Pakistan Addresses Drug Menace through Wide-Ranging Policy Changes

Pakistan aims to be drug-free by 2020 under its 2010-2014 Drug Abuse Control Master Plan. Efforts have been made in this regard in both private and public sectors. Some charity-based organizations funded by UNODC, the Canadian International Development and Britain’s Department for International Development etc. are running rehabilitation centers that have seen more success stories. Furthermore, the techniques they use for therapy are humane and ethically sound. Therefore, the message of hope is strong and positive.

The drug epidemic began in Pakistan with the migration of Afghanis during the Afghan War in 1980s. Afghanistan is still the manufacturer of 75% of the heroin in the world. Thousands of Afghanis who crossed the border, also brought with them, their drugs.

Pakistan has always been willing to get tough on those involved in the drug trade. Pakistan has addressed the problem through wide-ranging policy changes, HIV prevention campaigns, and a support network for those struggling with addiction. Many programs are active in the country to help drug addicts and curb smuggling and availability of the drugs in the country.

Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) is the government agency responsible for tackling drug smuggling and use within Pakistan. ANF is constitutionally mandated to serve as Pakistan’s lead counter-narcotics entity.

Pakistan’s attention to institutional development to deal with drug menace brought good results. In 2015, Pakistan participated in the Paris Pact and Triangular Initiative, two multilateral mechanisms promoting international counter-narcotics coordination. The ANF conducted joint counter-narcotics operations with foreign counterparts, including the United Kingdom, Malaysia, New Zealand, and the United Arab Emirates.

Pakistan continued to host at least 32 foreign Drug Liaison Officers as part of its Paris Pact obligations. In addition to working with international drug liaison officers based in Pakistan, the ANF aspired to place officers in its embassies in important drug destination countries.

The ANF’s 2015 federal budget needs to be made satisfactory enough to support its daunting mission and strengthen its capacity to adequately perform key sustainability functions like operational maintenance of vehicles and equipment. Nearly 80 percent of the ANF budget is used to pay salaries. Moreover, the ANF’s 3,100 employees remain thinly deployed across some 40 stations and field offices spanning every province and administrative territory.

In 2013, the Ministry of Narcotics Control was merged with the Ministry of Interior (MOI), placing the ANF under the oversight of Pakistan’s largest internal security bureau. During 2015, the ANF chaired the quarterly meetings of the Inter-Agency Task Force, which is composed of 27 agencies and intended to enhance coordination and communication on drug control issues.

The ANF also partnered with DEA and the UK’s National Crime Agency to operate Special Investigation Cells (SICs). In 2015, the ANF Academy provided instruction to over 616 trainees from across Pakistan’s law enforcement community. As part of UNODC’s Container Control Program, the ANF and Pakistan Customs operated nine Port Control Units, while Pakistan Customs hosted regional training courses on risk profiling of containerized cargo. The 1931 Extradition Treaty between the United States and the United Kingdom, which applies to Pakistan, remains in force.

Pakistan also took strong steps for reduction in supply. It’s main opium poppy growing areas remain in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), FATA, and northeastern Balochistan. Insecurity in these regions has prevented the conduct of reliable ground surveying, hampering efforts to determine precise cultivation levels. In 2015, the ANF reported 977 hectares (ha) of poppy and eradicated 605 ha, leaving a balance of 372 ha that were not eradicated. U.S. government estimates for 2015 cultivation levels were not available at the time of this report. However, 2013 estimates indicated a significant increase in poppy cultivation, with over 4,000 ha in traditional growing areas like FATA and Balochistan. A partial survey in 2014 showed sustained poppy cultivation levels in the FATA and Balochistan. Alternative livelihood and development programs for farmers, including distribution of seeds, agricultural training, and construction of “small-scheme” irrigation mechanisms, have discouraged poppy cultivation in some communities of KP and the FATA. However, Pakistan depends heavily on foreign assistance to implement and monitor such programs.

The United States remains strongly committed to a multitrack approach to counter-narcotics assistance in Pakistan. U.S. supply-side assistance builds Pakistani capacity to interdict contraband and dismantle crime rings. The United States helps Pakistani law enforcement entities develop their capacity to conduct semi-sophisticated operations, such as controlled deliveries, financial crime investigations, and intelligent container profiling. The United States aims to help Pakistan cultivate a model for collaborative, intelligence-driven, and corruption-free law enforcement by directing assistance through elite units such as SICs. The United States also promotes initiatives that reduce demand, supporting Pakistan’s efforts to treat drug addiction and prevent its spread as a public health threat. Finally, the United States provides alternative means for farmers to grow licit crops instead of poppy, including the distribution of seeds, the construction of small roads, and alternative livelihood irrigation projects.

Over the past five years, U.S. supply-side assistance has mainly funded poppy reduction programs and ANF interdiction activities. In 2015, bilateral cooperation on interdiction programs improved between the U.S. government and the ANF.

In 2015, Pakistan intensified efforts to raise public awareness about drug abuse. The ANF lectured frequently at universities, colleges, and schools about drug awareness. With the aid of international donors, including the United States, local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) conducted drug awareness activities, many of which were focused campaigns targeting teachers, parents, youth, and vulnerable populations.

The inaugural Pakistan Drug Demand Reduction Stakeholder Meeting occurred in April 2015, which represented the first effort of its kind to bring together the country’s government and civil society to address substance use prevention and treatment in the country. Pakistani government and civil society representatives, alongside international organizations and the United States met to discuss the current demand reduction system and planned how to strengthen drug treatment and prevention services, staff training, and research and evaluation.

Pakistan’s focus on drug treatment capacities produced fruitful results. Over the past few years, donor-funded “train-the-trainer” programs have increased the number of Pakistan’s addiction centers that provide evidence-based treatment. Additionally, the United States has supported the strengthening of civil society drug demand reduction programs by issuing grants to NGOs in the treatment and prevention fields.

The ANF is conducting complex narcotics investigations with a small staff, while working within a judicial system where prosecutors and judges are overworked, underpaid, and often ill-prepared to successfully prosecute cases that involve modern investigative techniques.

In order for the ANF to meet its mandate, the Government of Pakistan should provide greater funding to the ANF and elements of the judicial system that try narcotics cases.

Zahid Rabbani

The writer is working as Assistant Editor with ‘Melange’ Magazine, ‘The Asian Telegraph’ & COPAIR

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