WE are watching a tragedy unfold — the curse of substance abuse and addiction hits every fourth household in Karachi. This was revealed by officials of the Sindh Task Force on Demand Reduction of Drugs and Harmful Substance Control to Sindh’s caretaker health minister on Saturday. It must be remembered that, according to a UN report released in October 2022, 7.6m people are addicted to drugs in Pakistan. Even more disconcerting is the knowledge that the scourge saturates educational institutions as severely as it does poor street children. Hence, the authorities must abandon their complacency and shortsighted crackdowns. The crying need of the hour are circumspect, holistic strategies that tackle socioeconomic pressures, routes, supply chains and rehabilitation of victims. Or else, a vast swathe of our next generation will go up in smoke.
Pakistan’s narcotic cloud is an upshot of the country’s failure to abide by the international conventions it ratified, such as the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961, and domestic legislations, including the Control of Narcotics Substances Act, 2022, which stipulates maximum penalty in instances where drugs are peddled in or near educational facilities. Admittedly, law enforcement does try to plug smuggling routes, but the paucity of resources and personnel often puts a damper on their actions. What makes the situation worse is that reports of drug cartels busted by the police and the ANF rarely result in convictions and details of legal actions against pushers. Only swift trials can ensure that fear of punishment becomes a deterrent, and the onus of a transparent process is on provincial governments. At the other end, offenders and addicts are not the same. The latter are patients in need of a sensitised security apparatus that prioritises treatment before penalty. Moreover, addiction ripples past victims and engulfs families. Rehabilitation programmes centred on collective therapy with support groups are the only way to cauterise this malignant menace.
Published in Dawn, November 30th, 2023