‘Pakistan on drug war’s frontline’
By Khalid Hasan
WASHINGTON: Pakistan is on the frontline of the war against drugs, being a major transit country for opiates and hashish from Afghanistan, according to a US government report released on Wednesday.
The two-volume International Narcotics Control Strategy Report released by the State Department said in its six-page section on drug and chemical control in Pakistan that increased law enforcement pressure in Afghanistan threatens to shift drug trafficking operations across the border. “Aiming to return to poppy-free status, Pakistan saw a 58 percent decrease in opium poppy cultivation in 2005 to approximately 3.147 hectares, of which 2,440 hectares were harvested,” it pointed out. The Pakistan government, the report said, does not have any evidence of heroin labs in Pakistan, although the US drugs agency, DEA, continues to receive unconfirmed reports about the existence of a few small heroin-producing labs in the country.
Estimates of the number of drug addicts in Pakistan range from three to five million. Pakistan has announced that it plans to develop a new master drug control plan for attacking emerging narcotic threats from both the supply and demand sides. The report said that cooperation in this area between the two countries remains “strong” and US assistance programmes in counter narcotics and border security had strengthened the capacity of law enforcement agencies and had improved their access to remote areas where some of the drug trafficking takes place. There was a 61 percent increase in opium seizures in Pakistan in 2005.
In the volume devoted to money laundering and financial crimes, the report said that financial crimes related to narcotics trafficking, terrorism, smuggling, tax evasion and corruption remain significant problems in Pakistan. “Pakistani criminal networks play a central role in the transshipment of narcotics and smuggled goods from Afghanistan to international markets. Pakistan is a major drug-transit country. The proceeds of narcotics trafficking and funding for terrorist activities are often laundered by means of the alternative system called hawala. The system is also widely used by the Pakistani people for legitimate purposes.
“Repeatedly, a network of private unregulated charities has also emerged as a significant source of illicit funds for international terrorist networks,” the report pointed out. The annual review said that Pakistan does not have a comprehensive anti-money laundering law, the current legal regime being “weak, outdated and based on a loose patchwork of laws and regulations.” The report said that the draft Pakistan anti-money laundering legislation “does not comport with international standards in several key aspects, including the definition of money laundering, which is not consistent with the 1988 UN Drug Convention or the UN convention on Transnational Organised Crime.
According to the report, smuggling, trade-based money laundering and physical cross-border cash transfers are prevalent methods used to launder money and finance terrorism in Pakistan. While a range of terrorist financing risk and vulnerabilities continue to exist, Pakistan has taken significant steps to deal with them and a number of groups have been banned under a 1997 law. As of December 20, 2005, the State Bank of Pakistan has frozen about $10.5 million belonging to 12 entities and individuals linked to Osama bin Laden, Al Qaeda or the Taliban.
The report asked the Government of Pakistan to “move quickly” to enact an anti-money laundering law that is in keeping with international standards.