New Delhi: It is a well-known fact that opium, from which the majority of drugs are derived, is produced in a region known as the ‘Golden Crescent’ – overlapping three nations – Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan. The narcotics transit along the porous Pakistan-Afghanistan border should actually be countered by Pakistan’s Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF), but the setup apparently has failed to work efficiently, and the narcotics easily find the way to Sea through the Makran coast.
Stateless dhows are a big concern for security agencies worldwide. Such dhows have also been detected in Indian Ocean Region (IOR) from where the narcotics are destined to South-Eastern Asian countries.
In April this year, an Indian Naval Ship had seized narcotics worth Rs 3000 crores from a suspicious dhow in the central Arabian Sea. On similar lines, the Sri Lankan Navy also captured a foreign vessel and seized 605kg of Crystal Meth (Methamphetamine) and 579 kg of Ketamine (recreational drug). Interestingly captured nine crew members were found to be Pakistanis.
It has been witnessed that Sri Lanka and the Maldives are emerging as major destinations of drug cargoes originating from Gwadar.
“Most of the drug boats originate from Gwadar. This is possible only with the active support of ISI, otherwise, such large-scale smuggling is not impossible. As the drugs are exchanged in mid-sea, the Pak origin boats are rarely caught,” a source told Zee News.
“Pakistan’s bigger plans of narco-terrorism,” a report prepared by South Asia Democratic Forum (SADF) says that an increasing number of exposed consignments on the India–Pakistan border containing narcotics as well as arms and ammunition were seized by the Border Security Force(BSF), particularly in Punjab, indicates expanding activities by terrorists and drug traders, in both quantitative and qualitative terms. Moreover, it points to Pakistan’s ‘larger’ plans to carry out disruptive activities in India.
In 2015, the UNODC published an exhaustive report titled “Afghan Opiate Trafficking through the Southern Route”, which questioned Pakistan’s role in facilitating production, transportation, and marketing of narcotics products originating in Afghanistan and parts of Pakistan. Subsequent research funded by the European Union, published in 2018 as a paper titled “The heroin coast—A political economy along the eastern African seaboard”, conclusively nails Pakistan as the key protagonist in establishing an exhaustive supply chain of narcotics on the east coast of Africa.
StratNews, a leading defence website in its report, states, “In the Indian Ocean, such supposedly stateless dhows with drug cargoes comprise the marine transportation component of the well-oiled, state-supported narcotics trade, run by Taliban-linked drug lords in cohort with Pakistani cartels amply supported by the Pak armed forces. During boarding operations by law enforcement agencies on the high seas, the crew of such vessels (mostly small dhows) has been found to be mostly Pakistani and occasionally of Iranian origin, with their identification deliberately obfuscated by the absence of proper identity documents.”
All these drug seizures are in millions of Dollars – money that generally flows back into illicit arms, human trafficking, and other illegal activities. However, when it is state-sponsored the money could well be used by the nation sponsoring the illicit trade for procurement of weapon systems.