KARACHI: It was one small step for Sajjad Ahmed, but a giant leap for the university student and his two friends who walked 300 kilometers to address the drugs problem plaguing Pakistan’s Balochistan province.
When the trio decided to begin their journey from Khuzdar, capital of the Khuzdar district, to the provincial capital Quetta on February 6, little did they know then that they would be covering the distance in just eight days.
Their motive, 24-year-old Ahmed said, was to persuade authorities to take immediate action.
“My friends Basit Mengal, Meherullah, and I started the march on Feb 6 and when we reached Quetta, 12 others from different places joined us,” Ahmed, a student at the Lasbela Agriculture and Marine University told Arab News after reaching Quetta on Friday evening.
Too many of the country’s youth are dying, he said, corroborating a report on narcotics, which was submitted to the Senate standing committee on July 6, 2015. It stated that 700 youth die from drug abuse every year, with eight million addicts reported in the country.
“Drugs are a curse and destroying our youth, killing hundreds annually in addition to spoiling lives of millions,” Ahmed said, adding that it was this very realization that made him embark on the journey.
On Saturday, he addressed a news conference at the Quetta Press Club, following which they set up a protest camp in the provincial capital “to press on their demands.”
Ahmed said he was disappointed with the fact that “none of the national or provincial lawmakers or government officials had chosen to join them for the cause,” adding that he was aware that through the cause, they had chosen to enter dangerous territory.
“There are indirect threats to us. If they can kill a person for speaking against them in a program, then imagine what would they do with us for taking part in such a march,” Ahmed said, referring in part to an incident on Thursday where a police official killed a student from Balochistan University after his relative spoke out against him in November last year, which eventually led to the officer’s suspension.
“The tragic incident took place only due to keeping a blind eye to open narcotics sale, involvement of police constables and disclosure of names of the complainants,” Commissioner Ayaz Mandokhail said in a letter to the Additional Chief Secretary Home or Balochistan on Friday.
Ahmed, however, said he wasn’t worried about the threats.
“We have waged a war against the menace. We will not stop it because the menace of drugs has spread all over the country,” he said, adding that the drug mafia may be strong, but the “menace can still be eliminated.”
”We are up to do it, we will not give up until government and lawmakers assure us of concrete action,” he said.