The Afghan Drug Trade

  1. A map of drug routes emanating from Afghanistan through Pakistan and into India. (Source : Jane's Intelligence Report, through ). This map describes opium trade routes emanating from Eastern Afghanistan into Pakistan through the North West Frontier Province and Pakistan’s Punjab into India. The triangles symbolize Heroin laboratories. This map shows that the laboratories are clustered along the Afghan border, and many are within Pakistan. Interestingly, many of the routes used for smuggling drugs also double as routes for smuggling arms to supply terrorist activity in neighboring countries. 2. An Afghan farmer standing in a poppy field. (Source: Ric Ergenbright / CORBIS) Poppy cultivation is considerably more lucrative for Afghan farmers than more traditional cereal crops. In recent times, cultivation of poppy was also encouraged by the Pakistani backed Taliban regime. Afghan cultivation of Opium boomed in the 1980's when the Pakistani government set up drugs and arms smuggling networks to finance and run the Afghan jihad. These types of networks are used to smuggle arms, drugs and supply terrorist organizations active in India.

3. A montage showing opium in different stages, juxtaposed with a mujahideen. (Source : U.S Department of Drug Enforcement, ) The illegal narcotics trade in Afghanistan and Pakistan spawned and facilitated the growth of a thriving arms trade in the region. The nexus of arms and drug trafficking under the long time patronage of the Pakistani government involves senior members of the Pakistani army and business communities yielding a significant income. Dawood Ibrahim, India's top mafia boss involved in these activities, is believed to reside in Pakistan after being given shelter by its government against Indian attempts to capture him.

4. Iranian officials inspecting a captured shipment of heroin. (Source: Reuters, via Afghanistan is well positioned to send drugs into Central Asia and Iran. These networks could pose a serious threat to stability in the region because they can be used to arm Islamic fundamentalist organizations in Central Asia. Additionally, drug addiction is a major problem in several parts of Iran. The Iranian government has repeatedly tried to combat the spread of drugs from Afghanistan into its borders.

5. Arms being examined in the North West Frontier Province, Pakistan. (Source: South Asia Tribune;

The very lucrative Afghan Transit Trade between Afghanistan and Pakistan serves as a smuggling route of other goods. One of the most dangerous aspects of this trade is the arms trafficking. This well established activity dates back to the initial set up used to supply Afghan Mujahideen fighting the Soviet occupation. An extensive industry involved in the production of arms in the provinces of Pakistan bordering Afghanistan.

6. Woman Smoking Heroin, Pakistan. (Source : Getty Images) Drug addiction is a serious social problem in Pakistan with an estimated 2% of its population directly using drugs and cuts across ethnic and gender boundaries.  Due to the complicity of drug trade among the powerful sections of Pakistani society, this problem is likely to worsen considerably.  In Pakistan and neighboring countries the affliction of drugs and illegal arms are linked, they are one, and cannot be tackled in isolation.