PESHAWAR -- Police in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) have arrested more than 10,000 suspected drug dealers so far this year as part of efforts across Pakistan to crack down on illegal drug trafficking, officials say.
"We have arrested 10,741 drug dealers in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa during the current year," KP Inspector General of Police (IGP) Sanaullah Abbasi said on July 8.
Seized illegal drugs in KP this year included 423kg of heroin, 8,104kg of hashish, 64kg of crystal meth or "ice," and 640kg of opium, he said.
"In addition, we destroyed poppy crops cultivated over 104 kanals of land in different parts of the province," said Abbasi.
The destroyed crops would have fetched about $41 million (Rs. 6.8 billion) on the international market, estimated KP Police. The funds could have helped extremist groups finance their violent activities.
Police forces in all districts including the newly merged districts took part in these operations, Abbasi said, adding that a number of encounters with drug dealers took place after they refused to surrender and attacked the police.
"In Peshawar, police have arrested 721 drug dealers," said Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Operations Peshawar Mansoor Aman, referring to the year so far.
Police have checkpoints on routes from the former tribal districts to other parts of the country to intercept drug smugglers, he said.
At the same time, they are conducting raids on drug dealers' distribution points.
"Apart from conducting raids and intercepting traffickers, the police in Peshawar and the rest of the country have been creating awareness among the public -- especially youth -- against the use of heroin, ice, hashish and other drugs," said Superintendent of Police Rural Peshawar Waqar Ahmad.
Police officers have instructions to monitor the activities of drug dealers in the vicinity of educational institutions, hostels and public places, he added.
Police in Mardan District have conducted aggressive operations as well as awareness campaigns among the public in recent months, said District Police Officer Mardan Zahid Ullah Jan July 9.
"Seminars and walks were held with students and teachers of universities and colleges in addition to informing parents and children about the harm from using drugs," Jan said.
Police will continue those activities in the near future besides pursuing their crackdown on drug dealers, he said.
"Together we can make our society free of drugs," he said.
Eradicating illegal drugs
The efforts in KP come as authorities throughout Pakistan work to eliminate the scourge of illegal drugs.
During various operations in mid-June throughout the country, the Anti Narcotics Force (ANF) recovered 2,681kg of illegal narcotics valued at $57 million (Rs. 9.5 billion), a spokesman said on June 19 in Rawalpindi while releasing statistics on drug operations.
Thirty-two suspects including five women were arrested in 31 operations across the country in mid-June, including Balochistan, Punjab, KP and Sindh, the spokesman said.
The illegal drugs seized in these operations included 2,357kg of hashish, 296kg of opium, 12kg of heroin and 15kg of crystal meth.
The ANF Quetta recovered 1,915kg of hashish in an operation in Qilla Abdullah district, the spokesman said.
The police, ANF and Excise Department have seized a significant quantity of drugs this year so far, said Adnan Tariq of Peshawar, a senior TV journalist.
"Some of the top drug dealers, especially those supplying drugs to hostels and educational institutions, were arrested in recent months, " he said.
More operations are needed in coming days to cut the supply route from tribal districts to Peshawar and the rest of the country, said Tariq.
"More-committed efforts are needed to eradicate this menace that has affected hundreds of thousands of people across the country, " he said, emphasising the need for actions against manufacturers and the larger suppliers.
Shehryar Ali, a university student from Peshawar, called for even tougher crackdowns on illegal drugs.
"The government, police and other agencies need more-aggressive operations as well as awareness campaigns to get rid of the menace," Ali said.
Authorities need to punish those supplying drugs to youth and other Pakistanis, especially to those in educational institutions, and cut supply routes, Ali added.