Pak War on Drugs – Fighting Elephant with Flyswatter.

By Malladi Rama Rao
The first fortnight of December witnessed two big drug seizures off Sri Lankan and Indian coasts. The first haul was 200 kgs of crystal methamphetamine and heroin at Marawila (Sri Lanka); the second haul, about 20 kg of meth, and 100 kg of heroin, was off Thoothukudi in India.

Anti- narcotics officials aver that the consignments originated from the Makran coast in Pakistan, which is home to sophisticated labs.

The organic methi drug is prepared using ephedrine, which is extracted from Ephedra. Pakistani meth is in high demand in Australia and African countries besides Sri Lanka, Indonesia and India.

The original home for Pakistani meth is Afghanistan but it is unable to meet the demand. Its quality is also poor. Thus, Pakistan has stepped in to bridge the supply- demand gap, going by EU4Monitoring Drugs Special Report, titled “Emerging evidence of Afghanistan’s role as a producer and supplier of ephedrine and methamphetamine”.

The focus area of EU report was heroin fields of Bakwa district in Farah Province. According to the Afghan government, 68 drug labs in the district were destroyed in the 2019 airstrikes.

Bakwa can produce 98 tonnes of ephedrine a month – enough to generate around 65 tonne of crystal meth. To process such a huge quantity, nearly 500 methamphetamine laboratories are needed. This flip side of Bakwa made the meth production dispersed to the belt along Afghanistan- Iran border. Also, Pakistan, which, through jihadi outfits handled by the sleuths of Inter-Services Intelligence, (ISI), is the kingpin of the Opium -heroin trade. Almost forty per cent of narcotics from Afghanistan are smuggled through Pakistan.

Afghan drug trafficking takes place through Northern, Southern, Balkan and Caucasus routes. Almost 27% of Afghan heroin is destined for Central Asia and Russia. The Balkan route goes through Pakistan into Iran or directly into Iran, on to Turkey, Bulgaria and Europe. The Caucasus route is Afghanistan – Azerbaijan – Georgia – Europe. The Southern route goes straight to Pakistan for supply to the rest of the world.

Today, Pakistan is awash with psychotropic drugs as well. Amphetamine, methamphetamine and cocaine are hot favourites besides the highly addictive ‘crystal meth’. Ecstasy, cocaine and Ketamine are patronised by those who can afford; the ever-popular Samad Bond is the staple for the economically-challenged. Giving an idea of cocaine business, a Pakistan Customs official said “our recent 200kg haul in one swoop is just six per cent of the total drug smuggling.”

Pakistan’s drug – fixation is not a 20th century phenomenon. It is a hashish-smoking nation, with records of the use of cannabis-derived substances going back thousands of years. Soft drugs are part of the local culture. In Karachi, the commercial capital, for instance, heroin is available in juice bottles, according to a top official of the Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF).

Karachi and Sukkur are the main narcotics hubs in Sindh. Punjab and Khyber
Pakhtunkhwa (erstwhile North-West Frontier Province) are no less addicted.

The number of drug users/addicts has increased exponentially in recent decades and now stands at over ten million, half a million of them in Faisalabad city known as the Manchester of Pakistan; it is the third-most-populous city in the country. It has become haven for drug abuse; more than 700 drug dens are active in localities like Malik Pur, Parokianwala, Nishatabad, and Christian Town, says The Express Tribune, a leading English daily.

Drug traffickers are targeting educational institutions and people under 35 years. Of a total of 1.673kg ice seized in 2018, anti-narcotics agents say 1.357kg was seized from educational institutions. A Crime Investigation Agency, (CIA), estimate shows that almost 50 per cent of students from Islamabad’s 113 colleges are drug users. Sectors G-7, G-8, G-12, H-8 and F-9 in the federal capital are notorious for the trade targeted at students.

The drug dealers have established an underground network in educational institutions across Pakistan where students are invited to test drugs free, according to a media report.

Recently, Parliamentary Standing Committee on Narcotics Control hauled up the government for the flourishing drug trade. The ANF director general told the lawmakers that his organisation was hamstrung by paucity of manpower and by financial constraints. The federal minister for narcotics control echoed the same view in his deposition, prompting a commentator to remark that while drug abuse is an attempt to escape from reality, the government too seems to be doing the same by not providing required funds to the ANF.

Moreover, Pakistani law allows terrorists to walk free but a guy with a bottle gets booked as a criminal. Human Rights Activist Naseem Anthony told The Express Tribune that drug dealers are running their business without fear. “The district police and local administration claim to have launched vigorous campaigns against drug traffickers but practically they do nothing and the anti-drug drives are only mentioned and limited to paper work.”

No surprise, there are few takers for Prime Minister Imran Khan’s latest declaration of a war against drugs. Also, his resolve seems to be no more than trying to fight an elephant with a flyswatter. (Syndicate Features)