LAHORE, April 1: The three-year Drug Free Lahore project, which is going to complete its tenure next month, has failed to achieve its key targets like registration, treatment and rehabilitation of drug users, it’s learnt.
The project was initiated as part of a nationwide campaign of the Ministry of Narcotics Control to curb drug addiction with the cooperation of 15 departments and 33 partner non-government organisations.
The Anti-Narcotics Force Punjab, Excise & Taxation, Home, Information, Health, Social Welfare, Higher Education and Police departments were partners of the project.
An official familiar with the issue told Dawn that under the project a 100-bed dedicated hospital was to be established on the premises of the Punjab Institute of Mental Health and 20-bed wards each at 10 public hospitals of the provincial capital. In the next phase, rehabilitation of patients after treatment at the hospitals was to be done to make them active member of the society.
On the other hand, the number of private drug treatment and rehabilitation centres increased from 16 to 31 during the last three years, the official said.
Launched by the Ministry of Narcotics Control at a cost of Rs100 million and approved by former chief minister Shahbaz Sharif in 2010, the project was aimed at making the provincial capital a drug free city and an example for other provinces to follow. Lahore is the second big city in respect of drug users after Karachi.
The official said the federal had allocated 100 million for the project and the Punjab government had to contribute 40 per cent of the amount. However, he said, the Punjab government had not released funds till date, citing financial constraints and the federal government contributed less than 60 per cent of its share in installments.
He said that PC-I of the 100-bed hospital had been pending for the last two months and the hospitals did not establish or upgrade their departments due to a lack of funds.
Shortly after launch of the project, experts associated with it compiled data to hit the target population of drug addicts and drugs business over the next three years. According to the data, more than 100,000 drug users were in Lahore in addition to 25,000 addicts using drugs through injections. More than 3,000 drug peddlers and at least 150 drug dens were operating in the provincial capital. The data showed drugs like marijuana, hashish, cocaine, amphetamines, methamphetamines, ritalin, heroin, opium and barbiturates were being sold in Lahore. Also, pain killers prescribed by doctors were being used for addiction.
Under the project, designated hospitals and separate wards were described as imperative for drug addicts. “Usually, a drug addict needs four to six months under the observation of designated staff, including a general physician and a psychiatrist,” the official said.
“As the project was to be implemented with the leading role of the Punjab government, shortage of funds was the major factor behind its failure to achieve three of the five major components,” Drug Free Lahore Project Director Altaf Qamar said.
Talking to Dawn, he said the Punjab government failed to release funds for the project, but the Ministry of Narcotics Control played its part for awareness and enforcement of laws on drug use and sale. He said the ministry had sent a case to the prime minister for extension of the project for another three years.