Addicts take drugs alongside a wall near Karkhano Market, Peshawar. — Dawn
Addicts take drugs alongside a wall near Karkhano Market, Peshawar. — Dawn

“It always scares me and my family members to see a swarm of heroin addicts on the roadside just down the railway line. The stinking smell of filth all over the area further puts us at health risk. Instead of making it a social place, Karkhano Market presents a sight of swindlers and drug users,” said Nadeem Malik, a resident of Lahore.

He has been visiting Karkhano Market for the last 20 years, most often with his family, earlier for foreign smuggled goods but now for Chinese items available at comparatively less prices.

Mr Malik complained that most costumers like him felt insecure and disgusted to see such a large number of drug addicts and dirt scattered all over.

Whether for local or non-locals, Karkhano Market is not a worthwhile place except individual plazas where the owners keep it neat and clean through their own arrangements.

Maria Ali of Islamabad visited Karkhano Market for the first time despite being a frequent visitor to Peshawar on her weekends. She said as to why the authorities were not taking notice of the bizarre environment around the biggest marketplace.

“I wonder where I am up to. Look at the free for all sight of drugs addicts. A busy marketplace like this is supposed to be secure, neat and clean. I don’t know how local residents can afford such an environment,” questioned Ms Ali.

Surprisingly enough, when this scribe tried to get photos of the large number of heroin addicts, many were reluctant to talk and as usual crouched onto a group and began smoking under the cover of a dirty sheet. Unexpectedly a young man suddenly got up , detached from his group and began beseeching for taking a photograph so that a God-fearing person come to his rescue and get him treated.

“I would be pleased if someone takes me out of this situation. I tried my best but my own family abandoned me since long. My name is Aziz Khan. I belong to Mardan and have been addicted to heroin for the last three years and now ice smoking,” he said.

Karkhano Market, the biggest business hub in Peshawar was founded in 1985 where around 22 shopping plazas with 5,000 to 7,000 business outlets are located. Since its inception, Karkhano Market has been enjoying a bad reputation for smuggled goods and variety of drugs. Owing to its close vicinity to Jamrud subdivision of Khyber Agency, the Karkhano is prone to proliferation and transportation of drug trafficking, weapons, illegal goods and terrorist activities. The local business community though absolved itself of all these charges and blamed the authorities concerned for the mess.

Wajahat Ali, a local trader, told this scribe that no businessman could think of any illegal activity because thousands of buyers visited Karkhano Market along with their families on daily basis for shopping. He said that no local businessman would like to create troubles for his customers.

“Nobody dealing in serious lawful business activity can even think of getting involved in buying or selling drugs. The officials concerned are responsible for what people see around the market. They are hand in glove with drug peddlers,” he alleged.

The trader said that increase and decrease of drug addicts depended on the rush of customers in the market. He said that Karkhano Market had been suffering from many problems -- the worst sewerage system, insanitary and illegal encroachment.

The sight of heroin addicts and drug peddlers swarming the railway track opposite Karkhano Market is a public knowledge.

According to local residents, drug addicts are a potential threat to people’s life and property as they have been found guilty of committing different crimes including drug trafficking , theft, robbery, kidnapping and even terrorist activities.

Ali Rahman Afridi, resident of Bara, said that Karkhano Market enjoyed popularity for high quality drugs and contrabands.

Murtaza Shah, a shopkeeper at Karkhano Market, said that around 200 multi-drug users, right under the nose of the authorities, perched on the railway track and remained busy in using variety of drugs including the newly invented horrific meth crystals commonly known as ‘ice’.

“Nobody knows who provides these fatal drugs to such large number of addicts most of them being unfortunate young men. Some of them are even from Punjab. The owners of the plazas have their private security arrangements but who will provide protection to these innocent customers,” questioned Mr Shah.

Another issue is the insanitary condition around Karkhano Market. Also there is no arrangement for public toilets and parking lot.

Gul Rahim Shinwar, who ran a cosmetics shop at Peerano Market, said that they were fed up with the drug addicts and dirt but helpless. He said that the unhygienic environment cast a bad impression on the visitors.

“We appeal to the officials concerned to take serious notice of the issues and resolve these forthwith. A drugs-free, safe and clean environment would help us to improve our business,” he said.

An official of Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) told this scribe on condition of anonymity that they had deployed vigilant force at the Karkhano Market checkpoint and kept an eye on everything including drug trafficking. He said that there were many unconventional ways through which drugs and other illegal items were smuggled from tribal belt to settled areas.

A representative of Dost Welfare Foundation, an organisation working against drugs abuse, told this scribe that controlling the criminal side of drugs abuse including its manufacturing, trafficking, selling and buying was not their legal jurisdiction. He said that the Dost Welfare Foundation conducted only counselling, de-intoxication, rehabilitation and follow-up treatment of drug users.

According to dwellers of the area, the responsibility of cleanliness of Karkhano Market rested with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Economic Zones Development and Management Company (KPEZDMC). They complained that they had never showed up for any cleanliness drive.

However, an official at KPEZDMC told this scribe that their teams regularly picked up garbage from Karkhano Market whereas workers of Water and Sanitation Services Peshawar also visited the area on volunteer basis for cleanliness.

Published in Dawn, July 9th, 2017