ISLAMABAD: Authorities have launched a crackdown against drug users and addicts on the campuses of two of the largest universities in the federal capital even as a Senate body decried incorrect information being provided about the extent of the drug problem on campuses.
The parliamentary body set up a sub-committee which would visit campuses, engage with their administration to resolve issues of students and determine the extent of the drug problem.
This was disclosed during a meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Narcotics which was held at the Parliament House and chaired by Sardar Shafiq Tareen.
During the meeting, the committee reviewed in detail the implementation of recommendations given by the committee on February 25. Other issues examined include the steps taken by the Federal Directorate of Education (FDE) and the Higher Education Commission (HEC) to stop students from taking drugs.
HEC officials told the standing committee that they had obtained information of 15 universities and that steps are being taken to make these institutes narcotics and smoke-free.
In this regard, awareness campaign, seminars and conferences are being held.
They further disclosed that action has been taken against drug addicts at the Quaid-i-Azam and National University of Science and Technology universities.
Islamabad schools director told the committee that they have trained the 422 heads of educational institutes in the federal capital who were, in turn, training their teachers and other staff. Moreover, banners have also been put up in buses and schools regarding the negative effects of drugs.
Changes have also been made in the syllabus.
The standing committee postponed the agenda point until the next meeting due to the absence of the Islamabad police chief.
Tareen said that the details given to the committee were not correct as the use of drugs in educational institutes had increased.
He added that it would be better if a sub-committee is formed which will not only tour campuses but also consult with the educational institutes and their administration to resolve issues facing the youth.
A subcommittee was constituted headed by Senator Lt Gen (retired) Abdul Qayyum with Senators Dr Sikandar Mandhro and Saleem Zia as members.
The committee was told about the national policy prepared against narcotics.
Senators were told that for the first time, approval for the policy had been taken from the federal cabinet.
Further, the policy was compiled after consultation with 35 ministries, four provinces and the concerned institutes. In this regard, border control has been made more effective while zero-tolerance will be adopted against the sale of narcotics and its usage.
Moreover, awareness will be created against narcotics use amongst the population on all available media platforms while special attention will be paid towards women and children.
It was disclosed that some 6.7 million people use narcotics in the country, of which 4.7 million were addicts. The committee was told that two per cent of the population between 15 to 19-years-of-age were addicts, six per cent in the 20 to 24 age bracket, nine per cent in the 25 to 29 age bracket, 11% in the 30 to 34 age bracket and another 11% in the 35 to 40 age bracket. The committee was told that unless resources and manpower are increased, it will be impossible to control the spread of narcotics including the establishment of more forensic labs.
Moreover, the panel was told agreements have been signed with 34 countries to stop the supply of narcotics while the agreement with a further eight countries is underway.
Punishment for those involved in smuggling narcotics has also been increased while lessons on the negative impacts of narcotics have been included in the syllabus.
Prisoner testing could not be started due to a shortage of funds.
At this Senator Qayyum said that it was important to identify the source of narcotics and then the number of forces and resources required. He asked for an outline of the network which will be used in the provinces and the federation and the recommended steps the parliament can take. Tareen and other members of the committee said that policies were prepared in the past as well but it brought no improvement because they were not implemented.
The standing committee directed that any policy prepared must be implemented.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 27th, 2019.