The 2015 World Drug Report has been released by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) on Friday. The position of Pakistan in the international trade of opiates is alarming. The report states that opiates originating in Myanmar are unable to meet the demand in South-East Asia, and thus the “southern route” is increasingly important. The southern route is a conduit for smuggling Afghan heroin southwards from Afghanistan through Pakistan or Iran. The other route is the Balkan route to smuggle Afghan heroin into Europe and there are indications of heroin being trafficked from Iraq rather than from the Islamic Republic of Iran. Pakistan is right at the centre of an international network. While Pakistan is indeed a hub for transport, Afghanistan is the main problem, producing over 6000 tons of opinion in 2014, out of a total global figure of approximately 7500 tons. Almost all of the 6000 plus tons are trafficked through Pakistan.

Not only is the problem an international embarrassment, it is a public health disaster for Pakistan. The report states that there are very high levels of sharing of needles and syringes among people who inject drugs in prisons (56 per cent in Pakistan). South-West Asia has the highest prevalence of HIV among countries with people in possession of drugs with intent to distribute (PWID). The largest proportion of these people live in Pakistan. The Russian Federation, China, Pakistan and the United States (in descending order), when combined, account for nearly 63 percent of the total global estimated number of PWID living with HIV.

The reports highlight the global problem of drug production and ways to break the cycle. Poverty and organised crime are key culprits. With Pakistan being a hub, the first issue to tackle is that of organised crime, especially in Karachi. With the Rangers and the Army involved in the on going clean up of Karachi, it is hoped that drug mafias will also be tackled. While it might be premature to link drug mafias to dominant political parties without clear proof, it is naïve to assume that trafficking on such a global scale is not supported by people in high places. Somebody is making a ridiculous amount of illegal money from this booming economic activity. If it was not a problem of power and patronage, organised drug crime might have been dismantled much sooner. Additionally, the source must be stemmed. Afghanistan needs to play its part and there has to be diplomatic lobbying by Pakistan on this matter. Terrorism is not our only shared demon.