Officials of the home department, government of Sindh, recently declared that 1,057,456 arms manual licences had been issued in Sindh and 462,310 arm licence holders had submitted applications to seek computerised arms licences. The remaining 595,146 licences of those licence holders who had not applied for computerised arms licences within stated deadlines, have been cancelled by the government and it has been decided to launch another drive for voluntary surrender of illegal weapons across the province. However, the licences have been cancelled but no single weapon has been seized due to the lack of a complete record of the licences in the concerned department's office. This is a proof of the provincial bureaucracy's inefficiency and negligence.
In the past, half a dozen deweaponization drives for the voluntary surrender of illegal weapons have been launched in the province of Sindh. Regrettably, those campaigns could not bring forth fruitful and meaningful results. In the campaign conducted in 2001, a small number of mostly old, obsolete and discarded illicit weapons were surrendered. In 2013 - the last such drive - a few dozen illegal weapons were turned by the people. In Karachi, the administration had also sought support of regional mosques to encourage people to surrender weapons. In spite of that, the government failed to fetch all or an adequate quantity of arms. Actually, the government had tried to fool the general public, trying to make them believe that the issue is of concern to the government and that a serious effort is being initiated to deal with it. Thus, another such drive with immunity to those who would surrender illegal weapons within a certain deadline will prove to be an ineffective and abortive effort.
Despite the fact that Article 256 of the Constitution of Pakistan forbids private armies in the country, there are thousands of private armies which the rich and influential have kept for themselves. In Sindh, most MPAs, MNAs, and Ministers keep a huge number of private security guards equipped with lethal and sophisticated weapons. In order to pressurize and terrorize their political rivals and voters, they always travel with a small force of 15 to 20 private guards with themselves, who carry the latest and most dangerous weapons.
In Australia, Japan and the United Kingdom possession of firearms is strictly prohibited. Australia introduced a buyback plan for the country's deweaponization in 1996, and since then not a single murder has been carried out with a gun. It is a great and surprising example of a successful deweaponization programme. In Sindh, however, half a dozen deweaponization drives have been launched and yet a colossal number of people have been killed in the province especially in Karachi with lethal weapons, arms and bombs. Besides, the incidents of kidnappings, robberies, and killing of innocent citizens by criminals and terrorists have been taking place everyday without any of fear of law throughout the province.
There is a prevalence of mafias involved in land grabbing, drugs peddling and crimes in both urban and rural areas of the province, who are believed to have far more illicit weapons. The traders of the international black market smuggle illegal weapons, arms and ammunition from Afghanistan and other countries into Sindh especially into Karachi via Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa through their agents who are doing this business actively in the province. In connivance with some black sheep in the government machinery and with the help of agents of the international black market, the people of Sindh have managed to get thousands of licences issued from Balochistan Province to legalize their illicit weapons.
In fact, unauthorized production, illicit trafficking, possession and use of arms and weapons are stern criminal activities which must be dealt with vigorously. The government of Sindh had claimed to launch a merciless deweaponization drive against defiant people and to punish them with up to life imprisonment or forfeiture of their movable and immovable properties. However, in reality, no such drive has been initiated so far due to the government's lack of interest. A merciless deweaponization drive is the need of hour. To make the drive successful, Sindh police and Rangers should set up check posts on provincial and national borders in order to put a stop to the movement of illegal arms, weapons and ammunition. Later on, house to house targeted search operations based on intelligence reports will be meaningful and fruitful. In this way, no gentle citizen can be affected by the merciless deweaponization drive's search operations.
It is important for the government to introduce stringent measures to ban the unauthorized production, illicit trafficking, possession and use of arms and weapons in order to control the unleashed criminal activities that are being carried out in the province explicitly and without any fear of punishment. This measure is essential for restoring peace, tranquility, sanity and public order in the province.