The interior of Sindh Province has been a powerful political front for the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). In order to bag maximum votes from the region, PPP tried to do its best. During its 2013 Elections campaign, Manzoor Wassan, the former home minister of Sindh and a candidate for the National Assembly, vowed in a public gathering at Kot Deji (located in the interior of Sindh Province) “to cleanse Karachi of weapons, if voted to power.”
Karachi, Pakistan’s densely populated and most important metropolis, has been the victim of terrorism and targeted killing for decades. Illegal weapons have been the main cause of killings, but licensed weapons have also become lethal for many living in Karachi.
In 2008, more than 104 people were killed, and between 2009 and 2010, almost 3,500 people died in targeted killing and other criminal acts. In 2011- 2012 more than 4,200 people became victims of indiscriminate killings.
The former provincial government of Sindh and the federal government have been negligent in issuing arms licenses. In October 2011, when the Supreme Court of Pakistan observed that Karachi was full of weapons and ammunition, the SC was informed that the Sindh Home Department had issued 180,956 licenses for non-prohibited and 46,114 for prohibited munitions in five years. The interior ministry in Islamabad had issued 1,202,470 licenses of non-prohibited munitions.
Despite the fact that, in November 2012, the Senate adopted a bill to de-weaponise Karachi, it was unfortunately never implemented by law and order agencies.
Truth Tracker made several attempts to contact Manzoor Wassan, but he was never available.
While talking to Truth Tracker, DIG Police Captain Tahir Naveed said, “De-weaponising Karachi is not possible until strict laws are introduced, but in the current scenario it does not seem possible.”
Naveed further said, “Politicians and government should be more careful towards issuing licenses to people. Issuing licenses for weapons should be based on a strict policy rather than a lenient criterion for kith and kin. Besides that, severe legal action should be taken by legislators against those who keep any illegal weapons and enactment of such laws shouldn’t only be for Karachi, but for the rest of the country as well.”
Naveed emphasized, “De-politicizing the police is more important right now if government wants to de-weaponise Karachi or to eliminate crime. Police officers should play their role in their respective areas to get rid of illegal weapons.”
PPP has not yet steered a single meeting in order to implement the Senate Bill to de-weaponise Karachi. As per the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) report, of January to June 2013, more than 1,726 people were reported to be the victims of targeted killings and other violence in Karachi.
It is evident that massive killings in Karachi in the last five years have neither moved politicians to initiate any campaign against weapons in Karachi, nor to pass any legislation to punish such elements that carry, provide or keep illegal weapons.
On condition of anonymity, an illegal arms dealer told Truth Tracker, “It is impossible to stop weaponization in Karachi. The important thing is not to de-weaponize Karachi, but to stop smuggled illegal weapons from getting into the city. I firmly believe that as long as the religious, political, criminal and personal rivalry is there, my business will flourish. Law enforcement agencies and politicians are involved in illegal weapons’ smuggling scams because in this city their political careers and the money extortion business totally depends on weapons.”
The source further added, “Who said people are getting killed from illegal weapons only? In Karachi, people are killing each other with licensed arms as well, and law enforcement agencies cannot identify whether people are getting killed by licensed weapons or illegal weapons.”
Akhtar Baloch, director of the board for HRC, is of the view that eliminating illegal weapons from Karachi is almost impossible without the strong will and determination of the government and the law enforcement agencies.
Baloch further said, “Government would have to sideline the political and religious compulsions and should start grand operation against illegal weapons not in one specific area, but in the whole city, otherwise we would have to face more killings of innocents which will further deteriorate the situation in Karachi.”
Truth Tracker rates this promise as broken.