OPIUM AND HEROIN IN PAKISTAN
Pakistan is significant transit area for Afghan drugs, including heroin, opium, morphine, and hashish, bound for Iran, Western markets, the Gulf States, Africa, and Asia. Financial crimes related to drug trafficking, terrorism, corruption, and smuggling remain problems.Opium poppy cultivation was estimated to be 930 hectares in 2015. Federal and provincial authorities continue to conduct anti-poppy campaigns that utilizes forced eradication, fines, and arrests. [Source: CIA World Factbook, 2020]
Narcotics have become a multiple challenge to law enforcement authorities. In the late 1980s, Pakistan and Afghanistan exported nearly half the world's heroin, and, although their relative share declined somewhat thereafter, they remain among the world's major producers. [Source: Peter Blood, Library of Congress, 1994 *]
Neighboring Afghanistan is the world's largest producer of opium and heroin by far — to such a degree is almost has a monopoly.. Afghanistan accounts for around 90 percent of global illicit opium production and provides 85 percent of the estimated global heroin and morphine supply. Afghanistan opium poppy cultivation increased from 154,000 hectares in 2012 to 209,000 hectares in 2013. It reached almost 328,000 hectares in 2017. In 2000, Afghanistan cultivated 82,000 hectares of opium poppies, yielding 3,275 metric tons of fresh opium. Large sections of the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan are in lawless tribal regions where the Pakistani government either has little or no influence or control. Thus drugs can very easily be smuggled from Afghanistan into Pakistan for use there or in their way to somewhere else.
Terrorism, separatist movements, the military and politics have all been tied the drug trade in Pakistan and Afghanistan. According to an Interpol report drugs are closely linked with insurgencies in Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Pakistan and Burma. Instability in these countries has fanned the drug problem in Europe. In reference to fundamentalist groups like the Taliban in Afghanistan, one Interpol official told Newsweek, "The warlords have become drug lords." In the mid-1990s, a Pakistani air force commander was arrested in New York on drug charges.
Pakistan and the International Heroin Trade in the 2010s
Matthew Green of Reuters wrote: “Few in Pakistan or abroad know the country is home to a suspected major player in a US$68 billion global opiates industry. In Afghanistan, poppy production has surged since the Taliban’s ouster in 2001. Pakistan, by contrast, has sharply reduced cultivation of the crimson flower from which opium and heroin are derived. But Pakistani cartel bosses remain central to the heroin trade, and convicting them has proved much harder than eradicating poppies. [Source :Matthew Green, Reuters, September 5, 2012]
“A flood of drug money taints politics, corrupts officials and swells a vast illicit economy. From the opium fields of southern Afghanistan to the tidal creeks of Balochistan’s Makran shore, traffickers haul a slice of the global heroin supply worth roughly US$20 billion a year, according to U.N. estimates. Manufacturers stamp their bags of product with signature symbols of scorpions, lions or snakes.
“Some US$1 billion to US$1.5 billion of the revenue is retained by trans-shippers in Pakistan, the United Nations says. Much of the rest enriches middlemen ferrying the narcotics to Asia, Africa, Europe and Russia. “We are a victim of this drug,” Rehman Malik, Pakistan’s interior minister, said in an interview. “We are worried that drugs, arms and ammunition and terrorists are coming across the border.” With opium prices near record highs and NATO troops scaling back in poppy-growing areas ahead of a handover to Afghan forces in 2014, the industry’s prospects look bright.
Up until the 1990s, Pakistan was a major opium producer when it was part of the Golden Crescent. It is not such a large producer anymore but it still some players in the drug trade, some of whom date back to the Golden Crescent days.
The Golden Crescent encompasses a region in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran. It was the largest opium growing area in the world but now production is almost exclusively in Afghanistan. In the 1990s, Pakistan's production alone was estimated to be 300 or 400 metric tons a years. At that time most of Pakistan's opium and heroin ended up abroad but by the late 1990s the addiction rate within Pakistan began shooting up. At that time one government narcotics official described the situation as very serious, more so in the countryside than the cities. "In northern Pakistan," he said, "now you can find whole villages on hashish or opium."
Much of the Golden Crescent's opium has been raised on land controlled by the Pashtuns. For the most part border doen't exist in Pashtun territory in Pakistan and Afghanistan. A lot of the opium and heroin produced in Afghanistan is made by Pashtuns on Pashtun land and these Pashtuns have contacts with Pashtuns in Pakistan.
Before the Iran Revolution in 1979, much of the heroin produced from opium cultivated in the Golden Crescent in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran was processed in laboratories in Iran. After the hard line Islamist regime came to power in Iran, it cracked down on heroin and opium production but there are
Opium production in Afghanistan exploded after the Soviets left in 1989. To some degree opium that was in Pakistan began shifting to Pakistan at that time. As part of their effort to combat Communism, the C.I.A. helped devolve the opium trade in Afghanistan as part of their campaign against Russia. The Taliban, which came to power in Afghanistan in 1996, both abetted and cracked down on opium cultivation but overall opium production was relatively low during their years in power as it was after the American invasion in 2002. After 2002, opium production — and heroin production — in Afghanistan steadily increased as the Taliban reasserted itself and needed sources of revenues to support areas it controlled and supply its militancy.
Opium Production in Pakistan
Opium poppy cultivation in Pakistan was estimated to be 930 hectares in 2015, compared to 183,000 hectares in Afghanistan. It used to be much higher. Opium poppies were grown in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (formerly North-West Frontier Province) on an estimated 2,500–3,000 hectares (6,200–7,400 acres) in 2003. At that time the government was working in cutting cultivation and discouraging trade in opium, which had been reduced by over 95 percent since the mid-1980s. [Source: United Nations, CIA World Factbook, 2020, “Worldmark Encyclopedia of Nations”, Thomson Gale, 2007]
Opium has been grown in remote valleys around Peshawar. In the North-West Frontier Province, terraces with poppies were alternated with ones with wheat. In 1983, a kilo of opium sold for around US$30 in the Siah valley, five times higher than anything else. There were no narcotic laws in the town of Darra, which is famous for its huge gun and weapons market. Hashish and opium were sold openly there and still can easily found. Up until 1979 Pakistan had licensed opium shops where Pakistanis could buy up to 23 grams of opium a day. The closing of these “vend shops” forced the country's addicts to turn to the illicit sources.
Largest illegal opium producers in 1983: 1) Burma (60,000 hectares under cultivation produced 600 metric tons); 2) Iran (20,000 hectares, according to 1980 statistics); 3) Afghanistan (20,000 hectares); 4) Pakistan (4,500 hectares); 5) Mexico (4,100 hectares); 6) Thailand (3,500 hectares); 7) Laos (3,500 hectares); 8) Egypt (300 hectares).
Illegal opium production (tons in 2000); 1) Afghanistan (3,276); 2) Burma (1,087); 3) Laos (167); 4) Columbia (88); 5) Mexico (22); 6) Pakistan (8); 7) Thailand (6); 8) Vietnam (2).
History of Opium Production in Pakistan
Opium smuggling and cultivation, as well as heroin production, became major problems after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. The war interrupted the opium pipeline from Afghanistan to the West, and Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's crackdown on drug smuggling made shipment through Iran difficult. Pakistan was an attractive route because corrupt officials could easily be bribed. Although the government cooperated with international agencies, most notably the United States Agency for International Development, in their opium poppy substitution programs, Pakistan became a major center for heroin production and a transshipment point for the international drug market. [Source: Peter Blood, Library of Congress, 1994 *]
Opium poppy cultivation, already established in remote highland areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (formerly North-West Frontier Province) by the late nineteenth century, increased after World War II and expanded again to become the basis of some local economies in the mid1980s . Harvesting requires intensive labor, but profits are great and storage and marketing are easy. The annual yield from an entire village can be transported from an isolated area on a few donkeys. *
When National Geographic Edwards asked an opium grower in the 1970s if he used the drug, the grower said , "Oh, no, it is bad for the health." When Edwards ventured that some of the opium from the poppies may end up in the United States, the opium grower grinned and said "It's possible." At that time opium growers earned two or three times a year more than the average Pakistani. [Source: Mike W. Edwards, National Geographic, January 1977]
Decline of Opium Production in Pakistan
Pakistan essentially ended opium production. It produced 800 tons of opium in 1979 and virtually nil in 2000. In 1979, when opium cultivation was declared illegal, 80,000 acres of opium poppies were planted in the North-West Frontier Province. In 1984, fewer than 6,500 acres were said to remain.
Some of the credit for opium production reduction goes to a relatively successful poppy eradication program run by the United States over two decades. Beginning in 1981, United-States-funded crop replacement programs were launched that offered villages in opium-growing regions improved roads, water and electricity and fertilizer and low-interest loans if they grew cash crops such as wheat, pomegranates, barley, potatoes and apples instead of opium.
The Pakistani government kicked in by investing on roads, water system, education and other infrastructure and took other measures to provide services and jobs for people in opium growing areas. This was accompanied by aggressive campaign in which soldiers were sent into opium growing areas to enforce bans and restrictions on opium growing.
Opium poppy yields, estimated at 800 tons in 1979, dropped to between forty and forty-five tons by 1985, but dramatically rose to 130 tons in 1989 and then 180 tons in 1990. Yields then declined slowly to 175 tons in 1992 and 140 tons in 1993. The area under opium poppy cultivation followed the same pattern, from 5,850 hectares in 1989 to 8,215 hectares in 1990. It reached 9,147 hectares in 1992 but dropped to 6,280 the following year. The caretaker government of Moeen Qureshi (July to mid-October 1993) was responsible for the reductions in production and area under cultivation; the succeeding government of Benazir Bhutto has perpetuated his policies and declared its intent to augment them. [Source: Peter Blood, Library of Congress, 1994]
Heroin Production in Pakistan
In the 1980s, Pakistan was the world's largest exporter of heroin. Laboratories in Pakistan processed opium grown in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran. Most heroin produced in Pakistan was made with opium grown in Afghanistan near the Pakistan border and smuggled into Pakistan.
According to a 1992 C.I.A. report, "Heroin is becoming the lifeblood of Pakistan's economy and political system." At that time it was estimated that Pakistan exported between 65 and 80 metric tons of heroin a year (worth around US$1.5 billion on the streets of America). Much of the heroin from Pakistan was made from opium that originated in Afghanistan or Iran.
Heroin is produced mostly in illegal labs located deep in the remote places. Often they are little more than shacks, set up temporarily in the mountains, with some modest lab equipment, plastic basins, rubber tubing, bottles of chemicals, picnic table and simple presses. Sometimes they are quickly thrown together to fulfill a single order and can be quickly taken down if authorities are seen in the area.
A typical lab keeps the chemicals necessary to produce the morphine and heroin stored in industrial drums. These include calcium hydroxide, needed to cook the raw opium into morphine; hard-to-get acetic anhydride, needed to make heroin; ammonium chloride, which transforms the morphine into low-grade No. 3 heroin; and volatile ether which turns the brown heroin into 90 percent pure No. 4 heroin. The heroin is processed into one kilo bricks, sometimes stamped with logo of the producer . One kilo of crude morphine paste is produced from 10 to 12 kilos of opium. One kilo of paste can be transformed into one kilo of heroin by treating it with acetic anhydride.
Heroin Trafficking Pakistan in the 1990s
The main drug trading operations in Pakistan in the 1990s were: 1) the Lahore-based Haji Baig Organization; 2) Quetta Alliance (Quetta is a small city in Balochistan in western Pakistan near the Afghanistan border); and 3) the operation run by Ayub Afridi, a legislator.
Drug official believe that heroin from the Haji Baig Organization was transported from Lahore to Karachi, where it was loaded onto planes and ships bound for markets in the U.S. and Europe set up by Tariq Waheed Butt.
According to U.S. News and World Report: "Sources say Pakistani heroin enters the United States through New York, Newark, Los Angeles and San Francisco. It is distrusted here by close-knit groups, which are hard for police to penetrate, Their primary markets are cities with large Middle eastern populations, such as New York, Chicago and Detroit."
Golden Crescent heroin is often smuggled through India. Much of the heroin that leaves Karachi by ship or air courier is bound for London, Amsterdam or Frankfurt. Drug traffickers reportedly pay little attention to the Councils of Elders.
Quetta Alliance, Ayub Afridi and Haji Baig Organization
The Haji Baig Organization supplied large quantities of heroin and hashish to distributors in the U.S, and Europe. It was lead by Haji Mirza Iqbal Baig, a wealthy Pakistani industrialist who was in his 60s in the 1990s and was indicted in New York. Other major players in the operation were Anwar Khan Khattack (jailed in Pakistan in the 1990s) and Tariq Waheed Butt, a politician. [Source: U.S. News and World Report, October 3, 1994]
In 1994, the Haji Baig organization continued to thrive even though three of its leaders — Anwar Khan Khattack, Tariq Waheed Butt and Haji Baig — were all in Pakistani jails, fighting extradition to the United States. Haji Baig owned at least US$20 million in legitimate businesses such as textile mills, factories and shopping centers. He was indicted on drug charges in Brooklyn in early 1992.
Another major drug operation in the 1990s was run by Ayub Afridi, a former member of Pakistan's National Assembly who lived in a lavish fortified mansion protected by antiaircraft guns and 20-foot-high walls, Inside his compound Ayub Afridi had a zoo and a cattle ranch. According to officials, several thousand armed tribesmen will come to his defense if called. Afridi claims he made his millions in the crockery business and recently authorities said he took out a contract on a DEA agent who was investigating him.
The Quetta Alliance was a conglomerate of three closely-related heroin and hashish trafficking groups which imported opium from Afghanistan and the Northwest Frontier Province and refined it into morphine paste in Pakistan and shipped it to Turkey, where it was purified into heroin. The alliance was comprised of the Issa, Rigi and Notezai families, and headquartered near the opium-rich Helmand province in Afghanistan. In the Quetta Alliance. Mohammed Issa, an Afghan, helped to establish contacts in the west; the Rigis and Notezais handle the transportation of the drugs from Afghanistan to the Pakistani coast. In 1993, Sakhi Dost Jan Notezai was elected to the provincial assembly even though he was in jail on drug charges.
Imam Bheel: Pakistan's "Heroin Kingpin"
Imam Bheel, a businessman from the southwestern province of Balochistan, was regarded by the U.S. government as one of Pakistan’s biggest heroin traffickers in the 2010s. Matthew Green of Reuters wrote:Imam Bheel is “a man who Washington: said in the early 2010s was “a key gatekeeper in a heroin supply chain stretching from poppy fields in Afghanistan to street corners in the West.” In 2009, President Barack Obama had designated Bheel an international narcotics “kingpin” — ranking him with drug lords from Venezuela, Colombia and Mexico. The announcement drew scant attention in the Pakistani media and” Bheel “continued to live quietly in Karachi, untroubled by police. [Source :Matthew Green, Reuters, September 5, 2012]
“Bheel’s name is virtually unknown among diplomats in Islamabad, and only a small circle of agents are familiar with his alleged role in narcotics. “He’s been on the radar of law enforcement for a long time,” said a Western official. “Has anybody ever got close to touching him? No.” Bheel is a friend to senators and his eldest son is a member of the national assembly. Bheel himself once campaigned on behalf of a politician aligned with the powerful military. Yaqoob Bizenjo, Bheel’s eldest son, denies his father is a drug trafficker and says the United States has provided no evidence to support its claim. “He’s only a businessman. He’s not rich,” said Yaqoob, 30, who is a member of the national assembly.”
Bheel drug operation is partly based in Balochistan in “Makran, a smuggler’s paradise where lines between criminality and commerce blur....Bheel is not the only alleged trafficker in Balochistan, but he is said to be among the biggest. “Imam Bheel is a transporter. If people want a large chunk of stuff moved, he’s the man that can do it,” said the Western official familiar with Pakistan’s drug trade. “He provides the networks, the manpower and the contacts.” ”Everybody knows that he’s involved in drugs,” said Hasil Khan Bizenjo, a senator who knows Bheel, in comments that seemed to reflect the quotidian nature of the heroin industry in Balochistan. “He admitted it to close friends.”
Imam Bheel’s Rise in the Heroin Trade
Bheel’s life and rise to power in the Pakistan heroin trade was shaped by his father’s murder. Matthew Green of Reuters wrote: “His family comes from Balochistan, an alkaline moonscape of ash-colored hills and isolated towns wedged between Iran and Afghanistan. Covering almost half of Pakistan but home to less than 5 percent of the population, the province has a distinct identity dating back centuries. [Source :Matthew Green, Reuters, September 5, 2012]
“Nicknamed “the Stammerer” for his speech impediment, Bheel’s father was a trader with a reputation for padding his camel trains with boot-legged whiskey. His career ended abruptly in 1980 when a policeman shot him dead at a roadside restaurant, accusing him of killing his wife and son years earlier. His father’s death thrust Imam Bheel to the helm of the family business at a time when Afghan opium producers were seeking connections to global markets. Heavily armed convoys of four-by-fours began speeding across Balochistan’s desert before veering into Iran or offloading drugs onto Dhows plying the Arabian sea.
“Bheel, believed to be in his 60s, caught the attention of authorities in 1998 when investigators named him the suspected mastermind of a plane hijacking in Makran. When General Pervez Musharraf ousted Pakistan’s government the following year, the smuggler’s son saw a chance to wipe his slate clean. Bheel pledged to back Zubaida Jalal, a pro-Musharraf candidate running for a national assembly seat in Makran in 2002 elections, in return for her help to clear his name. Jalal, who had been Musharraf’s education minister, said she accepted Bheel’s support after he had assured her he was no longer involved in trafficking. “He said that he left that business behind many years back,” Jalal told Reuters. “I challenged him. I told him he should use his money to support welfare projects for the people. He never delivered.” After she won the seat, a court dropped the hijacking case against Bheel due to a lack of evidence, Jalal said.
“To many in Balochistan, the episode reinforced a perception the authorities would tolerate suspected heroin smugglers provided they supported the military’s political allies. “The army establishment is turning a blind eye to the drug business in return for their help to influence politics,” said Akhtar Mengal, a former chief minister of the province. “Imam Bheel is an example.”
Imam Bheel Profits When Rivals Are Arrested
Matthew Green of Reuters wrote: “Bheel’s star rose again when Pakistan returned to civilian rule at elections in February 2008 and his son won his national assembly seat. In October, Bheel got an even bigger break. Haji Juma Khan, who U.S. officials believed was then the world’s biggest heroin exporter, was lured to Jakarta and arrested in a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration operation. [Source :Matthew Green, Reuters, September 5, 2012]
“Ed Follis, a former DEA agent who orchestrated the Afghan’s arrest, said field reports suggested Bheel and other smugglers had jockeyed for market share in the resulting vacuum. “Imam Bheel played a key role in facilitating Haji Juma Khan’s trafficking activities,” said Follis, now working with the consultancy, 5 Stones intelligence. “With Khan out the way, Bheel seized the chance to expand.” Khan is awaiting trial in New York on charges of channeling drug money to the Taliban. His lawyer said he believes the case will be resolved and he will eventually be released.
In May 2009, the White House added Bheel’s name to a list of suspected narcotics “kingpins” subject to U.S. sanctions. The U.S. government does not publish the evidence it uses to support such decisions. The White House designation aims to prevent the biggest suspected drug smugglers from exploiting the U.S. financial system by imposing fines or jail terms on their business associates.
“After learning of the announcement in a newspaper, Bheel called Hasil Khan Bizenjo to ask what his “kingpin” status meant. Bizenzjo, a former member of Pakistan’s Senate committee on narcotics control, consulted the Internet. “I told him: ‘You can’t travel on American airlines, you can’t do any business with American banks’. At first he didn’t understand.” Then, he said, Bheel replied: “It’s okay, I don’t do any business with the U.S.”
“The designation did little to dent Bheel’s career. In 2010, he publicly pledged allegiance to the National Party, a small party whose stronghold is in Makran. Its leaders, who include senator Hasil Khan Bizenjo, want greater rights for Balochistan within Pakistan. Separatists see them as stooges of the military.
Murder Connected to Imam Bheel
Matthew Green of Reuters wrote: “One night in March,” 2012 “police found a body slumped in the back of a black Toyota parked in an affluent district of Karachi. The man, a prominent public servant named Abdul Rehman Dashti, had been shot in the face. His watch, ring and money were gone. Not far away, servants scrubbed blood from the driveway of an imposing house belonging to Imam Bheel, Camera crews rushed to the scene, and Deputy Inspector-General Shaukat Ali Shah named the suspected killer: Bheel himself. [Source :Matthew Green, Reuters, September 5, 2012]
But after that little happened. “The lack of action over the murder and Bheel’s links with politicians raise new questions over the extent of official tolerance for heroin smuggling in Pakistan and its corrosive influence on the volatile, nuclear-armed state. The Dashti case is remarkable not simply because of the sensational accusation: the suspected head of a heroin cartel invited a well-known administrator to his home and then shot him dead.” Dashtis’ family’s “frustration is compounded by a belief they have a solid case. The theory among police that Bheel was the killer hinges on the testimony of Dashti’s long-serving driver.
“According to the driver’s account, as relayed by Dashti’s relatives, Bheel called Dashti on his mobile phone and summoned him to his home at 30-B Khayaban-e-Tanzeem street in Karachi’s well-heeled Defense district on the evening of March 5. The two had a heated discussion on the phone before Dashti reached his compound. Bheel arrived a few minutes later. Dashti asked Bheel what was wrong while the two men were still standing in the car porch. Bheel did not reply. Instead, he raised a gun and shot him in the forehead, according to the Dashtis’ retelling of the driver’s account. The driver slipped away in a motorized rickshaw that took him to Dashti’s relatives.
“Investigators suspect Bheel’s men stripped Dashti’s body of valuables, bundled it into his car, then drove it 200 meters away, according to a police source familiar with the case. The sight of servants washing blood from Bheel’s driveway heightened their suspicions. Badly shaken by the episode, the driver has since fled Karachi for Balochistan...“Six months after Abdul Rehman Dashti’s murder, his family say they are resisting pressure from their community to seek revenge the old-fashioned way: a tit-for-tat killing. Instead, they nurse a hope the Supreme Court might reconsider their petition. “We have given our personal cell numbers,” Fida Dashti said. “No one has taken the trouble to call us.”
Going After Imam Bheel After the Murder
Matthew Green of Reuters wrote: “Shah, the deputy-inspector who first investigated the case, confirmed to Reuters the driver told police he saw Bheel shoot Dashti. Police went to Makran about a week later to arrest Bheel but could not trace him, Shah added. “The situation in Balochistan is very tense as far as law and order is concerned,” said Shah, who retired in June. Police named Bheel the suspect in their initial report of the murder, seen by Reuters, but have offered no official theory for a motive. Officers have wondered whether the pair may have fallen out over a business deal, possibly involving drugs. “The Dashtis say such speculation is baseless, but are at a loss to explain why the head of their family was killed.” [Source: Matthew Green, Reuters, September 5, 2012]
In the years before the murder: “While Bheel was making inroads with politicians, Abdul Rehman Dashti spent years in the backwaters of Balochistan. He eventually became the top official in Gwadar district, which covers much of the Makran coast, a major exit route for heroin shipments. Relatives remember a stern but good-hearted patriarch who exhorted his nephews to ‘love the pen, not the gun.’ Dashti and Bheel crossed paths in elite Baloch circles. With the close-cropped beard, flowing shirt and baggy trousers worn by many in Balochistan, Bheel was at ease among senior Baloch officials who attended a wedding feast for his son Yaqoob in 2006. Dashti was among the guests. “He has influence,” Fida Dashti said. “It’s obvious to a blind man.”
“After the murder, Bheel returned to his home area in Makran, a coastal strip along Balochistan’s Arabian seacoast, Baloch sources say. Far from placing pressure on Bheel, the case has underscored his growing confidence, a Pakistani intelligence official who has served in Balochistan told Reuters. “He’s the tycoon over there, the don,” he said. Dashti’s relatives have launched a public call for justice, their anger sharpened by the fact Dashti had known Bheel for 25 years. They came from the same part of Makran. People thought they were friends. “For us, he crossed the limit — he killed our brother,” said Fida Dashti, a slight man with a salt-and-pepper beard who spoke publicly about his brother’s murder for the first time to Reuters. “He can kill anyone he wants. We cannot sit quiet like other people, we have to raise our voice.”
“The Dashtis filed an application to the Supreme Court in May demanding an inquiry. Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry denied the request after reviewing a police report, a court official told Reuters. The judge is not obliged to explain his reasoning. Bheel’s son, Yaqoob Bizenjo, said he doubted his father shot Dashti, or was a heroin trafficker. “If he’s a drug dealer, why do people give me 61,000 votes?” said Bizenjo, speaking in one of the apartments allocated to law-makers visiting Islamabad, whose languid suburbs are a world apart from Baloch bandit country.
Balochi Separatists and the Heroin Kingpin
Matthew Green of Reuters wrote: “The most serious threat Bheel seems to face is not from law enforcement, but from insurgents fighting for an independent Balochistan. The guerrillas, who have killed other suspected heroin traffickers, accuse Bheel of tipping off intelligence agencies they say are waging a campaign to abduct, torture and kill suspected separatists. The military denies that. [Source :Matthew Green, Reuters, September 5, 2012]
“ Baloch nationalists have launched repeated rebellions since the territory became part of Pakistan in 1948, accusing Islamabad of exploiting their natural gas, copper and gold while denying them a fair share of power. Today, a new generation of separatists is waging an uprising overshadowed by the U.S.-backed army’s separate battle with Taliban militants along the Afghanistan border.
Guerrillas in Balochistan have declared war on drug traffickers. “Baloch insurgents accuse” Bheel “of using his network to help Pakistan security agencies kidnap, torture and murder suspected separatists. “He’s an asset of the Pakistani agencies,” said Allah Nazar Baloch, the leader of the Balochistan Liberation Front, which has stepped up insurgency operations in Makran. The BLF says its suspicions are based on testimony from villagers who say Bheel’s followers have visited their homes to inquire about individuals who have later disappeared.
“The bodies of hundreds of the missing have been strewn across Balochistan in recent years in what human rights groups call a policy of “kill-and-dump”. New York-based Human Rights Watch said in May 300 corpses had been found in the province since early 2011.
“The military denies reports security forces abduct separatists and says insurgents themselves receive drug money. “I do not maintain any links with criminals,” said Major-General Obaidullah Khan, head of the Frontier Corps in Balochistan, the main force in the province. “Allah Nazar is operating on the money that is provided by these smugglers,” Khan told Reuters in his headquarters in Quetta, the provincial capital. “Where is he getting these weapons?”
“The Pakistani intelligence officer said he doubted Bheel personally supplied tips to security agencies, even if he was in broad alignment with them. “Every other guy is willing to sell this information,” he said. “Why would I be talking to Bheel?” What does seem certain is that Bheel is on a rebel hit list. In 2009, the BLF sent a parcel bomb to Bheel’s son Yaqoob, wounding him and several others. Last year, their fighters killed a man reputed to be a significant member of Bheel’s syndicate.
Combating the Drug Trade in Pakistan
Like other countries of the region, Pakistan also faces significant challenges in the field of Transnational Organized Crimes (TOC s), requiring coordinated efforts by the national authorities in tandem with the international support, especially through capacity building. Though Pakistan is signatory to a number of multilateral treaties on TOCs including those related to drug trafficking and corruption, efforts are underway to enhance effective implementation of these treaties at the national level. UNODC has been working closely with the Government of Pakistan and civil society to fill this gap. A country program (2016-19) was signed between the government of Pakistan and UNODC in December 2016, highlighting commitment of the two sides to jointly work in the areas of illicit trafficking and border management; the criminal justice system and legal reforms; and drug demand reduction, prevention, and treatment. [Source: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime ]
Federal and provincial authorities continue to conduct anti-poppy campaigns that utilizes forced eradication, fines, and arrests. Pakistan, especially under United States prodding, has attempted to cut back the cultivation of poppies, but the government's influence has not extended effectively into tribal areas. In addition, various political and economic forces have been brought to bear to keep narcotics police from pursuing their work too assiduously. In 1991 the Pakistan Narcotics Control Board — an organization that was supposed to have close ties to the United States Drug Enforcement Administration — was so riddled with corruption that its new director had to fire a majority of the staff. The vast profits generated by the narcotics industry not only had corrupted the enforcement authorities, including, it was rumored, some military units, but also had funded many other related crimes. [Source: Peter Blood, Library of Congress, 1994; CIA World Factbook, 2020]
Pakistan's Anti-Narcotics Policy of 2010 is built around three pillars: (i) Drug Supply Reduction (ii) Drug Demand Reduction (iii) International cooperation. Efforts are underway to launch a new policy in the wake of new challenges emerging on the counter-narcotics front. Since 2001 Pakistan has followed a 'zero tolerance policy' toward poppy cultivation on its territory. The two-pronged policy built around law enforcement measures and alternative development met with extraordinary success leading to almost complete poppy eradication in the country.
Pakistan is geographically vulnerable to drug trafficking due to its borders with Afghanistan, the world's largest producer of illicit opium. In 2016-17, Pakistan seized a total of 2860 metric 1 tons of different types of narcotics drugs. The figure is expected to rise in view of phenomenal increase in poppy cultivation this year in Afghanistan, a development which poses enhanced interdiction challenges for Pakistan's law enforcement agencies.
At the international level, Pakistan remains an active member of the UN Commission on Narcotics Drugs (CND), and has contributed to global debate on World Drug issues based on its commitment to the principle of multilateralism and international cooperation. During the last CND session in Vienna, Pakistan tabled a resolution highlighting the issue of drug abuse in educational settings, which was unanimously approved by the Member States. National initiatives, in collaboration with UNODC, are being pursued to scale up measures aimed at preventing drug abuse in educational settings. "Pakistan has also become the first country in the region to develop an implementation roadmap for UNGASS, a feat achieved through effective support from UNODC.
B-Movie Actor Spends Two Years Pakistani Jail After Opium Arrest
Erik Anthony Aude — a 24-year-old Hollywood actor from California — spent two years in a Pakistan jail for possessing opium and was only released after a special U.S. envoy won hs freedom. The BBC reportedl: “He had been arrested at Islamabad airport in February 2002 trying to leave for Dubai and was later sentenced to seven years in jail. Aude, who had a role in the film “Dude, Where's My Car?”, said he had no idea the drugs were in his luggage. [Source: BBC, , 24 December, 2004]
Aude was found to be carrying 3.6kg of opium in his suitcase but has always protested his innocence. He was convicted in January 2003.His release followed an appeal by New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson. The governor's spokesman, Billy Sparks, told the AFP news agency: "Erik Aude's mother called me to say her son had been released and to thank Governor Richardson."
“An official at the Adiyala jail in Rawalpindi, said: "We received a new order from a court about his release and we freed him." Governor Richardson said he had intervened in a case that was "truly a miscarriage of justice". He had appealed to Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz after meeting Aude's mother. "I am especially happy for Erik's mother. Her nightmare is over and her son is coming home for Christmas," Governor Richardson said.
Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons
Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (tourism.gov.pk), Official Gateway to the Government of Pakistan (pakistan.gov.pk), The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Wikipedia and various books, websites and other publications.
Last updated February 2022