The Punjab government has made plans to be tougher on the narcotics trade in the Punjab. In a joint operation between the Anti-Narcotics force and Excise Department it has plans to target about 150 existing drug dens and 1,500 drug dealers. The problem of drug usage is the biggest source of the spread of HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C due to infected syringes. Though Punjab is planning to crackdown on drugs, the problem will never go away until the supply of narcotics is targeted. This is, of course, the responsibility of the Federal Government and other provinces need to take tougher stances. Drug abuse is most prevalent in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where 11 percent of the population uses drugs with Sindh coming second at 6.5 percent.

Afghanistan is the largest poppy cultivating country in the world, producing not just opium and heroin but crystal and morphine. Our 2,430 km-long porous border puts Pakistan in the centre of international drug cartels as the major transit route, not just to the Middle East but to India as well. It all started in the 1960s when gold was smuggled from across the border into India soon to be replaced by narcotics. The drug trade is now a hereditary business for families scattered across 100 or so villages located along the India-Pakistan border in Punjab. In fact, small consignments are thrown directly onto the Indian side while larger packages are packed tightly in clothes, strung together and pulled across the border through a plastic pipe. With the transit of narcotics in such great numbers, there are serious allegations that factions of state institutions are complicit.

The other thing to worry about is Balochistan becoming a new ground for poppy cultivation switching over from wheat, barley and vegetables. Growing lawlessness in Afghanistan in and near the provinces of Kandahar, Helmand and Zabul has resulted in drug lords moving their operations across the border. This will be a major setback for Pakistan, as poppy cultivation since the 1980s has been under control. It could become a very complicated problem. The drugs trade has fuelled the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan for decades. If Balochistan becomes a hub for opium production, it will further complicate issues of Balochi separatism and state violence.