The recent ruthless killing of eight people at a shop in Quetta, once again, highlights the serious issue of target killings that afflicts the country. We live in a country where people are killed because of their ethnicity, their beliefs or for other reasons that may stem from enmities of various kinds.
Meeting after meeting at various government levels have discussed this problem and attempted to find solutions for it. So far, nothing has worked. Given the situation, there are some simple facts we need to acknowledge. One of the most basic ones is that the spree of murders will simply not be stopped until weapons — including the automatic guns used so often by assassins on motorcycles — are removed from the hands of the general public. Violence is known to be high in countries where weapons are readily available to large populations and Pakistan is known to be one of the most heavily weaponised countries in the world. This, of course, is the legacy of the Afghan War against the former Soviet Union, which since 1979, has brought a flood of guns into the country and made crimes of all kinds a common occurrence. Karachi, in particular, is said to have one of the highest number of small arms among all the cities in the world. But elsewhere, too, people appear able to use rocket launchers, grenades, missiles and other weapons at will.
There have been several calls for de-weaponisation in the past. One attempt to do so was made under General (retd) Pervez Muhsarraf, which failed. People simply refused to hand over their arms, largely because they had no faith in the law and order mechanism and believed that they needed guns to protect themselves. Their thinking is not entirely illogical given the ground realities. However, some plan has to be put into action to reduce the number of guns in circulation. It will not be an easy task, but it may prove the only way to end the menace of target killings and other kinds of murders we witness across the country on a daily basis.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 7th, 2012.