ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Thursday summoned the director general of the Anti Narcotics Force (ANF) on a petition that seeks to ensure drug-free educational institutions in the capital.

IHC Justice Aamer Farooq observed that since the ANF director had not made an appearance in this public interest issue despite repeated court notices, the ANF director general should appear to assist the court.

Islamabad Deputy Commissioner Hamza Shafqaat appeared before the court and sought time to devise a comprehensive plan. When the legal adviser of the Private Educational Institutions Regulatory Authority (Peira) was asked about steps taken to ensure schools are free of drugs, he said the matter is under consideration.

The court directed Peira to include ‘drug-free environment’ in its regulations.

Kashif Ali Malik, the counsel for the NGO Lucky Foundation, which has filed the public interest litigation, told the court that the Higher Education Commission has not submitted its report yet.

The petition cites a United Nations survey from 2013 titledDrug Use in Pakistan, which says that 4.25 million people were using substances and require structured treatment for drug use disorders.

The survey was carried out by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime in collaboration with the Ministry of Interior, Narcotics Control and the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics.

The petition also cites a study titled Influence of Drugs on Students Performance: A Qualitative Study in Pakistan University Studentsthat was published in the Interdisciplinary Journal of Contemporary Research in Business.

Mr Malik argued before the court that drug abuse affects the freedom and development of young people.

He suggested that educating students about the dangers of drug use as well as its moral and religious implications would likely be more beneficial than increased policing. He also argued that since high school students were more vulnerable to developing such habits, efforts to control drug abuse should focus on them.

The petition also cited a survey of 44 educational institutions including some public sector schools, the report of which was presented in a Senate Standing Committee on Interior meeting in October 2016, that claimed that 43pc to 53pc of students at elite schools were addicted to drugs.

The petition said: “Increasing trend of drug consumption poses a very serious threat to the lives of thousands of students at various educational institutions within Islamabad.”

It said the availability of drugs on campuses has become a problem that requires immediate attention from the concerned authorities.

Published in Dawn, November 8th, 2019