In order to weed out arms dealers of dubious credentials, the Punjab government has launched a drive to cancel the existing licences of weapons dealers and issue fresh licences after a new and strict verification process of documents. The move has been prompted after it came to light that attempts were being made to sell arms by unauthorised people online. There are 667 arms dealers in Punjab. So far, the provincial home department has cleared licences of 451 arms dealers and suspended 26 for want of certain papers. The department has cancelled seven licences. Now licences to arms dealers will be issued after their proper biometric verification. Arms dealers have been asked to meet the new requirements for licence by April 13; and this include the procurement and installation of a system that will maintain data related to sales.
This system has been created with the assistance of the National Database and Registration Authority. It has been made mandatory for those applying for an arms dealership to appear in person before the relevant authorities. The number of documents needing verification has also been increased. The applicant for a new licence shall have to present the National Tax Number (NTN) besides other documents. The new licence will be issued only after the verification of NTN and other papers. The home department has also been scrutinising the records of all arms dealers in the province. The process is aimed at eliminating the chances of fake arms licence and also at catching those conducting arms sale after the expiry of their licences. Five such dealers have so far been caught in Lahore alone.
The new process for obtaining and renewing licence for selling arms would go a long way in eliminating the menace of fake arms licence and illegal weapons in the province. Lately, violent incidents in Punjab have increased in which firearms have been used. The curbs on illegal weapons trade will help in maintenance of peace.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 19th, 2021.