Pakistan seeks help from abroad to stem heroin flow
Islamabad, Pakistan — A small office here is a key outpost in the fight against heroin trafficking and addiction - not just in Pakistan, but in North America and Western Europe as well.
The office belongs to the slight figure of Toaha Qureshi, director of planning for Pakistan Narcotics Control Board (PNCB).
Muslim Pakistan, with a restless population of 85 million, is the world's single largest exporter of illicit heroin, both from its own North-West Frontier tribal areas and from supplies pouring across the border from Afghanistan.
''We need more help, much more help from abroad,'' Mr. Qureshi said in a recent interview. ''Not just for the sake of America and Europe, but for our own sake. Every 18th family in Pakistan is directly affected by drug abuse. We have 1.3 million addicts of all kinds today, and the number is rising every month.
''Twelve percent (156,000) are heroin abusers, 60 percent are on marijuana, 20 percent on opiates, 8 percent on Mandrax (Quaalude) tablets containing methaqualone (a depressant), alcohol, and tranquilizers. . . .''
One of the papers on Mr. Qureshi's desk contains a measure of good news: Britain has just decided to put a full-time customs officer into Pakistan to work with local officials, and to provide more money for law enforcement vehicles and training.
The move is part of a package just outlined by Home Secretary Leon Brittan. It reflects a new urgency with which Western Europe as a whole sees heroin addiction today.
The United States and several European countries already have customs and drug enforcement officers permanently assigned to Islamabad and/or Karachi.
More and more opium is being refined into heroin in cheap ''bathtub'' refining labs in Afghanistan and in northwest Pakistan. Pakistan has yet to arrest a single major trafficker.
The heroin trade in Pakistan is not aimed only at North America and Europe. Afghan rebel guerrillas need money to buy arms to fight Soviet troops. In Iran, an estimated 800,000 opium addicts also provide a constant market.
Pakistani heroin goes out to Iran through Quetta and Baluchistan. It reaches the West through Bombay and Calcutta, as well as via Lahore, Rawalpindi, and Karachi.
So much heroin has come through the village of Landi Kotal at the Khyber Pass that the Islamabad government has now closed the area to foreign visitors including journalists.
Mr. Qureshi acknowledges that heroin continues to flow abroad, despite government efforts since 1979. Illicit production had been reduced, he said, from 800 tons in 1979 to 60 tons last year. Privately, some United Nations and US officials think the 60-ton estimate is too low.
Afghanistan is still thought to be producing 300 or more tons of opium a year. The long, mountainous Afghan-Pakistan border, Rudyard Kipling country, is virtually impossible to police. In many places the border is unmarked.
''What we need now is more radios, more cars, more men. We appreciate UN help in the Buner region, and a US program in Malakand,'' Mr. Qureshi says.
''But we've reduced poppy growing much more than in Thailand and in Burma, so we think we deserve more help now. . . .''