ISLAMABAD - The army is set to launch a new war on drugs to deprive terrorist groups of one of their key sources of funds.

Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif said on Monday that drug producers and traffickers posed as great a threat to national security as terrorists and vowed he would break the link between the narcotics trade and the “perpetrators of terrorism”.

“We will not allow these drug barons to negatively influence and spoil our future generations”, he said during a visit to the Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) headquarters in Rawalpindi. The use of narcotics money to promote terrorism meant drug dealers must be treated with an ‘iron hand’, he added

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC) declared Pakistan ‘poppy-free’ three years ago, but it still estimated that 20 tonnes of pure heroin – a product of opium poppies – is consumed in the country every year. Much of this comes from war-torn Afghanistan, the world’s biggest opium producer.

Opiates were previously processed on both sides of Pakistan’s lawless tribal border with Afghanistan but 40 per cent of heroin produced in Afghanistan was sent to Pakistan for worldwide distribution.

Almost all heroin production shifted across the border into Afghanistan after the Pakistan Army escalated its military campaign against Taliban and al-Qaeda militants in the tribal areas. Many illegal laboratories and processing units were destroyed in its offensive.

ANF Director General Major General Khawar Hanif briefed the army chief on his organisation’s counter-narcotics operations and the current production and trafficking patterns in the region. The army chief was also told about the ANF’s strategy and efforts for ensuring drug-free society, challenges faced by the ANF and the Five Years Force Development Plan.

General Raheel Sharif praised the ANF for record drugs seizures in 2014 and 2015 which curb the problem in Pakistan and overseas. He also saluted its achievements in maintaining Pakistan’s poppy-free country status, since June 2012.

ARMY CHIEF VISITS FLOOD-HIT LAYYAH

APP adds: Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif on Monday visited flood-hit areas of Layyah and examined the rescue and relief operations there.

He directed that all steps must be taken to provide relief to the flood victims.

According to Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) press release, General Raheel Sharif visited Layyah and examined the rescue and relief activities in the flood-hit areas. He expressed grief over the losses due to the floods.

The Chief of Army Staff directed the commanders to stay alert for relief operation. He ordered to take all possible steps to ensure relief to the flood victims.

General Raheel also met the internally-displaced family from North Waziristan living in Layyah and assured them of respectable return to their homes.