Islamabad, already facing a mounting insurgency in the form of number of armed militant groups and its army trying to quell violent Taliban insurgents in the restive North West Frontier Province, has now been rocked by the scam of thousands of weapons finding their way to people illegally.
Three employees of the Interior ministry have been arrested for their involvement in the weapons scam, but investigators have been unable to determine the number of weapons acquired by unknown people.
Part of the official records is missing, making it impossible for investigators to determine how many such licences were issued and to whom.
The Federal Investigation Agency discovered during a probe ordered by the Prime Minister that fake bank receipts, forged signatures and fictitious stamps were used by several middle-ranking and junior officers of the ministry to issue the licences, the Dawn newspaper reported on Thursday.
The FIA found that three section officers Ali Abdullah Khalid, Akhtar Ali Hakro and Malik Iftikhar were involved in the scam. Parliament's standing committee on the interior ministry was informed on Wednesday that the ministry issued 28,527 licences for weapons of prohibited bore between March 28, 2008 and June 26 this year.
A total of 6,000 such licences were approved by the Minister of State for Interior Tasneem Qureshi in May and June. The number of such licences may be higher because most of the records are missing.
The government is trying to ascertain the number of licences issued in violation of rules. In a major breach of procedure, a server provided by the National Database and Registration Authority to check the identity of applicants was replaced by one sent by a private vendor, investigators said.
They said officials did not maintain records in order to conceal the number of licences issued and the identity of those who acquired prohibited lethal weapons. Only Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani is authorised to issue licences for prohibited bore weapons but he delegated the power to Qureshi on April 4.
After receiving complaints from various quarters, including parliamentarians, about licences being issued without meeting required formalities, Gilani ordered the ministry on June 26 to stop issuing the permits.
The parliamentary committee, apprehensive of already too many weapons circulating within the country, is not satisfied with the pace and outcome of the inquiry. Concerned over the distribution of weapons illegally, the committee has called for speedy action to bring the culprits to book.