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President Asif Ali Zardari. — Photo by Reuters

ISLAMABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari on Tuesday called for creating a regional mechanism for the exchange of information and coordination and to establish a drug court in the region to fight illicit drug trade.

Addressing the inaugural session of the Regional Ministerial Conference on Counter Narcotics here at the Aiwan-i-Sadr, the president said the merchants of death did not recognise any political, geographical, ethical, or legal boundaries and were destroying the youth, no matter what passports they possessed.

He said the challenge required a close cooperation and proposed that the offices concerned should maintain real-time contact, like a hotline amongst the heads of narcotics control agencies, for better coordination in dealing with illicit drug trafficking.

The president said efforts against the nacro-trade could not succeed without joint action.

“We will conquer the heroin trade only through collective action,” he added.

President Zardari said the heroin trade did not flourish in a vacuum, adding that, it was linked with the terrorist networks in the region.

He said the money from the heroin trade was being used to finance terror operations.

According to the UN, he said, the opium production had increased by over 3,000 per cent and the revenues from the heroin trade had also been steadily rising during the past decade.

However, he said, the problem was much older and went farther back in history, farther than 2001.

It goes back to the choices made during the decades of 70s and 80s, he said, adding that, that was the time when heroin was created as a war weapon by the world community to fight the rival ideology in the region.

After the war, the international community left the region in a hurry, President Zardari said.

Many things of that era have now come back to haunt us, the president said, adding that, one of these was the heroin trade.

According to the prepared text of President's speech, he said the illicit drug trade was now challenging the very foundations and posed a serious threat to all the countries in the region.

He said the drug mafias had a nexus with terrorist organisations and crime syndicates.

They were linked with arms smuggling, human trafficking and money-laundering, President Zardari said, adding that the heroin trade had grown across borders and was spreading death and destruction in the name of ideology.

“It is threatening the security of our countries,” he said.

President Zardari said drug trade threatened to destroy national economies by corrupting legitimate businesses, increasing inflation and destabilising interest and exchange rates.

It undermines good governance by encouraging crime and corruption and promotes violence, he added.

The heroin trade threatens us more than it threatens far-off lands, he said, adding that, instead of being followers “we must lead the fight against the heroin trade. We must be the ones to fight back and we must win this battle. Failure is no option.”

The president also recounted various measures taken against the narco-trade and said Pakistan had accorded high priority to the efforts aimed at fighting illicit drugs.

He said at the policy level a new national Anti-Narcotics Policy in 2010, a five-year Drug Abuse Control Master Plan and an Inter-Agency Task Force on Narcotics Control had been created.

As a result, the president observed, Pakistan had become a poppy free country in 2011.

He said today Pakistan was among the top countries in terms of seizures of opium and heroin.

Reiterating that the narcotics challenge transcended national boundaries, President Zardari said no individual country or organisation could overcome it single-handedly.

“We must reach across borders and must address demand, supply and trafficking of illicit drugs. We also need to develop alternative livelihood for farmers,” the president urged.

He said the challenges were daunting and there was a need to move with a sense of urgency.

The president said everyone had stakes in the success of this campaign and in the peace and well-being of the people and the security and stability of the region depended on success against the drugs.

President Zardari hoped that the deliberations during the conference would lay the groundwork for concrete action and a set of practical measures could be agreed upon.


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