By: Mirwais Jalalzai
The town of Darra Adam Khel, located near Peshawar very close to Afghanistan, is one of the major suppliers of small arms. Amid waning international interest in Afghanistan, Darra became the focal point for various antagonists engaged in the country.
This generations-old trade in the illicit boomed in the 1980s, when the afghan mujahedeen (holly warriors) began buying weapons there for Afghanistan’s battle against the Soviets, over the porous border.
Later, the town became a stronghold of the Pakistani and Afghan Taliban, who enforced their strict rules and parallel system of justice. The bigger customers are Taliban here.
Around 400-700 guns are made in Darra each day and the number is rising with the adoption of new technology. In the past 10 years, a number of factories have also started copying expensive 9mm pistols like the Glock-17, Beretta, Smith and Wesson, and the Czech made CZ-75.
The massive open-air market located deep in the tribal areas, where a frighteningly high percentage of Islamic holy warriors goes to buy their guns.
Most of the shops are identical at street level and have a “shooting range” on the roof of the building.
Every second coustomers trying the guns and the gun shot echo is available every single minute in this bazaar . Besides the market, modern and sophisticated weapons can be procured in the black market of Pakistan. Among them include 9mm handgun for USD 36, Italian rifle for USD 150, Russian kalakov for USD 180, and American Muzzelite for USD 250.
According to the reports the most costumers of this gun market are Taliban, Afghan and Pakistani Taliban who are fighting with Afghan and Internal forces in Afghanistan. Criminal groups and gangs are also part of the customers in Darra Adam Khil gun market.
No one has control on this black and unregistered guns market and the Pakistan government which called itself a close partner with US in fight against international terror. The Nawaz Sharif’s government has established checkpoints everywhere, business is a bit slow but not stopped,” said Jamal Khan, 45. He is known in Darra for his replicas of Turkish and Bulgarian-made submachine guns, one of the most popular weapons in the world.
These kind of submachine guns are called MP5 which will cost for thousands of dollars. Khan’s version, which comes with a one-year guarantee, costs roughly Rs7,000, or $70 ─ and, he claims, it works perfectly.
A Darra-made Kalashnikov, Khan says, can sell for as little as $125, cheaper than most smart phones. “The workers here are so skilled that they can copy any weapon they are shown,” he explains.
“In past 10 years I have sold thousands of guns from that kind, and had zero complaints,” he claims.
the gun market industry is booming in Pakistan which has led some analysts to comment that the entire country is a powder keg ready to explode.
An estimated $134 million worth of small arms are imported into Pakistan annually. The quoted figure is the legal imports of small firearms, military grade to hunting and sports, which include pistols, revolvers, shotgun, and rifles along with other ammunition.
This figure though does not take into account the transactions in the illegal weapon market that thrives primarily on the porous Pakistan – Afghanistan border. A number of illegal arms traffickers operate in this region and it is sarcastically said that a gun is easier to procure than the basic amenities of life.
It is estimated that every year around $200-million worth of illegal firearm weapons and ammunition cross the borders into Pakistan and enter the black market
According to the gun producers and purchasers there are no checks-and-balances system for arms manufactured in Darra Adam Khel and purchased guns mostly go to terrorists and gangsters who are easily able to purchase unlicensed guns from such open illegal markets.
Today, a good part of the guns and ammunition used by the Taliban (in both Afghanistan and Pakistan) originate from Darra Adam Khel. Locals also reveal that in the past Pakistani military authorities have often encouraged them to supply weapons to Talibani commanders. Those who threaten to expose, oppose or protest against this flourishing illegal arms trade are subject to brutal suppression like cutting off their tongues.
The illicit arms industry located in Darra Adam Khel is flourishing by leaps and bounds with the passage of time, and therefore consequential in the expansion of problematic issues created by it. This unlawful production and supply of a vast array of handmade and small industry created weapons as well as imported replicas are responsible for the domestic as well as international criticism.
The repercussions Pakistan has been facing consist of intensifying crime rate, murder rate, escalating rate of use of non-genuine currency, drugs, and bombs; leading to a complete collapse of law and order.
Pakistan is home to the world’s largest illegal gun markets.
No one knows for sure when arms manufacturing in Darra actually started, but locals claim that it was brought to the village by a deserter from the British Army, possibly around the time of the 1857 rebellion. The tribesmen were delighted to have at their disposal the skills of this British gunsmith, and within a short span of a few years Darra Adam Khel became the center for illegal arm manufacturing.
There are over 2,500 skilled gunsmiths in Darra Adam Khel today, who feel that the bad press their village receives is unjustified. The arms that Darra makes rarely end up in the hands of terrorists, they claim, adding that these gunsmiths serve only the local market.