LAHORE - Drug sale is on the rise in Punjab capital city despite 30 out of 40 citizens have been sent to jail over drug charges, superintendent of Camp Jail revealed yesterday.

After devolution plan in 2010, Anti Narcotics Force (ANF) has been made as attached department of the Excise and Taxation Punjab to control Narcotics in the province. But, unfortunately, the Excise department has failed to control the sale of narcotics in the province and especially in Lahore. In fact, the department is encouraging the sale of spurious liquor in the city, which reflects from the interest of the department in a case wherein local police seized 30,000 litres of spurious liquor in the recent past.

The Excise department, taking only cosmetic measures, sealed the factory involved in illegal sale of the toxic liquor and reopened it just after six days.

In a handout issued on December 29, 2016, the spokesman for Excise department claimed that working of Excise department regarding enforcement and prohibition of sale purchase and consumption of illicit liquor and allied substances are established beyond any shadow of doubt especially in the wake of “Drug Free City Project, Lahore”. But the statistics gathered from jails of Punjab speak the volume of drug business in the city and province as well.

Statistics available with The Nation reveal that at present more than 6,000 prisoners were jailed under section 9 (c) of Control of Narcotics Substance Act 1997 in different jails of the province.

As per a report of United Nation Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) on drug use in Pakistan, approximately six per cent of the population, or 6.7 million people, had used any controlled substance including misuse of prescription drugs in the last year.

Due to its large share of the population, Punjab has the highest number of drug users and people who inject drugs (PWID) with 2.9 million people using illicit substances in the past year, and approximately 260,000 people who currently inject drugs . Moreover, approximately 80 per cent of PWID in Punjab share syringes regularly, whereas two thirds report doing so in Sindh and Balochistan, and half in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Excise Taxation and Narcotics Control (ET&NC) Secretary Dr Ahmad Bilal told The Nation that control of narcotics in the province could not be completed without involvement of society. He said that fund allocated for the new department was very small in size.

The Excise department has been renamed as Excise Taxation & Narcotics Control after devolution of powers to the provinces and a Director General is going to be appointed soon in this regard, well placed sources in Excise department said.

As per plan four model police stations were supposed to be established in the cities of Rahim Yar Khan, Mianwali, Rawalpindi and Lahore by July 2014.

But the issue was being delayed due to lack of finance and an excise officer seeking anonymity said, “We have sent a case for funds to finance department.” He added that the Provincial Narcotics Control committee and the chief secretary had approved the manpower, vehicles, weapons and police stations in May 2016. But, perhaps, the prime concern of the Punjab government was Orange Line train, the officer maintained.

It is worth mentioning here that the Government of Pakistan (GOP) is a signatory to all United Nations (UN) drug control conventions as well as the SAARC Convention on Drug Control. The GOP is working closely with the UN and other international partners to strive towards a drug-free Pakistan.