KARACHI - As killings on ethnic, sectarian and political grounds continue with a radically depressing regularity in Karachi, politicians, civil society representatives and other stakeholders have called for deweaponisation and free hand to police for sustainable peace in the country’s financial hub.

Almost all government functionaries, politicians, policy-makers, law enforcers and civil society representatives this scribe talked to were of the view that steps should be taken for deweaponisation in the city to put an end to the trafficking of arms and weapons of mass destruction. In its recent report, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) points out that at least 227 political activists were killed in targeted attacks since January 1. The report, “Killings in Karachi – January to August 2012”, details that overall 1,725 people were killed in Karachi in the stated period. Of them, 1,345 people were killed in targeted attacks, robberies, social crimes, over personal rivalries and for other reasons.

Sharing his paper on deweaponisation with TheNation, Sharfuddin Memon, a consultant of the Sindh Home Department, proposed that a multi-pronged strategy be evolved and a comprehensive campaign be initiated with the active support of law-abiding citizens. “Let it be realised at the outset that the road to deweaponisation is long and hard, and the challenge will require a charismatic leadership, selflessness, integrity, firmness, objectivity and openness,” he averred while adding that the very campaign would be a politically-sensitive operation that would require both freedom of action, subject to checks and sustained effort.

In his paper, Memon underlined the need for prioritising plans to catch the big fish first, contending that a law applied unevenly and unfairly soon ceases to be applied at all. Before any deweaponisation drive, added the Home Department consultant, only efficient, effective and just justice system would provide for containing the law and order situation.

The official, however, informed that there existed no standardised, credible police for the issuance of arm license, nor did a proper mechanism for verification of license holders was in place. “Even, there is no proper record management of seized weapons as well as proper ballistic or forensic checks on weapons used at the government level, the official pointed out while maintaining that the easy availability of illegal weapons, negligible convictions for possessing illegal weapons and unwarranted issuance of licenses for prohibited weapons were also a major challenge. In his recommendatory paper, the consultant proposed a phase-wise deweaponisation drive.

It may be mentioned here that the MQM had already submitted a bill in the National Assembly, calling for an effective ban on the manufacturing and supply routes of arms.  Bashir Jan, provincial general secretary of the Awami National Party, also called for a comprehensive deweaponisation operation, saying that workers of his party also fell victim to targeted killings.

Police and secret agencies had, in their reports to the Supreme Court, submitted that political parties had involvement in the collection of extortion money. During the hearing of the suo moto case about the deteriorating law and order in Karachi, the IGP, in his report, told the apex court that criminal-mind cops were also present in the Police Department.

Taj Haider, former senator and general secretary of the ruling PPP, while talking to The Nation, defended his party’s steps it had been taking for the maintenance of peace in the city. He said that the allied parties in Sindh government as well as other political forces had developed consensus that there would be zero tolerance against criminals in their ranks. He termed the consensus a positive achievement for sustainable peace.

Elahi Bux Baloch of the Strengthening Participatory Organization (SPO), a civil society organisation that arranged a number of consultative dialogues on law and order situation in the city, strongly advocated deweaponisation in the city.  Centre of Peace and Civil Society Executive Director Jami Chandio said that the capacity-building of the Police Department should be improved and it be made professional. “All the major cities of the world have diversity, which is considered the beauty of these cities. But if someone denies that diversity it could be dangerous. Although Karachi is home to different ethnic groups, but its diversity is not safe.”

He added that before the independence of Pakistan, population of Karachi was 300,000, but now it stood over 15 million. “The influx of population is natural, but there should be certain principles to accommodate people.”

Meanwhile, an eleven-member standing committee of the Sindh Assembly on Home Department after making a whirlwind tour of districts of Sindh, finalised its report on police reforms for sustainable and lasting peace in the province. Led by its chairman MPA Haji Anwar Mahar of the ruling PPP, the assembly body, in its report, which is yet to be submitted to the provincial legislature, recommended that political interference in police affairs be ended.