PESHAWAR: The capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has become the main source of the supply of fake, unregistered and smuggled drugs to the entire province causing health issues.

The officials told Dawn that the illegal drug trade was widespread in the province but the fault lied in Peshawar from where the stuff was reaching the nook and corner of the province. They said the province had 50 drug inspectors, who were required to check around 12,000 registered chemist shops.

The officials said the illegal drugstores outnumbered the registered ones.

They said the chief drug inspector, a UK national, had been posted in Peshawar for 20 years, despite a health department’s report that he issued 600 fake drug licences in the city for sale inlargequantities.

The officials claimed that the wholesalers in Namak Mandi Market supplied fake, substandard and unregistered drugs across the province.

Officials say illegal chemist shops outnumber legal ones

They said the authorities were finding it hard to ensure convictions in drug cases due to the nexus of sellers and inspectors.

The officials said they had collected Rs15 million fine in 2018 from the sellers of fake and illegal drugs in the province.

“From Jan to July 2019, we have collected 4,896 drug samples and 186 of them were found to be substandard and unregistered. A total of Rs8.4 million fine was collected,” an official said.

The officials said since Jan this year, cases against 17 wholesale drug dealers had been registered for dealing in unregistered drugs on a massive scale from shops in Shinwari and Malak Taj markets in Karkhano Bazaar, the hub of unregistered drugs, but the accused got bail from the courts due to weak prosecution.

They said the stock seized by the FIA and district and drug authorities included sex drugs, antibiotics, analgesics and sedatives.

The officials said the sale of unregistered drugs was a dilemma due to the illegal border infiltration.

“We raided shops in Karkhano Market many times with the help of law-enforcement agencies and registered lots of FIRs but the courts gave the accused bail in first few appearances due to weak cases,” an official said.

He said cases continued to be investigated against offenders.

The officials said the Karkhano Market was previously part of the erstwhile Fata, where the provincial authorities weren’t allowed to carry out drug inspections.

They said not only pharmaceutical stuff but narcotic drugs, too, were sold there.

The officials said the market owners provided complete protection to the shops dealing in illegal drugs.

They said the health department gave instructions for joint raid with the district administration and local police for taking legal action under the Drug Act, 1976.

The officials said even the Namak Mandi wholesale market was replete with drugs smuggled from India via Afghanistan and most of them were sold in harsh weather after illegal transportation.

They added that such drugs might be spurious as they’re unregistered and their sale was legally prohibited.

The officials said last year, a total of 346 unregistered drugs were seized.

Sources said Peshawar required an active team of inspectors to register ‘solid’ cases against illegal drug sellers and register cases under Section 27 of the Drug Act to ensure convictions, fines and imprisonments.

They said from 2014 to 2018, 66,879 inspections were carried out, 1,471 drugs were declared substandard and 146 spurious, 2,322 drugstores were sealed, 72 FIRs were registered and 544 cases were decided by courts with the convicts being awarded fines and jail sentences.

The sources said given the veracity of illegal drug trade, the conviction rate was negligible.

Published in Dawn, September 8th, 2019