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Inside Lahore

The scene beneath a crumbling overpass in this capital city was a vision from hell. Hundreds of figures huddled together in the shadows, crouching amid garbage and fetid pools of water. Some injected heroin into each other’s limbs or groins in full view; others hid under filthy shawls to cook and inhale it

It’s been seen that we are ignorant of the direction of our youth as everyone here is shackled in their daily assignments, even the government has never ever thought of the quagmire that our young’s are in or marching to. Have we ever thought why drug abuse is billowing among youth in our society? Is government taking any concrete steps in eliminating this menace? Or are they really fuelling this idea?

The ratio of drug users ramping up day by day and one can easily see the victims of it on roads, parks and under the bridges as there is no bar for these helpless people. Mr. Sajid, a drug junkie, resides in the outskirts of Lahore and actively indulged in this grisly activity for being two decades. “I started with hashish when I was 15”, said Sajid, “and started snorting drugs 5 years back and now don’t know where to go from here”. I still remember his beseeching eyes, imploring for help. He had never witnessed any shortage of supply since 1990s but was furious about its price hike. “It’s access is very easy and you can even get it at home” said Sajid, “but I prefer snorting with a lot under a newly built fly over, we are thankful of Mr. Sharif for being such benign to us by providing a place to gather”, he laughed, and I was felling quite poignant.

Township culvert

The principal causes of this epidemic, officials say, are rampant unemployment, peer pressure, facile accessibility and bumper harvests of opium poppies in our neighboring country Afghanistan and some parts of KP and FATA. Despite years of costly international efforts to curb the traditional Afghan crop, led by the U.S. government, it is thriving more than ever. According to U.S. officials, a record 520,000 acres of land were used to grow poppies in 2013.

Domestic law enforcement efforts have been limited and ineffective. Several addicts in the culvert said they spent about Rs.500 daily on small packets of heroin. Sellers constantly came and went.We work hard, but we are overwhelmed. The number of addicts is increasing by the day,” said the junior ANF officer Akbar Shirazi, a friend I know since I was in 12th grade. “Every day at least one of them die,” he said. “They come here, and they never leave.”

Although the number of addicts has soared, there is still very little help available for those who want to quit. Officials said there are about 100 drug treatment facilities around the country, most built with foreign funds, and the few residential programs release addicts to the street after 40 days with little follow-up. “We are no worse off than other countries in the region,” he said, citing high addiction rates in Afghanistan and Iran. “At least here we admit the problem exists. We see it as a humanitarian issue, and we welcome anyone who wants to help.”

A gaunt young man with a grime-streaked face came up, saying he was desperate to return to his home in Mandi Bahauddin, a small city in Punjab province. Tears ran down his face, and his hands shook. He said he was 19. “I am stuck here, and I can’t go back,” he said. “My family doesn’t know I am living under a bridge. I am so ashamed and sad. I don’t know what to do.”

When I came back home late at night after the reconnaissance I ponder where this country is leading to? Such an easy access to drugs appalled me and I wondered why Sharif’s don’t scuffle with this billowing threat? Ostensibly our society is heedless and deem the victims as morons but don’t empathize.

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