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Political use of registered firearms: Ruling party leaders openly displaying legal weapons raises concerns

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Leaders and supporters of the ruling party are openly displaying legal firearms to intimidate opponents and during political events. Despite the ban on display of legal weapons, there is a lack of action from the district administration or police. In some cases, illegal weapons were openly used, but police were unable to recover them.

Currently, the number of legal weapons in the country exceeds 50,000, of which more than 10,000 are in the hands of political party leaders and workers. There are growing concerns about the potential for creating a climate of fear through legal weapons displays, especially ahead of upcoming national elections. However, the Election Commission (EC) has not taken any decision regarding the deposit of registered weapons during the elections.

Cases of display of registered firearms at ruling party political events are becoming common. For example, during the Upazila Awami League demonstration and protest rally in Nandail, Mymensingh last Sunday, Kamaruzzaman, the bodyguard of Zahid Hasan, son-in-law of former local parliament member Major General (retd) Abdus Salam, displayed his firearm. , The license of this weapon is in the name of Zahid Hasan and Abdus Salam’s daughter (Zahid’s wife) Waheeda Islam was at the forefront of the rally.

Zahid Hassan told Prothom Alo on Monday that police approached him and when he showed them his weapon license, they left.

Meanwhile, police said the incident has been reported to senior officials and an internal investigation is underway. Police sources claim that Zahid Hasan’s arms license was obtained from the Dhaka District Administration. However, Dhaka Deputy Commissioner Anisur Rahman told Prothom Alo on Tuesday evening that he received news of the weapons display in Nandail through the media, and he was unsure whether the license was issued in Dhaka or not.

District and upazila level leaders of various parties have indicated that influential leaders as well as many local former and current MPs have legal arms. They often display these weapons openly with the aim of instilling fear, this issue is not often discussed openly. Discussion usually arises only when photos or videos become public.

However, as per the ‘Firearms License Issuance, Renewal and Usage Policy-2016’, a person is allowed to carry and use the weapon obtained through his license for self-defense. The policy clearly states that weapons should not be displayed in a manner that causes fear or distress to others. In case of violation of this provision, the person’s arms license can be canceled immediately.

People from the ruling party have the highest number of registered weapons.

In October, data from the Fire Arms Management System (FAMS), the database of the police Special Branch (SB), indicated that there were a total of 50,310 legal firearms in the country. Of these, 45,226 weapons are privately owned, while 5,084 firearms are owned by institutions.

Politicians are said to have 10,215 firearms in their personal possession. Of them, Awami League leaders and members have 7,549 firearms, and BNP leaders and members have 2,587. Leaders of other political parties including Jatiya Party have a total of 79 firearms.

According to the December 2021 data of the Special Branch of Police, the number of legal weapons was 44,104. Therefore, it is clear that in a span of two years, the country has seen an increase of approximately 6,206 legal firearms.

The highest number of arms licenses, totaling 11,898, were issued in Dhaka division, followed by 6,512 in Chattogram, 8,321 in Rajshahi, 4,757 in Sylhet, 7,479 in Khulna, 3,597 in Rangpur, 2,118 in Mymensingh and 2,682 in Barisal. These licenses cover a variety of firearms including pistols, revolvers, shotguns and rifles.

Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) Additional Commissioner Khandkar Mahid Uddin stressed that in cases where legal arms license conditions are violated, appropriate action should be taken as per the law.

More incidents of displaying firearms

Member of Parliament for Chattogram-16 (Banshkhali) constituency, Mustafizur Rahman Chowdhury, brandished pistols in public in Banshkhali, Chattogram on May 22. Subsequently, the police confirmed that the gun on display was legitimate, with its license registered in Mostafizur’s name. An explanation was sought from him by the police.

According to the rules, if a weapon is displayed and a threat of firing is made, the police station is required to report the incident to the district administration for the possibility of canceling the license of the weapon. However, in this case the license has not been canceled by the Chattogram district administration. Deputy Commissioner Abul Basar Mohammad Fakhruzzaman told Prothom Alo on Monday that the case was considered to be an old one and it was actually Mustafizur’s licensed weapon. He further said that he has discussed the matter with the MLA.

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