An independent think-tank

De-weaponization will reduce violence; requires state efficiency, attitudinal changes

The need for de-weaponization is greatly felt in the country, where violence of multiple types, ranging from domestic to militancy, often resorts to easily-available weapons. Besides bringing upon attitudinal changes in the people to ward them off from display of weapons, the state should take lead role in ensuring efficient services especially security to the people.

These thoughts came in a conference hosted by Centre for Social Justice along with Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS), discussing how to carry forward de-weaponization in the country, in light of the recent statement by Prime Minister Khaqan Abbasi.

Developing understanding of the subject can be greatly facilitated by the availability of updated data on weapons in Pakistan. Different provinces have their separate data of the licensed firearms. These should be consolidated and made available for policy research, it was noted.

Dr. A.H. Nayyer, a peace activist, said that weapons are generally acquired by four categories of people: the state, private security guards, individuals, and militants. In terms of legitimacy, the state has maximum of it, and the militants, least. Yet, the more weapons militants have, the less efficiency it says of the state.

PIPS’s project manager Muhammad Ismail Khan said that one of the debates emerging is, whether de-weaponization be carried out first and peace restored later, or should it be vice versa – first restore peace and then de-weaponize. This dilemma comes from the “demand side” of the weaponization: Without a sense of security, there are often fewer incentives to revoke arms, he noted.

Professor A.H. Nayyer, a peace activist, agreed, adding that the presence of militant groups with higher ambition is another dimension of the same demand side.

Security analyst Lt. Gen (R) Talat Masood argued that availability of arms be shrunk, such as by cracking down on smuggling, a key source of weapons in the country. He said that gun production has also become a source of income for some, which also complicates resolution of the issue. Participants argued that ideally, only state should have the weapons and be able to provide security to the people.

Meanwhile, a child rights activist Sadia Hussain said that children are affected the most by the display of arms in the country. They are unable to express their pain, hence, their vulnerability even when they are suffering from pain.

Amjad Nazeer, a development practitioner, agreed, saying these days, there is a trend of flouting toy guns at different festivities. It was argued that individuals be sensitized on the other hand to shed them away from the culture of violence.

Earlier, introducing the topic, director of Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), Peter Jacob said that the statement by Prime Minister Abbasi is a welcome sign, which civil society should take forward. He called for providing realistic solutions to the problem.