PM Gilani has allowed the issuance of over 300 arms licences of prohibited bore since the ban was imposed on Jan 1 last year and is still in place.—AFP photo

ISLAMABAD: The government has sent a list of names and other particulars to National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) for the issuance of 7,000 arms licences despite a ban, Dawn has learnt.

The ban on the issuance of arms licences was imposed on Jan 1 last year and is still in place.

“We are also receiving individual applications for arms licences which are recommended by the prime minister,” Nadra's Deputy Chairman Tariq Malik said.

He claimed that the requests for 7,000 arms licences sent by the interior ministry were not new; these had been pending since the ban was imposed.

According to information collected from the interior ministry, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has allowed the issuance of over 300 arms licences of prohibited bore since the ban was imposed.

Some of the licences went to high-profile personalities such as former joint chief of staff committee Gen (retd) Tariq Majeed, naval chief Admiral Noman Bashir, prime minister's sons Syed Ali Qasim and Syed Haider Ali Gilani, Maj-Gen Niaz M. Khattak and legislators Muhammad Asim Nazir, Deewan Ashiq Hussain Bokhari, Nawab Ali Wasan, Zafar Iqbal Malik and Habibullah Khan.

Some bureaucrats were also among the beneficiaries. Pakistan Muslim League-N's information secretary Ahsan Iqbal criticised the government's move and said: “On the one hand the government has imposed a ban on arms licences and on the other the prime minister is issuing new licences.”

He alleged that hundreds of prohibited bore licences were being issued by the prime minister during the National Assembly sessions.

The government is learnt to have issued over 100,000 arms licences since 2008, including the prohibited bores. Most of them were issued to the leaders of political parties, including the Muttahida Qaumi Movement which is said to be the largest recipient of these licences.

“We have obtained hundreds of arms licences for our leaders and workers for self-defence,” MQM leader Zahid Mehmood said, adding: “We got the arms licences. Our enemies have illegal weapons and surely we can have legal ones.”

It is noteworthy that the MQM recently submitted to parliament a bill for de-weaponisation of the country. The bill was withdrawn this month after the law ministry pointed out that it overlapped with many other existing laws.

When asked about the contradiction inherent in procuring legal weapons for its members and moving a bill to de-weaponise society, Mr Mehmood said: “We would have no objection in depositing our weapons if all illegal arms are confiscated.”

The prime minister imposed the ban on new licences last year after a minister of state who was in-charge of the interior ministry had endorsed a decision to issue thousands of permits for prohibited bore weapons in 2009.

In late 2009, the Federal Investigation Agency revealed that thousands of licences for prohibited bore weapons, including sub-machine guns, had been issued in an irregular manner and in violation of rules.

During an investigation ordered by the prime minister, the FIA found that fake bank receipts, forged signatures and fictitious stamps had been used by middle-ranking and junior officers at the interior ministry to issue the licences.

According to a record placed before the National Assembly's Standing Committee on Interior, the ministry issued 28,527 licences for prohibited bore weapons between March 28, 2008, and June 26, 2009. About 6,000 of these licences were approved by former minister of state for interior Tasneem Qureshi in May and June 2009.

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