ISLAMABAD: While addressing the Regional Ministerial Conference on Counter-Narcotics on Tuesday, President Asif Ali Zardari said that Pakistan is not a drug-producing country, but only a transit country.
The two-day conference held in Islamabad, aims at curbing drug trafficking and production in the region. Twelve countries including Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, China, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Turkey and Uzbekistan are taking part in the conference.
Addressing the inaugural session of the conference at President House, Zardari said, “Pakistan is one of the transit countries, I am happy to share with you that Pakistan is not a producing country, but is a transit country, and transit is bad enough as far as I am concerned… and I am sure you feel the same way.”
He said that measures need to be taken and a lot needs to be done in stopping the production of drugs. “This is something that will probably never go away, but we can make it less effective.”
The president said that the entire drug business involves billions of dollars. He said that drugs are the reason why warmongers are made in the region. “People are getting sick and are dying due to drugs across the globe.”
“We need to sit and deliberate and find a road map forward because tomorrow or the day after these challenges will become a reality in our region.”
Zardari said that the merchants of death do not recognize any political, geographical, ethical, or legal boundaries and were destroying the youth, no matter what passport they possessed.
The president said that efforts against narco-trade cannot succeed unless we succeed together. “We will defeat the heroin trade only through collective action,” he said.
“The heroin trade does not flourish in vacuum,” said Zardari. “It is linked with the terrorist networks in our region.”
The president said that the money from the heroin trade is used to finance terror operations.
Zardari said that according to the United Nations, the opium production has increased by over 3000 per cent in the last decade and the revenues from heroin trade have also been steadily rising during the past decade.
“The problem is much older and goes further back in the history, farther than 2001. It goes back to choices we made during the decades of 70s and 80s. That was the time, when heroin was created as a war weapon by the world community to fight the rival ideology in the region. After the war, the international community left the region in a hurry. Many things of that era have now come back to haunt us. One of these is the heroin trade.”
He said that illicit drug trade is now challenging our very foundations and poses a serious threat to all countries in the region. “Drug mafias have a nexus with terrorist organizations and crime syndicates. They are linked with arms smuggling, human trafficking and money-laundering. Heroin trade has grown across borders and is spreading death and destruction in the name of ideology. It is threatening the security of our countries.”
The president said that the drugs trade threatens to destroy the national economies by corrupting legitimate businesses, increasing inflation and destabilizing interest and exchange rates. He further said that it undermines good governance by encouraging crime and corruption. It promotes violence.
Zardari said that the heroin trade threatens Pakistan more than it threatened far-off lands and that the regional countries must not look toward others for leadership on this issue. “Instead of being followers, we must lead the fight against heroin trade. We must be the one to fight back and we must win this battle. Failure is no option.”
The president also recounted various measures taken against narco-trade and said that Pakistan has accorded high priority to efforts aimed at fighting illicit drugs. He said that at the policy level, Pakistan has made a new National Anti-Narcotics Policy in 2010, a five-year drug abuse control master plan, and have created an Inter-Agency Task Force on Narcotics Control.
As a result, the President said, Pakistan became a poppy-free country in 2011. “Today Pakistan is among the top countries in terms of seizures of opium and heroin. Reiterating that narcotics challenge transcends national boundaries that no individual country or organization can overcome it single-handedly. We must reach across borders and must address demand, supply and trafficking of illicit drugs. We also need to develop alternative livelihood for farmers.”
While saying that the challenges were daunting, Zardari said, “We have to move with a sense of urgency. We all have stakes in the success of this campaign. The peace and well-being of our people and the security and stability of our region depends on our success against drugs.”
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