ISLAMABAD - The Ministry of Interior in the light of earlier decision of the cabinet has suspended licences of all automatic weapons that fall in the category of prohibited bore and have been issued by the federal government.

At the same time, the ministry has lifted federal government’s ban on the issuance of non-prohibited bore (NPB) arms licences after a period of more than four and half years.

The interior ministry through a fresh notification has suspended licences of all automatic weapons issued by the ministry itself and has given the deadline of January 31, 2018 to all such licence holders with the option either to get such weapons converted into non-automatic weapons or deposit the same with the district authorities concerned. However, the law enforcements agencies and government organisations would remain exempted from the decision.

The same notification, available with The Nation, has lifted ban on the issuance of all NPB arms licences with immediate effect.

“In exercise of the powers conferred under conferred under section 12 (1) (b), the Pakistan Arms Ordinance 1965, the federal government in the large public interest, hereby, suspends all arms licences of automatic weapons within Prohibited Bore category issued by the Ministry of Interior with the exception of licenses issues to Law Enforcement Agencies and the Government Organisations,” says the notification.

An official of the interior ministry said that the notification had been issued in the light of the decision made in the recent cabinet meeting and as part of Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi’s policy to make the country free of automatic weapons .

Through the notification, the government has given two options to the licence-holders having automatic weapons . They have been asked either to get their automatic weapons converted into non-automatic ones through authorized armours, arms manufactures or arms dealers and get it verified by the office of the concerned district police officer (DPO), deputy commissioner district coordination officer (DCO), district magistrate or political agency by 31st January 2018. “The licensees may thereafter approach NADRA for issuance of new non-prohibited bore licenses for the converted weapons in lieu of prohibited bore licenses,” says the notification.

Through the second option, the licensees have been asked to deposit their automatic weapons with respective deputy commissioner, DCO, district magistrate or political agent at a compensation price of Rs 50,000 per automatic rifle and Rs 20,000 per automatic pistol or handgun, “Failure to comply with the above options will entail cancellation of said licenses after 31 January 2018,” reads out the notification.

PM Abbasi in his maiden speech, after taking the oath of his office, he made on the floor of the National Assembly had expressed his resolve to make the country free of automatic weapons . He had said that he wanted to ban automatic weapons in the country if all stakeholders agreed to the proposal. After that, a cabinet meeting had formed a committee to propose recommendations on the issue of ban of automatic weapons . However, this will remain a question whether the federal government will become successful in this drive as its term is going to expire after six months and many previous governments have failed to carry out this task.

COMPUTERISED LICENCES FOR BALOCHISTAN

National Database and Registration Authority will soon start issuing computerised arms licences in Balochistan. 

NADRA signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the provincial government in this connection here on Thursday.

Under the MoU, Nadra will make revalidation and computerisation of as many as 0.3 million manual licenses in Balochistan. The authority is already issuing computerised arms licences in Punjab, Sindh and federal capital area.

In a statement issued by the authority’s official spokesperson, NADRA said that in a bid to tackle the flow of illegal and unregistered arms in Balochistan, Chairman NADRA Usman Y. Mobin and Home Secretary Balochistan Dr Akbar Harifal signed an MoU for issuance of computerised arms licences in the province.

Federal Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal, Home Minister of Balochistan Mir Sarfaraz Bugti, Director General Projects NADRA Zulfiqar Ali, Director General NADRA Quetta and other senior official of provincial government were present on the occasion.

The signing of an MOU is the achievement of a major mile stone which is the result of concerted efforts of Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal and Home Minister of Balochistan Mir Sarfaraz Bugti, the statement said.

The authority claims that Government of Pakistan hopes to reap similar successes achieved in Punjab, Sindh and the federal arms licence projects through computerisation of 0.3 million manual licences in Balochistan.

Similar to the arms licence computerisation projects that have been implemented across Sindh and Punjab provinces, the move will help promote a more secure and effective management and monitoring of private arms in the country.

According to the MoU, 34 sites shall be established by NADRA across various districts in Balochistan, where citizens who have old manual licences can visit these facilities to firstly validate and then be issued computerised licences for their weapons through the proper legal channels.

To highlight the initiative of arms licence project, since the arms licence revalidation campaign ended in December 2015, a total of 180,000 arms licences were computerised and revalidated whilst around 8,000 licences were found to be bogus during the campaign. These figures highlight the fact that the number of privately owned weapons in the country is quite high, and subsequently there is also a high probability that many of these arms are illegally obtained and often do not have the correct documentation or licenses. NADRA says it is vital for initiatives such as these to be taken, as there is a need for strict regulations when it comes to the possession of arms in the country given the national security situation, especially in the province such as Balochistan which has fell victim to numerous terrorist attacks particularly targeting law enforcement agencies.