Lahore: If you have college or university going children in Lahore or any other major city in Pakistan including Islamabad and Karachi you better beware! Drug addiction is on the rise as was divulged by as many as eighty-four male and female drug-dealers in the custody of Anti Narcotics Force (ANF) in Lahore during the investigation.

These 84 drug-dealers were arrested outside different educational institutes in Lahore during a massive crackdown after ANF was tipped off with very authentic information and reports of drug supplies to students of different ages. A high level officer of ANF seeking anonymity told Truth Tracker that this is not the first operation of its kind against drug-sellers as this campaign is underway for over last three months and anywhere from 72 to a 100 drug-peddlers have been arrested every month from outside different educational institutes especially private colleges and universities in Lahore.

The issue of drug use came into limelight when in the second week of December, last year, a student of a renowned private university of Lahore was found dead in his hostel room and the initial post mortem report declared that he had died due to cardiac arrest as a result of drug overdose. Almost synchronously, the then dean of Quaid-e-Azam University Islamabad disclosed at the cabinet committee of interior ministry that a large number of students in this institute are drug addicts. The then interior minister, Chaudhry Nisar, took a notice of it and ordered a massive crackdown against drug-dealers. Consequently, four major drug-suppliers got arrested from the adjacent locality of Quaid e Azam University including one Rashid who was also a university employee. The police recovered around 100 kilograms of hash from the gang’s possession. The culprits confessed to supplying of drugs to students including male and female both hostelites and day scholars.

The Authorities took notice of the drug supplying issue in the education institutes and directed ANF to act on it. Though it was not directly in the mandate of the Force, since it is supposed to take action against the major drug-dealers but ANF took the challenge. An ANF officer disclosed that with the help of informants and some students, who sincerely wanted to purge their institutes of this evil, the investigation commenced. At first the insider students purchased drugs to identify drug-suppliers and later got them arrested. “So far we have busted varied networks of around eighty-four small drug-sellers who were selling different drugs outside different universities and colleges in Lahore and other adjacent districts of Punjab,” the officer replied to a query about the arrest of these drug-suppliers.

The ANF authorities also showed the confessional statements of the 84 drug-peddlers who were arrested from different educational institutes of the city and lodged cases against them. The criminals are now in jail. According to the showed confessional statements of drug-dealers, they admitted their crimes and revealed the ways they employed to sell drugs to the students. Most of them also disclosed the names of those students who were their permanent customers for different drugs. These customers were the students who helped introduce the drug-peddlers to other potential buyers to boost up their sales. This was done on part of drug addict students to obtain free or cheaper drugs from the peddlers.

The ANF authorities also found out that of approximately 500 institutes in the province, 114 were marked as GREY where a large number of students are drug addicts and there is dire need of rehabilitation work.

Recently the special branch of Punjab police also submitted its official source report to the Bahauddin Zakariya University management in which they claimed that a large number of students of this university are not only involved in drug use but they are also drug-dealers. In this secret report the police officials also mentioned that the security guards and some lower level management staffers are drug-suppliers and they are the ones who are actually involved in drug supplying business in the university.

Syed Zulfiqar Hussain, a social worker on anti drug campaign while talking to Truth Tracker said that a couple of months back the government of Punjab had constituted a 14-members committee headed by Punjab education minister Rana Mashood on the rising trend of drug addiction in educational institutes after realizing the gravity of the situation. “Mostly in co-education institutes, we discovered that the ratio of both drug addict male and female students are on a rise, and the cafeterias and hostels are the main spaces to for obtaining drugs and spreading of addiction,” Hussain disclosed this while referring to a survey his NGO conducted. He also claimed that while looking at the ratio of drug addiction among the college going youth in Punjab, private educational institutes are more embroiled in this menace, however, drug addiction is also spreading in government-run institutes. The ratio of drug addiction in government-run female institutes is very low.

“We conducted a number of anti drug awareness campaigns in different educational institutes and with the help of two private universities, now successfully declared as “DRUG FREE,” even cigarettes are not allowed on their premises anymore,” Hussain concluded.

Ahmed Saeed an artist and a former graduate of one of the most renowned arts college in Lahore, was arrested by Lahore police on the charges of slaughtering his best friend Naval Javed on a petty dispute. While talking to Truth Tracker in police custody, Saeed confessed his crime and disclosed that both he and deceased Naval were taking drugs at the time of incident. “I borrowed five thousand rupees from naval to buy drugs but could not return it to him as I am unemployed so when we were taking drugs and he was insisting that I pay back, I was high at that time. I don’t know what happened to me and I took the knife from the table and slaughtered him,” Saeed said narrating the whole scene. Later as he came back into senses, he realized that what he is actually done. He then packed his friend’s body into a plastic bag and threw it in Gulshan Ravi area.

An educationist, Qamar Cheema, while talking to Truth Tracker said that drug consumption in academic institutions remains an issue because of poor regulations. “Parent, teacher and student triangle needs to strengthen, so that youth does not feel trapped in the clenches of the Mafia in urban centers,” Cheema added. He further said that currently drugs are being used on an unparalleled scale in academic institutions especially in urban centres and private institutions.

Private institutions do not question students and their behavior because they charge heavy fees and in return, they give students liberty to act and behave. “Academic institutions have lost the moral high ground to question students,” Cheema regretted. “There must not be any leniency in dealing with drugs at academic institutions, there has not been any policy level statement from the provincial educational minister. Since education is provincial subject, so political parties at the provincial level need to formulate policies locally,” the professor concluded.

Bearing in mind the evidence and the ANF operation in recent months, it is high time that the higher academic institutions took stock of the situation. Higher Education Commission, HEC, and the Higher Secondary Education Punjab should sit together and formalize an agenda in this regard and follow it through. If vigilance is increased and anti-drug committees are formulated at the level of the educational institutions, the government would have no trouble convicting the criminals, purging our sacred academic environment of the evils of drugs.

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