An argument for the establishment of Operation Radd-ul-Manshiaat
Putting forward cogent arguments for the biggest problems faced by Pakistan today, highbrow intellectuals – both on television and in drawing rooms – discuss worthy nodi such as poverty, lack of education, exponential debt, the widening balance of trade, corruption, terrorism – it’s a never ending list that just goes on. Rather, one of the most significant but less talked about problems faced by Pakistan today is the mounting number of drug users amongst the youth. With a youth population of over 60%, Pakistan is among the few privileged states in the world to have this incredibly rich ingredient to make a successful country. But the future remains stoned in the hands of around over 9.1 million drug users.
More than 700 people die every day in this country due to drug–related complications making the deaths related to drugs greater than those caused by terrorism. Yet, this remains an issue hardly, if ever, discussed in mainstream media or by political parties. This number has been on a rise for decades, a trend aligned with the bottom-line profits of drug cartels fully backed and supported by powerful and wealthy magnates. Moreover, the police and drug mafia have colluded to ensure easy availability of illegal drugs all over Pakistan.
“A friend with weed is a friend indeed” – Pakistan and Afghanistan
Afghanistan is the largest producer of cannabis (mostly as hashish) in the world. With a Durand Line stretching across 2,430 KMs (1,510 mi) the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan is regarded as one of the most dangerous borders in the world where the southern region of Helmand and Kandahar provinces on the border with Pakistan are the highest-volume areas of drug transactions.
Cannabis is listed as the most commonly used drug in Pakistan and it is estimated that there are almost 6 million cannabis users addicted to smoking high-grade hashish called “chars” or consumed as a drink called “bhang”. Hashish has become commonly available across Pakistan and almost anyone who wants it can get it from a local dealer, without much of a hassle. Since it is extremely cheap and easily accessible, the abuse of cannabis is fairly high and has augmented the number of addicts from urban population mostly from within the school-going age bracket.
Afghanistan is also regarded as the largest opium poppy producer that goes into more than 90% of heroin worldwide. Pakistan’s illegal drug trade is believed to generate $2 billion a year making Pakistan the most heroin-addicted country, per capita, in the world. A country rife with homeless addicts and dirty needles there are more than 35 lakh (3.5 million) Pakistanis between the ages of 15 and 64 who use heroin regularly. In one recent survey of regular injecting opiate users in Pakistan 73 percent of respondents reported sharing a syringe, and it is estimated that about a third of those are HIV-positive. In 2007, Pakistan had an estimated 90,000 injecting drug users and the number has now risen to around 600,000.
What’s the harm? More than we’d think…
Talking of the reasons behind the increasing number of drug addicts at an alarming place in Pakistan, experts have identified key risk taking behaviours that may involve experimenting with narcotics, smoking, alcohol, social isolation, stress, anxiety, depression, peer pressure (bad company), struggle to achieve a modern lifestyle, unemployment, excessive pocket money by parents and fashion amongst a few others. Some factors are driven by society and others are enticed by human behaviour. But the eventual impact of drug abuse affects not only the individuals who take drugs but also their families, friends, various businesses, economic cycle, environment, security and government resources.
The most common phenomenon in our society is our benign attitude towards drug addicts. We abandon them in wilderness and feel sorry for that one individual. What we fail to reckon is the impact that one individual will eventually have on the future of this entire country. The use of drugs in a society is more of a multiplier effect that brings the youth in shambles of hopelessness, despair and an introduction into the world of crime. Majority of the street criminals and suicide bombers have all been under the influence of high-calibre drugs while it remains the biggest source of revenue for terrorists as well as organized crime.
Many argue opium was the prime cause behind the destruction of a “family life” in China, heroin and crack destroyed the “blacks” in the United States while all these drugs are more common than ever before in Pakistan, will it impact to sidetrack the economic freight train and cause a major dent in human capital of Pakistan? We all hope not.
This growing trend of drug addiction is like a time bomb that needs to be defused before it is too late. The future of our generations remains in the hands of legislators and military men to either fight terrorism and crime or fight the root-cause behind it. Perhaps this is a call for “Operation Radd-ul-Manshiaat”.