Pakistani Daily On Pakistan's Weapons Smuggling Routes: 'There Are An Estimated 20 Million Illegal Arms In Circulation In Pakistan'
A Pakistani newspaper recently published an investigative series into the supply routes used by arms smugglers to flood weapons into Karachi and other cities of Pakistan from private manufacturers based in Afghanistan and Pakistan's border regions, especially in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
The series especially focuses on Karachi, the economic capital of Pakistan which has been rocked by a series of un-ending political violence and targeted killings by members of political parties and radical Islamist groups.
Senior Police Officers Bani Amin And Liaqat Malik: "Most Weapons Smuggled Into Punjab Come From K-P [Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province]; These Originate Either From Afghanistan Or Are Manufactured Locally In K-P"
Following are excerpts from the first report, titled "Where Do 20m Illegal Arms Come From?"
"There are an estimated 20 million illegal arms in circulation in Pakistan. This includes serious firepower: law enforcement authorities are increasingly coming under attack from criminals and terrorists armed with heavy weapons such as grenades (including rocket-propelled ones), long-range sniper rifles and machine guns.
"The volatile situation in Lyari [area of Karachi] was a case in point, where despite the fact that police were equipped with tank-like armoured personnel carriers, they were forced on the back foot. But the question is: where do all these weapons come from?
"Defense expert Brigadier (R) Mahmood Shah says the main supply of illegal weapons into the country comes from neighboring Afghanistan. 'The border areas, especially those along Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) and Baluchistan, are porous,' he says. While relatively small arms such as Kalashnikovs are mostly produced locally, rockets, grenades, anti-aircraft guns and anti-tank shells are believed to come in the most part from across the border. 'These are mostly Russian-made and copies that are built in central Asian states,' he says.
"[Pakistani para-military force] Frontier Corps (FC) spokesperson Murtaza Baig also said that the weapons that land in Baluchistan largely come from Afghanistan. 'The now-imprisoned [Baluchi nationalist leader] Shahzain Bugti was also caught by FC when he was smuggling a huge cache of arms, including rockets and anti-aircraft guns, from Gulitan and Chaman in Baluchistan,' he says.
"SP [Superintendent of Police] Farid Jan Sarhandi, who recently caught a huge cache of weapons, including 100 grenades, 16 rocket launchers and anti-aircraft guns from a criminal hideout in Karachi's Mowach Goth [area], believes, 'most of the weapons are being smuggled from Afghanistan.'
"Inspector General of Police [of] Islamabad Bani Amin and SP Central Investigation Agency [of] Lahore Liaqat Malik both say that most weapons smuggled into Punjab come from K-P. 'These originate either from Afghanistan or are manufactured locally in K-P,' Malik says..."
"It Is Estimated That [Pakistan's] Darra Region Produces 20,000 Of All Kinds Of Weapons Annually And Has The Capacity to Produce 100 AK-47s Per Day At A Cost Of Less Than $150 Per Weapon"
"K-P's Darra Adam Khel region is still considered the epicenter of illegal and locally manufactured arms in Pakistan. It is estimated that Darra region produces 20,000 of all kinds of weapons annually and has the capacity to produce 100 AK-47s per day at a cost of less than $150 per weapon.
"Officials say that apart from Darra, there are other weapons bazaars such as one called the Dagar bazaar in Kurram Agency that houses unregistered arms factories. There are many types of sniper rifles such as the G3 can be fitted with a telescope that are also available.
"Karachi's DIG [deputy inspector general for the] East Tahir Naveed says there are many 'lush push' copies of American and Austrian weapons circulating in the market as well. 'It's hard to tell which ones are copies and which ones are original,' he says. The bulk of these locally manufactured guns from these illegal bazaars is believed to land in the hands of terrorists and criminal gangs operating all over the country...."
"The Legal Import Of Weapons Originates Mainly From Three Countries: China, Turkey And Brazil; The Private Sector Companies, Which Are Mostly Situated In Peshawar [Capital of K-P], Also Legally Manufacture Pistols, Revolvers, Shotguns, Rifles, Carbines Guns, Ammunition"
"License to kill
"Intelligence officials believe that most of the prohibited bore licences that have been issued across the country in the last few years are being used in criminal activities. An intelligence officer says that up until the year 2006, only ministers, senators and MNAs [lawmakers, Members of the National Assembly] were allowed to purchase one prohibited bore from the Pakistan Ordnance Factory. However, since 2007, MPAs [legislators, or members of provincial assemblies] have also been allowed to avail this opportunity.
"Intelligence agencies believe that thousands of these automatic weapons have landed in the hands of politically-backed gangsters. The legal trade in weapons is subject to the Pakistan Arms Ordinance 1965. The two major sources of the legal trade are imported weapons and locally-manufactured weapons.
"The legal import of weapons originates mainly from three countries: China, Turkey and Brazil. These are brought into the country through legal sea and air routes by dealers duly authorized from the Ministry of Commerce. These imported arms are sold to individuals who hold valid government arms licences, and monthly sales are reported to the provincial Home Department and DCO [District Coordination Officer]. These weapons are generally intended for purposes such as hunting and sporting, self-protection and private security services.
"The registered arms manufacturers comprise public sector entities such as the Pakistan Ordnance Factory in [the town of] Wah that manufactures several conventional arms such as MG3 machine guns, G3A3 assault rifles and MP5 sub-machine guns. This factory supplies to the armed forces, law enforcement agencies and those who have been granted prohibited bore arms licence at the discretion of the prime minister, subject to a No Objection Certificate from the Pakistan Army.
"The private sector companies, which are mostly situated in Peshawar, also legally manufacture pistols, revolvers, shotguns, rifles, carbines guns, ammunition and explosives...."
"There Are Dozens Of Unfrequented And Hidden Land Routes, Particularly At The Confluence Of Sindh, Baluchistan And Punjab: The Tri-Border Region Where Dismal Security Arrangements Are In Place To Check Illegal Weapons"
Following are excerpts from the second report, titled "An Endless Supply Of Illegal Arms:"
"According to sources within the intelligence community, the illicit arms trade thrives via a number of land and possibly even sea routes. The tri-border area where Sindh, Baluchistan and Punjab intersect is considered a haven for smuggling. Officials believe that heavy goods transportation vehicles, including Mazda cars, Shehzore trucks, tankers and passenger buses are being used to ferry arms from Afghanistan and other northern regions to the rest of the country.
"Hiding the arms cache
"Inter-city coaches riding between Karachi and K-P are believed to be involved in the transportation of weapons.
"Officials in the intelligence agencies admit that it is in their knowledge that this system successfully works with the active connivance, endorsement and knowledge of police and other law enforcement and border surveillance agencies.
"The four main designated land routes are the Super Highway, Indus Highway, National Highway and the RCD Highway. However, there are dozens of unfrequented and hidden land routes, particularly at the confluence of Sindh, Baluchistan and Punjab: the tri-border region where dismal security arrangements are in place to check illegal weapons supply by professional arms transporters.
"Police sources say that many of the unfrequented land routes used for arms smuggling cover areas that are informally known for tribal conflicts or as dacoit hideout territories. Significant vacuums in law and order in such regions ensure that smuggled arms are not easily intercepted...."
"Up To Two Million Unlicensed Weapons Are Believed To Be In [The Coastal City Of] Karachi Alone; Illegal Weapons Are Smuggled From Baluchistan To Karachi By Means Of Small Boats And Ferries Along The Coastal Belt Of Keti Bandar (Thatta)-Gadani-Ibrahim Hyderi-Vindar"
"Failure of border forces
"When asked whether it is not true that the border forces have failed to do their job and prevent arms smuggling, Frontier Corps (FC) spokesperson Murtaza Baig says that the border along Baluchistan is porous in 'some places.' But in the same breath he also says that the force is doing all it can to curb it.
"Brigadier Wasim Ayub of [the para-military force] Pakistan Rangers does not say that it is a failure of the paramilitary forces to stop the smuggling via the tri-border area within the country. 'The tri-border is manned by police, Rangers and the FC so it is a collective responsibility.'
"He says it is also possible that over the years so many weapons have already been dumped into the city [of Karachi] by various arms smugglers that one doesn't necessarily need to place an order from some other place. He blames intelligence failures and lack of better policing for not being able to curb arms smuggling.
"Up to two million unlicensed weapons are believed to be in Karachi alone. Brigadier Ayub says although most of the weapons are being smuggled into the city via road links, 'sea routes are also suspected of being used.'
"It is also believed that illegal weapons are smuggled from Baluchistan to Karachi by means of small boats and ferries along the coastal belt of Keti Bandar (Thatta)-Gadani-Ibrahim Hyderi-Vindar. However, sources within the navy and coast guard deny it and claim that due to vigilant patrolling, sea routes are not regularly used.
"In terms of formal sea vessels, there is no evidence that arms are smuggled, as specialized container scanners are installed at all sea-entry points at Port Qasim Authority, Karachi International Containers Terminal and Karachi Port Trust. However, when it was reported that thousands of NATO/ISAF containers went missing, it was alleged that most of them contained arms destined for Afghanistan, which eventually made into Pakistan's local arms market.
"In fact, FC's [Murtaza] Baig says he strongly believes that most of the NATO containers which went missing contained sophisticated and heavy arms that are now being used by criminals and terrorists."
"Among The Estimated 20 Million Illegal Arms In Circulation In Pakistan Are Some Seriously Heavy Weapons; Police Officer Khurram Waris Says, 'One Doesn't Need A Lot Of Training To Operate The RPG'"
"Among the estimated 20 million illegal arms in circulation in Pakistan are some seriously heavy weapons.
"Bani Amin, the Inspector General of Police in Islamabad, says that rocket-propelled grenades (RPG) are rarely used in cities. 'Mostly dacoits and gangsters use these rockets. But this is nothing new. Dacoits in Sindh and outlaws in southern Punjab use them too,' he says.
"Special Investigation Unit chief SSP [senior superintendent of police] Khurram Waris says the RPG-7s and Russian grenades being used by criminal gangs and terrorists in Karachi are the same types that have been in use by militants since the days of the Afghan jihad.
"About the RPG launchers, SSP Waris says, 'One doesn't need a lot of training to operate the RPG. However, for aiming correctly at your targets one needs a lot of practice.'
"Another popular weapon is the 'Awaan,' which Waris described as 'a launcher fitted on top of a Kalashnikov that is capable of throwing grenade-like shells.' The Awaan, according to the officer, has also been in existence since the Afghan jihad days and remains in use in the city...."
 The Express Tribune (Pakistan), May 17, 2012. The original English of the reports has been lightly edited for clarity and standardization.
 The Express Tribune (Pakistan), May 18, 2012.
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