PESHAWAR -- Pakistani authorities are promoting the country's rich heritage of manufacturing hunting and sporting arms, as they consider tightening regulations and expanding to international markets.
One way to both expand and regulate the industry is by grouping gunsmiths into small clusters, which the Pakistan Hunting and Sporting Arms Development Co. (PHSADC), headquartered in Islamabad, is seeking to achieve.
The purpose of PHSADC is to develop and promote hunting and sporting arms and accessories in Pakistan to encourage competitiveness and improve the quality of locally made products so they can meet international standards, said PHSADC chairman Zahidullah Shinwari.
"There is great potential for rapidly growing the legitimate trade of hunting and sporting arms in the world market," he told Pakistan Forward.
"Because of PHSADC's intervention to improve the quality of locally produced arms, manufacturers have started receiving export orders from international buyers," Shinwari said.
Products made in Pakistan have achieved US certification, enabling their export to the United States, he noted.
The cluster model envisioned by PHSADC to regulate and expand the arms industry is paying off, according to officials.
"The cluster of arms manufacturers in Peshawar comprises 66 registered small- and medium-sized enterprises, which are mostly on Kohat Road," said PHSADC's CEO, Tahir Khan.
"These units directly employ almost 5,000 labourers," he said.
"In Dara Adamkhel, 80% of the population works in gun manufacturing," he added.
The hunting and sporting weapons produced in these clusters include pistols, 12-gauge shotguns, pump-action shotguns, rifles and vintage weapons, he said.
PHSADC is also working with the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) Development Authority to establish a special industrial estate to bring all gunsmiths into one area and better regulate the trade, Khan said.
Although the erstwhile FATA is now part of KP, the FATA Development Authority has kept its name.
The industrial estate, set up in the Rahim Abad area on the outskirts of Peshawar, will be completed in 2020, said Khan.
"Guns from local factories are in high demand in various countries, but due to a lack of clear policy, gun dealers are facing difficulties," said Hamid Khan, owner of a gun factory in Peshawar.
"Pakistan spends a huge amount to import small arms every year, and we ask the government to opt for locally manufactured arms, which are inexpensive," he told Pakistan Forward.
Investing in locally made arms will not only support those manufacturers but will help reduce arms smuggling, he added.