PESHAWAR, June 8: Expressing concern over proliferation of small arms, two NGOs have urged the government to fulfil its commitment with the United Nations about the implementation of its Programme of Action on small arms.
Speaking at a joint press conference in connection with the Global Week of Action Against Guns (June 6-12) here on Wednesday, Executive Director of the Sustainable Peace and Development Organization (SPADO) Raza Shah Khan and Community Appraisal and Motivation Programme (CAMP) Chief Executive Naveed Ahmad Shinwari, said that Pakistan at the time of the adoption of the programme had promised selection of a focal point on small arms and establishment of a national commission for implementing the programme in the country.
They regretted that despite the passage of four years, the government had failed to meet minimum requirements of the implementation of the programme as it had neither selected a focal point nor established the commission.
Similarly, they said, the member states of the programme were required to submit a report every year to it, but Pakistan had submitted only one report while other countries had been submitting reports every year since 2001.
They called for ratification of the UN Firearms Protocol, the global treaty to regulate manufacture, export, import and transit of firearms. Although Pakistan was a signatory to the protocol, it had yet to get it ratified from parliament, they said.
Raza Shah Khan said that according to an estimate, Pakistan had more than 10 million illegal weapons whereas the number of illegal weapons in the NWFP and its adjoining tribal belt ranged from four million to seven million. The region had been flooded with small arms and light weapons and had the largest number of guns per capita in the world, he said.
“The total number of arms licenses issued in the NWFP from 1979 to 2000 is slightly less than two million, including those for weapons of prohibited bore, which are either illegal or has been issued under special permission,” he said.
He said there were an estimated 75 million firearms in South Asia, 63 million of which were in the hands of civilians. He said that India and Pakistan overwhelmingly accounted for almost 40 million and 20 million arms, respectively.
The civilians were the largest category of gun owners in the region, accounting for far more weapons than military and police, he said.
About the situation in the NWFP in general and Peshawar in particular, he said the SPADO’s research work on crimes related to small arms in Peshawar and according to a data collected for 2003, firearms were used in 98 per cent cases of murder and attempted murder.
The huge number of weapons in Pakistan had also fuelled sectarian and regional violence and intensified already-existing antagonisms, resulting in a crisis of law and order, especially in the Frontier Regions, he said.
In Karachi, he said, the annual death toll in armed attacks/clashes was 1,000 and it was estimated that between 1992 and 1998, the city had lost 18,000 to 20,000 residents to gun violence.
Mr Khan said the impact of small arms and light weapons in the NWFP and Fata was devastating as they were used in personal and tribal disputes and also in terrorist and anti-state activities. The use of small arms in both minor and major disputes had badly affected the socio-economic conditions of the involved people, he added.
Mr Khan said that according to the data and interviews with local communities and media, small arms had made the situation worst as their use in minor issues resulted in major disputes.