Conference on deweaponization: Political parties worst affected by gun culture

KARACHI: Representatives of different political parties speaking at a conference on deweaponization on Saturday evening showed unanimity of views that Karachi must be purified of the weapons so that the citizens could live in peace without any fear and threat to their life and property.

“The political parties, their leaders and workers are the main stakeholders direly needing the deweaponization because they are in the field and remain constantly in touch with masses,” they said.

Addressing the conference held by National Organization for Working Communities under its ‘Peace My Right’ project, Ms. Erum Farooqi of MQM said her party is being targeted and criticized at every forum despite the fact that a large number of their party workers have been gunned down. “It is because of gun culture,” she added.

She said it was MQM that introduced a bill for deweaponization in national assembly in 2011 but except 25 MNAs of MQM none from other parties signed the bill.

Erum Farooqi contended that the weapons are not manufactured in Karachi. They are produced in Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa and are smuggled into Karachi therefore the supply line should be cut off. “I am surprised that the illegal arms pass through 100 check points but even then they are not seized by law enforcers,” she said.

Hassan Nasir of Awami Party Pakistan in his brief remarks held State responsible for gun culture and violence. “There will be no change unless ruling class is changed.”

PTI leader Samar Ali Khan showed helplessness in bringing change in Sindh as according to him his party has only four members elected in provincial assembly. However he said 750, 000 votes secured by PTI in Karachi was ample proof that citizens want change. He called on people to rise for the peace being their basic right. “Peace could be restored if we struggle jointly,” he said adding that it also needs sincerity because ruling elite class always remains prepared to flee from Karachi instead of making concrete efforts for restoring peace.

Samar Ali said the political parties should change their strategies focusing on peaceful way of politics so that citizens could be brought out of state of fear.

He described the situation in Karachi as very dangerous and said Karachi is now a ‘Failed City’ with zero economic growth.

PTI leader underlined the need of implementing the laws in letter and spirit for restoring peace.

PPP leader and senior trade unionist Latif Mughal said his party was on the top of affected parties as over 600 workers were gunned down in last few years. According to him the bloodshed in Karachi started since 1985. He agreed that PPP government failed to bring peace to the city during its last 5year tenure but viewed that no government could have succeeded in doing so because of multiple factors. He was confident that ongoing operation against law breakers would prove to be a success.

Latif Mughal denied that PPP had any link with elements of Gang War in Lyari and said Lyari Gang War continues since the Ayub Khan era.

Shahid Soomro of PMLF said his party has given slogan of peace and called for joint efforts to bring peace in Karachi and elsewhere.

Jamaat-e-Islami leader Muslim Pervez criticized MQM for bloodshed and alleged that violence in Karachi started since 1985 with creation of MQM. He said MQM was in power since 1988 and all its deeds are on record.

Awami National Party’s general secretary for Sindh Bashir Jan said deweaponization is problem of political parties, as they use to work in the field unlike those who sit in air-conditioned offices and work on laptops. He criticized law enforces for not taking action against terrorists and other criminal elements.

Earlier, Asad Iqbal Butt of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan HRCP said state organizations were directly responsible for violence, as they created certain groups for accomplishment of their motives and later created other groups out of them like MQM and MQM H. “The State had activated non-state organizations.”

Butt said the provincial government announced a deadline for surrendering illegal weapons but failed to get any response. “It took no action despite fact that hundreds of thousands illegal arms are present in the city.”

Naeem Sadiq, an expert working on laws regarding deweaponization, in his presentation disclosed that country has 20 million weapons. Of them seven million are licensed and 13 million are unlicensed. “The government had issued 69000 licenses of weapons of prohibited bore to parliamentarians and others. This way Pakistan’s parliament is most dangerous among the parliaments of world.

Naeem Sadiq said country’s constitution prohibits formation of any private army but there exist over 1000 private armies in Pakistan.

Tracing out history of anti-weapon laws, he said British rulers introduced a law in subcontinent in 1877 under which a man possessing illegal weapon could have been sentenced up to three years. This law remained enforced till 1965 when the new law enforced to sentence such person for not less than three years. In 1991 another law provided life sentence and confiscation of property for possessing illegal weapon and recently early this year a new law changed the punishment to 14 year imprisonment. He concluded that the anti-weapon laws exist but are not enforced strictly.

Ms. Farhat Perveen and Mir Zulfiqar Ali of NOW Communities, senior human rights activist Anis Haroon, Salahuddin Gandapur advocate and others also spoke. A large number of rights activists, political and civil society activists attended the conference.