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Nearly 6pc population abuses drugs

June 27, 2013

ISLAMABAD, June 26: Statistics shared during a seminar on Wednesday showed that an estimated 5.8 per cent of Pakistan’s total population was involved in drug abuse.

Plant-based drugs were the most common with four million people (3.6 per cent) taking cannabis, 0.9 per cent opiate, 0.7 per cent heroin and 0.3 per cent people using opium.

These figures were revealed at the seminar organised by National Council of Social Welfare on the ‘International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking’ at a local hotel.

Participants were informed that illegal drugs and the non-medical use of prescription drugs had been increasing, and women were using more tranquillisers and sedatives as compared to men.

Speaking on the occasion, Representative of United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Dr Nadeem-ur-Rehman said a UN report showed that almost a quarter of Pakistan’s population was living on less than $1.25 per day.

Stark differences could be seen in literacy rates across gender as well as urban and rural areas. Despites the country’s 58 per cent literacy rate, only 46 per cent women were literate.

He said the lack of awareness was a major reason for drug abuse. On the other hand, Afghanistan produced an estimated 60 to 70 per cent of the world’s supply of illicit opiates, and the majority of this crosses through Pakistan, thus increasing the use of drugs.

Secretary Textile Industry Rukhsana Shah said, “The government has limited resources and everyone has to play his role to stop drug abuse. Social welfare organizations should come forward and spread awareness regarding the use of drugs, she said.

Similarly, Mohammad Asghar, the senior joint secretary of the Ministry of Capital Administration and Development (CAD) said the role of non-government organisations in the elimination of drug abuse could not be ignored.

“Use of drugs is continuously increasing which has led to rising concern. We will increase efforts to control the use of drugs, but we need the cooperation of international and national organisations,” he said.

The joint director of the Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF), Col Mohammad Zulqarnain, while talking to Dawn, said the ANF had busted drug smuggling at a high level, and had seized a major chunk of drugs.

“The problem is that we have a porous border with Afghanistan and 365 metric tons of opium is smuggled from there every year, of which 44 percent is trafficked through Pakistan, 33 percent through Iran and the remaining from Central Asian countries,” he said.

The ANF director said there was no laboratory for the production of heroin at the moment as the last laboratory located in the tribal areas had been closed in 2006.

However, he said kids and trained animals were being used for drug trafficking, as these animals traveled several miles from Afghanistan without a shepherd, and residents in Pakistan were paid by the mafias just to convey that the animals had successfully crossed the border.

“We have provided strict security at different entry points including the Torkham, Nokkundi, Chamman and Wagha borders, but smuggling is carried out from areas in which the forces are not deputed, and the drugs are smuggled in bits and pieces,” he said.

Mr Zulqarnain said that every year, the quantity of seized drugs was increasing but so was the number of drug users. Mafias in the country are working in educational institutions and targeting students, he added.

“A task force, with representatives of Rangers, Police, and Airport Security Force will be working against drug smuggling, but I believe the use of drugs can only be stopped by providing awareness to the masses,” he said.

During the seminar, documentaries on drug users and their conditions were also shown, and participants appreciated the success stories presented by different NGOs which were working for the eradication of drugs.