PESHAWAR -- Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Police are in the midst of a campaign aimed at raising illegal drug awareness among students and youth.
In addition to cracking down on drug dealers, police officials since mid-November have begun visiting universities and colleges throughout KP to teach students about the negative effects of illegal substances.
"I ... and other officers visited the educational institutions in the district to meet with students and tell them how dangerous drugs can be for them and the society," District Police Officer for Mardan Mian Saeed Ahmad told Pakistan Forward.
Ahmad also met with professors and teachers to stress the need to work together against drug use, especially among youth.
"We told the students that they are the future of Pakistan and this world, and for that they have to remain healthy by saying 'no' to drugs and other negative activities," Ahmad said.
The awareness efforts not only include teachers; religious scholars, elected representatives and community elders play a key role in educating youth and others about the harmful effects of methamphetamine (also known as ice), heroin, hashish, liquor and other narcotics, he said.
Crackdown on drug dealers
"Apart from educating youth and other members of society against drugs, we have launched a full-fledged crackdown on drug dealers and smugglers since October," Senior Superintendent of Police Operations for Peshawar Sajjad Khan told Pakistan Forward.
During the crackdown, police arrested more than two dozen offenders involved in illegal drugs and registered cases against them, Khan said, adding that authorities confiscated a huge quantity of drugs from them.
"In a single recovery on November 28, police on Ring Road near Jabba Sohail recovered 7kg of heroin from a car and arrested two smugglers, Fida Hussain and Kamran Khan, who were transporting it down the country [toward Punjab]," he said.
Station house officers and sub divisional officers in Peshawar and other districts are aggressively going after drug dealers and smugglers, according to Khan.
As part of the campaign, police also made efforts to place all heroin addicts in the various rehabilitation centres in the city, but they could not accommodate so many addicts for lack of funds.
"There must be awareness campaigns in all the educational institutions and public places against the negative impacts of drugs on society," added Khan.
During an awareness campaign in mid-November, traffic police removed all posters and paintings from trucks and auto-rickshaws that promoted any use of drugs, alcohol or weapons.
Traffic sergeants stopped these vehicles and covered the images of guns, cigarettes, liquor bottles and drugs with black paint.
Link between drugs, terrorism
"The newly introduced drug, ice, [also known as] meth or methamphetamine, is more popular among youth as it keeps one fresh for 12 and even 24 hours," said Irshad Ullah Afridi, a researcher on drugs and a senior officer at the KP Excise and Taxation Department, which is considering setting up an agency to exclusively go after illegal drugs.
Ice is much more powerful than cocaine and is less expensive, Afridi told Pakistan Forward, adding that the drug increases the body's dopamine production, which induces euphoria for a few hours but damages the brain and other organs.
"Ice and other synthetic drugs are also being used by terrorist groups for suicide missions as they postpone exhaustion for [many] hours," he said.
Apart from awareness campaigns, a proper intelligence system needs to be developed in educational institutions and hostels all over Pakistan to stop the use of ice and other drugs by youth, Afridi said.
"Parents should become closer to their children, especially when they are teenagers, so they do not get involved in negative activities and drug use," Amjad Ali, a teacher at a Peshawar public college, told Pakistan Forward.
"[Youth] start using drugs normally when they feel lonely, so the responsibility is on parents to interact with them more and help them improve their habits," he said.