Balochistan, Sindh and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa governments want the federal government to have the sole power to issue arms licences to control the proliferation of illegal weapons in the country, a Senate panel was told on Saturday.
“The provinces might call for banning production and proliferation of arms to restore some order in the country,” Secretary Interior Khwaja Saddique Akbar told The Express Tribune after the meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Interior. However, Akbar did not elaborate on the issue.
The arms licences section of the ministry of interior was devolved to the provinces under the 18th Amendment to the constitution. After the devolution, only the prime minister or the president have the power to issue a licence for a prohibited-bore weapon, such as a Kalashnikov. Earlier, these powers were wielded by the interior ministry.
Weapons, such as hunting rifles, are not prohibited in the country.
The Senate panel expressed concerns over the discretionary powers of the prime minster and president under the new policy.
Balochistan, Sindh and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa are supporting the centre on the issue, which also wants to retain the power to issue licences, Senator Jamal Khan said.
Punjab is the only province which is willing to continue issuing licences, the interior secretary said, after which it was decided that the inspector general of police and chief secretary of the province would be summoned to explain Punjab’s stance.
The ministry of Interior will continue to issue prohibited and non-prohibited licences in Islamabad, he added.
The federal government has asked Sindh, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan to raise the issue with the Council of Common Interest after passing a resolution to resolve the issue, Akbar said.
Majority of the members said the new policy for arms is likely to promote proliferation of weapons in the country. Committee member Senator Dr Abdul Malik said the ‘Deweaponisation of Pakistan Bill of 2011’, seeks to ban production, import and use of firearms and ammunition, proliferation, explosives and smuggling to restore police writ in Karachi and other cities.
The parliamentary panel expressed concerns over some clauses of the Anti-Terrorism Act, saying they were against basic human rights. The committee wants to make some changes to the bill immediately,” said Chairman Senator Talha Mehmood.
The committee deliberated upon certain clauses of the act, including powers allowed to intelligence agencies and other departments to tap telephone calls of suspects.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 31th, 2011.