High on ice

September 2, 2018

Ice is an increasing cause of addiction among drug users in Peshawar

High on ice

A young girl in her early 20s was found dead in the fields of the Pawaka village in suburban Peshawar last month. She was shot by unidentified criminals who later threw her body in a deserted place. While probing the incident, police found the young girl was an ice (meth or methamphetamine) addict who was seen by many in the city streets while looking for the drug.

The investigators arrested a close relative of the girl for allegedly killing her in a suspected ‘honour killing’ case.

In April this year, the girl was found screaming on a road in Phase-3 Hayatabad, where she was apparently looking for a man, identified by investigators as Sardar, who used to provide her ice. Police admitted her in a nearby hospital and was taken to the court next morning, where the court ordered she be treated in hospital for a few days and later be sent to a shelter home.

One of the investigators tells The News on Sunday (TNS), "Nobody from the girl’s family approached her when she was in hospital. However, they were successful in taking her away from the shelter home with the permission of the court. She had been treated in hospital and was returning to normal life."

After returning home, she was contacted by Sardar again. The girl couldn’t resist the temptation and returned to her old ways.

She was shot dead in July. One of her relatives, suspected to be involved in her killing, was arrested by police. He, like many other family members, was angry at her for taking ice and being absent from home for long periods of time. Police have also arrested the main accused, Sardar, who provided her the drug and allegedly abused her," reveals the investigator.

The use of ice is believed to have reached an alarming level. There are many instances of deaths caused by its abuse. Just a few months back, a Peshawar resident allegedly killed his wife under the influence of ice. The killing of this girl in Pawaka, however, was one of the first incidents where a person was murdered for being addicted to ice.

"The availability of the drug in Peshawar has become extremely easy. Ice gives a high for up to 24 hours," says a Peshawarite. "One gram of ice costs anywhere between Rs2,000 and Rs10,000, depending on the quality and other factors."

Experts believe that a dose of ice may trigger more than 1,200 units of dopamine which is 600 per cent more than what the body can do on its own. Continuous use of ice affects the body and shortens life by many years. It can be easily manufactured and can be consumed orally, through injections or inhaled. "The effect of ice lasts up to 24 hours, unlike any other drug. One dose of ice is 3.5 times more intense than cocaine," says Irshadullah Khan, a government official who has done his research on ice. He adds the prolonged use of ice damages different organs of the human body and cuts life short by many years.

The Peshawar police is working on 115 cases and has so far arrested 154 dealers and smugglers of ice during campaigns against the synthetic drug. A special drive ‘Ice Free Peshawar’ was launched last week to go after the users and sellers across the provincial capital. "We have proposed a new law to the government for stricter punishments for ice dealers, transporters and users. Under the existing laws, they are released on bail within a day or so. Special teams have been constituted in all the divisions under their respective SPs, to go after the smugglers and dealers in their specific areas," says Qazi Jamilur Rehman, the Capital City Police Officer (CCPO).

The Peshawar Police have also launched an awareness campaign, engaging media, civil society, administration of educational institutions, elders of the society, district administration, elected representatives and religious scholars. "I have written to the prayer leaders of mosques to create awareness among the youth and other people about the harms of ice and other drugs. We are also working on the development of an intelligence network for the identification of ice manufacturers, sellers, distributors and peddlers, in police stations, with updated lists. Besides, we are categorising manufacturers, sellers, distributors and peddlers accordingly, creating a data bank of the entire network to trace origins of their business," informs Qazi Jamil. Ice reaches by smuggler gangs from erstwhile tribal areas and across the border in Afghanistan. It can also be manufactured in cities.

The Peshawar police chief adds that coordination with other agencies, including the Anti Narcotics Force and the Excise Department, is being improved in this regard.

The civil society wants more effective laws to deal with the dealers, manufacturers, transporters and users of this drug. "During my work on harm reduction and drug policies in Pakistan for the youth (girls/boys) and transgender persons, the use of ice is relatively higher among those studying in medical colleges and universities as well as transgender people," says Shawan Shah, a young social worker who has been working for the rights of women, children and transgender persons. She continues that Pakistan’s Drug Abuse Control Master Plan 2010-14 aims for a drug-free Pakistan by 2020. "This, however, doesn’t seem realistic," she regrets.

"Efforts should be focused on reducing the use of ice and its harms. It is much better to embark on a policy that is achievable instead of setting goals that are impossible to achieve. It is time for a third party to intervene and help those who’re caught in this trap. We have to involve media and implement the existing drug policies at the grassroots level. Law enforcement agencies need to practically intervene," Shah concludes.

High on ice