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Category — Weapons blackmarket

Arms merchants in Rs 20 billion trade: By Kamran Khan IN The News, Jan 13

KARACHI: Since the last week of March 2008, more than 38,800 people have been issued licences of prohibited weapons such as Kalashnikov, MP5, G3 and Uzi, mostly on direct orders of the prime minister and minister of state for interior.

Most alarmingly, these licences were issued without any police verification or an official check on the background of the applicants, according to an investigation by this correspondent. A whopping 100,000 licences of non-prohibited bore weapons, such as revolvers and pistols, were also issued without any police verification whatsoever during the same 21-month period.

There is no formal or official procedure in the country for a common Pakistani to properly apply for a prohibited bore weapon license other than finding a member of the National Assembly or the Senate having direct connections with the prime minister or minister of state for interior for the approval of license, hence prohibited bore licenses are a precious commodity and arms dealers charge a premium of up to Rs 200,000 for such a license.

Sources in arms dealers’ community estimate liberal issuance of prohibited and non-prohibited weapons licences by the government since April 2008 has generated Rs 20 billion business for weapons dealers in sale of automatic, semi-automatic weapons in addition to massive earnings in selling the prohibited and non-prohibited licences of weapons. The situation also raised serious questions about the exact source of weapon supplies to arms dealers.

Massive monetary attraction, besides other reasons, may have contributed to immense pressure on Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani from parliamentarians to favour them with his special powers to issue licences for all sorts of weapons.

As parliamentarians pressed the prime minister for more and more licences, he introduced an unprecedented quota of weapons licences in September last year by allowing 25 licences per year of prohibited weapons and 20 licences per month of non-prohibited weapons for each member of the National Assembly and the Senate. He extended the favour to MPAs also by allotting them five prohibited weapons licenses per year.

Since March 2008 till June 2009, the prime minister ordered issuance of 22,541 licences of prohibited weapons, mostly making orders on plain papers with certain names scribbled on them presented to him by various MNAs and senators.

In two months after assuming the office of minister of state for interior in April 2009, Tasnim Ahmed Qureshi issued a record 5,986 licences of prohibited weapons, including more than 100 licences that ended up at the Inter Risk (Pvt) Ltd, the security company contracted by the United States Embassy in Pakistan. Inter Risk owners are now facing prosecution for possessing a large cache of illegal weapons.

Qadir Nawaz, the personal secretary of the minister of state for interior, was arrested in the case, while the issuance of about 6,000 prohibited weapons licences in just two months on the direct order of the minister of state is still being probed by the relevant agencies.

This incident caused uproar in the government security services about the scale of corruption and security risks in weapons license system. The prime minister, though rejected allegations of ministerial level involvement in the weapons scam, announced a ban on issuance of licences in June last year.

“If parliament believes in accountability, justice and fair play, it should allow a neutral and thorough probe into the prohibited weapons license case and examine who were those 39,000 people whose names were recommended by various senators and MNAs for Kalashnikovs and Uzis licences as well as those 100,000-plus people who received licences for pistols and revolvers,” said an interior ministry official. http://www.thenews.com.pk/top_story_detail.asp?Id=26635

January 13, 2010   No Comments

Arms merchants in Rs 20 billion trade: By Kamran Khan IN The News, Jan 13

KARACHI: Since the last week of March 2008, more than 38,800 people have been issued licences of prohibited weapons such as Kalashnikov, MP5, G3 and Uzi, mostly on direct orders of the prime minister and minister of state for interior.

Most alarmingly, these licences were issued without any police verification or an official check on the background of the applicants, according to an investigation by this correspondent. A whopping 100,000 licences of non-prohibited bore weapons, such as revolvers and pistols, were also issued without any police verification whatsoever during the same 21-month period.

There is no formal or official procedure in the country for a common Pakistani to properly apply for a prohibited bore weapon license other than finding a member of the National Assembly or the Senate having direct connections with the prime minister or minister of state for interior for the approval of license, hence prohibited bore licenses are a precious commodity and arms dealers charge a premium of up to Rs 200,000 for such a license.

Sources in arms dealers’ community estimate liberal issuance of prohibited and non-prohibited weapons licences by the government since April 2008 has generated Rs 20 billion business for weapons dealers in sale of automatic, semi-automatic weapons in addition to massive earnings in selling the prohibited and non-prohibited licences of weapons. The situation also raised serious questions about the exact source of weapon supplies to arms dealers.

Massive monetary attraction, besides other reasons, may have contributed to immense pressure on Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani from parliamentarians to favour them with his special powers to issue licences for all sorts of weapons.

As parliamentarians pressed the prime minister for more and more licences, he introduced an unprecedented quota of weapons licences in September last year by allowing 25 licences per year of prohibited weapons and 20 licences per month of non-prohibited weapons for each member of the National Assembly and the Senate. He extended the favour to MPAs also by allotting them five prohibited weapons licenses per year.

Since March 2008 till June 2009, the prime minister ordered issuance of 22,541 licences of prohibited weapons, mostly making orders on plain papers with certain names scribbled on them presented to him by various MNAs and senators.

In two months after assuming the office of minister of state for interior in April 2009, Tasnim Ahmed Qureshi issued a record 5,986 licences of prohibited weapons, including more than 100 licences that ended up at the Inter Risk (Pvt) Ltd, the security company contracted by the United States Embassy in Pakistan. Inter Risk owners are now facing prosecution for possessing a large cache of illegal weapons.

Qadir Nawaz, the personal secretary of the minister of state for interior, was arrested in the case, while the issuance of about 6,000 prohibited weapons licences in just two months on the direct order of the minister of state is still being probed by the relevant agencies.

This incident caused uproar in the government security services about the scale of corruption and security risks in weapons license system. The prime minister, though rejected allegations of ministerial level involvement in the weapons scam, announced a ban on issuance of licences in June last year.

“If parliament believes in accountability, justice and fair play, it should allow a neutral and thorough probe into the prohibited weapons license case and examine who were those 39,000 people whose names were recommended by various senators and MNAs for Kalashnikovs and Uzis licences as well as those 100,000-plus people who received licences for pistols and revolvers,” said an interior ministry official. http://www.thenews.com.pk/top_story_detail.asp?Id=26635

January 13, 2010   No Comments

Security of Pakistan nuclear weapons questioned: The Washington Post

By Chris Brummitt & Pamela Hess
ISLAMABAD — An audacious weekend assault by Islamic militants on Pakistan’s army headquarters is again raising fears of an insurgent attack on the country’s nuclear weapons installation. Pakistan has sought to protect its nuclear weapons from attack by the Taliban or other militants by storing the warheads, detonators and missiles separately in facilities patrolled by elite troops.
Analysts are divided on how secure these weapons are. Some say the weapons are less secure than they were five years ago, and Saturday’s attack would show a “worrisome” overconfidence by the Pakistanis.
While complex security is in place, much depends on the Pakistani army and how vulnerable it is to infiltration by extremists, said a Western government official with access to intelligence on Pakistan and its nuclear arsenal, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.
Analysts say a more realistic scenario would involve militant sympathizers getting work as scientists at the facilities and passing information to extremists.
“It’s not thought likely that the Taliban are suddenly going to storm in and gain control of the nuclear facilities,” said Gareth Price, head of the Asia program at London think tank Chatham House. “There are enough command-and-control mechanisms in place to prevent that.”
A U.S. counterproliferation official in Washington said strong safeguards are in place and there is no reason to believe the nuclear arsenal is in imminent jeopardy of seizure by militants.
The official, who commented on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the matter publicly, said there is a major difference between attacking a nuclear site and actually seizing and using the nuclear material stored inside.
Security at Pakistan’s isolated nuclear installations is believed to be significantly higher than at the army headquarters, which was relatively relaxed by the standards of other nations. Thousands of people and vehicles enter the headquarters compound in Rawalpindi daily, and the 10 attackers, while able to take dozens of hostages Saturday and kill 14 people before a commando raid ended the siege, never penetrated to the heart of the complex.
Pakistan is estimated to have between 70 and 90 warheads, according to Hans Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project of the Federation of American Scientists.
Shaun Gregory, an expert on Pakistani security at the University of Bradford in Britain, said militants have struck near an air base in Sargodha, where nuclear missiles are believed to be stored, and the Wah cantonment, where missiles that could carry nuclear weapons are believed to be assembled. He added that the attacks did not appear to have targeted nuclear weapons.
Pakistan uses armed forces personnel to guard nuclear weapons facilities, and it physically separates warhead cores from their detonation components, Gregory wrote in the July issue of The Sentinel, the monthly journal of the Combating Terrorism Center.
The components are stored in protected underground sites. The warheads themselves are electronically locked to ensure that they cannot be detonated even if they fall in terrorists’ hands, Gregory said.
The Pakistan military carefully screens and monitors the officers vested with protecting the warheads, drawing them almost exclusively from Punjabi officers who are considered to have fewer links to religious extremists or with the Pashtun area of Pakistan, where the Taliban garners much of its support.
No action or decision involving a nuclear weapon can be undertaken by fewer than two persons. But Gregory acknowledged the possibility of collusion between cleared officers and extremists.
The personnel assigned to sensitive nuclear posts go through regular background checks conducted by Pakistan’s intelligence services, according to a 2007 article in the journal Arms Control, co-written by Naeem Salik, a former top official at Pakistan’s National Command Authority, which oversees the nuclear arsenal.
“It is being acknowledged by the world powers that the system has no loopholes,” Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, a military spokesman, said Monday. “The system is foolproof, as good and bad as their own systems.”
The U.S. and the British governments agree there is little risk of a weapon falling into militants’ hands.
In London, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said there is no evidence “that has been shown publicly or privately of any threat to the Pakistani nuclear facilities, said.
Gregory said in an e-mail to The Associated Press that he did not share Miliband’s assertion, adding that “there is plenty of evidence of threat.”
Individuals in the Pakistan military have colluded with al-Qaida in providing safe houses for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and individuals in Pakistan’s civil nuclear sector have met with al-Qaida figures, including Osama bin Laden himself, Gregory said.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton dismissed any suggestion militants could overthrow the government and gain control of the nuclear arsenal. “We have confidence in the Pakistani government and military’s control over nuclear weapons,” she said.
Kristensen said that while U.S. officials have said they have helped Pakistan increase security at its nuclear facilities, “they have not been allowed to go to those sites, so it’s something they’ve had to do remotely.”
Saturday’s attack “somehow seems to show that the Pakistani military is perhaps a little overly confident” about some of its most important military facilities, he said.
“If a relatively small group of people is able to penetrate into their ‘Pentagon,’ then it might show something about the overconfidence of the Pakistanis, and that is worrisome – it’s surprising that they were able to go in there relatively simply,” Kristensen said.
He noted that the military headquarters is different from a nuclear facility. “One cannot compare insurgents going into an office building to them going into a nuclear facility for the nation’s crown jewels,” he added.
While stringent security checks on personnel are meant to prevent militant sympathizers from working at the facilities, Pakistan’s nuclear establishment has seen serious leaks of nuclear knowledge and materials by insiders.
Top government scientist A.Q. Khan operated a global black market nuclear network for more than a decade until he was uncloaked by U.S. intelligence. And the CIA has confirmed a meeting between Khan associates and bin Laden before 9/11.
Israel has not taken a formal position on the danger of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons falling into the hands of terrorists. However, in a parliamentary briefing last year, Defense Minister Ehud Barak mentioned such a scenario as a nightmare for the world, according to security officials speaking on condition of anonymity because the session was closed.
“Pakistan’s weapons are less secure today than they were five years ago, and it seems they’re even less secure than under the Musharraf government,” said Gerald Steinberg, professor of political studies and conflict management at Bar Ilan University in Israel, referring to the previous administration of President Gen. Pervez Musharraf.
Steinberg said Israelis are becoming less confident of the U.S. ability to control events and put plans into action that would protect Pakistan’s nuclear stockpile. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/10/12/AR2009101202343_pf.html

October 13, 2009   No Comments

German guns sold on Pak black market: The Nation, Oct 12

HUNDREDS of pistols from German army stocks have turned up for sale on the black market in Afghanistan and Pakistan, according to a Sunday report by North German Broadcasting (NDR).
Among them were weapons from a delivery of 10,000 pistols given by the German Defence Ministry to the Afghan government, which was supposed to supply the Afghan police and army, reported German news agency DPA.
Neither the German government nor a US-led security unit responsible for the delivery in Afghanistan had chased up their whereabouts.
Both the German Green party and the Police Union demanded an investigation into the affair, which had put hundreds of the weapons in the hands of arms dealers in the region, the report said.
The Defence Ministry said it had given the 10,000 Walther P1 pistols from an old stock of decommissioned weapons in January 2006 to the Afghan Interior Ministry ‘to equip the security forces that are being developed’.
The Afghan ministry had then handed out the weapons to the police and army. The German ministry knew nothing of their further whereabouts.
The US-led unit responsible for monitoring such deliveries could piece together the whereabouts of fewer than half the weapons, the report said.
According NDR, arms dealers in Afghanistan and Pakistan said the weapons were seen as prize assets that could be sold for as much as 678 euros. One German army weapon, nearly 50 years old but virtually unused, had been offered in Kabul for 1,085 euros.
Among others, active and former Afghan police and soldiers bought the illegal guns.
The Greens’ defence spokesman Winfried Nachtwei accused the German govt of a ‘grossly negligent approach’ to the issue of the weapons.
http://www.nation.com.pk/pakistan-news-newspaper-daily-english-online//Politics/12-Oct-2009/German-guns-sold-on-Pak-black-market

October 12, 2009   No Comments