Rising drug use: NA tables bills calling for compulsory tests

Draft laws propose students at private, public educational institutions undergo random testing annually

Asma Ghani March 14, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Ravaged by rampant drug use among students in the colleges and universities of the federal capital, lawmakers introduced two bills in the lower house of parliament Tuesday which proposed a host of measures to combat the menace — including compulsory drug tests for students.

The Prevention of Drugs in Educational Institutions Act 2018, proposes to conduct random drug tests at least once in a year in all public and private universities and high schools – from grade nine to second year, and for O and A Level classes – which fall within the Islamabad Capital Territory or anywhere under the administrative control of the federal government.

The legislation, proposed by Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) reserved seat MNA Shahida Rehmani, stated that there are a number of drugs which can be detected in the blood around 12 hours after consumption, despite not showing any apparent signs. Hence, random tests will have a higher probability of detecting such drugs in students.

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The bill proposes that the federal government ensure that all educational institutions comply with the law and conduct the random drug tests. Moreover, educational institutions will provide sufficient evidence that the tests have been conducted — in the event that the government requires so.

However, the bill curiously burdens educational institutions with the costs of the tests with direction to include them in their annual budget.

Moreover, students who fail to show up for the tests, after being provided with sufficient chance to reappear in case of absence, shall not be allowed to sit in the final examinations. Institutions who fail to conduct these tests will also be subject to a penalty of up to Rs500,000 in fines.

The educational institution has also been tasked with maintaining the confidentiality of a student’s identity in the event they test positive for drugs. The educational institutions have been barred from using this information against the student for either blackmail or defamation. Fines for divulging this information for mala fide intentions has been proposed to range from Rs50,000 to Rs150,000 fines.

Rising drug abuse in educational institutions

Students, who test positive for drug use will be issued a warning and their guardians will be informed of their first positive test. Repeat offenders will be referred to a drug rehabilitation unit, the expenses of which will be borne by the student. In the event the student cannot afford such a facility, the cost will be borne by the state.

Another similar bill, proposing compulsory drug tests of students in colleges and universities lying within Islamabad, was tabled by MNA Asiya Naz Tanoli — from the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and a native of Wah Cantt.

The bill states that there are reports that students of colleges and universities have been using recreational drugs with the trend rising day-by-day. To control this dangerous trend, all colleges and higher-learning institutions shall conduct drug tests on an annual basis.

The ‘Compulsory Drug Test of Students Act 2018’, proposes to conduct tests to identify the use of recreational drugs such as stimulants, opiates, and opioids, hallucinogens, amphetamines and inhalants etc.

After they were presented during Tuesday’s session, the bills were referred to the relevant committees for further discussions.

Drug and narcotics use at educational institutions of Islamabad started making headlines in 2016 when a report by a strategic institute claimed in their survey that as many as 53 per cent of students at elite schools were drug addicts.

The findings were based on a survey of 44 institutions, including some public sector schools, according to the non-governmental organization.

Ever since the issue has raised at different parliamentary forums with the government urged to take immediate measures. However, the concerned government institutions refuted the figures.

On March 6, the federal cabinet banned the sale of loose cigarettes across the country to control the use of tobacco among children.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 14th, 2018.


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