Welcoming Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi’s recent statement regarding Pakistan’s pressing need to curtail proliferation of automatic weapons in the country, various civil society organisations (CSOs) have urged the government to hold due deliberations for formulating and implementing a comprehensive policy geared towards result-oriented and broad-based reforms.
This call was raised at a conference held on Friday under the aegis of the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), in collaboration with the Aurat Foundation, to discuss the requirements, methods and possible approaches for disarmament in Pakistan.
CSO representatives who addressed the conference included Aurat Foundation Resident Director Mahnaz Rahman, educationist Dr Huma Baqai, writer and columnist Rumana Hussain, CSJ Director Peter Jacob, child rights activist Rana Asif Habib and Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler) Director Karamat Ali.
The event also had two government representatives – Pakistan Peoples Party MNA Shahida Rehmani and Nuzhat Shireen, the recently appointed chairperson of the Sindh Provincial Commission on the Status of Women.
The speakers expressed grave concerns over gun violence, smuggling and sale of weapons and the endorsement of hate-mongering which ultimately condones violence and facilitates spread of lawlessness.
The speakers highlighted that proliferation of illegal weapons and licensing of automatic weapons for citizens has had serious repercussions on the law and order situation in all rural and urban parts of the country.
These practices, it was said, had contributed immensely towards the propagation of violent crimes and brutalisation of Pakistani society, particularly in the context of violence against weaker sections of society including women, children, religious minorities and whosoever was considered ‘the other’.
The spread of weapons does nothing but promote a climate of coercion and fear, therefore, any civilised society should stand firm against these practices, the speakers asserted.
It was said that PM Abbasi’s recent call represents the conscience of a just society and harbours great potential for inducing a paradigm shift, which was why the civil society would support all efforts for a comprehensive policy dialogue on deweaponisation.
The speakers urged the federal and provincial governments to initiate a policy dialogue for limiting sale and use of weapons and to formulate a roadmap for peace-building in Paksitani society. Such efforts, It was said that such efforts, coupled with legal and academic reforms, remain a sine qua non for sustainable economic development and democratic stability in the country.
The participants of the conference presented the following list of suggestions:
• The government must present data about weapons (legal and illegal) and work in earnest to introduce effective laws and policies dealing with weapons control.
• A comprehensive policy must be devised and implemented to ban automatic and illegal weapons in possession and control of citizens.
• Article 256 of the Constitution of Pakistan that outlaws private militias/security must be enforced, while the possession of illegal weapons must be made a non-bailable offence.
• The government must consider becoming party to the Arms Trade Treaty of the United Nations that is aimed at controlling smuggling and proliferation of arms and ammunition.
• Arms licenses issued to members of the general public must be cancelled and weapons under control of the general public must be seized by the government.
• An arms control regime needs to be introduced. This could be similar to the ‘Buyback Programme’ successfully carried out in Australia since 1996 under which over 0.7 million weapons were surrendered by citizens while violent crimes dropped drastically.
• Textbooks and media platforms should be used to inculcate, particularly among the youth, values of peaceful coexistence and peace-building.
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