PESHAWAR -- The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) government has opened Pakistan's first rehabilitation centre for users of crystal meth and other drugs to help addicts return to a normal life.
KP Chief Minister Mahmood Khan inaugurated the facility, called the Ice Rehabilitation Centre, on January 28 in Peshawar.
The 100-bed facility is aimed at helping local residents addicted to drugs, especially crystal meth, also known as "ice". There are separate detoxification wards for males and females in the centre, set up with support from the Social Welfare Department.
"The centre is the first one of its kind in the country that will provide rehabilitation services to addicts," Mahmood said at the inaugural event.
Accommodations, food and other services also will be provided to those seeking rehab service in the centre, which will have a pharmacy to dispense free medicine to patients, he said.
Fighting drug use aids the struggle against terrorism. In neighbouring Afghanistan, 99% of the revenue from illicit drugs goes to terrorist groups and drug traffickers, according to the Afghan Counter Narcotics Ministry.
A never-ending fight
Many drug addicts who cannot afford ice and other drugs such as heroin try to obtain money through begging or even committing crimes, while some are compelled to harm themselves physically, according to officials.
"We have rescued a number of addicts in the past who have injured themselves with blades and knives when they don't get" their drugs, Bilal Ahmad Faizi, a spokesman for Rescue 1122, told Pakistan Forward.
The rehabilitation centre in Peshawar will help a large number of addicts return to normal life, he said.
That is exactly why the centre is needed -- fighting addiction is an ongoing battle given the high supply of street narcotics, according to one recovering user.
"I was admitted to the hospital twice in the past few years for rehabilitation, but I became addicted again as drugs are easily available in Peshawar," a local from southern Peshawar in his late 40s, who asked to be identified only as Khan, told Pakistan Forward.
Many of his friends need rehabilitation and want an end to the availability of all kind of drugs, he said.
"There should be more facilities like the Ice Rehabilitation Centre as almost all of us are fed up with the way we live," Khan said.
About 195 drug addicts from different parts of Peshawar were moved to hospitals for treatment and rehabilitation on March 10.
"The local police and officials of other departments have constituted 12 teams to shift the addicts from different parts of Peshawar to Ice Rehabilitation, Khyber Teaching Hospital, Lady Reading Hospital and Hayatabad Medical Complex for treatment and rehabilitation," Mohammad Ilyas, a spokesman for the Peshawar police, told Pakistan Forward.
New laws to combat drug gangs
The opening of the facility comes amid a crackdown on illegal drugs and on the criminal gangs that manage their distribution.
The KP government has prepared a new law to increase punishment for carrying, manufacturing, selling or buying ice. The new law targets dealers, smugglers and users of meth and ice and proposes a sentence of up to life in prison for carrying or selling more than 1kg of the drug.
The new law will be presented soon, KP Law Minister Sultan Mohammad told the provincial assembly February 8.
At the same time, police already have ramped up action against those selling and smuggling illicit drugs.
"An Ice-Free Peshawar campaign has been launched across the provincial capital for the last few months to go after the smugglers and dealers of the synthetic drugs and other kind of narcotics," Capital City Police Officer Peshawar (CCPO) Qazi Jamil ur Rehman told Pakistan Forward.
Police arrested 77 dealers and smugglers of ice in Peshawar in the last week of February and recovered 5.5kg of crystal meth, he said.
"The total amount recovered across the province last year was 26kg, he added.
As part of the campaign, police and other government departments also are holding seminars and other events to raise awareness among the public regarding the use of ice.
"We have held a number of seminars and walks at the local universities, colleges, offices of nazims and other public places to create awareness among the locals, especially youth, about the drug," District Police Officer Mardan Sajjad Khan told Pakistan Forward.
Police carried out several actions against drug sellers, especially in the vicinity of educational institutions, in the last few month, he added.
"We have busted a major gang involved in smuggling of the drug to Saudi Arabia and other countries," Khan said.