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.”


Trump’s travel ban faces US Supreme Court showdown

Updated 55 min 26 sec ago
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Trump’s travel ban faces US Supreme Court showdown

  • The high court has never decided the legal merits of the travel ban.
  • The challengers have argued the policy was motivated by Trump’s enmity toward Muslims.

WASHINGTON: The first big showdown at the US Supreme Court over President Donald Trump’s immigration policies is set for Wednesday when the justices hear a challenge to the lawfulness of his travel ban targeting people from several Muslim-majority countries.
The case represents a test of the limits of presidential power. Trump’s policy, announced in September, blocks entry into the US of most people from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen. Chad previously was on the list but Trump lifted those restrictions on April 10.
The high court has never decided the legal merits of the travel ban or any other major Trump immigration policy, including his move to rescind protections for young immigrants sometimes called Dreamers brought into the US illegally as children. It has previously acted on Trump requests to undo lower court orders blocking those two policies, siding with him on the travel ban and opposing him on the Dreamers. Trump’s immigration policies — also including actions taken against states and cities that protect illegal immigrants, intensified deportation efforts and limits on legal immigration — have been among his most contentious. 
The conservative-majority Supreme Court is due to hear arguments on Wednesday on the third version of a travel ban policy Trump first sought to implement a week after taking office in January 2017, and issue a ruling by the end of June. 
The lead challenger is the state of Hawaii, which argues the ban violates federal immigration law and the US Constitution’s prohibition on the government favoring one religion over another.
“Right now, the travel ban is keeping families apart. It is degrading our values by subjecting a specific set of people to be denigrated and marginalized,” Hawaii Lt. Governor Doug Chin said in an interview.
The Supreme Court on Dec. 4 signaled it may lean toward backing Trump when it granted the administration’s request to let the ban go into full effect while legal challenges played out.
In another immigration-related case, the justices on April 17 invalidated a provision in a US law requiring deportation of immigrants convicted of certain crimes of violence. Trump’s administration and the prior Obama administration had defended the provision.
'Politically correct'
Trump has said the travel ban is needed to protect the US from terrorism by militants. Just before the latest ban was announced, Trump wrote on Twitter that the restrictions “should be far larger, tougher and more specific — but stupidly that would not be politically correct!“
The challengers have argued the policy was motivated by Trump’s enmity toward Muslims, pressing that point in lower courts with some success by citing statements he made as a candidate and as president. As a candidate, Trump promised “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”
The Justice Department argues Trump’s statements as a candidate carry no weight because he was not yet president. The policy’s challengers also point to views he has expressed as president, including his retweets in November of anti-Muslim videos posted by a far-right British political figure.
In a court filing last week, US Solicitor General Noel Francisco, representing Trump in court, said those retweets “do not address the meaning” of the travel ban policy.
Francisco cited Trump statements complimentary toward Muslims and Islam, including in a May 2017 speech in Saudi Arabia.
In defending the ban, the administration has pointed to a waiver provision allowing people from targeted countries to seek entry if they meet certain criteria. The State Department said that as of last month 375 waivers to the travel ban had been granted since the policy went into effect on Dec 8.