Thursday, July 9, 2009

Arms license books to be computerised in Sindh

The Sindh Home Department is about to initiate the production of computerised arms license books, which will be similar to machine readable passports, Sindh Special Home Secretary Kamran Dost told The News.

Dost said that money had been approved for this purpose in the budget for the current fiscal year, adding that this was being done to eliminate rampant corruption in the department. In his opinion, the new system would also increase the revenue of the department, as at later stages, arms license books could be registered online.

Replying to a question, he said that besides the computerised registration of books, the Home Department was also seeking the help of National Database Registration Authority (NADRA) to maintain all records of arms license branch. At present all record is maintained through manually. According to him, a computer department is being established and staff is being trained with the help of NADRA officials.

Dost added that the move would also help in minimising “the immense pressure on the Home Department” for issuance of new arms licenses. On the contrary, a survey of the Sindh Home department conducted by The News found that no such department had been established as yet that could ascertain any plans for the computerisation of arms license.

According to sources, the new system is being brought in place to remove corruption, although many more meetings will be held before a final decision is taken. Sources also said that NADRA officials are ready to facilitate the Home Department, but will also have to undertake a detailed survey for the new system to work without any hurdles.

However, Home Department officials fear that renewing license fees and supplying data electronically may cause problems for people in rural areas, and such impediments must be removed before any records are computerised.

Sources said that normally it takes two months to issue an arms license in Karachi. When the license is issued, the Home Department then checks for fake licenses. Currently, applying for an arms license is free of cost, but once the records are kept electronically, there will be an official fee of Rs 4,000 to be submitted to the office of the District Coordination Officer (DCO) of Karachi.

Thousands of applicants approach the Home Department everyday to obtain arms licenses, out of which many return frustrated. Even though weapons are licensed by the Home Department, special permission is still required to be allowed to carry them. This was not the case before the Nishtar Park bombing on April 11, 2006.

Despite this, many influential people affiliated to political parties openly display sophisticated weapons without suffering legal consequences. Private security guards, for example, have also been observed displaying dangerous weapons like Kalashnikovs and even firing on some occasions.

Official sources claim that the government has fixed the amount of arms licenses certain officials can issue. The For instance, the Sindh Home minister can issue 366 licenses for pistols, seven for revolvers, 24 for rifles, and 105 for shotguns. Similarly, the Home secretary can issue 896 licenses for pistols, 20 for revolvers, 99 for rifles, and 304 for shotguns. The DCO Karachi can issue 819 licenses for revolvers and/or pistols, 27 for rifles, and 129 for shotguns. However the chief minister can issue an arms license at any time according to his discretion. A total of 2,796 non-prohibited bore arms licenses were issued this year from January to June.

Moreover, NADRA has also started the registration process, but officials from the Home department claim that NADRA has first to prepare a software, after which the Home department will provide all records.

Underworld assassin held

The Special Investigation Unit (SIU) of the Sindh police has arrested a man associated with the underworld.

The man was identified as Sultan Arain alias Chief. SIU chief SSP Raja Umer Khattab said the arrested person was an assassin by profession and was associated with the Manzar Abbas group of the underworld. Abbas was presently running a dancing and drugs club and also a moneychanger business in South Africa.

“Arain has killed nine people on payment...he received Rs 0.5-1 million for each murder,” said the SSP. “He killed five people in Karachi, while four others in South Africa. “I made a team headed by DSP Ali Raza that arrested him from the Garden area after an encounter. A 9mm pistol was also recovered from his possession,” the SSP Khattab added. The SIU chief said the culprit belongs to Faisalabad. He met Ibrahim Dada, an underworld man in jail, when the Bahadurabad police arrested him in 1994. He then went to South Africa and joined the group of Manzar Abbas, which was operating his underworld gang in South Africa and Karachi. He arrived in the country in 2004 and was arrested again by the FIA when he was leaving the country for South Africa and sent to jail. staff report