29/1/92

DARA. It was pouring with rain as we dismounted from the rattly, leaking bus in the main and only street of Dara Adam Khel. It had taken about an hour to make the trip from Peshawar, and even though we were armed with permits obtained from the Home Secretary of Tribal Areas, we hadn’t been asked for them.

The street was awash with mud and rainwater, and we trudged along it looking for a chai shop. We asked the guy with eyes like strings for chai and he replied furtively “yes, hashish, hashish!” Shots were ringing out everywhere and every shop was full of a murderous array of armaments.

A typical Dara gun shop (Photo supplied).

We went into one of the shops and asked if we could get some chai. The shopkeeper obliged by getting us some curry and naan, so we sat and ate there, surrounded by rows of pistols, shotguns, rifles, and knives. After we had eaten, we browsed about the shop and Magnus and I bought a pen gun¹ each. The shopkeeper test-fired both guns out the door of his shop: vicious little bastards of things with a report like a shotgun going off!

When we left that shop, we walked up the street looking at the amazing array of weaponry racked up in the stores: AK47s, RPGs, SLRs, hunting rifles, pistols, shotguns, knives and other instruments of death.

In another shop, a man who spoke reasonably good English asked if we would like to fire an AK-47. Magnus wasn’t interested but Linda and I were. The cost was 150 rupees for 30 rounds – one full magazine – and the man led us up the street and across a sodden graveyard to a muddy clearing at the foot of a hill. He showed us the mechanism of the rifle and pointed to a hole in some rocks up the hill about 80 m away. There were a few people around within easy range of a ricochet, but he didn’t seem too worried about it so I aimed and fired. Not much of a recoil and a medium report. I fired off another couple of rounds, raising dust on the edge of a hole in the cliff. 

Then Linda had a go, firing off two rounds, but I think she found it a little bit scary. Then I fired off some short bursts of automatic. The stock of the gun was wet and slippery and hard to hold. It wanted to jump up and sideways. The spent cartridges flew out of the ejector port landing around Linda and Magnus’ feet, and the acrid smoke coiled up out of the muzzle and from the ejector opening. 

After 3 bursts the cocking lever locked back in the rifle was empty. The rain was still pouring down, so after paying for the ammunition we caught the bus back to Peshawar and spent the rest of the day indoors.

¹Pen guns are a novelty firearm made in Darra. They fire a .21 calibre cartridge and would be lethal if used at close range. I sent my pen gun home in several pieces from different parts of Asia…and I still have it.

Pen gun dismantled. A .21 cartridge inserts into the barrel where the thread is. The tip is unscrewed to open the muzzle and the barrel is screwed back onto the firing mechanism. When the trigger (pocket clip) is pressed, the firing pin is released and the gun fires.
The permit giving Linda, Magnus and I permission to visit Dara Adam Khel.