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DEA Pakistan drug intelligence briefing – November 2002

Forums Drugs DEA Pakistan drug intelligence briefing – November 2002

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  • Pakistan drug intelligence briefing
    Published by U.S. Department of Justice – Tuesday 19 November, 2002

    Copyright: Drug Enforcement Administration


    The Islamic Republic of Pakistan serves principally as a major transit country for opiates and cannabis. Opium poppy is illicitly grown in Pakistan; however, due to eradication efforts in recent years, the amount of opium production has been greatly reduced. Opium products, often processed into morphine base or heroin in Afghanistan, are then shipped through Pakistan to world markets by Pakistan-based traffickers.


    Prior to 1996, annual production estimates ranged between 140 and 180 metric tons of opium. Opium production has been greatly reduced, due in large part to eradication efforts by the Government of Pakistan (GOP).

    Opium poppy cultivation occurs primarily in the Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP) of Pakistan. Mohmand, Bajaur, and Khyber Agencies are in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of the NWFP. The tribal areas of the NWFP are fairly autonomous as the central government has limited involvement in local affairs. Some areas of the Dir District, which is not a FATA, also grow opium.

    Estimated Opium Production in Metric Tons

    2001 2000 1999 1998 1997 1996 1995
    5 11 37 65 85 75 155

    The GOP conducted aggressive crop eradication programs in poppy growing regions. In past years, the Dir District accounted for most of the opium produced in Pakistan. However, since 1999, the primary area of poppy cultivation has been the Bara River Valley in the Khyber Agency, which borders Afghanistan’s Nangarhar Province. This is a closed area within the FATA of Khyber, which means access to the area is limited and the political agent has less direct authority. In 2001, most of the opium produced in Pakistan was cultivated in Khyber Agency.

    It is recognized that alternative crops and/or alternative income sources must continue to be developed for farmers as a substitute for opium poppy cultivation. The United Nations Drug Control Program (UNDCP) and the U.S. Government both fund alternative development/poppy reduction programs in Pakistan that finance crop substitution, road construction, electrification, and water schemes.


    Cannabis grows wild throughout the region and is also deliberately cultivated. No estimates of Pakistan’s marijuana/hashish production are available, although INTERPOL reports that Pakistan and Afghanistan together produce about 1,000 metric tons of hashish each year. INTERPOL also reports that over 85 metric tons of cannabis were seized in Pakistan during 1999, and although Afghanistan produces the bulk of the product, much of the hashish from land-locked Afghanistan still transits Pakistan, with an increasing amount routed north through the Central Asian Republics.


    Although opiate conversion laboratories were once common in Pakistan, all laboratory activity moved to Afghanistan in the mid-to late-1990s. It is believed that traffickers relocated in order to be closer to the abundant supply of raw opium in Afghanistan, as well as to avoid law enforcement action in Pakistan. In the past, the following areas of Pakistan were locations for opiate processing: the Khyber, Mohmand, and Bajaur Agencies of the NWFP; the Chagai Hills Division, Baluchistan; and the Ribat area at the western tip of Pakistan. In 1999, the GOP destroyed two laboratories: one located in Quetta, the second in Rawalpindi.

    Southwest Asian heroin conversion laboratories, currently located in Afghanistan, can produce several types or grades of heroin depending on the order received. Brown heroin and white heroin are produced for export to the international market, and a low-quality brown heroin is made for local and regional consumption. The DEA’s Special Testing and Research Laboratory has analyzed samples of heroin produced in the region. This analysis has demonstrated that laboratories in the region are capable of producing extremely high-quality white heroin that is comparable to heroin from Burma and Colombia.


    Trafficking groups based in Pakistan smuggle multiton shipments of morphine base to processing sites in Turkey. Kilogram quantities of heroin are smuggled from Pakistan to Europe and the United States. Regional drug traffickers represent a diverse ethnic and tribal cross section. Couriers from drug trafficking groups centered in other regions smuggle drugs out of Pakistan through the international airports, from Pakistan’s Makran Coast and the Port of Karachi, and overland through Iran and the Central Asian States. The following are the general routes for smuggling Afghan-produced opiates from Pakistan:

    • Overland from Pakistan’s Baluchistan Province through to Iran’s Northwestern Region, which is inhabited by the Kurds, and then smuggled into conversion laboratories located in Turkey;

    The shipments transiting Pakistan may be broken down into smaller shipments once in Iran. Iran is both a transit country and a destination country for opium products. Iranian domestic production is believed to be quite low and unable to supply domestic demand. Opiates not intended for the Iranian domestic market transit Iran to Turkey, where the morphine base is converted to heroin. Heroin and hashish are delivered to buyers located in Turkey. The drugs are then shipped to the international market, primarily Europe.

    • Overland to the Makran Coast, where the drugs are transported by small coastal vessels to waiting vessels off the coast of Pakistan;

    Large quantities of morphine base and hashish are transported through mountainous terrain to the Makran Coast by four-wheel-drive vehicles or pack animals. Camel caravans can avoid drug enforcement officials since the camels are capable of traveling over very rugged terrain. Small coastal craft deliver heroin and hashish to ships anchored off the Makran Coast. The ships then deliver opiates and hashish to the Middle East and Turkey.

    • By road, rail, and plane from Afghanistan to Pakistan’s major cities, where opiates are routed by sea or air to Europe, North America, Africa, and other worldwide destinations;

    The Port of Karachi is one of the largest and busiest in the region, moving containerized cargo, as well as bulk goods, into and out of Pakistan. Drug smugglers have long recognized the benefit of using containerized cargo to move drugs. Heroin and hashish are both moved through the country by road and rail to the seaport and concealed in legitimate shipments.

    Specially constructed suitcases are available that incorporate illicit substances such as heroin into the structure. Couriers also saturate clothing, books, and other absorbent products with heroin solutions. Drug smuggling through the airports usually involves shipments of rom 1 to 2 kilograms that are concealed on couriers’ bodies, or in personal luggage. International connections take passengers in any direction, and to any destination.

    West African traffickers have been present in Southwest Asia for many years. Heroin smuggled by these traffickers has been produced in laboratories located in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar Province, and usually obtained from sources in Pakistan’s NWFP. A common smuggling method used by these couriers is to ingest large quantities of heroin-filled capsules. Often, these capsules are inserted into the courier’s body cavities, as part of the same smuggling venture. These couriers travel to destinations in Africa, often via the United Arab Emirates or other locations with air connections to Pakistan. Other worldwide destinations,
    including Russia and cities in Southeast Asia, are also frequently used by couriers working for West Africans.

    • By road or rail to India, primarily for local consumption, but with a portion shipped on to Europe and the United States;

    India, as well as other countries in the region, has a large opiate abuser population. While diversion from India’s licit production feeds the addict population, it is not always sufficient to satisfy the demand. Opiates from Afghanistan and Pakistan are smuggled to India, and essential chemicals are smuggled from India to Afghan opiate conversion laboratories.
    • Heroin is also smuggled to worldwide destinations using letters and parcel post. DEA reporting indicates that a number of organizations have used the Pakistani mail system to send heroin to the United States. Both heroin-saturated letters and parcels containing heroin have been seized. In addition, heroin is also smuggled in parcels via express mail companies. While the amount smuggled per incident is fairly low, the total smuggled by individuals or organizations can be significant.

    Acetic anhydride (AA), an essential chemical in the manufacture of heroin, transits Pakistan en route to Afghan conversion laboratories. There have been no significant seizures of AA in Pakistan since September 1998, when a 10- metric-ton shipment originating in Hungary was intercepted. AA is legitimately used in large quantities by the textile and leather tanning industries. The GOP has established control over AA, and mandates import only by licensed industrial consumers. AA is imported from European countries, as well as Japan and India. Only one Pakistani company is known to have produced AA, and it could only meet a quarter of the total legitimate requirement; according to U.S. State Department reporting, this company was closed in 1998. Smuggling AA is a criminal offense, punishable by up to 14 years in prison.


    Pakistan is not considered a major center for international money laundering activity. However, Pakistan-based traffickers are extensively involved in the production and transportation of opiates and hashish. This suggests that drug proceeds are laundered within the country. The Control of Narcotics Substances Act empowers the Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) to investigate suspicious banking transactions—including foreign currency accounts. The ANF has also been empowered to freeze accounts, and can require financial institutions to report suspicious transactions.

    While some drug-related money finds its way into the Pakistani banking system, conventional wisdom dictates that the majority of the profits are invested in Pakistani real estate. In addition, the widespread use in South Asia and the Middle East of the informal financial sector, referred to as Hundi or Hawala system, is still used extensively as a means to move money in and out of the country. This informal banking system relies on trust between client and broker and provides a service that is confidential, convenient, efficient, international in scope, and inexpensive. While this system is used extensively by legitimate businesses and individuals to transfer funds, especially in remote areas not served by conventional banking facilities, it is also exploited by criminals who want to bypass legal banking procedures and practices to transfer large sums of money without official scrutiny. This practice makes it difficult to estimate the amount of drug-related money that may be in Pakistan.


    Drug abuse has grown dramatically in Pakistan; in 1980, there were virtually no heroin addicts in Pakistan, but by 1982 there were an estimated 30,000 addicts. The most recent drug abuse survey was conducted in 1993-1994, and estimated that there were 1.5 million heroin addicts in a drug abuser population of 3 million. However, the total addict population is now believed to be near 4 million, with approximately 50 percent of that population addicted to heroin. Pakistani addicts prefer to smoke heroin, which is called “chasing the dragon,” but an increasing number of addicts are injecting heroin and generally share needles. According to U.S. Department of State reporting, 126 metric tons of opium are required each year to meet the needs of Pakistani opiate users. Thus, opium illicitly produced in Pakistan does not satisfy even domestic demand, and opiates must be smuggled in from Afghanistan to meet the needs of the country’s many users.

    Hashish users are the second largest group of drug abusers. Hashish use is common and an accepted practice in some areas. The official and public attitude toward opium and hashish use has been one of benign tolerance. However, the dramatic increase in heroin abuse has caused attitudes to change. There are 29 government-operated drug treatment centers in Pakistan and 44 private drug treatment and rehabilitation centers. Treatment facilities have had good success with treating opium users, but are much less successful with heroin users. The recidivism rate is extremely high for chronic heroin addicts—especially for treatment that involves only physical detoxification.

    Demand reduction is a part of Pakistan’s drug control policy. The ANF’s Drug Abuse Prevention and Resource Center coordinates demand reduction programs in the four provinces. Religious leaders are educated about drug abuse and included in demand reduction activities, and workshops are planned to sensitize the medical community about drug laws and drug availability and to encourage appropriate prescribing of psychotropic drugs. The GOP initiated a 5-year drug control master plan, which addresses demand reduction, but the program is underfunded.


    Many agencies have drug law enforcement responsibilities in Pakistan, but the ANF is the primary antidrug law enforcement agency. Established in July 1994, the ANF incorporated members from the Anti-Narcotics Task Force and sections of the disbanded Pakistan Narcotics Control Board. The ANF is responsible for developing and implementing Pakistan’s overall drug control policy. Since October 1999, following a military coup, Pakistan has been under military rule. This has not impacted the narcotics law enforcement structure established by the previous government. A particularly successful area of cooperation between the U.S. Government and the GOP has been the ANF’s Special Investigative Cell. This is a specially trained unit that targets major violators.

    Pakistani Customs agents are assigned at all airports, border points, and the Port of Karachi with all the responsibilities normally assigned to Customs officials.

    The Pakistani Coast Guard is responsible for patrolling the Makran Coast and the Port of Karachi. The Coast Guard has jurisdiction extending for 12 nautical miles to sea and for 50 miles inland. For example, in 1999, the Coast Guard seized 248 kilograms of heroin, 600 kilograms of hashish, and 22 kilograms of opium in the coastal village of Hub, which is in the Baluchistan Province.

    The Frontier Constabulary and Frontier Corps serve as law enforcement agencies for the NWFP and the FATA. Their mandate covers the broad spectrum of offenses that includes intercepting drug shipments moving by caravan or by vehicle through their territory.

    Other agencies include the Pakistan Rangers (the paramilitary group patrolling the India-Pakistan border), the Airport Security Force, the Federal Investigation Agency (responsible for extradition requests, INTERPOL, and corruption investigations), the departments of police and taxation in the four provinces, and tribal militia groups.

    In 1995, two antidrug ordinances were passed. They were converted into law in 1997. The Anti-Narcotics Force Act established the ANF as the lead antidrug agency. The Control of Narcotics Substances Act criminalized all drug-related activities, which brought Pakistan into compliance with the 1988 U.N. Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs. Provisions of this law make money laundering a crime and establish procedures for asset forfeiture and for participating in mutual legal assistance requests. A total of US$5.8 million in trafficker assets have been frozen since the law was passed. In 1998, a court decision, based on the defendant’s conviction for drug trafficking in the United States, marked the first time that frozen assets were forfeited to the GOP. In 1998, the GOP extended the ANF Act and the Control of Narcotic Substances Act to Pakistan’s FATAs in the NWFP. For the first time, federal antidrug laws could be fully enforced in tribal areas. Special Narcotics Courts were established in 2000 and 2001 to speed drug prosecutions in Peshawar, Lahore, Karachi, Islamabad, and Quetta. In addition, Pakistani courts have imposed the death penalty approximately 130 times for drug trafficking offenses; to date, no executions have been carried out.


    • 1961 U.N. Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs
    • 1971 U.N. Convention on Psychotropic Drugs
    • 1988 U.N. Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs
    • South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Narcotics Control Committee

    Eleven countries have drug liaison officers stationed in Pakistan and conduct active counterdrug programs in the areas of law enforcement and demand reduction. Pakistan has drug-related bilateral agreements with a number of countries, including the United States, the United Arab Emirates, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, China, and India.

    Drug Seizures (metric tons)

    Year Opium Heroin Cannabis
    1995 215.52 18.04 534.58
    1996 8.08 4.05 201.55
    1997 8.10 4.20 108.53
    1998 5.02 3.33 65.33
    1999 16.32 4.98 81.46
    2000 8.78 9.40 128.72
    *2001 4.80 7.66 65.05

    Sources: 1995 – 1996: Pak1istani Anti-Narcotics Force

    1997: AMEMBASSY, Islamabad, December 1998
    1998: AMEMBASSY, Islamabad, December 1999
    1999: Subcommission on Illicit Drug Traffic and Related Matters in the Hear and Middle East, June 2000, Country Report by Pakistan to the UNDCP
    2000: AMEMBASSY, Islamabad, January 2002
    *2001: Figures are for only the first 11 months of 2001 (January – November)

    Extradition between the United States and Pakistan occurs under the auspices of a 1931 treaty signed by the United States and the United Kingdom. This treaty was made applicable to India in 1942 and has been continued by Pakistan.

    Note: The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has two offices in Pakistan, the Islamabad Country Office and the Peshawar Resident Office. DEA Pakistan’s area of responsibility also includes Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates.


    Since September 2001, the political situation in Afghanistan has been changing rapidly. It is possible that traffickers will view Afghanistan as an unfriendly environment for opium poppy cultivation and processing and may begin to relocate to Pakistan. The GOP must continue aggressive action against cultivation and processing to prevent any re-emergence within the country.

    Should Afghanistan remain a significant source country for opiates, Pakistan will remain a major transit point for opiates intended for traffickers based in Turkey. The bulk of the morphine base and heroin base destined for Turkey, usually smuggled in multiton loads, will continue to transit Pakistan. Because Afghanistan and the Central Asian Republics have no direct access to the ocean, Pakistan’s Makran Coast remains an attractive venue for maritime smuggling.

    Traffickers will continue to exploit Pakistan’s extensive air links with other countries in South Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Southeast Asia, and Europe to smuggle opiates, but may increase use of third countries in an attempt to conceal travel to and from Pakistan.

    This report was prepared by the DEA Intelligence Division, Office of International Intelligence, Europe/Asia/Africa Strategic Unit. This report reflects information received prior to December 2001. Comments and requests for copies are welcome and may be directed to the Intelligence Production Unit, Intelligence Division, DEA Headquarters.






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Forums Drugs DEA Pakistan drug intelligence briefing – November 2002