Gun markets in Pakistan’s tribal areas had been flooded with Kalashnikovs with the onset of the Afghan jihad in the 1980s. In a matter of a few years, other automatic military grade weapons like M-16s and MP5s also became easily available at these markets.In the absence of effective gun control regulations, the following years saw rapid spread of these weapons across the country — from militant wings of political parties to criminal gangs, sectarian outfits and, more recently, Islamist militias have all benefited from his deregulated market of arms and ammunition.It wasn’t until the 2014 terrorist attack at the Army Public School (APS) of Peshawar that the political leadership started noticing the need for stricter gun control measures.When Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi took office earlier this year, he vowed to take action against ‘private militias’, stating that ‘there is not a single country in the world that allows the licensing of automatic rifles to citizens’.Finally, a directive was issued by the Interior Ministry last week announcing a ban on possession of automatic firearms by individual citizens. The owners of automatic firearms have been asked to get their weapons exchanged for semi-automatic varieties or receive a compensation of Rs 50,000. Gun owners have been given two months to get their firearms exchanged. The ban will be enforced at the end of this two-month period and carrying an automatic weapon will become a crime.Little information has yet been shared with the public on the mechanism through which the ban will be enforced. The ministry must make good use of the two-month period to prepare rules and regulations that can ensure effective implementation.However, the authorities must also recognise that imposing a ban will not be sufficient to control the proliferation of automatic firearms. Since automatic weapons have found their way into the country through markets that are beyond the purview of law enforcers, it is likely that licenced weapons are only a fraction of the actually existing arms and ammunitions in the country. Thus, the interior ministry needs to also evolve a plan to crack down on those carrying unlicenced weapons. And this effort needs to be integrated into the ongoing efforts against militants and militias. *Published in Daily Times, November 15th 2017.