Pakistani journalists have been allowed to carry guns to protect themselves. This brilliant solution has been offered by none other than Interior Minister Rehman Malik who has, in the past, offered many such pearls of wisdom, particularly over the unabated spate of target killings in Karachi.
There is evidence enough that journalism is one of the most dangerous professions in Pakistan. In a recent statement, the Committee to Protect Journalists has ranked Pakistan the tenth most dangerous place in the world for journalists to work and, according to the International Federation of Journalists, five journalists have died in Pakistan in the first six months of this year.
But will carrying guns really make journalists any more secure in the future than they are in Pakistan today? Just this year, the deaths have occurred in circumstances that a gun would never have been able to prevent.
Arguably the most revolting death was the brutal case of journalist Saleem Shahzad who was reported missing from Islamabad on May 30 and within 24 hours, his body was found in Mandi Bahauddin with marks of torture. Would he have been able to protect himself if he had had a gun?
A number of journalists were among the victims of this past weekend’s twin bombing in Peshawar’s Khyber Supermarket. One journalist lost his life and one was critically injured and is fighting for his life. Would they have been able to protect themselves if they had had guns?
So will carrying guns really make the job any easier, at least in terms of security? The country is becoming increasingly insecure, not just for journalists but for the people at large. Kidnappings for ransom and street crime are as rampant as target killings and suicide bombings. Does that mean that every citizen of Pakistan should be allowed to carry a gun for protection?
More weapons are not an answer because guns do not save lives. The solution to insecurity is not to increase the number of weapons but to decrease them. If A tries to shoot B and B shoots A in self-defence, the net effect will be loss of life, not more security.