From narco states to terror, Syria and Pakistan

Iran and Saudi Arabia’s historic peace agreement with China has many causes and ramifications. One of the results was Syria under Bashar al-Assad rejoining the Arab league after a 12-year ban. This peace agreement between Saudi Arabia and Iran may mark the end of Yemen and Syria, two significant wars that served as proxy conflicts between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

The Syrian civil war, which attempted to remove Assad, inadvertently served to strengthen him. As a pariah to the majority of the globe, Assad was no longer subject to the obligations and rights of sovereign states and was unable to sell oil to practically anybody anywhere. As a result, according to Al-Jazeera, Syria has surpassed all other countries in the world as the production of Captagon, an amphetamine-like substance that gives the Syrian government three times as much money as the whole Mexican cartel system. The Middle East, which is one of the most significant markets for Captagon, also known as Abu Hilalain (father of the two crescent moons) in the Middle East, is suffering greatly from this. Given that it supplies about 80% of the world’s captagon market, Syria now collaborates closely with European organized crime groups. This has bolstered Assad’s position and his dictatorship, resulting in the creation of a narco-state that spans both Europe and the Middle East. According to a recent France 24 documentary, the Hezbollah, tribal leaders, rebel movements, criminal gangs, armies, and militias are all part of the network managed by the elite 4th division of the Syrian army, which is led by Maher al Assad, the dictator’s brother. The cocaine made by the underprivileged has been used by Syria as a negotiating tool with the Arab league and other countries. Another narco state that has been boosted by the Taliban taking control of Kabul is Syria. With Afghanistan, with whom it shares the longest border, Pakistan is the main transit nation for the opium producing hotspots of Helmand and Kandahar. Drugs are moved from the Durand Line to ports and Pakistan’s other land and water borders through networks established in Pakistan, where they are then sent to markets in Asia, the Persian Gulf, Africa, and eastern and western Europe.

The relative role Pakistan plays in the southern opiate trafficking routes is not well covered in contemporary studies. There is no doubt that Pakistan is the main transit country for the flow of Afghan opiates along the “southern route” despite data estimates by the UNODC suggesting that more than 45% of illegal Afghanistan commerce passes through that country.

For the trafficking of opiates via Pakistan, the Gulf area serves as both a significant heroin market and a transhipment center. The United Kingdom, Belgium, and the Netherlands are significant targets for trafficking through the southern route, which has been increasingly prevalent in Europe in recent years. For instance, heroin smuggled from Pakistan accounts for 84% of seizures of 10 kg or more at the borders of the United Kingdom. Spain and Italy, two nations who were previously primarily serviced by the Balkan route, have lately identified Pakistan as a significant source of opiates that are being transported from Afghanistan.

According to the Italian National Anti-Drug Service DCSA, the “consolidation of the so-called African route” is where the increasing number of heroin seizures linked to Southern Europe are coming from: heroine leaves producing areas, mostly from airports and ports, especially the one in Karachi, Pakistan, and travels to Western markets via the eastern part of the African continent. East and Central European countries have reported seizures of southern-bound heroin trade, with Slovenia and Ukraine demonstrating the need to constantly watch trends in this area. As the heroine leaves and transits via Pakistan, East Africa turns into a crucial intersection.

According to Afghan farmers, opium planting will grow in 2021, which would probably result in an increase in heroin trafficking in Pakistan. Despite the Taliban’s declaration that all drug manufacture and trafficking in Afghanistan would be prohibited, this story nevertheless surfaced. There was no decrease in heroin seizures in Pakistan and the surrounding area throughout the COVID-19 pandemic’s 2020 timeframe, indicating that heroin manufacture and trafficking were not hampered by the outbreak. At the same time, while quantities were higher, fewer shipments were routed via Pakistan. Moreover, it is anticipated that comparable quantities of chemicals would continue to be smuggled via the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. Additionally, there is proof that Pakistani state authorities colluded to knowingly permit this cross-border illegal conduct. The Lyari gangs in Karachi and terrorist organizations openly sell heroin with Pakistan.

Balochistan, which is close to the borders with Afghanistan and Iran, has recorded morphine seizures. The anecdotal allegations of morphine to heroin processing outside of Afghanistan in 2008 and these morphine seizures in Pakistan seem to be related.

Pakistan is a significant supplier, destination, and transit country for cannabis on a massive scale. In Pakistan, cannabis use is quite common. According to statistics, 41.9 metric tonnes of cannabis were smoked in Karachi in 2018 alone, making it the city with the second-highest global cannabis smoking rate, just after New York. Cannabis, noted for its outstanding quality and being cultivated in the Tirah Valley in the erstwhile FATA, is said to be grown in substantial quantities in KP. Cannabis is grown and distributed by numerous armed organizations in the area for financial gain, but in the Tirah Valley, it has long been a common agricultural activity.

Cannabis is also imported from Pakistan, and it seems that Pakistani cannabis is mostly utilized to feed regional markets in East Europe and the Middle East. Additionally, Pakistan may serve as a stopover for Afghan marijuana traveling to Iran and beyond into the Middle East. The bulk of cannabis that is trafficked from Pakistan into Iran travels by land (see heroin trafficking), but there are also many cannabis seizures that happen on marine routes.

Synthetic narcotics, which are apparently becoming more and more popular among younger generations, go to Pakistan. While the cost of methamphetamine varies depending on its grade, it is generally thought to be more expensive than heroin. Afghanistan’s dependence on smuggling OTC medications from its neighbors, Pakistan and Iran, has decreased as a result of the exploitation of the ephedra plant as a raw material for the production of methamphetamine. In addition, this has made it possible for Afghanistan to produce methamphetamine at a considerably reduced cost, which has led to more of the drug crossing via Pakistan. Since late 2019, some methamphetamine has been discovered in Africa and Europe. It was trafficked there through Pakistan, mostly following conventional heroin routes that are controlled by Pakistani drug trafficking organizations. There are rumors that Peshawar is producing K-tablets, a tablet that includes both methamphetamine and an opiate.

It is a well-known fact that former prime minister Nawaz Sharif claimed he was approached by ISI Director General Asad Durrani and Chief of Army Staff Lieutenant General Mirza Aslam Beg to approve massive drug deals to finance “a series of covert military operations in desperate need of money.” The ISI had pushed mujahideen organizations to use heroin trafficking as a means of funding when the Afghan war broke out in 1979. The mujahideen worked along with powerful landowners and drug traffickers to ensure that the opium harvest was transported to Karachi port without incident. Gretchen Peters’ USIP study, “How Opium Works,”

According to the Taliban, Mullah Nasim Akhundzada, the leader of the mujahideen, threatened to castrate farmers who refused to sow poppies. The crop increased as a consequence.

In his investigative book Pakistan: The Empire of Heroin, written almost three decades ago, Lawrence Lifschultz noted that by 1984, Pakistan was providing 70% of the world’s supply of high-grade heroin. It is impossible to distinguish Pakistan’s drug trade from more complicated issues of regional security and guerrilla warfare since corruption, secret operations, and drugs got entangled throughout the 1980s. It is obvious that not much has changed.

Pakistan and Syria both pose a serious danger to international security going future.What originally began as a political venture has now given birth to two narco-states that work with terrorist and extremist organizations to further their goals. The security of the Middle East, Asia, and Europe is now under existentialist danger.

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