KARACHI     -    The Sindh government has lifted the ban on issuance of arms licences with immediate effect.

The ban took effect in September 2013, in the wake of the deteriorating law and order situation in Karachi and other parts of the province.

In January 2019, however, Sindh High Court (SHC) had directed the provincial government to devise policy for issuance of prohibited and non-prohibited arms licences.

A notification issued from the provincial home department reads: “With the approval of competent authority (Chief Minister of Sindh), the ban imposed on issuance of arms licenses in the province has been lifted with immediate effect and until further orders, the monthly quota of the approving authorities as prescribed under Rule 4.1 of the ‘Sindh Arms Rules 2018’ has been restored.”

The notification further contains that ‘only computerized arms licenses of non-prohibited bore (NPB) shall be issued as per prescribed monthly quota and subject to fulfillment of all requirements as laid down in ‘Sindh Arms Act 2013 and Sindh Arms Rules 2018.

A total of 1,057,456 armed licenses are registered with the provincial authorities. A campaign was also launched in the province to computerise all manual armed licences, which attracted more than half of the registered license holders. The remaining holders still have a chance to get their manual licences converted into computerised license till end of December 2019. The provincial government has, however, warned that if the licences are not computerised by the deadline, then they would be revoked.

The arms verification process was initiated in October 2013 on the directives of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, but deadlines for the verification of the licences have been repeatedly extended since then. The government had earlier launched a de-weaponisation campaign three years ago that fetched dismal outcome and eventually put on the back burner.

The authorities then pinned hopes on the revalidation process of firearm licences but despite warning they issued from time to time they never went rough against those in possession of illegal weapons.