Drug Trafficking and the Security of the State: Case Study of Pakistan

D. Suba Chandran,Researcher,SASD,SIS,JNU


"Let us not complicate things. It is really very simple. If you control the poppy fields, Karachi and the road that links the two, you will be so rich that you will control Pakistan, army or no army"1

The problem of drugs is three-fold: its illegal production,2 illegal trafficking and drug abuse. Drug trafficking is the most lucrative business, with profits higher than of the entire oil industry and second only to the arms trade.

Traditionally, the main products of the international drug trafficker are the three classic drugs derived from nature: cannabis derived from the cannabis plant, also includes hashish which is stronger and derived from the plant's resin; cocaine from the coca plant; and heroin from the opium poppy. In recent years "psychotropics," commonly referred to as "synthetic drugs" have hit the world market, widely in Europe, the United States, Japan, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.3

Cannabis is supplied to Europe mainly from Morocco and Lebanon and to the United States from Mexico. The world's heroin supply comes from South-West Asia's "Golden Crescent" comprising Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran, and South-East Asia's "Golden Triangle" comprising Myanmar, Thailand and Laos. Columbia is the world's largest supplier of cocaine, which it procures from neighbouring Peru and Bolivia.

In the Golden Triangle area, Myanmar is the largest producer of illicit opium and remains so even at the world level. Though officially poppy cultivation has been banned since 1948, it continues to produce more than 3,000 metric tons of opium. Thailand, a once significant illicit opium producer and transit route, has reduced the problem to a minimum in the recent past. Laos stands as the third largest producer of opium with approximately 500 metric tons. Much of Laos' production is controlled by the Chinese Triads who after refining it, transit it to Australia via Hong Kong.

The Golden Crescent production ratio is comparatively less, with its entire output not more than 1,500 metric tons. Afghanistan produces the world's second largest amount of opium, ranging between 600-700 metric tons. The inaccessibility of production areas coupled with weak administration has provided a conducive environment for drug traffickers. In 1997 alone, the opium gum production in Afghanistan was around 1,265 metric tons.4 Even though the Taliban condemned illicit drug production and drug trafficking, there have been no serious efforts either to curb cultivation or to control trafficking of drugs. In fact, the drug production in Afghanistan has increased when compared to its production in 1996 which was around 1,265 metric tons.5 In Iran there has been a considerable decline in the drug cultivation mainly due to the efforts undertaken by the government. Iran today, has become a major trading route in drug trafficking. Pakistan is both a major producer and a transit point. In 1997, Pakistan produced around 85 metric tons of opium from about 4,100 hectares, an estimated increase of 13.3 per cent from 1996.6

This paper focusses mainly on the issue of cultivation and trafficking of drugs in Pakistan and its implications for the security of the state.

Drug Cultivation and Trafficking in South Asia

If by South Asia one means only the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries, then, in South Asia, illicit opium is cultivated only in Pakistan. Inside Pakistan, poppy cultivation is done primarily in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP). In the NWFP, in 1995-1996 alone, opium poppy was cultivated in 4,670 acres in the Dir, Buner, Swabi Districts and Khyber, Bajaur, Mohmand, Draksai Agencies.7 In 1994-95, the total amount of opium produced in Pakistan was 155 metric tons8. The cultivated drug is processed in factories situated in the NWFP and Baluchistan. These factories are mostly mobile, comprising two or three trucks, loaded with pans, pots and crude machinery. The basic chemical needed for the conversion of opium into heroin, acetyl anhydride, is smuggled from India through the same routes by which drugs are smuggled out. Once the opium is converted into heroin (one kg of opium produces 100 grams of heroin), it is smuggled inside Pakistan to the coastal areas and the border areas, from where it is smuggled further mainly to Europe and the US. Inside Pakistan, Baluchistan provides the major route to the international market. The heroin reaches the Makran coast from the NWFP through Quetta in trucks, motor bikes, in normal passenger cars, etc. The second major route is through Quetta or through Hyderabad, to Lahore, from where it is smuggled either directly to the West or towards Bombay through Gujarat. It is also smuggled to Lahore and Islamabad from where it reaches Delhi through Rajasthan and Punjab. Another major route is from the NWFP to the India-Pakistan border mainly around the Jaisalmer and Balmer districts of Rajasthan where it is concealed under sand dunes that can be identified, from where it is taken by jeeps inside India to Bombay or Delhi. Even the Samjhauta Express carries illicit drugs.

Inside India, the poppy is cultivated legally in UP and MP. However, India is a major transit state for drugs. Drugs smuggled from Pakistan to Bombay are shipped or sent by air to the US and Europe. From Bombay, another route is by land, where it reaches the Tamil Nadu coast, mainly Tutucorin from where it is shipped to Colombo. From Colombo, it is shipped further to the West. According to a classified report, the country boats from the Tamil Nadu coast and Australian yachts from Sri Lanka have a rendezvous on the seas, from where drugs are shipped to Australia. From Delhi, the drugs are either taken to the West by air or smuggled to Nepal, mainly Kathmandu from where they are smuggled by air.

Besides, drugs are also smuggled from Myanmar inside South Asia. Mainly, they reach Cox Bazaar from where they are shipped to the West. The second major route is through the north-eastern states of India to either Kathmandu or Delhi, from where they are smuggled to the West.

Why Drug Trafficking?

The UN study on narcotics reports that in the 1980s, conditions such as falling commodity prices, debt problem and poverty contributed to the increase in drug trafficking. According to the report, "The decline of prices for commodities like sugar (64 per cent), coffee (30 per cent), cotton (32 per cent) and wheat (17 per cent), between 1980 and 1988, motivated farmers to turn to cash crops like coca bush and opium poppy to avoid economic ruin. At the national level, the export of illicit drugs often took up the stock of foreign exchange depleted by falling prices of agricultural goods as well as for minerals, including tin (down by 57 per cent) lead (28 per cent), and iron ore (17 per cent)."9 The UN report points out only one of the many factors that perpetuate drug trafficking. The more influential factors include political instability, regional instability, ineffective central control, global reach of the drug syndicates and involvement of the state in illicit drug trafficking.

Political instability not only perpetuates the growth of drug trafficking but also renders all attempts at anti-drug programmes ineffective. This fact is supported by Jamieson who points out that, "in the last 20 years, the drug producing countries of Latin America and Southern Asia have all experienced one or more of the following—coup d'etat, revolution, tribal tensions, violent ethnic and/or religious protests, invasion, intensive guerrilla warfare."10 This hypothesis is particularly true of the Southern Asian Golden Crescent and Golden Triangle which till today are fraught with political turmoil and non-democratic political structures. Continuing political instability maintains the presence of conflicting groups. These groups vying for power over one another lack a powerful diaspora for economic support and thus turn to drug cultivation and trafficking for easy access to the much wanted money and weapons. Added to independently rallying for their cause, these groups, mostly of tribal or ethnic origin, also come to be used by powerful drug mafias who, void of political and ideological motives, are intent on keeping the government corrupt, unstable and ineffective. In the event of such a linkage, measures to combat drug trafficking become extremely difficult, as at stake is the delicate ethnic peace. For example, in the drug cultivating and trafficking areas of Myanmar, the ethnic groups—Karen (7 percent), Shan (6 percent), Indian (6 percent), Chinese (3 percent)—are already fighting against the Burmese domination (72 percent). The "Shan United Army," the most powerful drug network in Myanmar, utilises its ethnic resentment as a screen to effectively restrain any governmental action towards controlling drug trafficking. The governmental task becomes impossible when the government lacks legitimacy, as in the case of Myanmar or Pakistan during Zia's period. Thus, these groups not only utilise the political instability to their advantage but also adopt adequate measures to ensure that this political instability is perpetuated.

Regional instability, like political instability contributes greatly to drug cultivation and trafficking. Any political unrest, specifically along the borders of two countries, provides a conducive environment for drug trafficking; and, this is true of most newly independent Third World countries which are plagued by arbitrary and ill drawn boundary lines cutting across ethnic communities adding to regional instability. In a region fraught with discordant voices from various sections, sponsoring of terrorist activity against a neighbouring state not only becomes feasible with narcotic linkages but also profitable to the state in the absence of a costly conventional war. In most instances, support to terrorist activities being covert, the states have to resort to other means to raise the requisite financial support; more often the states sponsoring terrorism/insurgency/armed resistance in neighbouring states permit the groups to mobilise finance through drug trafficking. Invariably all terrorist outfits raise money through narcotic deals and use it to procure arms. This further impinges on regional security.

Pakistan is a classic example of how regional instability led to drug trafficking in the state. The entry of Soviet troops in Afghanistan greatly altered the drug trafficking scenario in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Already the drug trafficking situation in Afghanistan had increased due to the ban by the Khomeini regime of Iran; the Iran drug barons shifted their capital to the Afghan Helmand Valley. Soviet troops in Afghanistan altered the scenario at two levels. Firstly, the outbreak of the Afghan War saw the support of Pakistan and the US to the Afghan Mujahideen. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) clandestinely aided the Mujahideen's drug trade to procure more arms. They reportedly "patronized the tribes living in the Pushto speaking Baluchistan belt bordering Afghanistan to keep the Mujahideen's supply line secure"11 and, "with the recent disclosure about drug money being used to finance the Contras by some Reagan Administration officials, this does not seem far-fetched."12 Secondly, the presence of Soviet troops in Afghanistan resulted in the closure of the traditional routes to Europe; this perpetuated opening of many routes in South Asia such as India, Nepal and Sri Lanka. Thus, born out of regional instability, the problem has marched further towards jeopardising the regional security.

The third influential factor in the perpetuation of drug trafficking has been the ineffectiveness of central control over all the parts of the state. In most of the Third World countries, with the process of nation building yet to be completed, there are various zones that are improperly coordinated with the mainland. The Sardar and Malik systems in Pakistan emphasise less on the authority of central law over the majority of areas in the NWFP. For example, in the Khyber Agency, the authority of the central government runs only 210 feet from the main road. These tribal areas have their own laws. The Maliks and Sardars, most of whom are corrupt drug lords themselves are the only connection between the central government and tribal areas. In Pakistan, the Malik system is considered to be the greatest obstacle in fighting drug trafficking.13

The next influential factor is the wide reach of the drug syndicates, not only in having international connections, but also in successfully permeating the national political parties, bureaucracy, judiciary and sometimes even the Army. In addition, the syndicates are also successful in procuring public support by involving themselves in "social" activities such as building schools, constructing bridges, auditoriums, etc. For example, the drug mafias of the Medillin Cartel in Columbia besides owning TV and radio stations, also own at least six of Columbia's professional football teams.14 The mafias also have their own banks and Armies: Khun Sa's Army in Thailand consists of 10,000 men equipped with modern weapons including anti-aircraft guns. These armies "collect" taxes and pay "salaries" to their officials. Haji Ayub Afridi, a leading drug baron in Pakistan had, in the 1980s, nearly 30,000 armed tribals protecting him. Combatting trafficking in these areas is difficult particularly with the tribal armies equipped with anti-aircraft guns and rocket launchers.

Fifthly, the failure of the government to effectively curb both drug cultivation and trafficking increases the average drug cultivation and trafficking. For example in Pakistan, the opium production increased from 75 metric tons to 85 metric tons between 1996 and 1997 an increase of 13.34 percent.15 This is despite Pakistan passing two significant Acts—the Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) Act and the Control of Narcotics Substances Act—in the two years period after Nawaz Sharif became the Prime Minister of Pakistan in 1997. The reason for this is the failure or the reluctance of the various government agencies to enforce the Acts passed. According to the International Narcotics Control Strategy (INCS) 1997 Report, Pakistan failed to arrest or convict a single major drug trafficker during 1997.16

Finally, drug trafficking also increases due to encouragement from the government for various reasons. In most of the South American states, the drug money forms a major source of foreign exchange. Thus, they pay only lip service towards taking the necessary steps to curb drug cultivation and trafficking. Drugs also provide a helping hand to the states that sponsor terrorism in the neighbouring states. In 1990, Nawaz Sharif claimed that "Pakistan's Army Chief General Aslam Beg and Central Intelligence Chief General Durrani had sought approval in 1991 for a detailed blue-print to sell heroin to pay for covert military operations...Both General Beg and General Durrani insisted that Pakistan's name would not be cited at any place because the whole operation would be arrived at by trustworthy third parties."17 Drug money is also utilised by the government to improve its own power, mainly the Army, especially when it finds it difficult to fund the Army. Atlaf Gohar in 1994 disclosed that "President Zia had ordered that heroin be sold and be arranged with smugglers so that they should not keep the whole income. The government should get a part of their income so as to spend the money for security purposes."

Drug Trafficking in Pakistan

Drug cultivation and drug trafficking assumed alarming proportions in Pakistan in the late 1970s, due to certain regional developments:

(a) the coming of the Khomeini regime in Iran, which imposed severe restrictions on drug trafficking, forced the drug cultivators and traffickers to shift from Iran to Pakistan and Afghanistan;

(b) the entry of Soviet troops in Afghanistan cut off the traditional drug routes to Europe. The further outbreak of the Afghan War led to Pakistan and the US covertly supporting the Mujahideen, mainly through drug money.

These two events, coupled with a few other internal factors led to the drastic growth of drug trafficking in Pakistan. Of them, the following two factors are the most important in aiding drug cultivation and trafficking in Pakistan:

(a) the narco-politics, that is, the linkages between the politics and narcotics; and

(b) the nexus between the Army and narcotics.

As a result, all the provinces of Pakistan are being affected by drug trafficking. Landikotal, Jamrud, Bara Bazaar and Dara Adam Khel are the four main centres of narcotics dealings in the NWFP.18 Of these four areas, Dara, "controlled by the powerful Adam Khel Afridis is located in the finger of tribal territory that extends across the Kohat-Peshawar road. The Dara currently is the most important incountry outlet for heroin."19 In the NWFP, drug trafficking is done by clans such as the Jaduns, Yusufzais Khattaks and Afridis, who have powerful connections with the ruling elite and the Army. The Yusufzais had close connections with Nawaz Sharif through Lt. General Fazle Haq who was the Governor of the NWFP. Fazle Haq sponsored the election campaigns of the Islamic Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI) in the Frontier in 1990. During his tenure as Governor, Fazle Haq made select anti-heroin campaigns only against the Afridis. While Yusufzais are associated with the IJI, the Afridis have links with the Pakistan People's Party (PPP). Another drug baron, Malik Mohammad Ayub Khan, otherwise known as Haji Ayub was also closely associated with the IJI. "During the 1990 election campaign, the IJI openly embraced Haji Ayub, put him in charge of overseeing the election campaign in FATA and asked him to help finance IJI candidates further afield. The Haji reportedly purchased his own seat (NA-33 Khyber Agency), declaring that he would pay up to Rs. 50,000 per vote."20

The most powerful of the drug traffickers, the Afridis, are divided into eight sub-clans referred to as "khels"—Aka Khel, Malikdin Khel, Jakha Khel, Adam Khel, Kuki Khel, Kamar Khel, Qambar Khel, and Sepah Khel. The Afridis are professional in the sense that they are involved right from cultivation and processing, up to transporting to international markets. It is believed that there are more than 100 labs in the Khyber Agency. The most important leader of the Afridis, Malik Wali Khan from the Kuki Khel who was also known as the "King of Khyber Heroin" in the 1980s, was a member of the National Assembly during 1960-65. The Kuki Khel also had a powerful Army that withstood the attack by the governmental Army for almost six weeks in November 1985. Malik Waris Khan who got elected to the National Assembly from Khyber Agency in 1988, used his drug money to bail out the PPP government in 1989 when Nawaz Sharif brought the no-confidence motion.

In Baluchistan, the Notezai and Bugti tribes are involved in drug trafficking. Sakhi Dost Jom Notezai, a powerful drug baron, when arrested in 1991, was able to cut a deal with Nawaz Sharif for his release. When Nawaz Sharif needed a two-third majority to pass the 12th Amendment which empowered special anti-terrorist courts, "four Senators and several MNAs went to the Prime Minister to exchange their votes for the release of Sakhi Dost Jan Notezai."21

In Punjab, Haji Iqbal Beg, known as the "King of Indian Route" for his control over the heroin trafficking across the Indian border had close contacts with Malik Meraj Khalid, a founder member of the PPP. "Some narcotics experts believe that Beg cooperated with the ISI in its programme to assist anti-India Sikh insurgents in their violent rebellion against New Delhi."22 The Sikh militants carried heroin into India in return for money and weapons.

Thus, the nexus between the politicians and drug barons that began in the late 1970s came to be consolidated by the 1980s and manifested itself in three distinct forms:

(i) personal ties between the drug lords and political leaders irrespective of parties;

(ii) funding of activities of political parties and leaders, particularly during the elections; and

(iii) eventually drug barons turning into politicians.

A study of the electoral politics in the poppy growing areas of Dir, Buner, Malakand Agency and Gadoom-Amazoi, revealed :

(a) all Jamaat candidates, despite their inability to justify poppy cultivation on religious grounds, continued to oppose the ban on poppy cultivation as it would deprive poor farmers of their major means of livelihood;

(b) Mohammad Shah Haroon, later elected as MPA distributed poppy seeds free of cost during his election campaign; and

(c) Haji Yaqub, leader of the Jamaat-i-Islami Parliamentary party, criticised the anti-narcotics measures taken by the PPP government in 1989-90, raising the slogan, "our land, our choice", thus emphasising the right of the Pakhtoon farmers to grow poppy in their lands. 23

The study only points out the ever-increasing clout of the poppy lobby. The existence of the narcotics-politics nexus in Pakistan has serious implications for its political stability. The nexus hampers any consensus, even among the ruling government, in adopting measures against drug trafficking. In instances where measures have been adopted, implementation procedures are jeopardised due to the nexus. Benazir Bhutto, in 1989-90, under pressure from the US, attempted to curb the drug menace, but these measures failed due to the support provided by certain sections of the ruling class.24

The nexus has also been successful in frequently transferring the honest officials from the PNCB (Pakistan Narcotics Control Board) and ANF (Anti-Narcotics Force). If the present trend continues, any future attempts to curb drug trafficking in Pakistan are bound to become obsolete. The most crucial impact of this nexus is the erosion of legitimacy enjoyed by the political parties. With Pakistan already struggling to establish democratic institutions, this nexus will further erode the faith of the people in democratic institutions and political leaders.

Added to narco-politics, another disturbing trend in Pakistan is the drugs-Army nexus. This nexus was reinforced in the 1980s due to mutual need. The Army which was the real ruler of Pakistan in the 1980s, needed the drug money to pursue its security interests in Afghanistan and northern India. The drug mafia needed the support of the Army for the safe passage of drugs. "Reports suggest that the drug trafficking could not have thrived without the connivance of a section of the armed forces... Vehicles of the army-controlled National Logistics Cell and those used to supply arms to Mujahideen have also been used as drug carriers. The PNCB and other agencies do not have the authority to check these vehicles and so they were the safest means for drug transportation."25 This had two serious implications for the Army: first, there has been increasing drug use within the Army.26 Second, the Army officers got directly involved in drug trafficking for their own monetary reasons. For example, during 1986 alone, nearly 16 Army officials were arrested for drug trafficking but most of them managed to escape detention.27 The Army officials not only used the Army vehicles to traffic drugs within Pakistan, they also used Air Force planes to smuggle heroin outside Pakistan. The most glaring example has been that of the arrest of a Pakistani Air Force officer in the US. During April 1997, the U.S. Drug Enforcing Agency arrested Squadron Leader Farooq, who was carrying two kg of heroin with him in the Pakistan Air Force (P.A.F) flight that was to collect spare parts for the F-16 aircraft. The value of the seized heroin is said to be $2 million (Rs 8 crore).28

Drug Trafficking and the Security of the State

The security threat to the state by drug trafficking comes from three interrelated sections:

(a) Drug cultivation and trafficking within the state.

(b) Drug trafficking through the state, in which the traffickers use the state as a transit route.

(c) Drug abuse within.

The threats to the state from drug trafficking further depend upon the nature and scope of the drug trafficking organisations. There are three types of drug trafficking organisations.

First, the local organisations, that are run by individuals or a group of individuals, who are mere criminals. In most cases, their organisational reach never crosses their district or province.

The second type of organisations are "community" owned and these are mostly ethnic groups or tribes. The main objective of this type of organisation is to strengthen its position vis-à-vis other groups or tribes. In most cases, the leader of this organisation is also the leader of the tribe, enjoying political power.

The third type of organisations are professional drug mafias having global reach. They have influence over the entire gamut of institutions of the state beginning from the local police up to the top ranking leaders in politics and the Army.

Threats to the state emanate from the second and third type of drug trafficking organisations. These threats take various forms and affect the social, physical, economic, political and environmental security of the state.

Drug Trafficking and Social Security

Drug trafficking affects the social security of the state through two forms:

(a) Drug Abuse: Drug cultivation and drug trafficking affects the social security primarily on three aspects. First, the widespread drug abuse. Drug abuse in Pakistan, has been increasing ever since 1979. Before 1979, there were no heroin addicts in Pakistan. Today the drug addicts in Pakistan number around four million.29 According to the latest National Survey on Drug Abuse that was published in 1993, 72 percent of the drug abusers are under the age of 35. Within this, most of the drug abusers belong to the 26-30 age bracket. The average monthly expenditure of one drug abuser is estimated to be Rs 1,259.30 Punjab has the highest number of drug abusers in Pakistan with a population of 1.5 million, followed by Sindh (0.8 million), NWFP (0.4 million) and Baluchistan (0.3 million). Drug addiction leads to further adverse effects: (a) it affects the physical health of the individuals; (b) it ruins the economic structure of the families, which has further implications for the economic structure of the society; (c) the male addicts indulge in crimes from petty to major ones and the female addicts take to prostitution to pay for their drugs. Besides causing social and economic problems for the individual and the society, drug abuse affects even the economy of the state, which shall be discussed later.

(b) Organised Crime: Drug trafficking results in the growth of "organised crime", that further affects the social security. Organised crime is different from ordinary, traditional crimes such as murder, robbery, kidnapping, etc. "An organized crime group constitutes a state within the state, running a full-fledged parallel/economy."31 Organised crime links drug trafficking with corruption (known as white-collar crime), money laundering, narco-terrorism, etc.

The drug money is so powerful that it has left no institution untouched. Drug money is used to bribe the police and other drug enforcement agencies not to conduct raids or to make arrests. Drug money is paid to the government prosecutors not to prosecute. Drug money is donated to political parties and politicians, so that they are not very sincere in controlling drug trafficking, if not protecting it. In some cases judges are offered a plomo a plato, a choice between death if they convict or a reward if they dismiss charges."32

In Pakistan, the drug money starts from the local police. "The police force is involved. If the police is not involved, drug trafficking cannot take place" alleged President Farooq Leghari in 1995.33 Next, the drug money is used to bribe the PNCB and other related agencies. The best example of drug money corrupting the PNCB could be seen from the Dalbandin raid. During December 1990, the Frontier Constabulary (FC) of Pakistan seized 1,800 kg of fine heroin, the biggest haul in drug history. The PNCB in Quetta refused to file an FIR at first; later, due to pressure, an FIR was filed after 12 days. The three people who were named in the FIR were never arrested. All the PNCB officials in Quetta refused to investigate the case, and instead sent four-month leave applications to the PNCB headquarters in Islamabad. The Inspector General of the FC, who seized the heroin, was transferred.34 The narcotics-politics and narcotics-Army linkages in Pakistan have been already seen. Besides, the drug mafias use the officials of the government to conduct fake seizure operations. According to one official, "Low quality heroin is dumped at a site and a raid is conducted. While the government celebrates the success of the operation, fine quality heroin is transported through other routes."35

According to a report prepared by a security agency on drug trafficking, "Pakistan is silently and visibly being kidnapped by narco-barons. They can influence anyone, at any level, in any department. The judiciary, the civil administration and the police co-ordinate and co-operate with narco-barons. Working against narcotics is a risky game".36

Besides corruption, drug trafficking also results in increasing violence. The violence assumes two forms: one between the various drug organisations, and the second, the most important, between the drug organisations and the government. The loss of lives and property on the government side is enormous in fighting drug trafficking. In Columbia, between 1985 and 1990 alone, more than 2,100 people belonging to police and other enforcement agencies were killed.

The drug related violence at times also assumes ethnic dimensions. The Sohrab Goth incident in Pakistan amplifies this. Violence which assumes an ethnic colour, besides undermining the institutional basis for good governance, also forces the government to become ineffective in taking counter-measures against drug trafficking. To quote a senior officer of the Frontier Constabulary, "Any action is bound to create a full-fledged insurgency as the drug warlords are not only rich, their people are armed to the teeth. They also have anti-aircraft guns and they have political support."37 In these circumstances, even the government prefers not to take any anti-measures, because that would lead to ethnic unrest. In that case, the government loses its effective control over certain areas.

Drug Trafficking: Economic Interest or Economic Threat to the Security of the State?

Drug trafficking poses a serious economic dilemma to the state. On the one hand, drug trafficking poses a serious threat to the economic stability of the state, since the drug money is laundered and enters illegally into the state. In such conditions, it gives rise to inflation. Besides, the state has to spend more on social measures for eradicating drug abuse. "Drug abuse contributes to the loss of productivity due to addiction, rehabilitation, etc. It increases the cost of health care."38 Besides, the state has to spend more on counter-measures to control and eradicate drug cultivation and drug trafficking. This means diverting more funds for the creation or maintenance of law enforcing agencies that involve anti-narcotics programmes and operations. For example, in the Bahamas, in 1990, 85 percent of the defence budget had to be diverted to drug counter-operations.39

On the other hand, drug money also has a positive role to play. The drug money that enters the state through money laundering is used for various other economic activities of the state. The drug money is invested in both small and large-scale industries, transport, real estates, movie production, etc. At times, the drug money is also used for social welfare measures such as construction of bridges, hospitals, schools, airports, etc. However, the drug money used in these measures itself poses a serious threat in the sense that it legalise the drug money. It enables the drug traffickers to enjoy power and influence over the entire gamut of institutions of the state. Besides, it cultivates a "godfather" image of the drug traffickers among the people and ultimately the people elect them as their representatives in the elections.

Pakistan faces the same economic dilemma. The economic well being of a state can be measured in terms of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP), national and international debt, etc. In Pakistan, the drug earnings are larger than the budget of the government, and form one-fourth of Pakistan's GDP.40 According to some experts, Pakistan, "with an external debt of $20.1 billion, a perennial budgetary and balance of trade deficit and past cut-off of American aid, the state is less vulnerable economically because of revenues from illicit narcotics."41 It is precisely because of this factor that the state is half-hearted and unwilling in its efforts to control drug cultivation and drug trafficking. "Narcotics would have to be considered vital for Pakistan. It is, therefore, not limiting the trade, but tolerating or protecting it, which promotes economic security."42

However, it is this aspect that poses the greatest security threat to Pakistan. It makes the state dependent dangerously for its economic stability on drug money, which has implications for the social, political and physical security of the state in the long-term.

Drug Trafficking and the Political Security of the State

Political security does not mean the security of the government alone. It is a wider concept. It includes the security of the political structure and the political process. If the state is democratic, then the political security of the state includes the security of the democratically elected government for the period that it is elected, the democratic structure and the institutions of the state, and more importantly, the security of the democratic process.

Drug cultivation and trafficking pose a serious threat to all three. Invariably all the drug traffickers have influence over the ruling party. In fact, they even support the government both from inside and outside. As long as the political leadership decides not to harm the interests of the drug traffickers, this support continues. In Pakistan, the narcotics-politics linkages has already been discussed. "Politically, no government is likely to more than mouth the rhetoric and publicize occasional arrests."43 In Pakistan, there were incidents in which the government, particularly in the NWFP, refused to take any measures on drug trafficking, because that would jeopardise the government. Even at the national level, the drug barons who have become the members of the National Assembly, and the drug money, played a significant role during no-confidence motions, and during the passage of important Bills, etc.

The greatest threat to the political security from drug trafficking comes in the form of a threat to the democratic process. The drug money is so powerful that, "those without narcotics profits had fewer bargaining resources than those who did."44 When money decides the democratic process then democracy becomes, "Buy the people, Off the people and Far the people." Already democracy in Pakistan is facing lots of problems due to various reasons. The end of the Zia regime has not automatically made Pakistan into a full-fledged democratic state. In fact, in the three elections held in Pakistan in the 1990s, the people's participation has been declining. In the 1990 elections, it was 45 per cent, which declined to 42 per cent in the 1993 elections which further came down to 37 percent in the 1997 elections. With people's participation declining, any adverse effects on the process would completely endanger the democracy of Pakistan in the future.

Drug Trafficking and the Physical Security of the State

Drug trafficking affects the physical security of the state mainly when the linkage between narcotics and weapons gets strengthened, that is, when it assume the form of "narco-terrorism." Narco-terrorism is a form of terrorism in which the terrorist/insurgent groups use the drug money to acquire weapons and other financial support for their movement against the state. The terrorist groups may be involved in both drug cultivation and drug trafficking as in the case of Shan United Army in Myanmar or merely involved in drug trafficking as in the case of many other terrorist groups. Narco-terrorism, thus, assumes two forms:

(a) Drug money as a source of self-financing of the movement, where the external aid from both "the friendly" states and the rich diaspora is less or totally absent. In most cases, the group is an ethnic or tribal group that fights for an independent state or against the domination of other groups. The entire group or a majority of it is involved in drug trafficking.

(b) Drugs as a source to gain more weapons, where the terrorist movement in a state is given drugs by the neighbouring states. Here narco-terrorism becomes "state sponsored", in which the sponsoring states find it easy to create instability in the neighbouring states. The sponsoring states besides providing drugs also provide safe havens and the much needed drug routes. By sponsoring narco-terrorism, the states gain many advantages. First, it creates instability in the neighbouring state. Second, it need not directly support the terrorist movements, hence it need not covertly divert its financial resources. During 1979-87, such aid was given the to the Afghan Mujahideen who were fighting the Soviet troops. And Nawaz Sharif in an interview announced how the Pakistani Army leaders came up with a "blue-print" to support Sikh terrorists through drug money.

Inside Pakistan, the narcotics - weapons nexus has become a danger to the security of the state. In one seizure in 1994, the paramilitary forces seized anti-aircraft guns, 3,24 anti-tank rocket rounds (40mm), 371 mortars (82 mm), 50 anti-tank mines, 40 anti-personnel mines, two RPG-7, rocket launchers, etc.45 These weapons, no doubt were purchased through drug money. What is worse is that the the tribes in the NWFP are determined to fight the state if the state decides to regulate drug cultivation and drug trafficking. According to an interview, they believe, "The government cannot stop us growing poppy, we are one force, and united, and if they come with their planes, we will shoot them down."46 Even the ANF officials agree that there exists an insurgency situation and the environment is hostile to the ANF, since the drug traffickers are "armed to the teeth."

The security threat posed by the state-sponsored terrorism shall be discussed subsequently.

Drug Cultivation and Environmental Security

There are no records to find how drug cultivation has affected the environment in Pakistan. However, in other areas, where drug cultivation has been going for years, studies have been made which clearly say, "Narcotics producers are wreaking environmental havoc."47

According to Hector Moreno, "The war against illegal drugs would be completely justified on environmental grounds alone."48 Firstly, the poppy growers clear the land in the mountains, "leaving no plants that will hold soil during rains." In certain cases, the erosion because of poppy cultivation has even caused landslides in Columbia.49 The poppy and coca growers further do not allow any other plants to grow near the poppy and coca plants, since the narcotic plants "will not produce to their maximum if other plants nearby are competing for nutrients". This affects other legal occupations such as coffee growing and banana plantations.

Secondly, the drug cultivators use enormous amounts of fertilisers to get higher yields. After a period, the land becomes infertile and as a result only grass grows in these lands. Thus, drug cultivation makes trees into grass.

Thirdly, the drug cultivators use chemicals to convert coca leaves and poppy into cocaine and heroin. The washes are dumped into the nearest river, which causes further disasters for the species living in the water and the people whose livelihoods depend on it.

Thus, "by changing the climate and poisoning the rivers," drug lords have not only made the people leave their legal occupations but also have made them join the illegal production.50

Drug trafficking, thus, poses serious challenges to the social, political, economic, physical and environmental security of the state. Besides, it also threatens the security of other states both within and outside the region. Within the region, as seen earlier, it affects the social, political and economic security of the other states through drug abuse, money laundering and narco-terrorism. Besides, it also affects regional stability, as the states of a region are tightly inter-woven in many respects.

Drug cultivation and trafficking in Pakistan, particularly at this juncture, pose a grave threat to its social, economic and political security. With economic sanctions being imposed on Pakistan following the nuclear tests, the country is facing an economic disaster. This has serious implications for the drug scenario. Firstly, in the social field, the government may not be able to spend more on welfare activities. This will surely affect the already half-hearted governmental efforts in drug rehabilitation and other related programmes. According to the 1997 INCS Report, Pakistan's addict population is growing and consumes an estimated 92 metric tons of heroin a year.51 Secondly, as the unemployment rate is sure to rise, this may add to increase in drug production as the unemployed, especially in the NWFP, may return to poppy cultivation. Thirdly, the sanctions may also affect the crop substitution programme that the government is undertaking presently. In the economic field, there may be a sharp increase in money laundering. The greater threat in the economic field will be the failure of the government to arrest the inflow of money laundered out of drug trafficking. The greatest threat will be the lure of the drug money that may induce the government to support the drug cultivation and trafficking, if not directly, indirectly in many ways. This will further have its impact on the entire society and its various institutions. For example, the government may be forced to depend dangerously on the drug money for its economic survival; the drug barons may start wielding enormous power either directly or indirectly and the polity may find it extremely difficult and/or impossible to get rid of the "drug power." If that happens, it may be the beginning of an end.



1. Quoted in Muhammad Sajidin, "Drug Mafia and National Security: The Karachi Trauma," Defence Journal, vol. XII, no. 7, 1987.

2. India is the only legal producer of narcotics.

3. Fenton Bresler, Interpol, (London: Sinclair Stevenson Publication, 1992).

4. International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, 1997. (Released by Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, US Department of State Washington, DC, 1998).

5. International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, 1996.

6. n. 4.

7. The Nation, July 19, 1996.

8. n. 5.

9. UN Department of Public Information, January 1990, quoted in Alison Jamieson, "Global Drug Trafficking."

10. Ibid.

11. Newsline, May 1993.

12. Zahid Hussain, "Narco Power: Pakistan's Parallel Government," Newsline, December 1989.

13. Kathy Evans, "The Tribal Trail," Newsline, December 1989.

14. Jamieson, n. 9.

15. n. 4.

16. Ibid.

17. Washington Post, September 11, 1994.

18. "Heroin in Pakistan: Sowing the Wind," C.I.A. Report published in Frontier Post, August 31, 1993.

19. Ibid.

20. Ibid.

21. Ibid.

22. Ibid.

23. Rahimullah Yuzufzai, "Poppy Polls," Newsline, December 1989.

24. Aabha Dixit, "Narco Power: Threatening the Very Roots of Pakistan," Strategic Analysis, May 1991.

25. Hussain, n. 12.

26. Dixit, n. 24.

27. Hussain, n. 12.

28. Khabrain, April 14, 1997.

29. Nation, June 19, 1996.

30. Nation, June 25, 1997.

31. Muhammad Javed Qureshi.

32. Ivelaw Griffith, "From Cold War Geopolitics to Post-Cold War Geonarcotics," International Journal, Winter 1993-94.

33. Dawn, June 27, 1995.

34. Muslim, December 6&7, 1990.

35. Nation, July 15, 1997.

36. Nation, July 15, 1997.

37. Muslim, December 6, 1990.

38. Griffith, n. 32.

39. Ibid.

40. Alfred McCoy, Politics of Heroin (New York: Lawrence Hill Books, 1991).

41. Angela Burger.

42. Ibid.

43. Ibid.

44. Ibid.

45. Frontier Post, November 20, 1994.

46. Evans, n. 13.

47. Juanita Darling, "Drug Corps are Ravaging Columbian Farmland," Pioneer, September 10, 1997.

48. Quoted in Ibid.

49. Ibid.

50. Ibid.

51. n. 4.