Commissioner of Karachi West, said, adding that the authorities would make public announcements at mosques citywide.

Sindh Chief Secretary Ejaz Chaudhry also has assigned deputy commissioners to provide records of weapons sales dating back five years to the commissioner of Karachi, the Sindh government said in a September 26 news release.

Aim to curtail illegal arm trade : 

The campaign is part of a law enforcement crackdown on those involved in the city’s illicit arms trade.

Police September 11 raided an arms shop in the Zamzama area of Clifton, where they arrested three suspected members of banned groups and recovered rockets and launchers, Kansan Dean, a senior police officer, said.

“The owner of the shop had a licence to sell legal weapons, but he was selling illegal and imported weapons to members of banned organisations in the city,” Dean told Central Asia Online.

That raid followed a July 23 seizure by police of a truck on Karachi’s Super Highway that was carrying weapons and ammunition. The cargo was destined for terrorists, authorities said.

Meanwhile, the ban on issuing new arms licences will continue indefinitely, Sharjeel said, adding that all old licences would expire by December 31.

At the same time, the provincial government has started building a database of all gun licences in Sindh, particularly in Karachi.

“With the help of [the] National Database and Registration Authority … the government has initiated the process of the registration of arm licences, and it [will] go on until December 31,” Lagahari said, adding that the database would allow the authorities to check licences and detect counterfeit ones.

Countering killings in Karachi: 

Political and religious parties, civil society organisations, traders and other stakeholders in Karachidemanding a campaign against illicit weapons in the city hailed the Sindh government’s decision to launch the drive.

Last November, the Pakistani Senate adopted a resolution by the Awami National Party (ANP), which asked the government to rid Karachi of illegal weapons as well as to restore law and order.

In June 2011, Sindh lawmakers unanimously passed a resolution demanding that the government clear the province of weapons, especially in Karachi, which has been reeling from high murder rates in recent years. In the first eight months of 2013 alone, as many as 2,056 people were killed there, according to statistics compiled by the Citizens-Police Liaison Committee (CPLC) in Karachi.

“De-weaponisation is the need of the hour, and it is a popular demand from the citizens of Karachi,” Farhat Parveen, head of the National Organisation for Working Communities, a Karachi-based rights group, said.