Why are arms and ammunitions so easily available in Pakistan?

Published: June 4, 2016
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Acquisition of arms and ammunition in Pakistan has never been a problem for applicants who know the various back door options available in the market. PHOTO: AFP

As per a recent news report, over 170,000 of the total 352,000 licenses in Pakistan could not be verified by NADRA.

Acquisition of arms and ammunition in Pakistan has never been a problem for applicants who know the various back door options available in the market. Unless there is a blanket ban on issuance of new arms licenses, a common citizen bearing a computerised national identity card, can get more than one arm license issued under his/her name of various non-prohibited or prohibited calibers  if he/she has a direct connection in the federal interior ministry.

Background interviews with some prominent arms dealers in Karachi has brought to lime light a trend that is known to only those who have been through this entire process. For a common man on the street without any prior knowledge of the weapons acquisition process, following is the procedure.

The license issuance process

Previously an applicant had to collect a printed application from the ministry of interior of the respective province, fill in the particulars, get verifications from immediate neighbours, get a clearance letter from the concerned police station and then wait for more than a couple of months to receive acceptance after which he/she could buy a non-prohibited weapon of choice.

This was a time consuming process which involved a lot of bribery and connections to get the work done. Because of the complexity of the entire process, many people, in order to save time, acquired the services of agents and vendors who had access to fake stamps and corrupt officers in the ministry of interior who used to get fake licenses issued even when there was a complete ban on the issuance of new licenses.

Such licenses could not be verified from the database managed by the ministry and whenever there was a verification drive by the government, such licenses used to get revoked. The current process of acquiring an arms license is more effective, smart and is without much hassle. One needs to visit the offices of the provincial interior secretary and get the entire process done without the need to get clearance from the concerned police stations.

The new licenses bear resemblance with the Pakistani passports and require an applicant to go through a process similar to that of NADRA. The chief minister has 100 licenses on his quota per month so as per law, the CM endorses this process (which is merely for the sake of understanding the entire process).

Fake and unverified licenses

There is also a parallel system in place where arms licenses from other provinces can be converted to the concerned province by paying a fee and getting the document endorsed by the concerned officer in the provincial ministry of interior. This is precisely where majority of the licenses go unaccounted for. An applicant sitting in Karachi can very conveniently get a license issued by the government of Balochistan and get it transferred to Sindh.

This process is often full of question marks and involves a lot of bribery and fake endorsements. Back dated licenses are also made through this process, and as per my knowledge, this is that grey area where the government needs to focus in order to crack down on the system of fake arms license issuance.

A citizen could get a prohibited caliber license issued on his name before 1995. All back dated licenses being issued these days therefore have the issuance years mentioned prior to 1995 and this entire practice is done with the help of people sitting in the ministry of interior.

How can this system be improved?

A blanket ban should be enforced on the issuance of high caliber weapons, including AK-47s, 222 rifles, G-3s, M4 carbines, M16s etc. As per the current law, such calibers can only be acquired if one has a connection with the federal ministry of interior and only the federal minister of interior has the authority to issue such permits/licenses. This practice needs to be stopped.

The system of chief minister’s quota, MNA’s quota etc. must be replaced with issuance of arms license for non-prohibited calibers; 9mm, 12 bore, .22, .45, .44 etc. to anyone with a valid CNIC, has no criminal record and has no association with any political or religious group.

There should be a check on issuance of ammunition. As per law, there is a specific limit which each license carries and that has to be followed when purchasing bullets. Alarmingly such is not the practice and boxes of bullets are issued by vendors without registering the serial numbers of the bullets (which could help in forensics if a weapon is used in a crime).

Arms dealers must be obligated to share customer database with ministry of interior to keep all license holders under watch.

Arsalan Faruqi

Arsalan Faruqi

An entrepreneur with a degree in computer engineering and an MBA from IBA Karachi. He tweets as @arsalanfaruqi.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Rohan

    Really that question??? Zia and anti soviet jihad meant guns were available like mangoes during summer plus with the Islamists ideology of using terrorists against India and Afghanistan many Pakistanis get to sleep with an ak 47 under their pillow Recommend

  • indiandude

    ..Why are arms and ammunitions so easily available in Pakistan?

    Because these are tools of trade required for job training. After all, Pakistan is world’s largest IT exporter. Pakistan’s Islamabad Institute of Terr.. has send send out IT graduates all over the globe who have contributed immensely to entire globe!Recommend

  • Disgusted

    Bullets don’t have serial nos, looks like you have zero experience with firearms my friend.Recommend

  • Jayman

    Everything is directly related to the K-issue.Recommend

  • Jayman

    After the US, I think Pakistan is the most lenient nation when it comes to gun ownership. I don’t know if it is the direct result of being a security state.Recommend

  • AJ

    Writer has no clue. Bullets don’t have serial numbers. Moreover, bullets are not called bullets, they are called cartridges. Bullet is part of the cartridge which is shot out.

    Also, M16, AK-47 &. 222 are not high caliber rounds. They are actually very small caliber rounds compared to all firearms and especially hunting rifles. Recommend

  • AJ

    It’s a cultural thing. Remember two nation theory. We are different. Recommend

  • AJ

    We don’t send enough to take care of people like you.

    Your arguments are pathetic rhetoric with no basis in reality. Let me guess you read Times of India. Recommend

  • AJ

    Agreed.

    He is s calling M16 and AK-47 high caliber. I wonder what he would thing ok 30-06. 303. 50BMG. Artillery rounds? Recommend

  • AJ

    It’s a cultural thing.
    Switzerland has state issued rifle in each and every household.

    Germany’s gun ownership rate is 35% Pakistan stands at 12%

    Its a cultural phenomenonaRecommend

  • Nana

    With hordes of international intelligence agencies plying freely and creating ruckus in the country, what do you think is going to be avaible in the country? Abundance of mangoes? No sir, illegal money and guns!Recommend

  • wb

    Why? Because, Pakistanis belong to a superior martial race.Recommend

  • jay

    Atleast he reads . Most Pakistani will use news papers to wrap kebab pav !Recommend

  • jay

    thank god you are diffrent than Indian. cuz we cant imagine people like you amongst us….Recommend

  • Ajmal Javed

    lols he is calling .222 and .223 high caliber rifles and these are not actually second this ban thing is the main cause of fake and back dated licenses when these is no ban then people follow right channels that is allRecommend

  • ABKhan

    Wrapping kebab on times of India is insult of Kebabs.Recommend

  • ABKhan

    Of course, we are different. No one kills minorities in any part of the world just for eating beef except IndiaRecommend

  • malikfc

    to the author…..sir you know nothing about guns Recommend