LAHORE - College and university students have become prime target of drug peddlers, particularly in the big cities of the country. The drug overdose deaths of young people, reported by police in recent years, indicate the problem is growing rapidly.

Last month, a university girl was found dead in the hostel room in Lahore’s Johar Town. The 20-year-old resident of district Sialkot was the student of a private medical university here.

According to police investigations, the girl died from drug abuse. There were no torture or injury marks on her body. But, the signs of syringes were visible on her arms. Also, investigators and forensic experts seized “white-powder” wrapped in Rs10 currency note from the room.

Following discovery of her body, the roommate of the victim told the police that Rozina was a drug addict. The latest drug overdose death was reported by Lahore just weeks after Federal Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry revealed that the use of ‘ice-drugs’ among students was on the rise.

The federal government has already ordered a crackdown on peddlers at educational institutions. Several arrests have been made in the big cities since the police launched the crackdown. But, the authorities have failed to check supply of drugs or narcotics to the students at educational institutions.

In February, a girl of a private university died in a similar incident in Raiwind. Hifsa Irfan was a resident of Faisalabad. The first-semester student was studying at a private university and she had been living at a hostel near Arraiyan Village.

According to Mahak, her roommate Hifsa was busy at the laptop when she went to sleep in the afternoon. However, when she got up later and asked Hifsa to wake up for the dinner she did not respond. The girl made hue and cry and called in other students.

Then, Hifsa was rushed to a hospital located inside the university where she was pronounced as brought dead. According to police, there were no torture marks or injury on the body of Hifsa. An official said that the family had refused to initiate any legal proceedings. Therefore, the family left for their hometown for burial as police handed them over the body after fulfilling legal formalities. The lady doctor (who examined the body) stated that there was no kind of bodily harm, or injury.

In 2016, two university boys died due to overdose in different hostels located in Lahore’s Raiwind and Defense areas. Initial police investigation had revealed that the young men suffered cardiac arrest as they took drugs in excessive quantity.

One of the victims was the student of BSc (Honours) at a private university in Lahore. Police said Shah Mir overdosed and died in the university’s hostel room. The young man arrived in Lahore from Karachi for education but he died during the third year of his university education. Investigators stated that apparently, the boy died either because of heart attack or of drug overdose.

In November 2016, forensic investigation revealed the PML-N worker, Samia Chaudhry, died after taking narcotics including cocaine in excessive quantity. The 38-year-old political worker overdosed and died in the Lahore’s Chamba House where she had been staying for weeks. The Punjab forensic science agency submitted its reports to the Lahore police investigators stating that the lady died “because of taking narcotics in excessive quantity.”

According to insiders, the trend of using narcotics for pleasure is growing among the political elite and students of colleges and universities. Police sources say several state-run guesthouses, hotels, and hostels have become safe haven for smugglers of narcotics.

In Lahore, at least 30 to 40 people, mostly drug addicts, are recovered dead from different parts of the metropolis every month. Drug or ecstasy-related deaths are not rare in this most populated province. According to government estimates, around seven million people in Pakistan are addict to different drugs but activists say the actual numbers could be much higher.

Last year, city police had revealed that there were more than 1100 narcotics dens in Lahore. But, according to insiders, thousands of drug dealers are openly doing the business in the provincial metropolis which has become the drug capital of the Punjab province.

Lahore is divided into six police divisions on administrative grounds. The city police division which also comprises walled city is the most drug infested town. Inside the Lahore’s old city, drug-pushers are seen selling narcotics in streets like candy or sweets.

Hundreds of dealers are openly peddling narcotics mostly “charas and opium” from the city police division. Tibbi City, Gowalmandi, Yakki Gate, Ravi Road, Lorry Adda, Badami Bagh, Shafiqabad, Nolakha, Taxali Gate, Mochi Gate, Data Darbar, Shadbagh, Misri Shah, and Shahdara areas have become safe haven for drug pushers.

Ironically, these localities are also known as the worst-hit places in Lahore as far as drug abuse is concerned. The narcotics smuggled to Lahore from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, is first supplied to the dealers in such pockets from where they push the stuff to the underground markets in Lahore and other districts of the province.

The calculation suggests mushroom growth of criminal dens during the last decade. In 2008, the whole Punjab province had been housing only 792 prostitution, gambling, and narcotics dens. Now, the provincial capital alone houses no less than 1900 such nests of criminals. The data also exposes the “police culture” in the biggest province where the business of narcotics, prostitution, and gambling flourished alarmingly during the last ten years.

In the Punjab capital, tons of narcotics are supplied to dealers who freely sell the stuff in connivance with the local police. In addition to the police, the excise and taxation department and anti-narcotics force are also helpless before the drug mafias.

During the last couple of decades, the ICE and charas addiction has been growing among the youth. Even, the drug peddlers are freely selling narcotics to the students in colleges and universities. This terrible trend is gaining momentum in the metropolis.

This situation should be an eye opener for the provincial and federal governments. The scenario also depicts the gloomy picture of the Punjab province where the use of drugs among young people is rising exceptionally.

Both the government and educational institutions should launch a fresh campaign to educate the young generation about drug abuse or ecstasy-related deaths in order to save previous lives. The law enforcement agencies should also intensify crackdown on drug dealers to make Punjab a drug free province. Those selling drugs to students must be identified and brought to justice.