There are not many things that politicians or institutions in Pakistan would agree to a common policy with, but when it comes to issues such as the drug epidemic in Pakistan, our institutions often hold hands to counter such social ills together.
After the Parliament and provincial assemblies introduced on the floor several bills to curb drug use, the Punjab Police, in June 2017, took effective action by establishing a Narcotics Investigation Unit (NIU) in Lahore to better fight the menace of drug abuse. Nine months later, this development has proved so successful that the Punjab police has decided to expand the operation of NIU to the entire province after the conviction rate in drug peddling cases in the Lahore unit jumped from 16 per cent to 85 per cent.
Breaking down the investigation of drug crimes to the NIU provides for a much more efficient and transparent process for curtailing drug crimes. The NIU team introduced reforms in investigation and prosecution process to ensure that maximum punishment was awarded to culprits, something which was needed to curtail the drug epidemic that had become prevalent in the city. This process also allows for more transparency and due process, as investigators associated with the NIU were not authorised to conduct raids for the arrest of the accused. Instead, personnel of the operations wing could lodge cases, conduct raids and then arrest criminals. The NIU detectives would then conduct investigation, collect evidence and pursue the cases in courts, allowing for a more fair process of law.
Specialisation of drug crime investigation is also a relief for the police, which is already overburdened with investigation of crimes, other than the overload of drug cases, which amounted up to 4000 per annum cases in Lahore alone. Taking this burden away from the police not only gives the police breathing room, and allows the investigation to be more fair, but also limits the abuse of authority and of the police that can occur in drugs cases.
While dealing with drug cases, it is important to remember to target the cause of the drug epidemic and not the symptoms. Thus, it is more efficient to curb the selling source than targeting the individual users. In that way, this policy allows a more effective solution, by getting at the source, than laws targeting individuals, such as those which stipulate drug testing in colleges and universities.