SPEAKING to a counter-narcotics conference on Tuesday, the president called for regional efforts to eliminate the drug trade. A contact group has been formed in this regard and the initiative seeks to target all stages of the illicit trade — from the cultivation of raw material to the trafficking of the end product. This is an important step as Pakistan, partly due to its geography, is a major transit point in the global drug trade. Afghanistan to our west is considered the world’s largest opium producer and according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, around 40 per cent of Afghan opiates end up in or transit through Pakistan. This situation has had very negative consequences on Pakistan; considerable numbers (estimates range from 500,000 to over a million people) in this country are struggling with heroin addiction while the drug trade is also big business for the Taliban and criminal groups. Also, UNODC says that Pakistan is a “known destination and trans-shipment point for precursor chemicals — substances used in the production of drugs”. Ephedrine, over which there has been much domestic uproar, falls in this category.
It is welcome that a regional approach is being applied to the problem. Yet simultaneously, we need to put our own house in order. On paper our anti-narcotics policy is fine, but the problem occurs in its implementation. Better efforts need to be made to prevent the transportation and transit of illegal drugs through Pakistan. Spots along the Balochistan coast and the area along the Afghan border need to be particularly monitored. The manufacture of drugs in mobile labs must also be addressed while the Anti-Narcotics Force’s capabilities, specifically its ability to gather advance intelligence, must be vastly improved if Pakistan is not to be considered a major conduit for international drug smuggling.