Guns smuggling on the rise in Balochistan

Officials say the long, porous border with Afghanistan worsens the situation

By Ghani Kakar

2010-04-09

QUETTA – Police initially thought they had their man.

Four years ago, after seizing three truckloads of heavy weapons at Dasht, the southern area of Mastung District, Police and Crimes Investigation Department (CID) officials accused a nearby farmer, Hazaar Khan Kurd, of owning the weapons.

Authorities later determined that smugglers had brought in the weapons from Afghanistan and that they did not belong to the farmer.

The seized weapons -- including rocket launchers, mortar shells, SMG/Kalashnikovs, RPG-7 rockets, 107mm antiaircraft guns, antitank mines, and antipersonnel mines -- belonged to a high-profile official who is a member of the Balochistan cabinet.

CID Balochistan eventually charged the official with involvement in heavy weapons smuggling. The Quetta anti-terrorist court issued arrest warrants for the minister, but no action followed. The former chief minister of Balochistan, Mir Jam Muhammad Yousaf, withdrew the case.

Pakistan has seen an increase in weapon smuggling, and it has some people worried. Top Interior Ministry sources told Central Asia Online the gun-running business has increased by 50% in recent years.

“Without enforcing a system in which weapons can be sold only to licence-holders and sellers, the government cannot achieve stop the business of illegal gun-running”, senior security analyst Maj. Gen. (ret.) Talat Masood told Central Asia Online.

"There is no checks-and-balances system for arms manufactured in Dara Adam Khel", he said. “Locally purchased guns mostly ... go to gangsters and terrorists".

Ishaq Ali Changaizi, an investigative officer for Balochistan Crime Branch, said, “It is a matter of concern for all of us that some elements are pushing heavier weapons from Afghanistan, where they have easy access to these weapons”.

Changaizi said security forces have focused on popular smuggling points and have foiled several smuggling operations. The culprits often use fruit crates to deliver guns to antigovernment elements and “miscreants”.

Balochistan is not only a smuggling destination; it now holds stockpiles of illegal weapons, said Qazi Abdul Wahid, deputy inspector general of Balochistan Police.

“We have reports that some smugglers are stockpiling heavier weapons in different parts of Balochistan”, he said. Militants are still getting weapons from Afghanistan, as they did during the Taliban's reign, he added.

The demand for weapons is high, an Interior Ministry official said. “There are always arms markets in Fata and other areas catering to the needs of local buyers and they are able to purchase unlicensed arms from these markets”.

When asked why security agencies are not cracking down on those involved in the weapons racket, he replied, “We all are trying our best to halt these bids; militants are ... taking advantage of a long porous border".

Inspector General Frontier Corps (FC) Balochistan Maj. Gen. Saleem Nawaz told state-owned PTV that 150 FC personnel have been killed and 350 have been seriously wounded in attacks by militants and arms smugglers in the past three years.

In that time, FC and local police have made 55 arrests in connection with charges of antistate activities.

“FC has the power of customs to seize contraband items within 60km of the international border", Nawaz said. "However, for narcotics, arms and ammunition there is no limit. They can be seized anywhere in the province”.

"Various powers have their interests in Central Asia, and Balochistan is the key strategic location", said Kamran Khan, a defence analyst and former senator. "They do not want stability in here".

“I think without foreign support, heavier arms could not be smuggled into Balochistan”, he said. “The lucrative gun-running business is supporting gang warfare in Balochistan and other provinces".

Khan agreed that border issues are the biggest reason for the growth in arms trafficking. But additional law enforcement efforts could curb the smuggling, he said. “Past governments have made half-hearted efforts to seize illicit arms or regularise the sale of weapons.

One such attempt was made by the Nawaz Sharif government, but it ended in a dismal failure,” he said. “A major hurdle ... is the inability of our rulers to ensure the rule of law and to refuse exemptions to the privileged few”.

The Balochistan government has decided to strictly enforce a ban on the public display of arms and to stop individuals from moving around with armed bodyguards.

Police making good on that commitment arrested two armed guards of Provincial Minister Sardar Sanaullah Zehri recently in Quetta for displaying weapons in public places.

But Hamid Shakil Sabir of Balochistan Police and District Police Officer Qilla Abdullah-Chaman told Central Asia Online that they lack sufficient resources to patrol the entire border. Additionally, they said many smugglers have too much clout to be stopped.

“In Balochistan, smugglers of heavier weapons are broadly known as those who allegedly have support from some higher-ups across the border and from some in tribal areas, which are half in Pakistan and half in Afghanistan," Sabir said. “The long, mostly unpatrolled border touches Afghanistan’s Kandahar, Zabul and Helmand provinces. We have raised many times the complaint that the smugglers get their supplies from there. But they ... operate without fear and hindrance”.

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Reader Comments

  • U have done a Great Job Keep it up and wish u best of luck ,that u shown hidden truth .

    August 23, 2010 @ 02:08:00PM sofia bano
  • i want to make a smuggler

    May 24, 2010 @ 04:05:00AM M.BALOCH
  • The only thing is that; unfortunately We as a Pakistani People are not gathered on one Point of View which should be of course that we should work together for improvement of our beloved Country such as we can efforts hard to catch the unlawful activities and beside we can aware our people through improving litracy rate. Thus, Education should not only be of on elementry level it must be of technical level also so that the person may get appropriate job for the livelihood and go away from any violance. For protection our border areas, mutual understandings should be carried our with neighboring countries to patrol properly and issue arms licences to the respectible and sensible noble residents of the area they pay huge taxes or have respect in the locality for improving chowkidara / guard system in the area for preventing any unlawful and harmful activity may occure any accident thus bad names to the whole locality. The above all is prejudice without any legal obligations, sorry for inconvenience (if any).

    April 28, 2010 @ 01:04:00AM Syed Shauket Ali
  • Excellent report kakar sahib ,you are really doing a briliant job flashing the facts no doubt that government is itself suspecious

    April 27, 2010 @ 11:04:00AM Rehan Fazal
  • good work mr.kakar i guesss pakistan officials should take prior attention to this serious matter becouse this will genrate tough troubles in every field

    April 12, 2010 @ 04:04:00PM \\hassan abdullah huzairi
  • written well............. why everyone is silent if law is distube by itself lawmakers it means there are some criminals in police police and other forces and their hands are tie up

    April 12, 2010 @ 05:04:00AM Tanveer awan
  • those who are working with guns mafia and claiming themselves a pro-state should be dealed with law i think they are route of all crimes.

    April 12, 2010 @ 05:04:00AM Qahir shah
  • if guns are mainly pushing from afghanistan so why not pakistan i forces foiled such bids,this is a suspecious fact

    April 12, 2010 @ 05:04:00AM ahmed
  • good job i deeply appreciate your work and hope you will go ahead such investigatiove work.

    April 12, 2010 @ 05:04:00AM ejaz
  • good job for writing on an issue belongs to the underworld,it is really the masses demanded issue like your efforts to show the reall face of official criminals,

    April 11, 2010 @ 01:04:00PM SAQLAIN
  • mostly those are beside this crime who are supported by border forces ,i think pakistan should take it serious.good story

    April 11, 2010 @ 01:04:00PM Ameer
  • very good work like it and the credit should be given to your entire team for proving such creative work, I suggest all other media workers to follow your theme of work , and leave their own aims which they have given profrence in their journalism .

    April 11, 2010 @ 07:04:00AM Ikram mehmood
  • i think u have scatched a very balanced and informative observation,pakistan has market for purchasing arms therefor here smuggling is spreading.

    April 11, 2010 @ 07:04:00AM naveed
  • like all your reports. Central asia online is a good web site promoting the real and investigative journalsim wish u all the best and keep it up.

    April 11, 2010 @ 04:04:00AM Naeem ahmed
  • yes you are absolutely right sir ,i ams sure those who are providing guns to criminals are almost known by officials but here the question raised that why they are not dealing with law.

    April 11, 2010 @ 04:04:00AM mirwise
  • guns pushers are the peacekiller they must be given proper punishment.

    April 11, 2010 @ 03:04:00AM Imran
  • without involvment of border security forces guns i think can not be smuggled in here you are right ,,,,there is something suspecious at upper level

    April 11, 2010 @ 02:04:00AM Sadia Jalallzai
  • you are right :but pakistan has now become an increasingly important player in the world arms industry, a global industry and business which manufactures and sells weapons and military technology and equipment round the globe.

    April 10, 2010 @ 02:04:00PM Mudassir
  • Good report kakar sb

    April 10, 2010 @ 02:04:00PM Ameen
  • Mr Kakar ur report is nice pakistani government must forced the tribesmen in dara adamkhailand to stop making heavy assault weapons that prevent the Taliban and Al Qaeda from having access to such weapons.

    April 10, 2010 @ 02:04:00PM Simon petter
  • nice report.

    April 10, 2010 @ 01:04:00PM samya
  • Nice report, I think we shall keep on pray for peace in Pakistan, i don\'t think that Allah has made human kind to endure only pain caused by war.Every countries deserves peace....May the peace and of Alminghty enter the spirit of those smugglers. Your friend of Africa

    April 10, 2010 @ 01:04:00PM samya lionelle
  • I must say you have done a good job filing such an informative and investigative story.Govt shoud give the preference on stopping this becouse these are the routs of crimes

    April 10, 2010 @ 10:04:00AM umar
  • Good report kakar sb,

    April 10, 2010 @ 10:04:00AM JanasrKhan
  • you all looks anti pakistan therefore wrting against pakistan

    April 10, 2010 @ 10:04:00AM Fazal
  • Paramount investigative story and informative also like it

    April 10, 2010 @ 10:04:00AM Ahmed
  • Guns smuggling is a very serious problem think government is criminally silent on it

    April 10, 2010 @ 10:04:00AM Anwer
  • Guns are pushing by underworld,and it is is tstrange that it exist in cabint.....really strange

    April 10, 2010 @ 10:04:00AM Dilshad
  • I think officials are involved ,if no so why and how arms brought to country ,what law enforcement agencies are doing ,this is an amazing report having true analysis

    April 10, 2010 @ 07:04:00AM mutlib memon
  • Government must stop the inflow of weapons from upcountry

    April 10, 2010 @ 07:04:00AM Nadir Ali
  • Like it ,nice story i appreciate your investigative work

    April 10, 2010 @ 07:04:00AM Sajjid
  • you are right without involvment of state officials in illegal arms trade it could not be possible.

    April 10, 2010 @ 07:04:00AM farooq khan