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FATA development project will transform illegal arms businesses into legal ones
By Intikhab Amir
PESHAWAR – An industrial park will be established in Dara Adamkhel to help transform the illicit arms-manufacturing businesses of tribesmen into legal entities capable of earning export revenue.
The Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) Development Authority recently approved Rs. 196m (US $2.3m) for setting up the industrial business park, Zarar Imtenan of the Pakistan Hunting & Sporting Arms Development Company (PHSADC) said.
“The PHSADC in a meeting with Dara Adamkhel’s arms manufacturers informed them about the latest developments for expediting the industrial estate project,” Nasir Khan, president of the Dara Adamkhel Arms Manufacturing Association, told Central Asia Online. The manufacturers learned the FATA Development Authority had released money to set up the estate.
Officials prepared the plan to establish the Dara Adamkhel estate six years ago, but the militancy prevented them from executing it.
The Pakistani army has since cleared the area of militants, most of whom were associated with local Taliban commander Tariq Afridi, though his group still maintains a presence in the area surrounding Dara Adamkhel, a tribal town 35km south of Peshawar.
Nobody attempted the project earlier because many arms-manufacturing units and arms dealers’ shops on both sides of the main road snaking through the tribal town were closed during the military operation.
Government aims to legalise illicit arms businesses
The last military government, led by Gen. (ret.) Pervez Musharraf, launched the industrial estate plan to get a handle on illicit arms manufacturing in Dara Adamkhel. The move will stop illegal business activity without provoking a reaction from the local tribesmen who have worked in the sector for generations, Imtenan said.
Sixteen factories and dozens of workshops employ thousands of labourers who manufacture pistols, shotguns, AK-47s and ammunition, he said.
The government wants the tribesmen to use their gun-manufacturing talents for their benefit and that of the country. The government, he added, wants them to produce vintage-style and sporting guns, which offer good prospects as exports because of growing international demand.
The PHSADC is assisting the tribesmen by improving their production processes, Nauman Wazir, its CEO, said. Nauman, a Peshawar-based industrialist, heads the PHSADC on a voluntary basis.
The PHSADC, a federal public sector entity, is also helping the tribesmen market products internationally.
Several arms manufacturers from Dara Adamkhel, including Nasir, have participated in exhibitions in Germany. Nasir said his company is in the process of sending 325 pump-action shotguns and 155 double-barrel shotguns to Lebanon. Earlier, he has exported hunting arms to the United Kingdom with the PHSADC’s help, he said.
Businessmen attach value to government plan
The planned industrial estate will provide a unique opportunity for Dara Adamkhel’s arms manufacturers and sellers, Nauman said.
“The area has a tremendous potential to earn foreign exchange through exports of hunting and sporting guns,” Nauman said. “With low-cost labour and a favourable regulatory mechanism, Dara Adamkhel’s hunting and sporting guns stand a good chance to make inroads into the international market.”
The industrial estate will help tribal arms manufacturers improve their products and will allow them to sell their products directly to buyers from across the country, Nasir said.
“Right now, we can’t sell anything directly to dealers from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab and Sindh because our businesses cannot be registered under the government of Pakistan’s rules and regulations,” he said.
The industrial estate will contain modern facilities, including incubation centres and modern communication facilities, to help the manufacturers access international markets, Imtenan said. It will also have machinery that ordinary arms manufacturers can’t afford to have independently.
Similarly, according to Imtenan, it will have an inspection mechanism to regulate business activities. Digital scanners at all entry points will monitor all consignments entering or leaving the estate.
“This will help to control smuggling of arms,” Imtenan said.