LAHORE ( MEDIA )
Nadra-made arms licences in the shape of smart cards and computerisation of the record of weapon manufacturing, selling and repairing is being fast introduced in Punjab where gunrunning has been horrifyingly easy and helped by the corrupt among government officials.
Official sources said on Tuesday that rules were being amended for the shift to the computerised cards. The Punjab government has already signed an agreement with Nadra for the issuance of the cards and computerisation of the record of all three stages — weapon manufacturing, selling and repairing. Dawn reported on wedensday.
The system is likely to be in place in the next two to three months in the big cities of Lahore, Rawalpindi, Bahawalpur, Faisalabad and Gujranwala. The remaining Punjab districts would be covered in a further two months’ time.
The officials frankly admit to Dawn the government does not have any idea of the extent of illegal weapons in the province but they say their number could defy highest of projections. The most disturbing fact, they say, is the presence of countless illegal weapons licences, manually prepared by the corrupt among staff in the district governments. The number again is high, showing organised gunrunning.
The issuance of illegal licences is a mega fraud committed right under the nose of the DCOs, says a senior government official.
As per the home department record, the number of arms licences in the province should safely be 1.7 million. If all of them had been renewed this year at the rate of Rs1,000 per licence, the government should have collected Rs1.700 billion. But it received just Rs600 million meaning thereby that only 600,000 licences were renewed. “The rest of the licences were made illegally and were therefore not renewed,” a senior official inferred.
There are 562 arms dealers in Punjab though new licences for this business were banned in 1987. Monitoring them is a big problem as their record is manual which is kept in ordinary registers. These books can be tampered with or destroyed, and there is no organised system of ensuring their accuracy.
Flaws in the legal method of obtaining bullets for licenced weapons, too, benefit unscrupulous dealers and the weapon holders. For example, if a man is allowed 25 bullets in a month, he can buy bullets of the same number from as much dealers as he likes. And the multiple buying is seldom traced.
Officials in the home department say the computerisation and the smart cards would control such practices to a great extent. Initially, manual licences issued over the past around five years would be turned into smart cards to be made by Nadra from the DCOs offices. All particulars of the licence holders and biometrics of their guns would be verified online through Nadra record.
Those whose particulars could not be verified would lose their licences. All old manually created licences would stand cancelled. Previously, desirous citizens would routinely buy weapons after getting manual licences. Now, they would be eligible to get the smart cards only after buying guns and mentioning their details.
All the four stages of computerisation — manufacturing, selling, licences for weapons and repairing — would be integrated online. Even the biometrics of each and every bullet which is like fingerprints and the details of each weapon would be fed online. And the database would be available with the home department, DCO offices and the law-enforcement agencies.
Officials of LEAs would therefore be able to have verified authenticity of a licence in no time by merely sending an SMS at a specified number.
“Earlier attempt to computerise record of weapons licences introduced by the Punjab IT Board in 2009-10 failed. But this Nadra-based system needs to succeed if anyone is serious in controlling at least official gunrunning,” a senior home department official said.