Non Military Threats to the Security of Pakistan -I Drug Cultivation and Trafficking

22 Apr, 1999    ·   187

D. Suba Chandran reviews the grave threat that drug cultivation and trafficking pose to the security of Pakistan

Pakistan is a part of the “
Golden Crescent
”. Along with Iran and Afghanistan it illegally cultivates poppy from which opium and heroin are derived. (According to the International Narcotics Control Strategy Report 1998, in 1998 alone Pakistan produced approximately 65 metric tons of opium). Besides poppy cultivation in its North West Frontier Province, Pakistan provides a major route for trafficking drugs produced in the other two countries of the
Golden Crescent
. Besides drugs cultivated in the three “Golden Triangle” Countries – Myanmar , Laos and Thailand also pass through Pakistan after crossing India



Drug Trafficking and Social Security: Drug cultivation and trafficking is normally viewed as a threat in terms of drug abuse and law and order problem. However the threats posed are manifold - it affects social, economic and political institutions. At the social level, drug trafficking results in increasing drug abuse. According to the Interior Minister Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, there are 4.3 million drug addicts in Pakistan . Besides, drug addicts are also involved in smuggling and prostitution. Secondly, drug trafficking also results in “Organised Crime” which is different from the normal criminal activities, as it involves corruption, money laundering and criminalisation of the political and legal institutions. Drug money in Pakistan is used to bribe the entire administrative, political and legal institutions, from the local police to the magistrates. There have been instances wherein the government forces have either refused to undertake anti narcotics raids or delayed the arrest of drug barons, or worse, conducted fake raids. There have also been instances in which magistrates have let the drug barons go free, and of elected representatives distributing poppy seeds to the cultivators. Organised crime thus creates a state within a state posing a serious  threat to the governance of Pakistan .



Drug Trafficking and Economic Security: At the economic level, Pakistan, in addition to rehabilitating drug addicts, also needs to spend more on anti narcotic drives and administration. For example, the latest five-year Drug Abuse Control Master Plan that was launched during February 1999, is to cost the government Rs. 2.8 billion for rehabilitation, reducing the production and supply of drugs, destruction of heroin labs, forfeiting drug related assets. Secondly, the drug money after being laundered enters Pakistan , resulting in inflation. This money mostly have been invested in real estates, increasing the cost of the land. Even though no precise studies have been carried out, it is believed that drug money forms one fourth of Pakistan ’s GDP.



Drug Trafficking and Political Security: At the political level, the threat from drugs is even more serious. There have been many instances when drug barons have become members of the Provincial and National Assemblies in Pakistan . Secondly, drug money has played an important role in no confidence motions, in securing support to passage of important bills - especially during 1990-1995, when neither the Nawaz Sharif nor the Benazir Bhutto government had a clear majority. Even more significant is the threat posed by drug money to the democratic process. With Pakistan already facing problems of governance and declining popular participation in the provincial and national elections, the narcotics-politics nexus will prove fatal to the democratic process. Thirdly, the narcotics – small arms connection renders any attempts by the government to find a solution to law and order and separatist issues, complicated. The drug barons in the NWFP are armed with weapons, including rocket launchers, and are willing to fight any governmental forces. Without drug money, the separatists would never have been able to get the arms that are freely available  in Pakistani society today. The situation is so grave that lethal weapons such as AK-47 and ammunition are available even for hire in Pakistan . In Karachi , among the various groups fighting each other, any one who claims responsibility and shows two dead bodies as proof can get an AK-47 free.



Even more dangerous is the nexus between the army and drugs. There were many instances in which the army personnel were caught trying to smuggle drugs in army vehicles. The best example is the arrest of a Squadron Leader in the US in April 1997 for smuggling heroin worth two million dollars in a Pakistani Air Force plane, in which he went to collect spare parts for F-16 aircrafts. This has two implications for the armed forces – drug trafficking for monetary benefits and drug addiction.



Unless Islamabad gives serious and immediate attention to this cancerous problem, it will soon find the issue getting and out of control and Colombia-like scenario developing.