Malice Towards None & All: Deadly Drug Wars & Terrorism

Malice Towards None & All: Deadly Drug Wars & Terrorism
Monday, June 26, 2023 marks the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. The theme for 2023 is “People first: stop stigma and discrimination, strengthen prevention”. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), nearly 212 million people are using illicit drugs such as cocaine, cannabis, hallucinogens, opiates and sedative hypnotics worldwide. In December 1987, the UN General Assembly decided to observe June 26 as the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.

Pakistan is one of the worst-affected victims of terrorism, money laundering, drug trade, tax evasion, corruption and rent seeking. The war against terrorist networks e.g. Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Al-Qaeda and Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the Taliban, which enjoys a network with many outlawed groups with hubs in Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere, cannot be won unless their financial lifeline is destroyed. These networks are minting enormous money from voluntary donations to organized crime.

The questions that irk everybody’s mind are where do these terrorists get so much money from? Why are the governments not serious in cracking down on unlawful transfer of funds? If banking channels are used, then why cannot be remitters and recipients traced? If hawala and hundi are used for unlawful transfer of funds, why are persons engaged in these unlawful activities not arrested and punished?

It is a well-established fact that criminals remit billions of dollars every year from bank accounts maintained in various countries. Crackdown on this dirty money is the real issue, though it finds scarce coverage in media, despite a disproportionate focus on military strategies to uproot terrorism that is largely fed by arms and drug deals, at the domestic and global level.

James Petras, Professor of Sociology, Binghamton University, New York, in his paper, Dirty Money: Foundation of US Growth and Empire makes startling revelations: “There is a consensus among US Congressional investigators, former bankers and international banking experts that US and European banks launder between $500 billion and $1 trillion of dirty money each year, half of which is laundered by US banks alone.” These yearly inflows surpass all net transfers by the major US oil producers, military industries and aircraft manufacturers.

The most recent estimates from 2022 are that 75 offshore jurisdictions around the world licensed about 11,000 offshore banks that control approximately US$165 trillion in assets. This is the real situation on the ground, whereas we have been hearing for three decades from successive United State Presidents about their commitment against wars, against drugs and terrorism. These are in reality phony wars!

President Joe Biden completed withdrawal of American forces on August 30, 2021—few days before the 20th anniversary of 9/11—in the wake of Doha Agreement of February 20, 2020. Behind this was the agenda of recapturing and promoting in Afghanistan Taliban rule and the spread of Daesh for destabilizing the entire region for the purposes of containing of China, attack its Road and Belt Imitative (BRI), and create troubles for Pakistan vis-à-vis the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), itself the flagship project of BRI.

The International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR 2023), annually prepared by the US Department of State, reveals: “Most drugs trafficked through Pakistan are destined for global markets. Pakistani security forces and law enforcement interdict only a small fraction of that traffic. From July 2021 to June 2022, Pakistan’s law enforcement agencies reported they disrupted the operations of five international drug trafficking organizations through the arrests of 25 individuals connected to the organizations. National seizures included 4.6 metric tons (MT) of morphine; 8.2 MT of heroin; 18 MT of opium; 84 kilograms of cocaine; and 96.5 MT of hashish. Pakistani agencies reported no synthetic fentanyl seizures, 2.7 MT of seized methamphetamine, and 1.7 MT of seized amphetamines.”

Professor Petras in Enormous By Any Measure says: “Washington and the mass media have portrayed the U.S. as being in the forefront of the struggle against narco trafficking, drug laundering and political corruption: the image is of clean white hands fighting dirty money. The truth is exactly the opposite.” The case of Afghanistan is no different where drug barons, through accumulation of vast assets, cripple state institutions; the chapter ‘Norwegian Connection’ in Pakistan: From Hash to Heroin testifies to it.

Since organised crime syndicates have deeply embedded tentacles and influences in the financial systems, terrorists find no difficulty in exploiting the available infrastructure. There is sufficient evidence that militant groups working against the security and stability of Pakistan generate huge funds through organised criminal activities and also get generous “donations” from “sympathisers” in and outside Pakistan.

Even with just the news of withdrawal of US forces, the Taliban/Daesh forces being financed by drug barons and warlords started taking over the capital of all main provinces of the country. It was written on the wall that they would capture Kabul once again and second dark era of terrorism with hidden hands behind was bound to threaten Pakistan as a step to counter BRI.

In the face of ongoing New Great Game, Pakistan needs to develop links with golden ring countries and forge a bloc to counter financing of terrorism and money launderers, explained in detail in Pakistan Tackling FATF: Challenges & Solutions. There is an urgent need to establish a joint team of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), Anti Narcotics Force (ANF) and Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) to book and prosecute the men and networks involved in organised crimes.

Pakistan has already suffered massively due to terrorists and drug mafias crippling institutions making millions of youth dependent on drugs. Pakistan has paid a heavy price in men and material while fighting against terrorism. Determined and practical efforts are now needed to destroy the financial supply lines of organised criminal networks.

We need to make National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) an effective institution like UK National Crime Agency (NCA). It is time to evaluate what happened to National Action Plan (NAP) and 29 civil-military wings established way back in August 2016. These and many other questions need to be considered seriously, if we are really committed in uprooting terrorism, drug trafficking and other organised criminal activities.

The writer, Advocate Supreme Court, is Adjunct Faculty at Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), member Advisory Board and Visiting Senior Fellow of Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE)