Kalashnikovs welded from scrap metal are cheaper than smartphones and sold on an industrial scale in a town surrounded by hills some 35 kilometres (20 miles) south of the city of Peshawar.
Darra Adamkhel, a federally administered tribal areas of Pakistan, was a hub of criminal activity for decades. It is believed that it has a shot in copying the foreign-made guns skilled with no errors found. Smugglers and drug runners were common and everything from stolen cars to fake university degrees could be procured, reported AFP.
What comes as a shock to many is that guns are not just easily available like the apparels at a fashion outlet, they are available dirt cheap.
An MP5 pistol can be bought for a sum of 7000 Pakistani rupees having the manufacturing cost of 4500 Pakistani rupees, says Khitab Gul, 45.
This generations-old illicit trade boomed in the 1980s when mujahideens needed weapons to fight the Soviets in neighbouring Afghanistan and later, the town became a stronghold of the Pakistani Taliban, who enforced their strict rules and parallel system of justice — infamously beheading Polish engineer Piotr Stanczak there in 2009.
This homegrown industry suffered a jolt after the Pakistan’s government launched an aggressive action against the rebels giving a blow to the local economy.
Now Darra is clean of all but the arms, yet the gunsmiths in the market say the region’s improved security and authorities’ growing intolerance for illegal weaponry are scorning an industry that sustained them for decades.
“(The) Nawaz Sharif government has established checkpoints everywhere, business is stopped,” said Khitab Gul.
A Darra-made Kalashnikov, Gul says, can sell for as little as $125, cheaper than most smartphones. “The workers here are so skilled that they can copy any weapon they are shown,” he explains.
“In past 10 years I have sold 10,000 guns, and had zero complaints,” he claims.
But in recent years, the military has cracked down on extremism, particularly in the tribal areas, and security is the best it has been since the Pakistani Taliban were formed in 2007.
Every second or third shop in Darra now sells groceries or electronics instead of weapons, the gunsmiths mourn. With the transformation, the Wild West atmosphere is fading as the town embraces modern conveniences.
Before the crackdown Gul’s workshop — just one of hundreds in the town — could produce more than 10 weapons a day, he says.
Now they only produce four. “Demand has decreased,” he says.
Although, around 3000 shops are still in business but the future appears to be uncertain with the growing intolerance towards it and eventually the market will disappear.
Gain the momentum from the reads that mean to you with our personalised feed weekly. Let’s do this!