Pakistan premier vows to rid country of assault weapons

Shahid Khaqan Abbasi
Updated 18 October 2017
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Pakistan premier vows to rid country of assault weapons

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has made it his personal mission to rid the country of automatic weapons in a bid to control crime.
Abbasi promised to take action against “private militias” wielding automatic weapons. It means the premier is setting himself against the widespread acceptance of gun culture in a country in which automatic weapons are seen more as status symbols than as security tools among the nation’s elite.
“There is not a single country in the world which allows the licensing of automatic (guns) for citizens. (But) if you go outside the Parliament right now, you will see a private militia,” Abbasi remarked during his maiden speech at the National Assembly.
“Action will be taken against (owners of prohibited weapons) if my Cabinet allows for it,” he continued. “The federal government will seize all automatic weapons and in return, compensate the people.”
Automatic weapons have a long history on the streets of Pakistan. They have been utilized by criminals, mafias, and even politicians. It took a great deal of effort for paramilitary forces to reduce their usage.
And carrying assault weapons is part of the culture in the volatile tribal areas where militancy has historically thrived. The AK-47 has long been the weapon of choice for insurgents, and these guns were easily available across the border in Afghanistan until very recently, arms collectors explained.
Strict border security checks, the dismantling of illegal weapon manufacturers, and a crackdown on arms smugglers have now reduced the accessibility and sale of illegal arms and machine guns. However, for a few hundred dollars, semi-automatic weapons can be converted to fully automatic, according to gun dealers.
The latest consolidated data on arms licenses issued for prohibited and non-prohibited bore (categorized by the weapon’s action and ammunition caliber) has yet to be presented to the prime minister, a source at his office told Arab News.
“It’s being compiled and will be presented to the (federal) Cabinet,” said the official. He added that the 18th constitutional amendment, which enhanced provincial autonomy, led to provincial governments issuing arms licenses. “Those figures need to be taken from the home office (of each province),” he explained.
Separating automatic from semi-automatic weapons is a laborious task as there are two formats for gun licenses in Pakistan: The new Computerized Arms License (CAL) and the old physical permits. The latter are still undergoing digitization, meaning that much of the data held by Pakistan’s National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) has still to be updated.
“The permits can be traced but there are no (figures for) illicit small arms and light weapons,” veteran journalist Ejaz Haider told Arab News. “The gun-culture debate is over since the military operations in FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas) and Balochistan (province). In operational areas, no civilian is authorized to keep weapons. They pose a major security problem and banning them will definitely help the security forces.”
Several members of Parliament have opposed Abassi’s proposal. Representatives from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) and Balochistan — areas where terrorist activity is common — cited security concerns as their reason for rejecting the idea of a ban. But the majority of parliamentarians have, eventually, expressed their support for the prime minister’s proposal.
In an exclusive interview, Abbasi told Arab News that “automatic weapons should only belong to law enforcement agencies.” He’s hopeful that all stakeholders will decide in favor of his proposal.
“That’s something we are working on and hopefully within the next few weeks will be resolving that issue,” Abbasi said.
Aside from MPs, Abbasi will likely face opposition from Pakistan’s business elite, many of whom also hold multiple weapon licenses.
“It’s a big challenge but you have to make a start,” Abbasi told Arab News. “I am not talking about de-weaponization. Just automatic weapons. I think we need to make sure that weapons are for self-defense and not for intimidation or any aggressive actions. That’s why the automatic weapons have to go.”


Philippine president wants to end anti-drug war in three years

Updated 37 min 56 sec ago
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Philippine president wants to end anti-drug war in three years

  • Philippines being investigated for extrajudicial killings
  • Anti-drug campaign signature policy of president

MANILA: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said Thursday he wanted to finish his war on drugs in three years, defying an international probe into his controversial and deadly campaign to rid the country of narcotics.
Duterte, who came to power in 2016, has made a ‘war on drugs’ the hallmark of his administration. 
But it has been reported that 20,000 people have been killed in what rights groups call a wave of “state-sanctioned violence.”
The firebrand president remains unfazed by the condemnation, and the cases filed against him by the International Criminal Court (ICC) over his crackdown.
He insisted he would assume full responsibility for any consequences due to his decision to enforce the law, telling a military audience his goals.
“I’d like to finish this war, both (with the) Abu Sayyaf (a militant group) and also the communists, and the drug problem in about three years … we'd be able (to) ... reduce the activities of the illegal trade and fighting to the barest minimum.
“I’m not saying I am the only one capable (of achieving these goals) ... I assume full responsibility for all that would happen as a consequence of enforcing the law — whether against the criminals, the drug traffickers or the rebels who’d want to destroy government.”
Earlier this month, the Philippines withdrew from the ICC, citing the global body's interference in how the country was run as the reason.
On Tuesday, ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said that investigations into alleged extrajudicial killings in the Philippines would continue despite its exit.
But the government has said it will not cooperate with the ICC, and has even warned its personnel about entering the country for the investigation.
There are Filipinos who support Duterte’s campaign, however, and believe it works. Among them is former policeman Eric Advincula.
He said there had been an improvement in the situation since Duterte came to power. 
“For one, the peace and order situation has improved, like for example in villages near our place where there used to be rampant drug peddling,” he told Arab News. 
“The price of illegal drugs is now higher, an indication that the supply also went down. Also, it was easy to catch drug peddlers before because they were doing their trade openly. But now they are more careful, you can't easily locate them.”
Official data from the Philippine National Police and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency in February indicated that 5,176 ‘drug personalities’ were killed in the anti-drugs war between July 1, 2016 to Jan. 31, 2019.
More than 170,000 drug suspects have been arrested during a total of 119,841 anti-narcotics operations in the last two and a half years.