Pakistan premier vows to rid country of assault weapons

Shahid Khaqan Abbasi
Updated 18 October 2017

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.”


France grapples with high domestic violence rate

Updated 22 November 2019

France grapples with high domestic violence rate

  • EU studies show France has a higher rate of domestic violence than most of its European peers
  • By the hundreds, women have walked silently through city streets after each new death

LES MUREAUX: Sylvia. Dalila. Aminata. Céline. Julie. Their names are plastered on buildings and headlines across France, calling attention to their shared fate: Each was killed, allegedly by a current or former partner this year.
More than 130 women have died from domestic violence this year alone in France, according to activists who track the deaths.
European Union studies show France has a higher rate of domestic violence than most of its European peers. And frustrated activists have drawn national attention to a problem President Emmanuel Macron has called “France’s shame.”
Under cover of night, activists have glued posters with the names of the dead and calls to action to French city walls. “Complaints ignored, women killed,” read the black block letters on one such sign.
By the hundreds, women have walked silently through city streets after each new death.
Two years after Macron made a campaign pledge to tackle the problem, the government has begun to act.
A Justice Ministry report released earlier this month acknowledged authorities’ systematic failure to intervene to prevent domestic violence murders. On Monday, the government will announce measures that are expected to include seizing firearms from people suspected of domestic violence, prioritizing police training and formally recognizing “psychological violence” as a form of domestic violence.
Women are not the only victims of domestic violence, but French officials say they make up the vast majority.
Lawyers and victims’ advocates say women are too often disbelieved or turned away by law enforcement. But they’re encouraged by the new national conversation, which they say marks a departure from decades of denial.
“In France, we always have the impression that we are perfect,” feminist activist Caroline de Haas told The Associated Press.
A 2014 EU survey of 42,000 women across all 28 member states found that 26% of French women respondents said they been abused by a partner since age 15, either physically or sexually.
That’s below the global average of 30%, according to UN Women. But it’s 4 percentage points above the EU average and the sixth highest among EU countries.
Half that number reported experiencing such abuse in Spain, which implemented a series of legal and educational measures in 2004 that slashed its domestic violence rates.
Conversations about domestic violence have also ratcheted up in neighboring Germany, where activists are demanding the term “femicide” be used to describe such killings.
In France, victims and advocates say government action is overdue — and that more training is needed for police who are often ill-prepared to protect women in danger.
Police inaction made national headlines in France after Macron visited a hotline call center in September and listened in on a call with a 57-year-old woman whose husband had threatened to kill her. He heard a police officer on the other end tell the woman he couldn’t help her.
The hotline operator told Macron that such responses weren’t unusual.
Police officers across Europe often dismiss domestic violence as a private matter and fail to intervene at crucial moments, an EU study found this year.
But France is particularly bad, said EU researcher Albin Dearing, who led a study this year that examined domestic violence in seven European countries, including France.
“When it comes to violence against women, it showed actually that police do very little to protect women who turn to them for protection,” he said.
It can take between three weeks and two months for authorities to act on a complaint, leaving the victim “in a very fragile situation,” according to Frederique Martz, who runs anti-domestic violence organization Women Safe.
The Justice Ministry report this month found that 41% of “conjugal homicide” victims studied had previously reported incidents of domestic violence, and 80% of complaints sent to prosecutors went uninvestigated.
“Our system doesn’t work to protect women,” Justice Minister Nicole Belloubet told French TV channel LCI after another French woman was allegedly killed by her husband in Alsace last week.
Many officers respond appropriately to reports of domestic violence, according to Maj. Fabienne Boulard of the national police.
Those who don’t — the ones who react “clumsily” or ask the wrong questions — usually don’t mean harm, she added; they just don’t recognize domestic violence or know how to intervene.
This is particularly true when women receive threats but not yet physical blows, victims say.
Officers “absorb this violence into the category of violence between a couple that is going through a difficult period,” said one woman whose ex-husband repeatedly threatened her and their children. She spoke on condition of anonymity out of fear of retaliation.
The woman divorced him after years of what she describes as psychological abuse that left her “terrified to cross him.” His threats only grew worse from there, she said.
She filed multiple complaints, but she said police officers suggested she didn’t seem like a victim or and wasn’t able to prove she was in danger.
Earlier this month, Boulard, the police major, led the first supplementary training on domestic violence for police in the Paris suburb of Les Mureaux. She emphasized to the eight officers there that among victims, “shame is an extremely strong feeling.”
Participants traded stories of issues they had encountered: the surge in complaints on Sundays, the woman who retracts her complaint, the partner who insists everything is fine.
“We can’t do anything,” one female police officer complained.
Boulard told The AP that the three-hour session aimed to help officers understand the pressures victims face and “why the victim is not what they imagined, why sometimes they don’t correspond with the criteria they expect to see.”
Trainings like Boulard’s take place in some parts of France, but regional authorities can decide whether to hold them. Activists hope they’ll become routine.
“A year or two ago, no one used the word ‘femicide’ apart from feminist organizations,” Haas said. “There is very much a change in public consciousness.”