Apr 6, 2010

Paper to practice

Political will is a must for implementing National
Anti-Narcotics Policy 2010

By Sheher Bano

Pakistan is a major transit country for opiate produced in Afghanistan. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) estimates that 40 percent of all the heroin and morphine trafficked out of Afghanistan transits through Pakistan. The UNODC reported in 2009 that opiate trade in Pakistan was valued at about USD 1 billion. The 2006 National Assessment of Problem of Drug Use in Pakistan estimated that the prevalence of opiate use in Pakistan is around 0.7 percent of the adult population. The same report estimates the number of opiate users at 628,000 of which 77 per cent (482,000) are chronic heroin abusers. According to the National Survey on Drug Abuse 1993, carried out by the Pakistan Narcotics Control Board, there were 3 million reported drug addicts in the country. Recent figures estimate about 6 million addicts in the country, although the fresh, exact data is not available.

The government formulated its first Anti-Narcotics Policy in 1993. The new National Anti-Narcotics Policy 2010 addresses both Pakistan’s prevailing drug situation and changes in the global narcotics environment that have emerged since the 1993 Narcotics Policy. The policy will soon be announced. Although the 1993 Policy created various institutions and drug enforcement structures, an effective mechanism to coordinate and integrate these efforts was lacking. The absence of a cohesive approach has led to continued drug trafficking and proliferation in Pakistan, compounded by a limited availability of treatment centres and data on drug addiction.

The new policy aims at re-energising the existing National Drug Laws Enforcement Institutions, capacity building of Anti Narcotics Force and developing an effective coordination and control mechanism, concurrently mobilizing people of Pakistan, especially youth, so as to ensure their active participation in eradication of the menace of drugs from Pakistan. The Policy seeks to boost treatment and rehabilitation services.

The focus of the policy is on eradication of narcotics and maintenance of Pakistan’s poppy-free status. The new Policy outlines a number of objectives targeting three areas namely: supply reduction, demand reduction and international cooperation. The Anti-Narcotics Policy 2010 supports the Drug Control Master Plan 2010-2014.

In order to cope with the segment of "Drug Supply Reduction" the policy has outlined steps like elimination of poppy cultivation, effectively check-resurfacing of heroin laboratories, prevention of the trafficking and production of narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances and precursor chemicals, strengthening and streamlining law enforcement agencies and their activities, improving legislative and judicial processes, enhance coordination/information-sharing through structured arrangement within organisations/institutions; capacity building of Anti-Narcotics Force; enhanced efforts for forfeiting drug-generated assets and improvement of judicature for expeditious disposal of drug cases.

On the Drug Demand Reduction side, the policy aims to prevent drug use through education and community mobilisation campaigns and create a drug-free society in Pakistan, particularly the youth. It also proposes an effective and accessible drug treatment and rehabilitation systems and conducting a drug abuse survey to determine the prevalence of drug addiction and establishing a national coordination mechanism for drug demand reduction. In order to seek international cooperation, a mechanism for active participation in bilateral, regional and international efforts to combat drugs will be devised.

National Anti-Narcotics Council (NANC) will be set up under the Chairmanship of the Prime Minister of Pakistan in order to evaluate and review Anti-Narcotics Policy. The council will meet annually with the MNC acting as the Secretariat. Parliamentary Committees on Narcotics Control will exercise parliamentary oversight by evaluating and monitoring the implementation of the Anti-Narcotics Policy. The Committee will also prepare recommendations regarding review and improvement of Anti-Narcotics Policy for the NANC.

The Prime Minister of Pakistan also wants Lahore to be a drug-free city under the new draft National Anti-Narcotics Policy 2010. The Anti-Narcotics Policy 2010, though quite comprehensive, misses out on certain key issues. On the supply side, it does not lay stress on the need for strict legislation, registration and licensing of the sale and purchase of precursor chemicals like acetic anhydride or phenobarbitone (an anticonvulsant). The latter is a chemical used to treat epilepsy, hence, may be used inappropriately. Such a policy will not only allow documented tracing of chemicals but also act as a measure of check on those involved in the trade of chemicals with the potential for such grave harm. The policy must take into account the availability of drugs through prescriptions and must place an effective ban on substances and medicines that can be misused.

Thirdly, the policy is silent on the question of how regularly the Drug Abuse Survey will be conducted. In the absence of proper statistics, revising the policy will serve little purpose and become ineffective. In order to reduce the health, social and economic costs associated with drug trafficking and substance abuse in Pakistan, the Drug Control Master Plan 2010-2014 has been developed in accordance with international best practices. Pakistan is a signatory to all United Nations (UN) drug control conventions as well as the SAARC Convention on Drug Control.

Recently PILDAT arranged a series of Consultative Sessions on Draft National Anti-Narcotics Policy 2010 in Islamabad, Karachi, and Lahore with all the stakeholders in order to take their views on the proposed policy so that a comprehensive plan can be put in place.

In all these sessions the participants stressed on introducing stricter punishments for drug traffickers and users, like that of death penalty, social mobilisation, a vigorous anti-narcotics drive on the pattern of judges movement, an efficient law enforcement staff to achieve the drug-free status of Pakistan, considering certainty of the punishment more necessary than the severity of the punishment etc. However, strong drug mafia network and weak law enforcement leaves a question for all the efforts done towards a drug-free society. Differentiation is also required in the policy between drug trafficking and drug cultivation.

The policy must introduce subsidies and incentives for farmers in areas where poppy cultivation is high so as to facilitate crops, which are legal and equally profitable. The policy must introduce a framework and monitoring of drug rehabilitation and treatment centres, rehabilitation of displaced persons, especially youth who suffer poverty, lack of employment opportunities. Besides, post-rehabilitation monitoring to check for re-lapse in drug users and to identify reasons for re-lapse is also mandatory. One of the participants suggested replacing "drug addict" with "drug user" in the policy. The criticism was also raised on the contents of the policy, which to many seemed a replica of the past policies made in Pakistan.

Participants also suggested following "Rainbow Strategy", which was adopted in the Paris Pact in Vienna, in order to reduce the negative health, social and security consequences of opium and heroin in and around Afghanistan. In this connection, in order to strengthen cross-border counter-narcotics cooperation, a Trilateral Initiative between Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan should be initiated.

Muhammad Naveed Younus, Coordinator, New Horizon Care Centre, Karachi said that the policy lacks the involvement of representatives from grassroots level which is actually needed for effective implementation. While highlighting some of the amendments, he suggested twice yearly meeting of the National Anti-Narcotics Council (NANC. Besides, he also recommended that President of the Drug Free Pakistan should be the member of this committee. He suggested forming National Anti-Narcotics Committee under federal secretary, a Provincial Narcotics Control Committee under Chief Minister, with a permanent representative from Pakistan Merchant and Dyes Association, City Narcotics Control Committee under DCOs, and Town Committees under Town Nazims. He suggested deputing young officers in the ANF staff instead of near retirement officers, so that the cause does not suffer due to the retirement of any officer.

While the political will is a must for implementing National Anti-Narcotics Policy 2010, in the words of Lt. Gen. (Retd.) Moinuddin Haider, former Governor Sindh and former Interior Minister, "drug-free Pakistan may be a big dream, but we have to dream big to achieve big."

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