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Day 3: South to Darra Adam Khel

Michael Palin - HimalayaYou never quite know where the shots are coming from. As I cross the street a preoccupied figure in a white robe pops out of a shop behind me, raises an AK-47, blasts a few rounds into the air, shakes his head and disappears inside again to make adjustments.

Seeking relief from the din, I walk into a small arcade running at right angles off the main street. It is, to all intents and purposes, an arms mall, consisting of everything from workshops to carpeted rooms where you can select the weapon of your choice while taking tea with the management. In one establishment an earnest, bespectacled young man sits cross-legged, fashioning a trigger for a mini-Kalashnikov using pliers and a small hammer. Next door to him an older, bearded man scrutinizes a freshly made Mauser like a scholar bent over sacred texts.

The equipment may be low-tech but the standard of plagiarism is extremely high. Originally confined to making copies of the British Army's great standby, the Lee Enfield .303, Darra's retailers now offer brand-name pump-action rifles, revolvers, automatics and quite probably rocket-launchers. One man proudly shows me a James Bond pen that can fire real bullets (he proves this to me by stepping out into the street and loosing it off).

'Very popular with the tourists,' he assures me, adding regretfully, 'Until two years ago.'

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  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 3: South to Darra Adam Khel
  • Country/sea: Pakistan
  • Place: Darra Adam Khel
  • Book page no: 18

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