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I would like to quote results of one more study and then we move to sum up our discussion on the topic of drug abuse in Pakistan.
This 2018 study was conducted on addicts admitted in the rehabilitation centers of Islamabad. A total of 102 male patients were interviewed, whose mean age was 28.4 years (+ 9.8). 14% were aged between 15-20 years. 35% initiated drug abuse during teen years. 60% were skilled, and 47% with secondary education, and 8% were students. Heroin was the most abused substance (48%) followed by Cannabis (28%). Mean duration of substance abuse was 1 to 5 years; 8% had history of over 16 years of abuse. Family disputes and peer pressure were the most common reasons for initiation of substance abuse. 46% patients reported to suffer from comorbid depression.
Drug Abuse/Substance Abuse is a worldwide problem which needs united efforts from all nations. Though all countries have this problem but suffering of people is not always a priority of the governments. Drugs business is a multibillion-dollar industry, and from the poppy grower to the small drug pusher on the street, everyone is making his livelihood with it. In some South American countries, whole towns are literally owned by drug lords who run the system while the government looks on helplessly. There are drug wars and people get killed regularly. The most favored drugs destination is USA where the market size is big, and the prices are good. Occasional seizing of consignments and catching of carriers has not deterred anyone yet. Several years ago, reports became public which alleged that CIA brought drugs on the US market, raised cash, and spent it to buy arms for insurgents in Nicaragua; means, one wrong deed was done to support another wrong deed.
Drug Enforcement Agencies do work hard to deter the smuggling of drugs; governments try to stop poppy cultivation, and it does have a positive effect. However, drug makers and smugglers try to stay a step ahead in technology and tactics.
The Narcotics Policy of 1993 established a number of agencies and drug enforcement mechanisms. However, there was no efficient mechanism in place to keep a check over the activities. The Anti-Narcotics Policy 2019 was devised to address the prevailing issue of drug abuse in Pakistan and changes in the global narcotics environment that had emerged since the 1993 narcotics policy.
The Ministry of Narcotics Control oversees the formulation and coordination of Pakistan’s Anti-Narcotics Policy. To address the underlying causes of drug abuse, the government and society must create a socioeconomic environment and values that limit the space for drug abuse. The last survey was conducted in 2012 with results showing that over 6 million people were involved with drugs in the country.
The existing resources (staffing and finances) available within the ANF are not adequate to interdict the movement of these drugs in a wide geographical expanse. The ANF has a vast area of responsibility. Pakistan has over 2,500 km of porous border with Afghanistan and approximately 900 km with Iran. This is in addition to the 1,062 km long coastal belt and a 1600 km border with India. There are seven official border entry / exit points in addition to eight international airports, three seaports and 11 dry ports. The ANF has a round the clock presence at all the international airports and seaports; however, the dry ports and border entry / exit points are checked by the ANF at random and on the basis of intelligence received. The ANF’s border control responsibility is shared with other law enforcement agencies including Frontier Corps Balochistan and NWFP, Punjab and Sindh Rangers, Pakistan Customs and Pakistan Coast Guard. The importance of inter-agency cooperation can therefore not be over-emphasized. Despite common knowledge that illicit drugs are trafficked through Pakistan, reliable estimates of the types, quality and number of illegal movements and their origin and destination is inadequate. For this reason, cooperation between regional and national law enforcement agencies in sharing real time information on drug trafficking needs to be enhanced.
Prosecutions and Convictions
During 2000-2001, Government of Pakistan established 5 dedicated Narcotics Courts. They were created to expedite the judicial process, and free up time of prosecuting agency so that they could pursue more cases. During nine years, over 5,000 cases were registered. However, only 1,900 could be convicted. Prosecution of criminal cases in Pakistan remains long, drawn-out affair. Judges grant long extensions, defendants file appeals to delay the process, and witnesses are reluctant to testify. Most cases that go to court and get convicted involve only low-level couriers, while their lords stay behind and safe. Bigger cases always involve influential people who are mostly able to get court decision delayed inordinately, or overturned.
The Way Forward
This series of posts is not intended as a policy document, but logically, work needs to be done/reinforced in three directions.
Narcotics Policies at the federal level must be updated regularly in the light of the new information. This is not happening. Successive governments in the last twenty years or so have been severely embroiled in political wheeling-dealings and did not have the time, focus and energy to look at this critical subject. If the international attention is not drawn constantly, chances are that this area will be neglected even more.
Drug Enforcement Agencies, Law Enforcement Agencies and Judiciary need to work together to catch, prosecute, and convict the traffickers quickly and strongly. Our LEAs are seriously politicized which has hurt their unity. A large portion is deployed for personal security and protocol of VIPs which is a huge drain on their resources. It is important to spare their capacity to make them physically available. The agency personnel need to be constantly trained so that they can match the prowess of traffickers. The commitment of traffickers is always very high because their life hangs with it; the same not be the case with DEAs, and LEAs. This difference plays significant role while implementing the writ of law.
Society must get actively involved. Awareness, screenings, assessments, treatment, and rehabilitation is not possible without the participation of society. It is not an easy task, and it may attract some threats also, and adequate steps must be taken to deal with the exigencies.
Drug Abuse is so important because it damages and disrupts the families, and in turn, impacts social fabric. It is not just the problem of families suffering due to addiction of a family member, it is the problem for the whole society and country. Please come forward and play your role.
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