The statement said that the chief minister had ordered officials to "take proper guarantees from people" before issuing the "village defence rifles" that would be used "against miscreants and anti-state elements."
Peshawar city police spokesman Ijaz Abid says he fully supports the effort. "Since the police is repeatedly being targeted by militants, we are having major problems recruiting more people into the police force," he says.
"We need all the help we can get, and if civilians can do some part of our job, nothing like it," he continues.
According to police and local media sources, on Feb. 4, residents working with security forces shot at militants attempting to abduct a local government official, Nazim Fahimur Rehman, from his office on the outskirts of Peshawar. Together they killed nine people.
"It was thanks to the efforts of local citizens that we were able to defeat the militants," the inspector general of the Peshawar police said later at a press conference.
'No-go areas' on the rise
The need for such initiatives is becoming urgent due to the growing hold of the Taliban in Peshawar, Mr. Abid says, as the militants extend their reach beyond the largely ungoverned Federally Administered Tribal Areas next door. In the south of the city, on the roads to Mohmand and Khyber agencies in FATA, residents talk despairingly about the "Taliban raj," or the rule of the Talibans.
A year ago, students here would grab their satchels and walk to school without a worry. A city of more than 1.4 million people, Peshawar has long been known as a melting pot of Afghan and Pakistani cultures and a haven for musicians, artists, and intellectuals.