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ISLAMABAD: An exchange between the head of the Anti-Narcotics Force and PML-N Senator Chaudhry Tanvir Khan livened up a meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Narcotics Control on Tuesday.

During the meeting, ANF Director General Maj Gen Musarrat Nawaz Malik remarked that the force aimed to make the country drug-free.

Earlier on, Khalid Gardezi, the joint secretary of the narcotics control ministry, had told the committee that 40 to 45pc of drugs manufactured in Afghanistan pass through Pakistan, either being consumed within the country or smuggled elsewhere.

Production of drugs increased by 63pc in 2017, committee on narcotics control told

In response to Mr Malik, Senator Khan asked whether he meant that the force sought to make the country drug-free, or to make drugs free in the country.

Mr Malik replied that his goal was to make the country free of all drugs including ephedrine, referencing the recent conviction of PML-N leader Hanif Abbasi in the ephedrine case by an anti-narcotics court.

Senator Khan then asked about other trials in the ephedrine case, and why their decisions had not been announced. Mr Malik said there are six ongoing ephedrine case trials.

“In the case of Musa Gillani, there are 121 witnesses and so far 15 to 20 statements have been recorded. We cannot suggest that the court announce the decision at the earliest, however the decision can be announced within weeks if the court starts hearings on a day-to-day basis,” he said.

“We cannot do anything if cases are heard for six years. However, I do not want to say more on it as it can be considered contempt of court,” he added.

Production of drugs increased by 63pc in 2017, the committee was told.

Narcotics Control Secretary retired Capt Arif Nawaz Khan said the cultivation of poppy was continuing in Afghanistan despite the present of the Nato, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

Mr Malik said the matter was taken up with Afghanistan, but poppy is being cultivated in areas outside the control of the Afghan government.

He added that 12 alleged drug smugglers were killed in raids in the last eight months, while 154 metric tons of drugs were confiscated in 2017 and 50 metric tons had been confiscated so far this year.

“Although I should have 10,000 officials, I have less than 3,000 across the country. Iran has 32,000 officials in a similar force, but my department’s performance is almost 50pc that of Iran’s despite the fact that my force is less than 10 times [the size],” he said.

A total of 2,600 cases are in court, and cases filed by the ANF have a 95pc conviction rate, Mr Malik said.

“Moreover, we had a few helicopters donated by the United Kingdom but all of them have been grounded because of the unavailability of funds for their maintenance,” he said.

He also told senators that the National University of Medical Sciences (Nums) had requested that the ANF give them 8,000kg of marijuana to make cancer medication, while opium is used in Yunani medicine and no one is aware where it is acquired from.

“We have not provided the chars to Nums because it could trigger a controversy, but there should be some procedure for it and these things can be handed over officially. The committee should look into it, as we do not want to be defamed,” he said.

Committee chairman Senator Kauda Babar assured the ANF that the committee would play its role for an additional force and for the release of funds to overhaul the force’s helicopters.

Published in Dawn, September 12th, 2018