April 16, 2006
Darra Adam Khel is a village 38 kms south of Peshawar, on the way to Kohat. It looked like a normal village of Pakistan border, but somehow resemble Afghanistan villages also. It looked normal along the way: mud square houses, green field, boys wandering around, shops with their glass windows, and Pathans with their distinctive caps. But the name of Darra has something else to proud about, it’s the gun factory of Pakistan.
The people in this area, if may say, all do the same business: gun making and selling. The factories are hidden in the rooms in the small alleys and bazaars, and gun shops are widely open.
It’s obvious that this kind of place was not supposed for tourists to wander around. In fact, before the area was open for tourists, many tourist buses came here to visit the gun shops and ‘check’ the local made AK-47, guns, snippers, pistols, etc etc. Since Benazir Bhutto era, this area was closed for tourists. It was still in Pakistani teritorry, but now the procedure is similar to visiting a tribal area: a permit is needed, and not easily granted. The fact now is that this rule became the chance for the police to extort money from tourists.
We came to Darra by a Suzuki from Peshawar. It was a short drive less than an hour for 20 Rupees. Right entering the bazaar area, we were stopped by a police guy. We knew that he wanted to see permit, in other words, to get tips. But we were too hungry, so instead we went to a restaurant and the police even paid for our tea. His caste is Affridi. In fact people in this area, up till Kohat, are all Affridis. Affridi is a very famous family name in Pakistan, mostly Pathans, and occupied quite a lot business opportunities in places like Islamabad.
He asked us how long we were going to spend in Darra, 1 or two hours. We answered indirectly. He asked whether we were going to check guns, I said no. I said only to look around. He stated 600 Rupees for permit. I just showed my empty wallet (less than 40 Rupees left). I was not sure whether it was symphathy to a poor boy or due to Muslim solidarity (he thought all Indonesians were muslims), he said no problem.
The lunch was like having lunch in Baghdad: sounds of fired guns every single minute. It was customers in the bazaar testing their guns.
So he took us to see the two factories near the restaurant. There were two up till three men in a room, apparently it was family business. One guy making the body, the other replenishing the handle. All types of guns and pistols can be made here. You even can make special order and they will make the imitation. And working.
Is that really free in Pakistan to own guns? In tribal areas yes. But in other parts of Pakistan it is no, in Punjab at least you need permit for weapon ownership. But considering how easy it is to purchase here and smuggle it out (on way out of Darra, police do check whether passengers bring weapon on the way to Peshawar), it would not be a big deal. As I know most all families in Kashmir Noraseri village own weapon.
We visited into a shop. The owner, the Afridi policewallah claimed to be his relative, showed us some weapons. The first one was pistol camouflaged as pens. It did indeed write, but it also shooted. The price is only 500 Rs. There were also some guns resembled Chinese guns, small but smart, with 5000 Rs price. The long snippers are cheap at 1500 Rs.
It was indeed a short visit as the policemen rushed us to go. He said that without permit it was too much risky for him to take us around. And we didnt want to spend any money to bribe him. I thought it would be the same anyway whether bribing him or not, he just show us the shops that he knows. Here photography might be illegal, and taking pictures in main road was prohibited. The policeman said that the people might not like it.
We were escorted to the police station, where another police guy joked that he would like to invite our Malaysian female friend to stay at home. She refused by saying haram. He said, “Choking! Choking!” (he meant he was only joking).
The people, as anywhere in Pakistan, liked to talk about religion. He asked Lam Li about her religion and she said no religion. The policemen were surprised. They thought that we were Muslim. I said that she never mentioned that.
The policemen, seemed wanted to get rid of us soon, put us on the chowk to go back to Peshawar. We insisted to hitchhike a truck to save cost. A truck passing but didnt stop. I thought that the driver must be afraid of the two police. They said that the driver was afraid of anybody from Darra.
So that’s it. We were on a Suzuki back to Peshawar without anychance to avoid the policemen. I am thinking, due to the fact that the visit to Darra was too short, to revisit it with accompanion of someone from that area.
But I have to wait for another weeks, I am afraid.