Drugs worth rupees $1.8 billion in the international market have been seized by security forces in Khyber Agency since March. According to a report compiled by intelligence agencies, confiscating these drugs would help dismantle funding received by banned terrorist outfits.
According to a copy of the report available with The Express Tribune at least 272,000 kilogrammes of hashish, 12,000kg of heroin, 389 tonnes of opium and around 70kg of drug precursors used in the manufacturing of cocaine, heroin, ecstasy or methamphetamines have been confiscated in the last three months alone. The report, which was submitted to the Core Headquarters, draws attention to the nexus between terrorist networks and the drug mafia which has remained an open secret for a long time. However, now details of the extent to which militants have relied on drug money have started to surface.
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The report states militants who had their stronghold in Maidan in Tirah valley, Khyber Agency relied mainly on money obtained through trafficking drugs and kidnapping for ransom.
After the security forces entered Tirah, the fleeing militants set fire to the godowns where drugs were stored. According to a senior security official, the fire almost lasted for a week.
“This goes to show how much heroin and hashish was stored in the godown,” he added.
There were three main militants groups operating in the Bara sub-division – Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, Lashkar-e-Islam and Ansarul Islam. According to the official, all three groups were affiliated with the drug trade.
“The differences among these groups were based on ‘turf-wars’,” the official said. “This means the group which controls the larger portion of the land on which opium is grown controls the routes.”
It is believed before the second phase of the Khyber operation (Khyber-II) began, militant groups had not only imposed a tax on the land where the poppy crop was grown but would also collect a ‘tax’ on its sale in the open market.
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According to the official, tax was also collected from those vehicles which were used to transport drugs and special check posts were set up where this ‘tax’ could be levied. “There were official receipts printed and signed by militants once the taxes were paid,” he said. “A shopkeeper in Tirah Bazaar would have to pay a Rs100,000 while Rs50,000 were to be paid for every tonne of the crop grown in a single field.”
Officials told The Express Tribune drugs with a net worth of $1.8 billion in the international market were ceased or destroyed just in this one valley.
A recurring battle
The security forces have now implemetend a ban on the manufacturing of drugs in the entire valley.
Officials privy to matter told The Express Tribune, the houses of over two dozen drug traffickers who have been identified so far have been razed to the ground. Furthermore, a crackdown has been initiated against those who were involved in the drug trade that was being used to fund banned outfits.
In a report published in June by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) titled Afghan Opiate Trafficking through the Southern Route, Pakistan has been listed as second among 10 countries to have seized the largest amount of heroin.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 22nd, 2015.