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September 1, 2017

PM’s statement on automatic weapons welcomed


September 1, 2017

LAHORE : Non-Government Organisations welcomed Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abassi’s statement on curtailing automatic weapons in the country and urged the government to adopt a comprehensive policy after due deliberation to introduce result-oriented and broad-based reforms.

The speakers at the seminar held here called attention on the requirements, methods and approach of disarmament in Pakistan. They expressed grave concern over gun-related crimes, smuggling and sale of weapons and promotion of war mentality, which ultimately constitutes an environment that condones violence and facilitates impunity for elements that spread lawlessness.

They reiterated that the free licensing of automatic weapons for citizens, spread of illicit weapons has had serious repercussions on law and order, proliferation of violent crimes and brutalisation of society, particularly the violence against the weaker sections of society, including women, children, religious minorities and whosoever was considered ‘other’ or a stranger. 

They demanded the government to initiate a policy dialogue for limiting arms and ammunition. Besides, a road map for peace-building in society, which they believed would contribute to economic development and democratic stability in the country. Hence legal and educational reforms are necessary to promote a culture of peace and harmony. 

Speaking on the occasion, veteran human rights defender, IA Rehman said use of violence by anyone is unfavourable to respect for rights and freedom of citizens; therefore, the rulers should avoid using violence against citizens.

It should instead, be a citizen-friendly government andrespect their entitlements. The civil society must engage with government for comprehensive deliberations to establish weapon-free society. The government needs to review the curricular.

Wajahat Masood said weapons have become a symbol of status and power; the people carrying weapons impose their will on the unarmed. Weapons in the hands of citizens do not mean protection, weapons on the contrary create more insecurity, promote the culture of coercion and fear; therefore, efforts need to be made to resist the culture of terror. 

Justice (R) Nasira Javed Iqbal said that not only guns but other any objects used as weapons to harm other persons, create violence and terror in the society, should be checked. Textbooks should be used to persuade youths to reject violence and adopt values of peaceful coexistence. It is the only way forward for changing the mindset about weapons. The government must have reliable data about weapons (legal & illegal) to devise a comprehensive policy to translate the vision of the prime minister into reality. 

Saroop Ejaz advocate said in order to claim full authority for itself, the state laws should establish the writ of the law by taking away the powers of panchayats, precedent in Frontier Crimes Regulation and Pakistan Penal Code of adjudication of criminal matters by outside the court. The privatisation of right to life and liberty is a dangerous phenomenon for the sovereign nation state. 

Sarmad Ali advocate called for the enforcement of article 256 of Constitution of Pakistan that outlaws private militias and making the offence of possessing illegal weapons a non-bailable. He suggested cancelling licences and voluntary surrender of weapons by citizens as it had been practiced in some countries. 

Farooq Tariq, general secretary Awami Workers Party, said extremism has turned humans into weapons which needs to be taken into account; therefore, the drive for deweaponisation of society has to include change of mindset of the people who believe in revenge and destruction. 

The media adviser of the PML-N, Muhammad Mehdi appreciated the announcement of initiative of deweaponisation, though he pointed out challenges that are in the way. He explained with examples how the spread of weapons has led to heinous crimes. 

Neelam Hussain said there is gender dimension to prevailing violence in society. Violence preys on the most vulnerable in the society, including women and children. We have seen glorification of heroes of history who happened to be warriors in syllabi and national narrative which is a cause why there have been few voices condemning the love for weapons and violence. 

Peter Jacob stated that Prime Minister Abbasi’s voice represents the conscience of the peaceful society heralding a great potential of a paradigm shift; so the civil society shall support a comprehensive policy dialogue on the matter. He urged upon the government to consider becoming party to The Arms Trade Treaty of the UN meant to control smuggling, etc. of arms and ammunition.   

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