Middle class Pak citizens forced to carry AK-47s to work over kidnapping fears

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Washington, Jan 13 (ANI): The constantly worsening law and order situation and weakening control of government in Pakistan has forced middle class citizens to carry loaded AK-47s with them in order to protect themselves from being kidnapped.

For years, guns have been signs of prestige for young men in Pakistan, especially in the rugged tribal regions and in the Punjab, but now it has became a saviour and a new phenomenon for middle class Pakistani, The Washington Times reported.

It's hard to quantify the exact numbers of Pakistanis carrying arms, but some estimates put the number of small arms in the nation of 172 million at more than 20 million, and most of them unlicensed.

The North West Frontier Province, a haven for insurgents with a population of about 2 million, is thought to have more than a half-million illegal small arms and light weapons.

"People are picking up guns because they feel there is no law and order in the country," said Islamabad-based defense analyst Ayesha Siddiqa.

"The writ of the state is very weak and the police don't have the ability to protect its citizens. As a result, security has become privatized," she added.

Afrid (35), a reporter for a national newspaper used to wave at the police on his way home from his office where he frequently works late. Then he was kidnapped, blindfolded and taken to a house where he was chained to a bed for 25 days.

Afridi managed to cut through his chains with a pair of scissors, climb onto the roof and jump to freedom from his captors, the paper reported.

"After that day, I always have an AK-47 with me. In fact, I usually have two -- one for myself and other for the relative who is accompanying me," he said.

According to the report, Retired Brigadier Mahmood Shah, a former security chief of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, said increased demand had pushed the price of a Kalashnikov in Peshawar from about 200 dollars to almost 900 dollars.

"With the growing Talibanization of the country, most people feel that having a gun makes everyone feel safer," he added.

Abid Noor, who works at the government's planning and development department in the northwest city of Peshawar, said he decided to travel armed after a friend, Muhammed Javed Afridi, was kidnapped by five masked men carrying AK-47s, while driving home.

Afridi, who was given a temporary gun permit by police after his kidnapping, said: "We're not picking up guns because we suddenly feel like doing so. We're picking them up because we are being forced to." (ANI)

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