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Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 March, 2005, 09:04 GMT
Pakistan issues warning on heroin
A farmer extracting opium from a poppy blossom
Officials fear Pakistan could again become a major transit route
Pakistan officials say the international community's emphasis on fighting terrorism is impeding its anti-narcotics efforts.

Poppy cultivation in Afghanistan has seen a dramatic rise in recent months, according to the annual UN drug report.

They fear increased production over the border might trigger a growth in storage facilities and heroin production factories in Pakistan.

Afghanistan produced an estimated 4,200 tons of opium in 2004.

"We fear that the international community's lack of interest in this issue will lead to increased production of poppy," said Maj-Gen Nadeem Ahmed, the head of the Anti-Narcotics Force in Pakistan.

Heroin is produced by treating poppy extract with chemicals, a process that does not need more than a small laboratory that can be mounted at the back of vans.

No resources

Poppy cultivation had been almost completely eradicated from Pakistan but made a comeback in 2003, Maj-Gen Ahmed said. He added that 80% of the 2003 crop was destroyed.

More than 131,000 hectares were brought under poppy cultivation in Afghanistan the same year, he said.

A Taleban-era sign banning opium production
The Taleban targeted opium production during their rule

The authorities fear that Pakistan could return to being a major transit route for Afghanistan's poppy crop.

Maj-Gen Ahmed said Pakistan did not have the resources to prevent cultivation and smuggling of poppy through effective ground and air surveillance.

He appealed for more helicopter gunships to fight increasingly sophisticated and well-armed smugglers, more detection equipment and more money to pay ground forces.

He said the paramilitary body assigned to assist drugs enforcement teams, the Frontier Corps, had been diverted to counter-terrorism activities on the Afghan border, making his task even more difficult.

Officials are also worried about Pakistan's own increasing opium and heroin consumption and the spread of HIV by intravenous drugs users.

Pakistan already has more than 500,000 heroin addicts, most of whom inject the drug, leading to the spread of killer diseases such as Aids and hepatitis.

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