ISLAMABAD   -   The statement of Minister of State for Interior Shehryar Khan Afridi that around 45 to 75 percent of students in Islamabad are addicted to drugs, seems not only far away from reality but it has also posed a serious question mark on the performance of the departments mandated to check the menace, according to the stakeholders.

Parents have urged the state minister to put his own house in order first to provide a ‘drug free’ environment to students in the capital city before making such an exaggerated statement.

The minister’s statement was based on a survey of the city’s educational institutions. He had stated that the students were using drugs like ice and crystal meth.

As per data collected by The Nation, there are around 25 public/private sector universities, 1242 private schools and 423 public sector schools and colleges functional in the city. In around 1690 institutions, providing education from primary to PhD level, there are approximately over one million (11, 77,000) students. The statistics maintained by the regulating departments suggest that around 6, 50,000 students are enrolled in the universities, 3, 10,000 in private schools and 2, 17,000 in public sector institutions.

There are approximately 647350 male students while 529650 female students are enrolled in Islamabad’s educational institutions. Going by the statement of the minister of state, there are 397237 female students addicted to drugs (75 percent of the total) and 291307 male students addicted to drugs (45 percent of the total) in Islamabad. In other words, there are over half a million drug addicts amongst the students only and what to talk of the rest of the city’s population.   

Key officials of the education sector and rehabilitation centers have expressed astonishment over the figures quoted by the state minister of students in the city who are addicted to drugs. They even doubted the survey exercise in the city’s schools and colleges and declared the claim of the minister as an irresponsible statement. “Where is that survey? If the claim is right then it’s the failure of the local police and Anti-Narcotics Force which failed to stop the menace,” said Prof Tahir Malik at National University of Modern Languages (NUML) Islamabad. He said samples, statistics and results of the survey are shared for public information. “If the situation is so grave, the government should declare war against narcotics,” he opined. 

Resident Officer (RO) of Quaid-i-Azam University (QAU) Gul Majeed Rao said that he was startled by the figures that the minister quoted about the number of students in the city who are addicted to drugs. He held it impossible that such a large number of students are involved in the menace.

“Students do consume drugs in the university but the police and local administration has failed in cutting the supply line,” he said.

He accused the police of being reluctant in registering cases against individuals found to be in possession of drugs.

“There is an increase in consumption of drugs by the students but action needs to be taken in the suburbs of the institutions. Students do not prepare drugs in the universities,” said the RO.

Hamid Khan, a representative of Parents Association of Private Schools said that the figure given by the minister seems exaggerated and could be challenged; however, he was of the view that elite private schools needs to be disciplined. “Whether it’s 75 percent or 1 percent, it needs to be stopped, because use of drugs in elite schools is becoming an attraction for students,” he said. He was of the view that a certain percentage of male and female students from rich backgrounds are involved in using drugs and it is because the administration has failed in busting the network of drug dealers’.

Zaafran Elahi, President Private Schools Association declared the MoS for Interior’s claim as a flat statement and demanded him to resign from the position. “Why didn’t they conduct raids and arrest the culprits?” he questioned. He said that the government didn’t conduct any survey in the schools recently, adding that the minister gave a vague statement and has accused the students. “How will the parents trust and send their children to school? The minister has embarrassed parents and students,” he lamented. Zaafarn Elahi said that individual reported cases could not be overlooked but blaming the majority of students and particularly female students is an unfair act on part of the minister.

Ch. Ghulam Abbas, a resident of sector G-14 speaking on behalf of the parents said that the statement is nothing but an exaggeration. “How did the minister find out that such a large number of students are addicts? Actually, the minister dubbed every second student as an addict, which is not the case,” he said and added that the statement has put the parents and the children in an embarrassing situation.

The rehabilitation centers for drug addicts have experienced a surge in the number of patients visiting centers in the recent days; however no specific increase of female and male students was reported or witnessed there.

Dr Sajjad from Brain Care Center Rehabilitation Center told The Nation that the center’s OPDs are receiving around 100 patients per month and they come from different backgrounds.

He said that the use of ICE has increased among the patients but still there is no surge in the number of patients, as the families are reluctant to bring their children in such centers because of social issues. He added that ICE is becoming more popular amongst elite school’s students because their students can afford it.

Manager Emaan Clinic, Asad Rafique viewed that drug addiction amongst females is not more than one percent while the female patients do not necessarily include female students. He said that ICE is getting popular in all age groups, while the patients of drug addiction come from different backgrounds including educated and uneducated strata.

Professor Tahir Mehmood from Islamabad Model Post Graduate College (IMPGC) sector H-8 dubbing the minister’s views as an irresponsible statement said that even 2 percent in any institution is a big claim.

He said that no such team has paid a visit to carry out this very survey recently, while the minister’s statement has shattered the parents trust. He said that action was required to be taken if the drugs were being consumed in such a big quantity. He also said that students enrolled in government schools and colleges cannot afford to purchase expensive drugs like ICE and heroin.

Acting Chairman Private Education Institutions Regulatory Authority (PEIRA) Imtiaz Quershi said that taking action against drug peddlers is the responsibility of the Anti-Narcotics Force and the administration. “It’s the administration’s job to stop easy availability of drugs to students,” he lamented.

Meanwhile, Islamabad police held 1317 drug-peddlers in the first 11 months of the outgoing year 2018 including 81 involved in supplying drugs at educational institutions of the federal capital, according to the data.

However, according to the sources, no student was booked for the crime. The police, acting on the complaints of either the school administration or parents, arrested more than 70 drug peddlers but not a single student.

Talking to this scribe on condition of anonymity, the police officials said that implicating such a large number of students in the menace is just a claim beyond reality. The ground reality suggests a totally different picture. “Students smoke, they use charas, alcohol and in some cases ICE as well, but the figure quoted by the minister is simply too much,” said a senior police official requesting not to be named. 

The police had recovered 402kg charas, 69kg heroin, 7kg opium, 1kg cocaine, 1kg ICE and 22467 bottles of liquor from various drug pushers during the outgoing year, but never moved against a student. The educational institutions have no record of students addicted to drugs, if any, according to the police officials. Most of the accused were arrested from outside Urdu University in sector G-7, Islamic International University, QAU, COMSATS University, F-7/2 school, Riphah University and other educational institutions of the city.

No doubt the drug mafia has gained a stronghold in Islamabad’s educational institutions, despite a crackdown by the local police. Scores of students of various universities and colleges in Islamabad have reportedly fallen prey to drug addiction while the police and the authorities seem helpless in curbing the menace. Students are routinely purchasing contraband as the drug dealers are just a phone call away.

The network of drug dealers is so strong and organized that the service is available 24 hours, according to the sources in the local police.

The increasing trend of drug consumption in the institutes has posed a serious threat to the lives of students. According to police sources, majority of students addicted to drugs in Islamabad belong to the upper-middle and upper class, and have no issue of affordability. In its drive against drugs on campus, Islamabad police has arrested peddlers involved in the sale of contraband.

The areas near Urdu University, International Islamic University Islamabad, Katchi Abadi in sector I-11/4, Swan Camp, Quaid-e-Azam University, Comsats University, Cricket Ground in sector F-6, Islamabad Zoo, Margalla Road F-6/2, F-7/2 School, sector E-11/4, sector G-9/2, Sarai Kharbooza, Noor Pur Shahan, IRIS Academy, Zia Masjid stop, sector I-8, sector G-7/2, sector G-7/4, G-7 Markaz, Doray village, sector F-10/4, sector E-11/2, Bari Imam Pul, Azeem Town, Ripah University in the limits of Noon police station, Uthal and University Chowk in the limits of Secretariat police station have emerged as the prime target areas of the drug-peddlers, according to the data available with this scribe.

Schools, colleges and universities in the federal capital are fast turning into drug peddlers’ favorite haunts as they can find a large number of young customers there.

Even well-known private schools known for their high fees and standard of education are not out of the drug dealers’ range. The source said that crystal meth is smuggled in large quantities from Afghanistan, Iran and China.

The police and other departments need to make serious efforts and take strict and immediate action to curb this crime and to save the future of Pakistani youth.