Proposed arms law: Record of 0.4m licence holdersunverified

KARACHI, Nov 17: As the provincial cabinet is set to give the nod to the Sindh Arms Act-2012, the home department authorities believe it may lead to the cancellation of around 400,000 arms licences acquired by thousands of individuals whose records and credentials are unverified, it emerged on Saturday.

Officials and sources privy to a meeting chaired by the Sindh chief minister said the provincial cabinet members had been conveyed that the scanning and initial findings spotted around 40 per cent of nearly one million arms licences carrying insufficient information.

“The move was initiated following the Supreme Court orders for cancellation of all non-computerised arms licences within six months,” said an official privy to the recent meeting that was briefed by additional chief secretary (home) Waseem Ahmed about the law and order situation mainly in Karachi.

“The request came from the Sindh home department before the provincial cabinet to approve the Sindh Arms Act-2012, which is seen quite instrumental for deweaponisation of Karachi. The home department also shared its finding that the new law would leave at least 400,000 arms licences cancelled across Sindh with major share from Karachi.”

The reasons behind the findings, he said, was unavailability of enough evidence that established authenticity of the individuals.

He said once the Sindh Arms Act-2012 was in place, arms licence holders would be asked to get registered with the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra).

“The cabinet is expected to approve the Sindh Arms Act-2012 within a couple of weeks. After that an advertisement campaign through print and broadcast would be launched appealing people to get registered with their nearest Nadra facility within certain time. It’s not yet decided but more expectedly the last date would be December 31, 2012,” added the official.

The Supreme Court five-member larger bench that started rehearing the suo motu case related to frequent killings in Karachi last month, ordered cancellation of all non-computerised arms licences within six months. It also asked the Sindh government to give a deadline through newspaper advertisements for the cancellation of arms licences. During the hearing, the bench directed the advocate general to ensure that a policy was devised for computerisation of all arms licences.

In line with the Supreme Court orders, the draft of the Sindh Arms Act-2012 also enhanced penalties against those using or carrying illegal weapons, said the official. He said the act would declare the offence non-bailable and if proved the accused could face up to 12 years imprisonment.

“To ensure that the law is not exploited, the law also proposed a permanent check on the officials of law-enforcement agencies and investigators. For instance, if any official is found involved in lodging false case against any person, he would face termination and imprisonment up to seven years,” he added.

He said the Nadra facility was currently available in six districts of the province that would be increased gradually once the Sindh Arms Act-2012 became effective.

“The Sindh home department and Nadra are in close contact that would lead to increase in number of their facilities in all districts of the province. Once Nadra registers an arms licence holder’s record, then he or she would be needed to get him or herself also registered with the respective police station,” the official added.

“The process of arms licences registration may sound lethargic but it’s not the case. It’s in fact a beginning of streamlining the record that has not been in order for past many decades, which has contributed to spread of weapons across Karachi. It’s an effort to fix the past serious errors.”

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