PESHAWAR -- The Peshawar business community is teaming up with the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Anti Narcotics Force (ANF) in the fight against the use of crystal meth, or "ice", by students.
"The decision to join hands with ANF against ice was taken in the wake of an alarming increase in the use of this drug among youngsters, especially students," said Atif Haleem, the president of the Small Traders of Peshawar City, a traders' organisation in Peshawar.
"The business community and ANF will jointly observe 'Ice Free Week' in late December with the objective of raising awareness about the hazards of ice and ways to protect our young generation from this danger," he said.
"Businessmen of Peshawar in a meeting with former Corps Commander Peshawar Lt. Gen. Shaheen Mazhar in November 2019 floated the idea of extending support to ANF in the fight against drugs, especially ice," Atif said.
The trading community had already been supporting the efforts of the police and ANF, but the week-long event speaks to the commitment of business leaders towards the cause and the gravity of the situation, he added.
Mazhar welcomed the proposal and directed ANF to work with the business community.
The hazards of drugs
During Ice Free Week, walks will take place in different public places to educate locals about the hazards of ice, according to Atif.
The talks will focus on preventive measures for parents, including observing their children's behaviour.
"Ulema and khatibs of mosques, vice chancellors and owners of private universities, columnists and senior officers of the police will be approached during the campaign," he said.
In addition to the awareness walks, the campaign will have a social media aspect to target youngsters, Atif said.
"It's a very praiseworthy approach adopted by the business community for raising awareness against the growing trend of drug addiction, especially among youngsters," said Dr. Azam Shoaib, a rehabilitation officer at Ice Rehabilitation Centre (IRC) Peshawar.
Ice addiction is turning into an epidemic and members of all sectors should come forward in the fight against this drug, he said, adding that the public must be educated about the drug's perils and negative impact on health.
Parents should be taught the symptoms of ice addiction by observing the behaviour of their children and apparent changes in their health, Shoaib said.
A simple urine test can also identify the involvement of anyone in this addiction, he added.
Timely diagnosis and treatment are crucial to the recovery of any addict; otherwise, the impact of drugs on human health is very dangerous, he warned.
Tendency toward violence
"Fascination with ice ... is showing an increase in universities and causing mental health problems among youngsters," said Dr. Zafar Khan, a sociologist at the University of Peshawar.
The use of drugs among youth increases their tendency towards violence and crime and makes them vulnerable to radicalisation and extremism, said Khan.
This issue needs very firm measures, he said.
Khan suggested the establishment of psychological counseling centres at university level to help students break their addictions.
"This is a very good initiative by the business community, and it is the need of the hour in protecting our children from this deadly addiction," said Muhammad Sadiq, a Peshawar resident whose son suffers from drug addiction.
Awareness is a must for both youngsters and parents, he said, adding that it is very important because the use of the drug is increasing rapidly.