GUJRAT: The district government has imposed a condition of three guarantors for seeking a firearm licence for security of a worship place.

This decision was taken after some ruling party lawmakers expressed reservations on the policy of granting such licences to worship places and apprehensions that these weapons could be used in sectarian violence.

District Officer (Coordination) Majid Bin Ahmed who heads the district government’s firearm licencing branch told Dawn that from now onwards applicants for firearm licences to worship places would have to submit affidavits of at least three notables of the vicinity guaranteeing that the weapons would not be misused.

He said managements of worship places should form respective committees comprising at least three notables that would nominate an individual to guard the holy sites during worship hours, especially in Ramazan.

Though licences for security of mosques were mainly issued in the name of their prayer leaders, but PML-N MNA Nawabzada Mazhar Ali Khan and some officials had expressed reservations during a meeting of the district peace committee last week that firearm licences for worship places might become instrumental in sectarian tension or violence.

They had suggested adopting more precautionary measures while issuing such permits.

The DOC said the district government had so far issued at least 1,500 such licences to educational institutions as well as worship places during the last three to four months in the wake of the government’s policy of securing such places from possible terror attacks.

Out of these recently issued licences, 450 had been awarded to mosques across the district. Since previously there were no condition of guarantors, the district government would issue notices to holders of licences for worship places to submit affidavits of three guarantors, he added.

DOC Ahmed further said the condition would only be applied to Gujrat district but he had informed in writing to the provincial home department about the modification to rules at local level besides mentioning the reasons to do so as other district might follow their footsteps.

As per the district government and police data, there were 3,000 mosques besides imambargahs, churches and Ahmadi worship places in Gujrat.

District Police Officer Rai Zameerul Haq said the district police had a maximum strength of 3,600, including those posted in police stations, pickets, offices, intelligence and other duties, and deploying even a single cop at each worship place, especially during Ramazan, was not possible.

For this reason, police required local volunteers as well as from the civil defence department.

Another official of the local administration predicted that due to imposition of the condition of guarantors, the ratio of applications for firearm licences to worship places would decline.

Published in Dawn, May 30th, 2016