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Drugs in Pakistan

Pakistan's geographic location next to Afghanistan, the world's largest producer of illicit opium, places the country in a vulnerable position in terms of drug trafficking as well as drug abuse. Patterns of illicit drug production, distribution and abuse change as a result of social, economic and political developments.

Narcotics have become a multiple challenge to law enforcement authorities. In the late 1980s, Pakistan and Afghanistan exported nearly half the world's heroin, and, although their relative share declined somewhat thereafter, they remain among the world's major producers. Pakistan, especially under United States prodding, has attempted to cut back the cultivation of poppies, but the government's influence has not extended effectively into tribal areas. In addition, various political and economic forces have been brought to bear to keep narcotics police from pursuing their work too assiduously. In 1991 the Pakistan Narcotics Control Board--an organization that was supposed to have close ties to the United States Drug Enforcement Administration--was so riddled with corruption that its new director had to fire a majority of the staff. The vast profits generated by the narcotics industry not only had corrupted the enforcement authorities, including, it was rumored, some military units, but also had funded many other related crimes.

Pakistan's cultivation of opium poppy largely declined during the 1990's to near zero levels in 1999 and 2000. The commitment of the Government of Pakistan (GOP) to measures for eliminating opium poppy cultivation, together with alternative development projects funded by the international community, led to a decrease in poppy cultivation from approximately 9,441 ha. in 1992 to some 213 ha. in 2001. However, there was a reemergence of poppy cultivation, probably as a result of high opium prices following the Taliban's prohibition of poppy cultivation in Afghanistan in 2001. In 2003 poppy cultivation was reported at 6,703 ha., including for the first time cultivation in the Balochistan Province. The total area cultivated declined to 2,306 ha. by May 2007 as a result of concerted eradication efforts.

In the past, many opium processing laboratories were located in Pakistan, particularly in the Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP). These laboratories relocated to Afghanistan, to be closer to the source of opium and to avoid increasing law enforcement actions by the Government of Pakistan.

Pakistan is one of the primary transit countries for drugs from Afghanistan and hence knowledge of new routes and evolving methods of drug trafficking is essential for successful interdiction. In 2007, law enforcement agencies seized 13,736 kg of heroin/morphine base, 101,069 kg of cannabis and 15,362 kg of opium (down from the 2006 seizures of 35,478 kg of heroin heroin/morphine base and 115,443 kg of cannabis and up from the 2006 opium seizures of 8,907 kg). Intelligence on groups involved in drug trafficking and their links to other crime groups is also key to controlling drug trafficking.

Afghan heroin transits India en route to international markets and continues to be trafficked from Afghanistan through Pakistan, with seizures frequently reported at Pakistanís international airports. Some heroin is smuggled by sea on vessels leaving the port city of Karachi. Morphine base is transported overland through Pakistan and Iran, or directly to Iran from Afghanistan, and then into Turkey, where Turkey-based trafficking groups convert the morphine base to heroin prior to shipment to European and North American markets. Shipments of Afghan-produced morphine base are also sent by sea from Pakistanís Makran Coast. Smuggling routes north through the Central Asian States, then across the Caspian Sea and south into Turkey also are used.

While the area cultivated in Pakistan during 2007 was equivalent to only around 1.2 percent of the area cultivated in Afghanistan, there is a risk that cultivation in Pakistan could increase substantially unless there are sustained efforts to dissuade farmers from planting poppy and to destroy opium crops before they are harvested.

The problematic areas in terms of poppy cultivation are largely concentrated in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). Concerns about losing community acquiescence in counter terrorism operations and a lack of available security forces due to ongoing counter terrorism operations in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border areas are factors that hamper the eradication efforts in FATA. Eradication efforts need to be improved, particularly in Khyber Agency where there is a trend towards cultivation within walled compounds to conceal the crop from the authorities.

In 2010, Pakistan continued to be a major transit country for opiates and hashish originating in Afghanistan. It was also a producer of opiates from approximately 1700 hectares of illicit poppy. Drug trafficking and addiction were strongly associated with instability and lawlessness on Pakistanís 1500-mile (2430km) border with Afghanistan. The rugged, remote, lawless border separating Pakistanís Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Baluchistan Province from Afghanistan is ideally suited for drug traffickers, who smuggle approximately 150 tons of heroin and 80 tons of opium across the border annually.

Throughout 2010, the Pakistani Taliban and allied militant groups remained an active and determined insurgent force in the tribal areas in the northwestern area of the country that borders Afghanistan. The Pakistan Army and Frontier Scouts committed thousands of troops to the fight and achieved some success in clearing militants from the settled areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Province and the Swat Valley. Militants and government forces hotly contested the tribal agencies of Bajaur, Mohmand, Khyber and South Waziristan. The ongoing violence and military necessities relegated counternarcotics to a secondary effort in these regions. Pakistanís federal Anti Narcotics Force (ANF), the governmentís lead anti-drug agency, only rarely extended its reach into the tribal areas. The ANF, along with the Frontier Corps, was present in Balochistan, which borders Afghanistanís major drug producing provinces, Helmand and Kandahar. Given the enormous distances and the nature of the terrain, law enforcement and other barriers to trafficking were spread thin.

Pakistan remained a major transit country for opiates and hashish originating in Afghanistan in 2011. Pakistan also continues to be a producer of opiates from illicit poppy grown mostly in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). Heavy traffic at the three official border crossing points contributes to the difficulty of surveillance and detection efforts. The border has dozens of unsupervised crossing points and is crisscrossed by unmapped and uncontrolled trails. The sheer volume of drugs transiting this country of approximately 185 million people, along with its deep-seated economic and social problems, fuels a domestic drug addiction problem. The countryís law enforcement and judicial structures are under-financed and often fail to cooperate among themselves. Corruption in Pakistan is widespread. Throughout 2010, The Pakistani Taliban and allied militant groups remained an active and determined insurgent force in the tribal areas in the northwestern area of the country that borders Afghanistan.

In 2011, GOP law enforcement and security forces reported seizing 3.8 metric tons of heroin, 2.59 metric tons of morphine, 22.80 metric tons of opium, 3.3kg cocaine and 173.75 metric tons of hashish. In 2011, the ANF reported having destroyed over 1,000 hectares of the approximately 1,700 hectares that the UNODC reported were cultivated in Pakistan in 2010. These reports have not been verified because much of the area where poppy is cultivated is in the restive FATA. Law enforcement agencies reported 85,471 arrests in narcotics cases nationwide and authorities registered 83,902 cases. Many of these arrests were of small-time traffickers and drug users, accounting for the large numbers arrested. During the same period, there were 7,183 convictions in narcotics cases. Since many seemingly strong narcotics cases are reversed on appeal, the ANF supplemented its in-house prosecutors by hiring private lawyers to argue appealed convictions. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) continues to advise ANF on the use of conspiracy laws to prosecute major traffickers.

Corruption is widespread in Pakistan. Government officials as well as the political opposition, press, and the judiciary have acknowledged that it is a major challenge to law enforcement and the business climate. An independent judicial system and a sizeable press investigate and expose corrupt practices, but often with limited consequences for those involved. While parliamentary oversight committees and executive branch agencies also work against corruption, their overall effectiveness is mixed. Pakistanís corruption challenge also increases its vulnerability to drug trafficking, principally through bribes to officials to allow the unchecked movement of people and goods. Narcotics traffickers are not thought to have major influence on senior-level government policy or law enforcement.

Pakistan is likely to continue to serve as a major narcotics transit country, as long as the production of narcotics in Afghanistan continues at current levels and Pakistanís border region with Afghanistan remains porous. The influx of narcotics into Pakistan has already fueled and will almost certainly continue to fuel an increase in drug use among Pakistanis, adding to social and economic ills in a country already burdened by security challenges and poverty. Unemployment and underemployment are high and the economy struggles to create employment for Pakistanís constantly growing population.

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Page last modified: 13-09-2012 19:15:53 ZULU