LAHORE: Civil society organisations (CSOs) have welcomed Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi’s statement regarding curtailing automatic weapons in the country and urged the government to adopt a comprehensive policy after due deliberation to introduce result-oriented and broad-based reforms.Speakers at the seminar on deweaponisation in Pakistan, held at a local hotel under the aegis of the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) in collaboration with Peaceful Pakistan, called attention to the requirements, method and approach of disarmament in Pakistan.Simorgh Women’s Resource and Publication Centre Executive Director Neelam Hussain, Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) Chairperson Wajahat Masood, columnist Sarmad Ali advocate, Nasira Javed and CSJ Executive Director Peter Jacob addressed the participants and expressed grave concerns over firearm-related crimes, smuggling and sale of weapons and promotion of a war mentality, which ultimately constitute an environment that condones violence and facilitates impunity for elements that spread lawlessness.The speakers reiterated that licensing of automatic weapons for citizens had caused an increase in crimes and brutalisation of society, particularly violence against the weaker sections of society, including women, children, religious minorities and whosoever is considered ‘other’ or a stranger.The speakers encouraged the federal and provincial governments to initiate a policy dialogue for limiting arms and ammunition. Moreover, a roadmap for peace-building in society was demanded, which they believed would contribute to economic development and democratic stability in the country. Hence, legal and educational reforms are necessary to promote a culture of peace and harmony, they stressed.IA Rehman welcomed the government’s stance to restrain weapons and argued that if anybody got a gun, it would psychologically affect that person and push him to be violent. He said that no doubt a huge quantity of unlicensed weapons was present in country that is a threat to the lives of citizens. He further said that the police should only use weapons that have been provided by the government, while other arms should be take back from them.He said that the race of superior weapons was ongoing between law enforcers and lawbreakers. He said all types of weapons, including unnecessary licensed arms, should be taken back from the people. He used the occasion to criticise a preacher by sharing an incident, narrating that sometimes such people succeed in getting arms licensed by threatening the officials. He said that a preacher threatened an official by saying that if “you did not give permission to issue a weapons licence then I will announce in public you are an Ahmadi”. He also emphasised that people should keep in touch with the government and try to ensure the rights of citizens.Neelam Hussain said that we always prefer male chauvinism, adding that mostly women and children become victims of violence inside houses, which is usually considered a secured place for them. She said that if guns come in the hands of a human, there are more chances of increase in gunfire-related incidents, which should be restrained. She said that deweaponisation was a good thing but its implementation was a big issue. “We had never glorified the issue of silent heroes of this society in our curricula who promoted peace. We just read about army soldiers’ stories for bravery. We have to clarify and tell students about the actual concept of bravery, male chauvinism and strong men and women. We need to change the mindset of the people,” she added.Another speaker, Sarmad Ali advocate, said that according to a research paper, out of 20 million, just 35 percent (7 million) firearms were registered in Pakistan.He also said that the rate of private gun ownership was 11.6 percent weapons, adding that Pakistan was ranked 6th among 178 countries in the number of privately owned guns.While sharing the statistics of gun licences issued in the last 10 years, he said that the Punjab government issued 1.8 million weapons, Sindh government 1.05 million and federal government 1.2 million licences. He said that the government should ensure implementation of Article 256. He said that murders involving weapons had almost ended in Australia after adopting a buyback policy plan for the country’s deweaponisation. He opined that unlicensed arms offence should be non-bailable. He said that the judiciary should punish such accused in order to control crimes, added that the chances of committing a crime increase when a person had a firearm on him/her.Peter Jacob said that the conference was organised to support, appreciate and acknowledge the point of view presented by the prime minister. He said that deweaponisation of society had been a long-time cause of many civil society organisations striving to build peace in various dimensions.“Deweaponisation is something that we found very close to our hearts and for which we invited people to Lahore. But then, we would like to move onto policy dialogue and we expect that the government will open up a dialogue in society, parliament and civil society,” he said. “Through that discussion, we will be able to contribute suggestions and recommend measures that are necessary for deweaponisation.” He further said that the main aim of the policy dialogue was making Pakistan a tolerant and violence-free country. Published in Daily Times, September 2nd 2017.