The tabling of the Deweaponisation of Pakistan Bill (2011) represents an expression of both a desire (by many, not all) and an ideal position. Ours is a heavily weaponised society, and attempts to regulate the holding of weapons in private hands have largely failed. The legislation that regulates ownership of firearms is similar to that of many European countries. But in practice we see something more akin to the American model, where gun ownership is widespread and regarded by many as a cultural attribute. To deweaponise our society would require a national paradigm shift of almost unimaginable proportions, as well as major changes in the way in which weapons are used as political patronage. MNAs and MPAs all have an annual quota of weapons licences which they may grant to those they deem fit. In Karachi, guns are in the hands of men who fight small local proxy wars on behalf of political parties. Parties have themselves become weaponised. This situation virtually ensures that political power grows out of the barrel of a gun, with the ballot box reduced to a cosmetic irrelevance.

The problem with the MQM proposal is that, while it is laudable in general terms, its very generality diverts the focus from a very specific problem–Karachi itself. As such, it may be seen as part of a highly localised political game play. If the party were truly serious about deweaponisation, then it could do no better than set an example to all other players in the political game by calling for and making efforts for the deweaponisation of Karachi with all the strength at its disposal. It could invite all others to do the same. The proposal for the deweaponisation of the entire country does not appear to have much chance of success, however desirable that may be. ”And leave ourselves defenceless?” would be the converse argument. At which point the debate becomes sterile and circular and doomed to failure. If there is to be a demonstration of political will to reduce the violence, then it has to come from the political parties themselves, including the MQM. The political parties have to decisively eschew violence as a means of attaining their goals. Until they do so, any legislation, no matter its good intent, will prove to be impotent – Thenews