ISLAMABAD - Pakistan desires a long-term cooperation with Afghanistan in countering drugs smuggling, a senior government official told The Nation on Sunday.
"The major seizures of heroin in Karachi have prompted Islamabad to have a long term and comprehensive bilateral cooperation with Kabul to curb the deadly contraband trade," the source said.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the official said that recent major hauls of heroin in the country suggest that Afghanistan has again become leading heroin producer. Interestingly, Pakistan's assessment coincides with a recent US government report that more Afghan land is under poppy cultivation today than it was under the Taliban in 2002.
Demand for drugs, especially on the streets of rich countries, and the poor economic and security situation in Afghanistan are often cited by experts as the reasons for the failure of the fight to combat poppy cultivation.
Afghanistan produced almost 90 percent of the world's opium in 2013. The drug not only affects the local population but also finds its way to more affluent markets in Western countries.
Afghanistan's Deputy Minister for Counter-Narcotics Mohammad Ibrahim Azhar has said his country needed international support to combat the drug problem.
"Drugs in Afghanistan are not only a problem for our country. They are a problem for the whole world. Increased demand for drugs in foreign countries is a big challenge for us, and Afghanistan cannot continue its fight against drugs all by itself," he was quoted by Voice of America Afghan Service program as saying.
The United States has spent $10 billion since 2002 to combat poppy production and encourage Afghan farmers to plant alternative crops. But a recent report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction indicates that these efforts did not succeed in curbing poppy cultivation.
Still - steps such as taking down drug labs, arresting traffickers and capturing money were positive signs that should not be ignored, said William Brownfield, Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs.
"Cultivation is one of many elements. I would suggest to you that the bigger picture is a much more positive picture in terms of counter-narcotic efforts in Afghanistan," he said.
According to UNDCP, Afghanistan, Opium Poppy Survey, 2001, UNOCD, Opium Poppy Survey, 2002, there has been upward increase in cultivation of opium in Afghanistan since 2001.
The survey suggests that in 2001 opium was cultivated on 7,606 hectares in Afghanistan, which yielded 185 tons of opium. However, in 2002 and 2003 the opium cultivated area saw massive increase from 7, 606 hectares to 74,000 hectares in 2002 and 80,000 hectares in 2003. This also led to massive production of opium from 185 tons in 2001 to 3,600 tons in 2003.
According to the sources in the Anti- Narcotics Force (ANF) of Pakistan, trends in heroin smuggling from the neighbouring country suggest that there have been massive production of heroin which is being smuggled into the other parts of the world through Afghanistan's neighbouring countries including Pakistan.