‘Massive increase in poppy cultivation in Afghanistan’

Updated July 16, 2014

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Senators believe the growers "have some strong backing".—File photo
Senators believe the growers "have some strong backing".—File photo

ISLAMABAD: The director general (DG) of Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF), Maj-Gen Khawar Hanif, on Tuesday told the Senate Standing Committee on Interior and Narcotics that before 9/11, poppy used to be cultivated in Afghanistan over an area of 6,700 hectares, but at present it was being grown on an area of over 200,000 hectares.

The massive increase in the cultivation area gave rise to a ‘conspiracy theory’ as senators smelled US/CIA’s involvement in the drug trade originating from Afghanistan.

The committee discussed the issue of drug trade at length and pointed out various lacunae in the Pakistani system which led to flow of drugs through the country to other parts of the world, but they were taken aback after the ANF director general’s briefing.

The committee chairman, Senator Talah Mehmood, expressed astonishment over the massive increase in poppy cultivation in Afghanistan.

“This means that the growers have some strong backing,” he said.

He was of the view that the US might have been funding its war on terror from drug money. While the officials kept quiet over the comments by the chairman of the committee, Senator Tahir Mashadi said financing wars and overseas operations through drug money had been a practice of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

“The Iran Contra scandal involved drug money and it was reported officially. At present, they are financing many wars in Syria and other parts of the world and funding terror groups like TTP from the drug money,” Senator Tahir Mashadi added.

“This is also a reason why drug barons are very strong. However, we can get some support from the Europeans in combating drugs and making the ANF strong.”

Senator Shahi Syed said the drug mafia was mainly responsible for the deteriorating law and order situation in Karachi.

Other members criticised lack of support from the international community for strengthening ANF, while some even highlighted that expensive drugs have started coming into the country.

Responding to questions from the senators, Secretary Narcotics Control Mohammad Akbar Khan Hoti candidly said the Americans claimed that Pakistan had given them heroin and in return they are giving cocaine.

“This is a serious issue and its usage is becoming widespread, mainly as a fashion among the youth of high class families,” Mr Hoti added.

“Due to limited manpower and funds ANF carried out its operations in the border areas only, but now after the spread of these drugs, I and DG ANF have decided to expand our activities to the urban areas as well.”

He also highlighted the problems being faced by the Anti-Narcotics Force, including lack of a political backing.

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DG ANF Maj-Gen Khawar Hanif requested the Senate committee to exert its influence and get the reward money for informers released.

“At present, the government has withheld Rs450 million under this head,” he said adding, “The delay in giving the award money has not only placed our credibility at stake, but our efficiency will also suffer.”

An official of the ANF informed the committee that the government had abolished all secret funds of the force.

The meeting also expressed their concerns with the growing cases of drug smuggling to China from Pakistan, but the secretary narcotics expressed the inability of ANF to do more as there was only one station with 50 persons in the whole Gilgit-Baltistan area.

However, at the end of the meeting, Senator Mukhtar Ahmed Dhamrah pointed out that the interior minister, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, had not been attending the committee meetings since long, but chairman of the committee brushed off the objection saying, “Nothing can be done in this regard.”

Published in Dawn, July 16th, 2014