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ISLAMABAD: A parliamentary panel, Friday, was informed that around five percent of the Pakistani population was addicted to various forms of drugs and to stop the spread of the menace among the youth, immediate steps are necessary.

The Senate Standing Committee on Narcotics Control, which met here under the chairmanship of Senator Ijaz Ahmed Chaudhary, was informed by the federal secretary Narcotics Control that as per the United Nations 2020 report at least nine million Pakistanis were drug addicted. Responding to a question, he said that the Ministry of Narcotics Control as yet has not contradicted the UN data as it has not carried out its own survey on the state of the addicted people.

He said that in 2013, drug addicted people across the country were seven million, and in 2002, the figure was 6.4 million. Briefing the panel, Federal Minister for Narcotics Control Brig (retired) Ijaz Ahmad Shah said that the Ministry of Narcotics Control and Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) are making collaborative efforts to fight against drug abuse.

He said that with a little over 3,500 staff members, the ANF cannot effectively monitor every nook and corner of the country but the force has made significant achievements. He said, "War against drugs is a multidimensional challenge that the Ministry of Narcotics Control and the Anti-Narcotics Force is trying to combat by combined efforts."

He said that by making the best possible use of available resources, the government had devised strategies to control the spread of drugs in society. "In order to secure the future of our coming generations, every individual has to play his role in fighting against drugs and this is the only way by which we can achieve our goal of creating a drug-free society," he added.

In accordance with the country's policy of reducing demand and supply along with international coordination to curb trafficking, he said, the Ministry of Narcotics Control and the Anti-Narcotics Force are jointly working day and night to achieve the set targets.

Ijaz appreciated the efforts of the ANF and said the job of the ANF is commendable from enforcement to the rehabilitation of victims. He said that Pakistan has been given poppy-free status in the comity of nations due to the relentless efforts of all stakeholders.

He said that his ministry's primary focus is on-demand reduction as this was the only way to overcome the supply chain of drugs. The minister expressed hope that all the concerned quarters and every citizen of Pakistan will continue to play their role in process of drug eradication.

The minister stressed for the effective parliamentary check and support for eradicating the drug abuse in the country. The minister said that 18thconstitutional amendment was also creating some problem in implementing the federal rules in provinces.

He cited an example of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) government's passed legislation and said that the provincial government of KPK has allowed the bail of smugglers arrested with a certain quantity of drugs. One of the senators said that if the federal government was unable to control the spread of drugs in the country, it should ask the provinces to take the responsibility.

Secretary Ministry of Narcotics Control said that in the recent past, the ANF has published advertisement in national media for recruitments of 416 officials and received 248,663 applications against 416 posts. Members committee expressed serious concern over the increasing level of unemployment in the country, which was also acknowledged by Ijaz Shah.

The minister said that inflation and unemployment in the country has skyrocketed. "We are determined to save our country, our people, and our youth from drugs hazard by all means," he added.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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