ISLAMABAD – President Asif Ali Zardari on Tuesday called for creating a regional mechanism for exchange of information and coordination and to establish a drug court in the region to fight the illicit drugs trade.

Addressing the session of Regional Ministerial Conference on Counter-Narcotics here at the Aiwan-e-Sadr, the President said that the merchants of death did not recognise any political, geographical, ethical, or legal boundaries and were destroying the youth, no matter what passport they possess.

He urged the participating countries to develop pragmatic ways of strengthening regional cooperation among the concerned national agencies, especially to disrupt the nexus between narco-money and financing for terrorism.

Zardari said that the heroin trade did not flourish in vacuum and it was linked with the terrorist networks in the region.

He said that the money from the heroin trade was being used to finance terror operations.

He said that the illicit drug trade was now challenging the very foundations and posed a serious threat to all the countries in the region.

Zardari said that the drug mafias had a nexus with terrorist organisations and crime syndicates. They were linked with arms smuggling, human trafficking and money-laundering, he stated. The President said that the heroin trade had grown across borders and was spreading death and destruction in the name of ideology.

“It is threatening the security of our countries,” he said.

He also recounted various measures taken against the narco-trade and said that Pakistan had accorded high priority to the efforts aimed at fighting the illicit drugs.

He said that at the policy level a new national Anti-Narcotics Policy in 2010, a 5-year Drug Abuse Control Master Plan, and an Inter-Agency Task Force on Narcotics Control had been created.

As a result, the President observed, Pakistan became a poppy free country in 2011. He said that today Pakistan was among the top countries in terms of seizures of opium and heroin.

Reiterating that narcotics challenge transcends national boundaries, the President said that no individual country or organisation could overcome it single-handedly.

He said that everyone had stakes in the success of this campaign and peace and well-being of the people and the security and stability of the region depended on success against the drugs.

Earlier,the two-day regional Ministerial conference decided to enhance cooperation in the efforts against narcotics trade.

The delegates including Ministers from Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, China, India, Islamic Republic of Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russian Federation, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan who attended the conference.

The ministerial session, jointly chaired by the Foreign Minister and the Minister for Interior, adopted the conference declaration on Tuesday which recommended establishing a hotline among the concerned anti-narcotics agencies as well as a Regional Contact Group that will develop a comprehensive and sustainable mechanism to counter the national and regional threats posed by narcotics.

The Regional Contact Group shall become operational by the start of 2014 after finalisation of its Terms of Reference in the intervening period. The Group will focus on developing a comprehensive regional counter-narcotics strategy.