Trio walk the talk to highlight Balochistan’s drug problem

In this undated photo, students of the Lasbela Agriculture and Marine University, Sajjad Ahmed, Basit Mengal and Meherullah are pictured who are on the mission to raise awareness against drug abuse.
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Updated 16 February 2020

Trio walk the talk to highlight Balochistan’s drug problem

  • Ahmed and his two friends covered a distance of 300km in 8 days
  • Seek to address issue by coaxing authorities to arrest peddlers in the province

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.

Pakistan opposition draws thousands to capital to protest ruling party’s ‘foreign funds’ case 

Updated 19 January 2021

Pakistan opposition draws thousands to capital to protest ruling party’s ‘foreign funds’ case 

  • The Pakistan Democratic Movement urged the election commission to promptly announce its verdict in the case
  • The interior minister said the opposition alliance failed to attract large number of people to the protest demonstration 

ISLAMABAD: An alliance of Pakistani opposition parties, the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), held a protest rally today, Tuesday, outside the election commission which is hearing a case involving alleged illegal foreign funding for Prime Minister Imran Khan’s ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party. 

The case was filed in November 2014 by a founding PTI member, Akbar S Babar, who claimed massive financial irregularities in the handling of foreign funds by the party that amounted to about $3 million. 

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has still not adjudicated the matter, making the PDM leadership criticize it for “the inordinate delay.” 

“Neither is this government elected nor has it any right to rule the country,” the opposition alliance chief, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, said while addressing the participants of the rally in Islamabad. 

He accused the prime minister of contesting the 2018 elections after taking “funds from Israel and India,” adding that the foreign funding case was pending for the last six years even after a revelation by the State Bank of Pakistan that the PTI had 23 “hidden accounts.” 

Rehman said the ECP had held about 150 hearings in the case, noting that the PTI filed 50 applications for its deferment and that the nation was still awaiting the judgment. 

“Some powerful institutions had occupied the election system and brought an incompetent person to power,” he said. “They are now running the government from behind the scenes.” 

Criticizing the ECP, he said: “If this weak election commission provides them [the ruling party] protection, we won’t be able to trust it in the next elections.” 

Rehman said that no country in the world, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, was willing to trust Pakistan due to the government’s “poor foreign policy.” 

“We will continue our struggle [against the government] within the legal and constitutional ambit,” he added. 

The opposition alliance has frequently accused the PTI of coming into power by manipulating the 2018 elections and promised to dislodge through public support. The government denies the charge of election rigging. 

Addressing the protest demonstration, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Maryam Sharif also accused the prime minister of getting funds from India and Israel and using for his 2014 sit-in to overthrow an elected government. 

“Do you know who funded him from India? Bharatiya Janata Party member Inder Dosanjh. And the Israeli who funded him was Barry C. Schneps,” she claimed, adding that “countless” such people and companies from Israel and India had funded the PTI. 

Mocking the ruling party’s statement in the foreign funding case in which it blamed its agents in the US for any possible illegal funding, she asked the prime minister should also reveal the names of the “agents who brought you into power.” 

Lambasting the ECP, she said the election commission was “part of the crime of selecting an unqualified person and bringing him to power.” 

Pakistan Peoples Party’s senior leader Faisal Karim Kundi said that the PTI had admitted that its agents accepted the funds from foreign countries and companies. 

“If the agents had done something wrong, it means that the PTI is involved in it,” he said, urging the ECP to give its judgment in the case. “The verdict will prove which enemy countries had funded the PTI,” he said. 

Meanwhile, Islamabad’s local administration had beefed up the federal capital’s security to avert any untoward incident during the opposition’s protest demonstration. It had deployed over 1,800 security personnel to maintain the law and order besides identifying alternate routes to ensure smooth flow of traffic. 

Responding to the opposition’s protest, Federal Interior Minister Shaikh Rashid Ahmed termed it a “disappointing and poor” show and claimed that the opposition alliance had failed to attract a large number of protesters to its demonstration. 

“We welcome your long march [toward Islamabad] after this today’s show, and that will be your last show [of power],” the minister said, admitting that the opposition had all the right to address public gatherings. 

He also rejected the opposition’s accusations regarding Israel and India. 

“They [the opposition] were given a free hand [to protest outside the ECP], and they have been exposed,” he said. “We are waiting for their long march now.”