Be it lack of awareness or ignorance of local laws, the number of drugs arrests in Pakistan involving British nationals have increased by a whopping 167 per cent over the previous year, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office’s British Behavior Abroad Report 2014 reveals.
The annual report is a part of the FCO’s “Know Before You Go” campaign, which encourages British nationals to prepare before foreign travel so they can avoid preventable problems. The report reveals that with a total of 393,000 British nationals visited Pakistan this year, while 80,000 were living in the country over the same period.
The number of drug arrests rose from three cases to eight in a year. Meanwhile, the total number of detention cases for 2013-14 went up to 30 from 21 during the same period a year earlier --- a 43 per cent increase.
No rape cases were listed in the report, although one case of sexual assault was listed.
Other cases including abductions, accidents, child abduction and custody matters, missing persons, deportation, domestic violence, female genital mutilation, and financial transactions rose from 167 to 239 this year.
One of the more worrying finding for Pakistani authorities may be that the Consular Section at the British High Commission in Islamabad handles 43% of all forced marriage cases reported to the Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) in London.
The practice is illegal in Pakistan but rarely policed.
While there has been a decrease in some of the more serious types of consular cases in the past year, Pakistan remains among the top 20 countries where British nationals are likely to require consular assistance.
Overall, FCO consular staff handled 17,517 assistance cases globally in 2013-2014.
In a statement issued by the UK High Commission in Pakistan, Consular Affairs Minister Mark Simmonds, said, “This year’s report has highlighted some encouraging downwards trends [which] allow our staff to concentrate more on supporting our most vulnerable customers.”
Meanwhile, a High Commission spokesman said the government of Pakistan has become serious about drug trafficking over the last year. “The Anti Narcotics Force is actively playing its role and vigilantly monitoring air routes.”
The spokesperson said that they were collaborating with a range of national and international partners to create awareness about drug use, while at the same time, working on various capacity-building programmes that have led to more cases being recorded.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 18th, 2014.
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