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KARACHI: Pakistan is considered to be the main country through which narcotics produced in Afghanistan are transported to the rest of the world and Karachi is a key point on the drug supply routes, a senior official of the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC) has said.

Speaking to journalists about the World Drug Report on Tuesday, Cesar Guedes said this year the number of adults who were dependent on drugs had increased for the first time in six years. The number of such people now stood at 29 million.

“Pakistan is considered the main transit country for narcotics produced in neighbouring Afghanistan (heroin and opium in particular) and Karachi is the city... that had a key position on the transit routes,” he said.

According to the UNODC estimates, approximately 43 per cent of the Afghan opiates are trafficked through Pakistan.

The UNODC official praised Pakistani law enforcement agencies for their efforts in controlling drug trafficking along the Pak-Afghan border.

Mr Guedes and Aijaz Ali Khan, the head of the interior ministry’s narcotics division, said that despite numerous problems the Pakistani authorities had played a key role in reducing the demand for drugs.

Mr Khan said the government would soon introduce a new strategy aimed at reducing drug supply through effective international cooperation.

“We have served the world by making huge seizures in the last few years. Last year, we seized 342 tonnes of narcotics, priced $2.5 billion internationally,” he said.

Mr Guedes said the border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan was largely of porous nature, and despite that and challenging security situation in Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Fata, the Pakistani autho­rities had worked remarkably well.

The gathering was informed that the widespread availability of drugs in Pakistan was making it easy for people, especially youth, to experiment and become dependent on drugs. The social and economic impacts of drug use on families, society and the country are enormous, further increasing the burden on health services related to drug treatment and treatment of drug-associated diseases such as Hepatitis B and C and HIV.

According to the report, about five per cent of the adult population, or nearly 250 million people aged between 15 and 64, used at least one drug in 2014. Although substantial, this figure has not grown over the past four years in proportion to the global population.

The report, however, suggests that the number of people classified as suffering from drug user disorders has increased disproportionally for the first time in six years. There are now over 29m people within this category (compared to the previous figure of 27m). Additionally, around 12m people inject drugs, with 14pc of these living with HIV. The overall impact of drug use in terms of health consequences continues to be devastating.

The report said that while drug-related mortality had remained stable around the world, still around 207,000 deaths were reported in 2014 – an unacceptably high number of deaths which were preventable if adequate interventions were in place.

Heroin use and related overdose deaths appear to have increased sharply over the past two years in some countries in North America and Western and Central Europe.

Overall, the report notes, opiates continue to pose the highest potential harm and health consequences among major drugs. Cannabis remains the most commonly used drug at the global level, with an estimated 183m people having used it in 2014.

Prisons remain a high-risk environment for infectious diseases, and the prevalence of HIV, hepatitis and tuberculosis among persons held in prison can be substantially higher than among the general population.

Published in Dawn, August 24th, 2016