PAKISTAN

Durra - the world’s largest illegal firearms market

Gunfire echoes in the streets of Durra, Pakistan. Test firing a 9mm handgun or a Kalachnikov AK-47 rifle in the village’s main market is an every day sight.

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Gunfire echoes in the streets of Durra, Pakistan. Test firing a 9mm handgun or a Kalachnikov AK-47 rifle in the village’s main market is an every day sight.

Durra or Darra Adamkhel, a village in the country’s northwestern tribal zone, is renowned for its weapon-making expertise and is the world’s largest illegal market. Gunsmiths in the village manufacture replicas of ammunition and popular guns, which are then sold to arms dealers across Pakistan and neighbouring Afghanistan.

Durra is part of Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). The Pakistani central government does not directly control this region, known for harbouring Islamist insurgents. Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters are said to be active in the region. While manufacturing arms within the FATA is legal, supplying them outside the tribal zone is prohibited. Durra’s weapons industry has existed for more than a century but the Soviet- Afghan war in the late seventies helped boost it.

 

"It’s very difficult to differentiate them from the original weapons"

Nasir Khan is a local resident of Durra. He visited various workshops across the village where he says artisans as young as 17-years-old make firearms using primitive tools.

It’s possible to find everything from a handgun to a rocket launcher. Earlier these workshops manufactured small weapons but now a variety of arms are available – Kalashnikovs, 222-223, Turkey bore pistols, sten-guns and missiles. It’s very difficult to differentiate them from the original weapons.

The raw material like iron and other ammo to make lead bullets, shells and missiles is imported across the porous Pakistan-Afghan borders.

The government tried to encourage the gunsmiths in the village to work in government-owned ammunition factories but they refused because of low salaries. Several de-weaponisation programmes have been proposed in the past to lower the arms production, but have been of no success.

It is a tradition in Durra to carry a small weapon for self-defense. But these weapons are often smuggled out of the tribal region into Afghanistan and Pakistan. Islamist fighters in the region, Afghan commanders and people from Waziristan come to Durra to buy arms, which cost anywhere between $15 - $150.

Posted by Vice magazine.