LAHORE - As many as 1,906 prostitution, gambling, and narcotics dens are actively operating in the provincial metropolis, Lahore police revealed last week.

The calculation suggests mushroom growth of criminal dens during the last eight years. 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.

Out of total 792 dens at least 299 were related to gambling, 350 of narcotics dens, and 143 were brothels, according to the “Black Book” prepared by the Home Department in 2007 with the field support of the Special Branch.

The data also exposes the “police culture” in the biggest province where the business of narcotics, prostitution, and gambling flourished alarmingly during the last eight years. This situation should be an eye opener for those who are in the government in Punjab since 2008. The scenario also depicts the gloomy picture of the province where the PML-N government had promised police reforms in their campaign manifesto in 2008 and 20013.

As per police calculation, there are 10 gambling, prostitution, and narcotics dens found in the limits of every police station in Lahore. Out of total 1906 different dens located in Lahore, at least 1123 deal in drug-peddling, 318 in prostitution, and 465 in gambling.

Lahore city is divided into six police divisions. Out of total 447 such dens in the city police division, 153 are related to gambling, 71 to prostitution and 223 to drug peddling. Reportedly, there are 411 dens located in the cantonment police division including 64 related to gambling, 44 to prostitution, and 223 to the sale of narcotics.

Similarly, the Sadar police division houses a total of 330 dens including 47 of gambling, 78 of prostitution and 205 of drug selling. In Model Town police division, at least 277 dens are located including 44 of gambling, 53 of prostitution and 180 of drug peddling. The Civil Lines police division houses at least 229 dens and 212 of them are being run in Iqbal Town division alone.

It is yet unclear whether the Lahore’s hotels, guesthouses, and massage centers were included in these total 1906 dens or not. The city’s downtown has become the hub of drug-peddling. Most of the gambling dens are located in the Walled city while the posh areas appeared to be the safe haven for prostitutes.

The most active and largest gambling dens are operating in the limits of Data Darbar, Islampura, Sanda, Naulakha, Qila Gujjar Singh, Shahdara Town, Race Course, and Badami Bagh police areas.

The crooked business deals at brothels, gambling dens, and narcotics are on the rise in many parts of the city particularly in the walled city and posh areas. The city, Iqbal Town, Model Town, and Sadar police divisions are said to be the safe heavens for those running gambling dens and brothels, thanks to the local police for patronising such criminals.

According to a recent study conducted by The Nation, most of the gambling dens are operating in the posh areas of the metropolis including Model Town, Faisal Town, Ghalib Market; Defense A, Defense-B, Gulberg, Sabzazar, Johar Town, Wapda Town, Faisal Town, Iqbal Town, and Satu Katla police areas.

Several dens are also being run by individuals in Gowalmandi, Mozang, Samanabad, Shadman, Nawan Kot, Mughalpura, Baghbanpura, Hanjarwal, Chuhng, Naseerabad, Kot Lakhpat, and Factory Area police precincts. The posh neighbourhoods especially Model Town, Gulberg, Defense and Johar Town have virtually emerged as hub of brothels and drug peddling.

According to insiders, right from the station house officers to the sub-divisional police officer all are paid their ‘share’ by those who run guesthouses.

Many of the guesthouses and hotels located in the posh localities have turned into prostitution dens where the clients are also served liquor and narcotics. Defense, Gulberg, Faisal Town, and Johar Town are the areas, where many of the guesthouses are, in fact, running brothel business.

Some policemen call the evils of prostitution, gambling, and drug-pushing as “social crimes” while the others term it as a “paid crime.” It means that nobody can run gambling or prostitution dens without giving due share to the area police on weekly and monthly basis.

Some police officers, who served in Lahore for many years, contradicted such claims, stating that there were more than 10,000 prostitution, gambling, and narcotics dens operating in this sprawling metropolis.

The city police chief has assigned “special tasks” to the field police officers with regard to the crackdown after the police prepared the new lists of active gambling, narcotics, and prostitution dens.

Some officials say the new lists are nothing except eyewash. Everybody knows who runs gambling dens in Data Darbar, Gowalmandi, Samanabad and Iqbal Town police areas. But nobody dares to carry our raids on such dens since they are being run by influential people.

The low-ranking policemen even cannot think of raiding such dens. The regular visitors at these dens appeared to be real estate agents, traders, drug dealers, and government officials working in the corruption-riddled departments.

Clamping down on paid crime has always appeared as a hard nut to crack because criminals run these dens with the connivance of the police. Only time will decide whether the police have launched the crackdown on paid crimes on permanent grounds or it is being taken for the time being.