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.”


Australian PM calls on pope to fire archbishop

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. (REUTERS)
Updated 2 min 7 sec ago
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Australian PM calls on pope to fire archbishop

  • The archbishop has long denied the charges and his legal team made four attempts to have the case thrown out
  • One of the highest-ranking church officials to be convicted on the charge

SYDNEY: Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said on Thursday that Pope Francis must sack an Australian archbishop convicted of concealing child sex abuse.
In May, Archbishop Philip Wilson, 67, became the most senior Catholic cleric to be convicted of not disclosing to police abuse by another priest.
Wilson, who was sentenced to a year’s detention this month, has stepped aside as archbishop of Adelaide in South Australia state, but has not resigned, insisting he will do so only if he is unsuccessful in an appeal.
Turnbull, who has previously called on Wilson to resign, escalated his criticism of the archbishop remaining in office.
“He should have resigned and the time has come for the Pope to sack him,” Turnbull told reporters in Sydney. “I think the time has come now for the ultimate authority in the Church to take action and sack him.”
The archdiocese of Adelaide was not immediately available for comment.
The usual procedure is for a bishop to offer his resignation to the pope, but Wilson has said he will appeal the sentence and not resign unless he loses.
The Vatican had no comment on Turnbull’s remark, one of the sharpest interventions by a politician concerning the Catholic Church since former Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny accused the Holy See of obstructing investigations into sexual abuse by priests in 2011.
That prompted the Vatican to recall its ambassador in Ireland for consultations.
Lawyers for Wilson, who maintained his innocence throughout his trial, had argued that he did not know priest James Fletcher had committed child sex abuse throughout the 1970s. The court was told that two victims, one an altar boy, told Wilson of the abuse in 1976.
Fletcher was found guilty in 2004 of nine counts of child sexual abuse and died in jail in 2006 after a stroke.
Wilson remains on bail while he is assessed by prison authorities for home detention, instead of jail.
Diagnosed this year with early onset Alzheimer’s disease, Wilson is to face court again on August 11, for a ruling on whether he will be imprisoned or allowed to serve his sentence in home detention.
Accusations of sexual abuse cover-ups have continued to rock the Catholic Church years after perpetrators of sexual abuse started regularly appearing before the courts.
In May, all 34 bishops in Chile offered to resign over allegations of a cover-up of sexual abuse.