Who needs a gun licence anyway?

Published: July 30, 2011
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Do the activists/terrorists in Lyari, Malir, Katti Pahari, Orangi, etcetera have permits to use their guns?

When the state fails to protect life and property, anarchy rules the roost. Is that the depth to which we in Karachi have sunk? As much as we may like to disagree, a body count of 1100 over the first six months of 2011 makes a pretty convincing argument. As does the fact that the current spate of violence, with all its lulls and flares, doesn’t seem to be ending, no matter how many times Rehman Malik waves his magic wand or warns us to be careful of angry wives and girlfriends who, according to him, are responsible for 70 per cent of the deaths!

I’d love to suggest that things aren’t all that bad in the Land of the Pure, but those at the helm seem to be more than a little confused. On the one hand, numerous pseudo-charitable and overt militant organizations are on what is considered the “banned” list. Makes you think we’ve taken a stand doesn’t it? But in true government form – more so associated with the Punjab – things are convoluted at best. The leader of one of the most violent such organizations, Malik Ishaq of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, recently released on grounds of insufficient evidence – the hallmark of our prosecution departments – is now being provided police guards! Not only does the concept of a “banned” list make no sense given the way our government goes about handling such organisations and their members, I fail to see why our tax money should go towards protecting a known extremist!

Then there’s the issue of whether to weaponise or to de-weaponise. On the other extreme – and nothing but extreme these days – you’ve got people like Zulfiqar Mirza suggesting everyone should be armed. A clear vision backed by political will and followed up by a concrete strategy is the need of the hour. Sadly, our leaders seem a little blinded by their own agendas to see the larger, much maligned, national interest.

Which brings me to another question:

What’s the point of a gun license anyway?

Did the guys who robbed me at a major intersection have licensed TT pistols?

Do the men in Lyari, Malir, Katti Pahari, Orangi, etcetera have permits to use their guns?

If not, that suggests that, since the law isn’t really enforced, it’s kind of pointless to waste the Rs15,000 or so required for a license. Yet, suckers like myself continue to abide by the law in the hopes that justice will prevail.

What about the fact that the average person can’t get a “Prohibited Bore” (PB) weapon, without a legislator getting it for them out of their “quota?” Quotas and the like open avenues for major graft and we’ve already seen how the system can be misused. While such discretionary allowances were to be made in exceptional cases, discretion is not in the vocabulary of most of our political elite. And why on earth do people like Tasneem Qureshi need 250 licenses and Qamar Zaman Kaira need 135? Where’s the accountability; forget morality and ethics!

If these people can have upwards of 100 guns each and if dacoits and the like can run around with illegal ones, then why is it that the Home Department of Sindh advertises things like the display and carriage of arms is banned under Section 144? After all, the only ones who can’t carry their weapons now are those of us who legally have permits to! The ban applies to guards too but that didn’t stop the tribal thugs sitting on the back of a PPP flag-bearing Vigo – being followed by a police escort no less – that I saw a few days ago on main Shahra-e-Faisal. Nor will it stop anyone affluent, influential or ballsy enough to flout the law. There is the possibility of applying for a Section 144 permit but that requires a lot of string pulling, palm greasing and seems futile considering the exercise has to be repeated every six months – and the fact that you have a gun license in the first place!

There doesn’t seem to be any visible law enforcement – at least that one can make sense of – and in such a situation expecting citizens to not carry their own protection, thereby making them more insecure than they already are in Karachi, is nothing short of adding insult to injury!

May good sense prevail; though with our luck, it probably will not.

Salim Hosein

Salim Hosein

A political commentator in a doctor's body.

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