Worried about ongoing targeted killings and growing gun violence, civil society organisations have started a de-weaponisation campaign in Karachi, and the Mutahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) has filed a bill in the National Assembly seeking de-weaponisation across the country.
Last year was one of the most violent in Pakistan's history, with 801 people killed in Karachi alone. That is the most murders since 1995, when 1,742 people were killed, a Citizen Police Liaison Committee (CPLC) report says.
Some 40 people have been killed in targeted killing since January 13, which led to a partial curfew in parts of the city.
The MQM filed a bill in the National Assembly on January 17 seeking de-weaponisation across the country. The proposed law would ban the production, smuggling, import and use of firearms, ammunition and weapons throughout Pakistan, said Dr. Farooq Sattar, a key leader of the MQM.
The party also suggested forming a parliamentary committee to oversee the process, he said. A public outcry for de-weaponisation has been raised with every new wave of violence in Karachi.
“The present waves of anarchy and lawlessness have necessitated a need to launch a comprehensive de-weaponisation campaign to cleanse the city from the menace of illicit weapons,” said Farhat Parveen.“The present waves of anarchy and lawlessness have necessitated a need to launch a comprehensive de-weaponisation campaign to cleanse the city from the menace of illicit weapons,” said Farhat Parveen, head of the National Organisation for Working Communities (NOWC), a Karachi-based rights organisation.
The disarmament drive -- “Campaign for Peace” -- is run by NOWC with the collaboration of Oxfam-Novib Pakistan, Parveen told Central Asia Online last week. Civil society and professional organisations, traders, political parties and peace activists are part of the campaign, she added.
“Even though it is a difficult task, the disarming of the city is the need of the hour and has to be perused from some point,” Parveen said. Some of the victims of the violence were political activists, but most were apolitical daily wage labourers.
Crime statistics on rise in Karachi
From 2006-09, criminals and terrorists committed 6,894 attacks with illicit arms across the country, killing 9,634 people and injuring 18,788 others. Thousands of others were kidnapped for ransom, Sattar, who is also a federal minister, said.
The number of incidents of violence in Pakistan fell 11% from 2009 to 2010, but violence in Karachi rose 288%, according to a report by the Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies (PIPS), an Islamabad-based think tank.
Targeted killings in Karachi killed more people than suicide bombings did nationwide in 2010, media reported. Last year 1,208 people died in 335 suicide bombings, while 1,247 were criminally murdered. About 95% of “hit-and-run shootings” in Karachi were carried out with 9mm and .30 calibre pistols, police sources said, adding that these small arms are readily available on the black market.
Some Karachi residents keep around 50 weapons on a single license, Rehman Malik, Federal Interior Minister, said. He added that the government is devising a strategy to stop such abuses.
Central Asia Online has learned that the Sindh Interior Ministry has forwarded a recommendation to the Chief Minister to increase the penalties for possessing illegal weapons and make the possession of illegal weapons a non-bailable crime.
The government is amending Arms Rules 1924 and Pakistan Arms Ordinance 1965, and suggests that the penalty for keeping illegal weapons be increased to 10 years in prison, a senior Interior Ministry official told Central Asia Online.
Security affects businesses, medical care
The worsening security situation has prompted 150 businessmen and their families to leave the country, said Majyd Aziz, former head of Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industries (KCCI). Targeted killings affect businesses as commercial areas close because of violence and riots, Aziz, who is also a leader the campaign to disarm Karachi, said.
A number of physicians from Karachi have also left Pakistan because they were victims of violence, said Dr, Samreena Hashami, an officer of the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA).
The continued re-enforcement of the ideas of militarisation in the educational curriculum, and society’s emphasis on militancy were the main reasons behind the weaponisation of society, said Javed Jabbar, a former federal Minister, involved in the campaign.
“We have to focus on traditional and non-traditional education because non-traditional education including media is promoting violence,” Jabbar said. He added that law enforcement needs to be reformed to make it able to effectively de-weaponize society.