Drugs pose national security threat Cristina Afridi calls for effective prevention, rehab policy to counter drug menace

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Exclusive Interview
Zubair Qureshi

A country with 135 million youth below the age of 30 years (equal to the population of at least 10 European countries or 10 countries in the Middle East), Pakistan’s future is at stake by drug peddlers and smugglers.
More than 9 million people (according to Anti-Narcotics Force 2016 report), mostly youngsters use various drugs such as heroin hashish, ice, charas, cocaine, opium and many other types of illicit drugs and reports from other reliable sources indicate at least 700 people die due to drugs use/abuse in the country.
The estimated cost of drug abuse globally is billions of dollars a year and growing. In addition, the costs to society of this menace is reflected in increased healthcare costs, crime, and lost productivity.
In Pakistan the drug menace is not only a burden on the society, it is rapidly depleting a large chunk of its valuable financial resources.
Drugs are smuggled into the country mostly from Afghanistan’s opium-growing areas and also from neighbouring countries.
The drug dealers target young generation as this age group is the most vulnerable to drug use and they can turn into drug dealers’ long-term consumers.
Chairperson of the Karim Khan Afridi Welfare Foundation (KKAWF) Cristina von Sperling Afridi in an exclusive interview with Pakistan Observer termed prevalence of drug use in Pakistan a national security threat and suggested the government should deal it likewise.
Besides crackdown on peddlers (enforcement), prevention and rehabilitation are even more important, she said, adding that the government needed to announce a clear policy and allocate funds for the purpose.
Cristina is married to a Pakistani diplomat Tariq Khan Afridi some thirty years back. After losing her only 19-year old child, Karim Khan Afridi, in 2014 in Islamabad to ‘recreational’ drug abuse, Cristina and Tariq launched KKAWF one year after their son’s death in 2015.
Now it is their lifelong inspiration and a motivational force to engage and facilitate the youth in protecting their lives that are vulnerable to the dangers of drug abuse. Youths are getting trapped by drugs, I fear the number must have jumped higher from the last data” said she.
KKAWF’s mission, said Cristina, is to disseminate knowledge and create awareness regarding the adverse effects of drug use on individuals, their families, and on society as a whole and to help break the taboos that exist around drug use.
Our foundation’s focus is drug prevention, said she adding empowering youth with awareness whilst giving them the tools they need to defend themselves is a great help regarding prevention against drug use.
The five pillars that help youth to stay away from drug use are: Drug Awareness, Environment, Sports, Arts & Culture and Civic Sense, she said adding her foundation has been taking up with the authorities need for sports promotion measures and civic sense in society. Hailing from a nation whose craze for football is legendary, Cristina said sports could serve as a shield against drugs but ironically, we in Pakistan don’t have even a separate ministry for sports and has handed it to Ministry of Inter-Provincial Coordination (IPC) as a subordinate division/department. Drugs, she said intoxicated its users’ minds and affected lives of not only the addicts but their families also pass through the trauma and there is no end to their sufferings affecting the entire community. While terming Prime Minister Imran Khan a visionary leader who has zero tolerance for drug abuse in Pakistani society, she welcomed the recent launch in Islamabad created by Ministry of Narcotics Control the Zindagi App and launched by the Prime Minister early this month.
The app has been introduced in an effort to halt drug penetration in the society, will contain information on the hazards of drug use and the helpline for those seeking help. However, she advocated much more efforts in this regard to enhance the app for more effective use.
According to a research, violence, pedophiles, rapists and perverted criminals are results of intoxicated minds, said Afridi. Drug use is the mother of all heinous crimes and deprives the man of his common sense.
Concluding she said that the change in this alarming situation can only happen if the menace of drug abuse is highlighted as a matter of policy in schools as it has been scientifically proved by UNODC that‘the earlier the better’.
About KKAWF initiatives, she said students’ counselling, teachers training, parents Engagement and interactive sessions with the youngsters are among the continuous activities of the volunteers of the foundation. We motivate the youth to participate in sports and adopt a healthy lifestyle from the very beginning of their education careers, said she.

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