Deweaponisation drive launched to recover illegal arms has entered the second phase. The government has also started a hunt to arrest the killers of Shaukat Mirza and other prominent figures who were recently killed in Karachi. The government is all agog to tight noose around the religious and ethnic groups who have been behind all sorts of mayhem. Some of them are likely to be banned. To discuss these and other issues this correspondent interviewed Mr. Moin ud Din Haider, the Federal Interior Minister. The Minister, inter alia, also talked about NADRA performance, police reforms and govt steps to improve the overall law and order situation throughout the country. Here are excerpts from his interview.
On terrorism in Karachi and govt steps to improve law and order
The recent incidents in Karachi in which Shaukat Mirza and Dr Zafar were killed have sent shock waves because Karachi by and large was going peaceful and everything was under control. There were no strikes for quite some time and people had started living peacefully. But the recent incidents have perturbed the people of Karachi in particular and the people of the country in general. The government duly shares the concern of people of Pakistan and would spare no efforts in nabbing the culprits. I must tell you that it’s a wave of terrorism, which would not long last. The religious and ethnic factors have been behind all sorts of disturbances and strikes in Karachi. Karachi twice remained closed because of these ethnic and religious groups’ activities.
We have been working on a couple of possibilities to trace out the killers of Shaukat Mirza. We have worked on the possibility of the pressure groups being involved in this murder but frankly speaking we have found nothing in it. There may be certain elements that do not want to see Pakistan making progress in the oil and gas sector so this act may prevent further investment in this sector. That can be another possibility.
Then the sectarian factor is also there. We have come by two little clues in Shaukat Mirza’s murder but I would not like to divulge them at this moment. Let me assure all and sundry that justice will be done in this and other cases and the culprits would not go Scot-free.
The sectarian disharmony in the country is an old phenomenon. But let me tell you that there is a third force, which has either been cashing in on the sectarian disharmony or using certain groups for their ulterior motives. The interference of the third force can further aggravate the situation. There is no doubt that the root-cause of the disturbances in the country is the sectarian fighting which is a menace for Pakistan. People of Pakistan do not like it any more and they want an end to it. The Islamic Ideology Council has recently advised the people not to listen to them and resort to a social boycott of such groups.
The Government is very serious in tackling this matter. It strongly releases that without peace in the country no development can take place; no foreign investment can come and nobody can feel easy. It’s a crucial matter. The President recently chaired a high level meeting to review the law and order situation. The anti-terrorism law has been finalized that can be signed by the President of Pakistan any day. The law, once enacted, would further empower the law-enforcing agencies.
On ban on religious / ethnic parties
There is a strong likelihood of banning parties/groups involved in sectarian violence. Those militant groups whose involvement in the disruptive activities has been proved beyond any measure of doubt would be banned. We are analyzing the law and order situation in Punjab and Sindh. You may be surprised to know that today we have 229 sectarian terrorists in our hands, mostly from Punjab then Sindh and NWFP. We are interrogating them thoroughly and we are sure that some startling facts would come on the scene once the interrogation process completes. The intelligence agencies have been better coordinated and they are providing us valid and useful inputs.
On regulating the funds of religious parties
This is a complex issue. It is difficult to intercept all amounts sent either in the shape of cheques or through any other sources. The funds does not pour in the name of a party, rather they come in the name of an individual. Generally speaking, we have started conveying our concerns to countries those as per our information, have been funding such groups in Pakistan. We have started to mention them in a louder voice that this is happening in Pakistan and please help us stop this activity.
On deweaponisation campaign
The deweaponisation campaign started very well and I am satisfied with the results. But indeed we should do more. Recently, I addressed the UN conference on illicit arms where 159 countries were present. From seeing the international standards we have taken out a good number of weapons. About 87,0000 weapons have been collected which is indeed an impressive figure.
The provinces were required to go to the specific targets on the pointation of the intelligence, after the expiry of the amnesty period. The purpose of this activity is not to put peaceful people in trouble. Now only those targets would be hit where we are sure that illegal weapons do exist. So in about 40 days time we have recovered 24,000 weapons. These are in addition to 87,0000 weapons. The ratio of post-amnesty recovery of weapons is about 200 per day but I am not satisfied with this figure. I think it should be much higher. We have set new targets and we have motivated the provinces that they must gear up this drive. The President has desired that the campaign should continue.
We are well aware of the fact that some parts of the tribal areas are huge manufacturers of weapons. We have asked the Frontier government to take strong steps in this respect and prevent smuggling and manufacturing of weapons from that area.
Our instructions to the provinces are that the campaign against weapons should be even-handed and no discrimination is meted out in the course of the drive. We have one policy to whole of Pakistan. The entire process is being monitored at a very high level. Let me tell you that we have arrested 7,000 persons from across Pakistan. One thousand out of 7,000 have been challaned and their papers have already been submitted to courts and we hope they will get their due.
On changes in licences procedure
People say that since they are confronted with insecure situation so the government should not take their licenced weapons, that is why we, at present, are not touching those who have licenced weapons. But once we are able to take sufficient quantity of illegal weapons out and once public gains confidence then we would turn towards the licenced weapons. We would revalidate all the licences issued from 1947 onwards and would create a new database at the district level. At the same time we are going to cancel the licences of the automatic weapons throughout the country. We feel, if somebody wants to protect himself at home he can have a 12 bore gun etc. He does not require an automatic weapon. This is a new policy, which would be enforced, in the third phase.
I have already issued the instructions that all the licence holder dealers of Pakistan are re-surveyed and we will see whether they have been doing the business as per good practices or whether they have been using the smuggled weapons and giving them out to people. Only minimum number of people who have been paying their taxes and who have been doing their business in a clean manner maintaining all the records as required by the law, will be allowed to do the business. There are about 700 arms dealers in Sindh, which is indeed an alarming figure. Approximately the same number of dealers exist in Punjab and other provinces. We are going to reduce this number.
On police reforms
A number of police reforms are on cards. One thing is to be kept in mind when we talk of police reforms which is that it requires changing the structures. When we say that we have to separate the investigation within the police that means some recruitment and some new training within police bifurcation. We need to induct law-qualified persons as prosecutors so that they could speed up the cases in courts. We are also trying to improve the investigation techniques. We have already chalked out a master plan in this respect, which would require huge money. Then we are going to have a public safety commission, which initially would be, on the district level but subsequently we will go for the provincial safety commissions and the national safety commissions. All these are structural changes that need money and proper management. A few days ago, the Punjab Governor presided over such a meeting. The other provinces, I am sure, will also follow the suit.
There are many steps regarding police reforms that do not require money. For example for transparent and better recruitment you do not need any money. We have rewritten the syllabus of ASPs we have also rewritten the syllabus of the ASIs. The purpose of the entire practice is to make police more efficient. The cabinet has approved 1.9 billion rupees in this budget for the upgradation of the police force. I would personally ensure that this amount is properly spent. We are in the stage of transition and you know the transition not only takes time but it is painful as well. But I am sure we will pass through this phase as well.
On NADRA performance
I am not fully satisfied with the hitherto performance of NADRA. They have not met their deadlines. We, however, have completed our database project. We have a database of 61.02 million Pakistanis. As regards the issuance of new computerized identity cards, NADRA has not met the deadline. Now they have geared up the process and I have been told that over one hundred thousand forms dully filled are now getting back and after scrutiny they will be sent to NADRA who will re-check it again. We know that we are behind the schedule but all efforts will be made to overcome the lapses.