PESHAWAR: The regularisation of illegal gun and ammunition manufacturing units in Darra Adamkhel town has become a crucial task for the federal and provincial governments following merger of the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Officials say that approximately 70 units are presently operating in the town known for producing different bores of automatic and semi-automatic guns, replica of vintage guns and ammunition in the region.

No legal mechanism was in place to regulate production of arms and ammunition in Darra Adamkhel and onward transportation and sale in the local market and abroad. The government does not have any control over the guns market in Darra.

Officials say arms city being established in the area

Local dealers are presently receiving orders from buyers in Europe and America through Pakistan Hunting and Sporting Arms Development Company. Most of the products from Darra are smuggled to the local market.

The federal and provincial laws related to manufacturing of rams were not applicable to weapon producing units in Darra that became part of KP after 25th Amendment on May 25 last.

Officials said that relevant laws had automatically extended to seven tribal districts including Darra Adamkhel that served as administrative headquarters of Frontier Region Kohat before the merger.

The small town situated along Indus Highway is now part of Kohat district.

Former home secretary Syed Akhtar Ali Shah said that government had to place a moratorium on implementation of the law so as to provide five to ten relaxations to gun manufacturers in Darra and other parts of the newly merged districts.

“The government has to implement laws to regulate guns markets in the newly merged territories, but it needs to give some incentives and relaxations in the implementation of policies,” he said. He added that many manufacturers had established showrooms in Peshawar but arms were brought from Darra.

The plans of successive governments to regulate arms and ammunition market in Darra had nosedived. The post-militancy situation affected weapons production in Darra and gunsmiths had to move to Peshawar and other parts of the country that resulted in reduction of weapon manufacturing units.

Officials said that despite restrictions, not only weapons were manufactured in Darra and onward supplied to the market, but the required raw material was also available. They said that thousands of gunsmiths were working in Darra.

“Afghanistan is major market for Darra-made double and single barrel shotguns and roughly 30 per cent of the products are being supplied to the neighbouring country,” said an official.

The officials concerned said that government was taking several steps to regulate weapons market in Darra and provide facilities to local manufacturers to link that major hub with cluster in KP that housed 66 registered units.

“Darra provides employment to 80 per cent of the local population,” said Tahir Nawaz Khattak, the chief executive officer of Pakistan Hunting and Sporting Arms Development Company, a subsidiary of federal ministry of industries and production.

He said that the company had started work on framing policy to regulate production, sale and transportation of guns manufactured in Darra following merger of Fata with KP. He said that amendments in policies had been proposed to regulate Darra cluster.

“This is the most critical issue and activities related to manufacturing of guns in Darra will be documented. Its potential will increase after facilitating the local manufacturers,” he said.

Mr Khattak said that specialised arms city having capacity of accommodating 200 manufacturing units and other allied facilities was being established in Darra. He said that the facilities would cost Rs3 billion for which Fata Development Authority was providing funds.

“Darra market has huge potential which has the capacity to provide employment and generate revenue,” said Mr Khattak. He said that weapons and ammunition worth $20 to $40 million were imported annually. He said that manufacturers in Darra were ready to follow legal process to regularise their businesses.

He said that 50 acres piece of land was being acquired in the area and local administration had already imposed Section 4 for acquisition of land. He claimed that the project was likely to be completed by the end of year 2020.

The proposed specialised city will comprise 200 arms manufacturing units, display centre, material bank and shooting range.

Officials claimed that arm manufacturers were receiving orders from buyers in the US, Europe and Africa and total

12 products had achieved quality assurance certificates from international accreditation agencies based in the US and Europe.

Published in Dawn, September 24th, 2018