ISLAMABAD: Islamabad High Court (IHC) has summoned Islamabad deputy commissioner (DC) in person in a case pertaining to rising drug usage in educational institutions of the federal capital.
IHC Acting Chief Justice Amir Farooq on Thursday hearing the petition of Lucky Foundation directed Commissioner Aamer Ali Ahmed to submit a written report of actions taken against drug abuse in schools in the next hearing.
An official of district administration was also rebuked by the court over non-cooperation in the case.
During the hearing, the petitioner’s counsel Kashif Malik said that schools in the federal capital were facing an alarming situation regarding drug usage as per a report released by United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) on the subject. He argued that topic of drug abuse and its hazards should be included in the syllabus.
Further, ministry of interior and Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) also submitted a report regarding measures against drugs taken on their part. The ministry officials stated that they were taking various measures to stop drug usage whereas PEMRA in its report informed that it had directed television channels to run a campaign against drug use.
DC Islamabad Hamza Shafqat was summoned personally in next hearing.
The court adjourned the case directing ministry of health, Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) administration and Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) to submit reports of measures taken by them against drug use.
ICTA seeks support in fighting drugs
Islamabad Capital Territory Administration (ICTA) has asked to religious scholars (Ulema) to highlight the health hazards of illegal substance abuse in their Friday sermons.
"The Auqaf Department ICT has formally asked the Ulema of Federal Capital to stress on abandoning the use of illegal substance in their Friday sermons," an official in ICTA said.
The messages of Ulema against the use of illicit drugs would also be shared with the citizens through social media to curb the scourge of drugs, he added.
Sharing the ICTA's endeavours to make Islamabad a tobacco free city , he said four road shows had been held at sectirs F-10 Markaz, G-9 Markaz, Kashmir Highway and G-11 traffic signals to distribute as many as 32,000 brochures and pamphlets among masses.
The move was aimed at creating awareness among public hazardous effects of drugs use, he added.
The city administration, he said, had also been conducting informative sessions in public and private schools to sensitize the younger generations about the harms of tobacco.
The official said the administration in collaboration with the Capital Development Authority had displayed public awareness messages on poles and signboards.
Despite taking several reformative measures, the ban on the sale of loose and smuggled cigarettes to underage, introduced by the policy makers to reduce smoking habit among youth, is being flouted in the federal capital due to slackness of local administration.
The capital administration is needed to revise its execution strategies to achieve complete ban on the prohibited items, through strict implementation of the rules and regulations.
A senior citizen Iqbal Khan, resident of Sector G-8, said shopkeepers in the capital's markets and rural areas were openly violating the law by selling loose cigarettes.
He said the shopkeepers were openly selling the loose and smuggled cigarettes in various sectors, including sectors G-7, G-8, G-9, I-8,I-9, I-10 and others, besides rural areas of the Islamabad Capital Territory.
Similarly, the tobacco kiosks and shops were operational within the 50 meters jurisdiction of schools, operating in various sectors, he added.
"We are committed to save our generations from the use of the illicit substance (tobacco) that is playing havoc with the lives of our youth," Deputy Commissioner Islamabad Hamza Shafqaat said while responding to the queries about weak enforcement of the anti-tobacco laws in the federal capital.
He said the ICTA was utilising its all resources to get the law implemented. The administration had imposed fine of Rs245,600 against the violators during the last fiscal year, besides closing down 40 kiosks in the Sector H- 8 in the recent crackdown against the violators, he added.
Senior lawyer Arslan Sandhu said: “government had outlawed the sale of loose cigarettes across the country in 2018 keeping in view the move's high success rate in the western countries and some regional states like Nepal.”
The consumption of tobacco at public place, the sale of cigarettes to the underage, and the distribution, sale and storage of tobacco products within 50-meter radius of educational institutions were banned under the 'Prohibition of Smoking and Protection of Non-smokers Health Ordinance, 2002, he said.
(with additional input by APP)
Published in The Express Tribune, September 27th, 2019.