Eight-week course to curb drug trafficking, contraband smuggling launched

Our Correspondent
January 31, 2023

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s Country Office in Pakistan organised the inauguration ceremony of an eight-week maritime training and mentoring sessions in Karachi. The...

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The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s (UNODC) Country Office in Pakistan (COPAK) organised the inauguration ceremony of an eight-week maritime training and mentoring sessions in Karachi. The ceremony was attended by Humaira Ahmed, federal secretary, Ministry of Narcotics Control, as the chief guest.

The ceremony was also attended by Major General Aneeq Malik, director general of the Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF); Muhammad Yaqoob Mako, chief collector (operations), Pakistan Customs Enforcement (South) Karachi; Usman Bajwa, customs collector (preventive) Karachi; Brigadier Ghulam Abbas, DG Pakistan Coast Guards (PCG) Karachi; Liam O’Flanagan, deputy consul general of the United States of America’s Consulate in Karachi; and Dr Jeremy Milsom, representative of the UNODC COPAK.

The inauguration ceremony marked the commencement of the eight-week bulk-carrier search, and visit, board, search & seizure (VBSS) training courses to be held in Karachi from January 30 to March 24.

These training and mentoring sessions are being conducted under the framework of the UNODC’s project, titled ‘Improved National Response Against Drugs and Contraband Trafficking in the Maritime Domain’ and funded by the US State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs Pakistan (INL-P).

More specifically, five training courses will be delivered by master trainers of the PCG, the Pakistan Customs and the ANF who were trained in VBSS and bulk-carrier search by the UNODC in Seychelles and Cape Town, South Africa, in 2022. The Pakistani master trainers will be mentored by two international trainers of the UNODC’s Global Maritime Crime Programme (GMCP).

This series of training and mentoring sessions aim to further refine the technical skills of the Pakistani master trainers, and to also provide training to an additional 60 fresh trainees from the PCG, the Pakistan Customs and the ANF on boarding operations and vessel search techniques.

Warmly welcoming the participants, Dr Milsom apprised the forum that the UNODC had closely engaged with the Ministry of Narcotics Control during the design and implementation of this INL-funded project since October 2020. The project aims to address Pakistan’s priority capacity-building needs in the maritime domain.

“The UNODC COPAK adopts a holistic approach to support the Government of Pakistan in addressing various drugs and crime challenges, encompassing both domestic and transnational issues,” said Dr Milsom.

“Our ongoing Pakistan Country Programme III (2022-2025) complements the Government of Pakistan’s policies and programmes, focusing on drug supply reduction, drug demand reduction, rule of law and criminal justice, and counterterrorism. We are also promoting the Government of Pakistan’s regional and international cooperation in these areas.”

Through a comprehensive presentation, David O’Connell, the GMCP’s programme coordinator, updated the participants about several capacity development interventions by the UNODC under the INL-funded maritime security project. He elaborated upon the successful conduct of five VBSS training courses and six bulk-carrier search training courses conducted by the UNODC GMCP in Seychelles and South Africa. Seventy-four law enforcement officials (including 12 master trainers) of the PCG, the Pakistan Customs and the ANF were trained through these specialised training courses.

“This specialised training was based on international best practices on engaging and boarding suspicious vessels at sea or in port and carrying out search and apprehension of drug traffickers and contraband smugglers in compliance with national and international maritime law,” said O’Connell.

In his remarks, O’Flanagan thanked Pakistan for making concerted counternarcotics efforts as one of the main transit countries neighbouring Afghanistan. He acknowledged the role played by the ANF and other Pakistani border law enforcement agencies, and noted that “there is a need to further enhance Pakistan’s technical capacity to proactively detect, deter and disrupt drug trafficking”. He also recognised the close partnership between Pakistan and the USA against drug proliferation.

In her closing remarks, Humaira thanked the UNODC and the INL for their vision and continuing capacity development, which had previously led to the successful implementation of a series of specialised training courses in Seychelles and South Africa.

She highlighted that Pakistan was long exposed to the negative and wide-ranging consequences of the illicit trafficking of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances from Afghanistan. She stressed the importance of improving national countermeasures as envisioned in Pakistan’s Anti-Narcotics Policy 2019. “Pakistan continues to play a crucial role as the first line of defence for the rest of the world against the massive outflow of opiates, synthetic drugs and new psychotropic substances from Afghanistan,” said Humaira.

“Given the uncertain political situation in Afghanistan, we strongly feel that there is a need to continue such capacity development initiatives by the UNODC and the INL in the future.” Sixty fresh trainees of the ANF, the PCG and the Pakistan Customs will be trained through this eight-week mentoring session, adding additional tools to the range of skills available to Pakistani maritime law enforcement agencies in working to protect the region and wider international community from the threat posed by illicit drug trafficking and contraband smuggling through Pakistan’s maritime domain.

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