SHABQADAR: Drug addiction has claimed as many as four lives in the small village of Haleemzai in Shabqadar, with activists urging locals to band together against the scourge in light of the failure of police and law enforcement agencies in controlling it.
The latest victim was 35-year-old Rais Khan, a father of two, who died on Wednesday. Interestingly, he is the second member of his family who had died of drugs after his elder brother, Shah Jee Khan, also died from similar causes a few years ago.
With drugs afflicting the family, Rais’ father Umer Ali sent his third born, Sahib Ali – also a drug addict – to Saudi Arabia to stop his addiction.
As Rais was laid to rest, a large number of drug addicts turned up. Noting the affliction which caused the life of the father of two and the participation of drug addicts in the congregation, the cleric urged people to rise up against drugs, terming it a collective responsibility of the society to stop the spread of drugs.
Nadir Shah, a local activist, told The Express Tribune that Rais was not the first resident of the small village to have died of drug addiction.
He added that there was hardly a single home in the village which did not have a drug addict.
Explaining the epidemic, Shah said that drugs were abundantly available in the area with police and other law enforcement agencies have failed to control the availability of drugs such as heroin, crystal methamphetamine (meth) and even tranquillizers.
He said that after every drug related death, locals gather in a jirga and resolve to kick the drug habit. The police and political administration, yielding to pressure from locals, start arresting some addicts, but after few days situation returns to ‘normal’ till there is another drug-related death.
Zahid Khan, a young drug addict and a close relative of Rais said that four of his colleagues died in the last week owing to drugs.
He added that drugs such as heroin and ice are easily available in the area. He added that the drugs are smuggled into the area from Mian Mandi in Mohmand Agency on local transport services after they get the drugs from Afghanistan via the Khyber Agency.
Apart from heroin and meth, locals were also addicted to anti-allergic tranquillizer injections such as Avil and Marvil which are mixed with heroin and ice before being injected into the body. The raw material for this deadly concoction, Zahid said, is easily available at all medical stores in Shabqadar.
He added since the locality does not have any drug regulators to keep a check on unregulated medical stores, these stores not only sell injections but other drugs freely.
Zahid noted that the police and political administration always resort to action against drug addicts but never move against drug suppliers and pushers, noting that it was imperative to control the supply of drugs to end addiction. Zubair Khan, who set up the Al Sulaiti hospital to tackle the drug epidemic in Shabqadar, said that his facility has so far cured hundreds of addicts in the past one and half years.
However, he admitted that most of his former patients only stopped using drugs for sometime before relapsing.
He added that the biggest challenge was the easy availability of drugs in the area along with unemployment. Zubair explained that a large number of youngsters in the area are unemployed who turn to drugs to escape the societal pressure. He suggested that strong will from both the society and the police is needed to curb drugs. Then, there is a need to create jobs for the youth.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 31st, 2017.