ISLAMABAD - Yet another pertinently proposed initiative has fallen prey to the bureaucratic manoeuvres of the Interior Czar Rehman Malik with related files on the launch of deweaponisation campaign swallowing stinky dust in the powerful official corridors of the Ministry of Interior, even though a year has gone past. 

The deweaponisation campaign announced by the Ministry of Interior in July 2011 has totally failed primarily due to the slow response of the officials of the ministry and as a result NADRA is likely to wind up its ‘Computerisation of Arms Licences Project’ in the next coming days, sources aware of the development informed TheNation. A recent judgement of Sindh High Court (SHC) has also exposed the working style of the Interior that says that NADRA had no legal authority to issue computerised arms licences and those already issued by it were invalid.

“If NADRA were to be given the task of computerisation of arms licences, the law needs to be amended. And unless new legislation is introduced, only the Interior Ministry is authorised to issue these licences under the Arms Act,” further says the judgement of division bench of SHC.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik, in the mid of last year, had announced a ‘Deweaponisation Campaign’ throughout the country with the objective to make the country free of illegal arms and weapons. Interior Minister launching the campaign had announced that all people having arms licences, both prohibited and non-prohibited, should get these revalidated from National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) by August 31, 2011. The ministry had said that after August 31 deadline, all the arms licences not revalidated by NADRA would cease to exist and be declared illegal.

Well-placed sources in the Interior Ministry told that NADRA was likely to wind up its project of computerization of arms licences due to the low response of the ministry officials. The official sources say the major reason behind the failure of the deweaponisation campaign is that the minister launched it without doing homework as well as without introducing proper legislation. According to sources, NADRA officials after computerisation of any arm licence send the relevant data of the licence to the ministry for verification and the officials sitting there always use dill-delaying methods to verify the record.

A senior official of the Ministry of Interior wishing not to be named said that the deweaponisation campaign has met the same fate as that of ‘Anti-Corruption Campaign of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA)’ launched on the directions of ‘smart’ Interior Minister Rehman Malik. The campaign was only verbally announced and once the then Director General FIA Waseem Ahmed had said that the Agency had no strategy to run this campaign. A senior NADRA official commenting on the issue said that for example, if they sent the record of 1000 arms licences to the Interior Ministry or verification, the officials working there verify only around 300 licences and give no response about the other licences.

He also said that NADRA had to face immense pressure from the influential people including politicians to get their arms licences computerized without following the due process. 

He further said that NADRA was reviewing the whole record of its arms licences project that how many arms licences were issued by the Authority, how many cases were sent to ministry for verification and how many cases were pending with it. He further said that NADRA was mulling to wind up this project and would request the ministry to turn to its old booklet system.

In addition to that, the ministry could not take on board all the provinces to start the computerization of those arms licences issued by the provincial authorities.

A number of people during the campaign did not turn towards NADRA to get their arms licences revalidated and the ministry one after the other kept on extending deadlines for revalidation of licences from NADRA since August 31 to till date. NADRA had designated its 158 centres across the country having a separate counter to facilitate citizens for revalidation of their arms licences.

Firstly, the deadline was extended from August 31, 2011 to September 30, 2011 and then it was extended for another period of time from September 30 to October 31, 2011 and then it was extended till December 31. The ministry extended this deadline for the fourth time for the computerisation of old arms licences from NADRA for a month from December 31 to January 31, 2012.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik had announced to launch the deweaponisation campaign through out the country in two phases. It was said that in the first phase, NADRA would revalidate and computerise all arms licences issued by the Interior Ministry and the provincial authorities. While in the second phase, a crackdown would be launched in the country against illegal arms licence holders and those who have not revalidated their licences from NADRA. In this regard, Interior Ministry through a notification under Surrender of Illicit Arms Act had delegated powers to all the provinces.