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September 15, 2019

Non-prohibited bore arms licences: Judge Qazi Isa raises question over govt’s policy

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September 15, 2019

ISLAMABAD: A Pakistan top court's judge has raised some serious questions over federal government's new arms licences policy on Saturday. Justice Qazi Faez Isa in a letter written to Registrar of the Supreme Court said, "The Ministry of Interior/ government appears to be implementing two sets of rules in the country thereby undermining the concept of rule of law."

"There is considerable doubt as to whether the notification [policy about 'non-prohibited bore arms licences] meets constitutional criteria. The notification also appears to erode the laws governing arms. And, what moral authority the government exercises in tackling the spread of weapons by encouraging the spread of more lethal, prohibited bore weapons, asked the judge Isa through his senior private secretary who wrote the said letter.

The federal government lifted ban on the issuance of non-prohibited bore arms licences with immediate effect on August 21, 2019. Following this notification, Ministry of Interior restored licences previously issued for "automatic weapons within prohibited bore", which it suspended on December 26, 2017.

Justice Qazi Faez was responding to a letter written by Assistant Registrar Supreme Court issued through a circular dated Sep 5, 2019. The notification was issued by Ministry of Interior and mentioned nine categories of persons entitled to obtain prohibited bore category weapons if they receive gifts or which produced by the Pakistan Ordnance Factory. “Judge of Supreme Court and High Courts” are one category amongst the nine categories.

Judge Isa further stated, "Notification gives no reasons why the said nine categories of persons can obtain prohibited bore weapons. Article 25 of the Constitution mandates that all citizens are equal before the law and applicable law does not permit the person to be favoured merely on account of the office he/she holds. The first seven categories of persons mentioned in the notification, as per their respective oath of office/third schedule to the constitution must abide by the constitution and the law and to act without favour. The judges’ code of conduct also does not permit receipt of such gifts. The notification however permits receipt of a gift of prohibited bore weapons by constitutional office holder. A number of questions of constitutional importance arrives “why would constitutional office holder receive gift of a prohibit weapon? Who will they receive these weapons from? Would the person gifting these weapons have acquired them legally or would they be gifting illegally acquired weapons?”

"The federal government is pleased to notify that all arms licences of automatic weapons within prohibited bore suspended vide the aforementioned notification are now treated to be valid," the interior ministry's notification further read. "The ban imposed on issuance of non-prohibited bore arms licence is lifted with immediate effect."

The government lifted the ban on the issuance of arms licences for prohibited bore category to the extent of "President, Prime Minister, chief ministers, governors, BS-22 officers, federal ministers, Senate chairman, National Assembly Speaker and general officers or equivalent officers or other ranks of the military in accordance with Army Regulations (Instructions) 2000."

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