Drugs are quite a taboo subject especially for those in Pakistan, a country who is predominantly Muslim and has a strict culture. Nonetheless, taboo or not, this problem must be regarded. Many may be alarmed when they hear that Pakistan was and currently, still is, the heroin capital of the world. “But what does Pakistan’s heavy drug addiction have anything to do with social injustices,” you may ask? It is now clear that substance abuse is one of the major underlying causes of a long list of social problems the country is facing today which range from homelessness to education.
Let’s begin with the main question: where do Pakistanis get access to the heroin from? According to J.T. Quigley, a reporter from The Diplomat, “The booming drug trade, which goes hand-in-hand with local Islamist groups, has transformed Peshawar from a city popular with tourists for its outdoor bazaars to a violence-ridden wasteland.” Not only is heroin damaging the tourist economy, it is causing cities to succumb to violence, terrorism, and disease.
According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in a report titled “Drug Use in Pakistan 2013”, a majority of Pakistanis who are using drugs are becoming drug dependent, specifically 4.25 million people. The more unfortunate news, however, is that the country could only provide treatment programs and facilities for about 30,000 of them. Consequently, the other 4.2 million people are left on the streets with no jobs, no education, and are looking towards crime and even worse, terrorism, to escape their poverty. The Pakistani government is doing little to nothing about this, debating that there is no relationship between terrorism and drug trafficking. However, others such as Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Khan, have recognized an apparent link between the two. The links between narcotics and terrorism are quite evident in the war. In states such as Balochistan and Peshawar, violence and murder is of regular occurrence.
The negative consequences of this are immense and are setting the scene for even worse issues in the near future such as public health. Every day, about 700 people die from drug abuse. Quigley continues by saying that, “intravenous drug use is a popular conduit for the transmission of bloodborne disease if the needles are shared – another increasingly common practice.” Since 2005, Pakistani drug users who have been tested HIV positive has almost quadrupled.
With stakes this high, it is more than necessary to first recognize the problem. So many people, even at the lower level, turn their heads when it comes to drug abuse such as security guards who watch this happen in their cities and homes but do not say anything. More importantly, politicians such as Ghalib Bandesha and Zafar Iqbal, need to stress the issue rather than ignore it. The rise in drug cultivation, trafficking, smuggling, and addiction signifies that the narcotics problem in Pakistan is only worsening.