Misuse of narcotics laws in Pakistan

Narcotics are destroying our society and youth. 685 deaths per day are occurring in the world due to drug usage or overdose, which is higher than the number of deaths resulting from terrorism. The world’s drug economy is worth $435 billion and around $225 billion is needed for drug treatment of patients globally. The most commonly recovered drug in Pakistan being hashish, followed by heroin, opium and cocaine, which are easily smuggled, from Afghanistan right under the noses of concerned border forces. Moreover, the easy availability of drugs on streets, universities and colleges is an absolute failure on part of police and excise department. Sadly, the rise in cases of drug abuse is among the youth in particular the students of renowned universities and colleges. The findings of the data show that since 2016, at least 9885kgs of heroin, 1440kgs of hashish and 33kgs of opium were seized in special raids conducted on educational institutions. A few years ago, a medical student from a well-known university in Karachi lost his life to overdose of a drug (hashish). Additionally, a similar incident was reported from a renowned university in Lahore and several other cases of deaths from drug overdose go unreported in Pakistan.

The “Control of Narcotic Substances Act, 1997” is a special law which the Legislature had enacted mainly for awarding deterrent punishments to the persons involved in the trade of narcotics in any manner. Section 9(c) of the Control of Narcotics Act, specifically provides that whoever contravenes the provisions of Sections 6, 7 or 8 of the control of narcotics act, shall be punishable with death or imprisonment for life, or imprisonment for a term which may extend to fourteen years and shall also be liable to fine which may be up to one million rupees, if the quantity of narcotic drug, psychotropic substance or controlled substance exceeds the limits specified in clause (b) (1 Kilogram). However, unfortunately the law of Control of “Narcotic Substances Act 1997” has become the easiest law to be misused by the hands of law enforcement agencies, mainly by the police. Lodging of false FIRs against innocent citizens, defective investigations, false testimony of police officials and unreliable police witnesses have certainly made the law of Control of Narcotic Substances Act, less important in the eyes of general public as well as the courts. Narcotics and the police’s abuse of the law are still raging in 2017.

The overview of the FIRs/cases lodged under Control of Narcotic Substances Act 1997 in the year 2017 demonstrates the misuse of the aforesaid law by the police, by way of lodging fabricated FIRs and most importantly, an utter failure on part of police and prosecution to conduct flawless investigations in genuine cases.

Recently, the honourable Supreme Court of Pakistan has acquitted the accused who was facing the trial of the FIR registered by the Police Station University Town, Peshawar, for crime under section 9(c) of the Control of Narcotic Substances Act, 1997. The accused was alleged of transporting 35 kilograms of narcotics. The very obvious malafide of the police was evident from the fact that the accused was a crippled person, who had suffered from polio virus and both his legs were not normal. There was no clear evidence and material, without shadow of doubt, to reasonably establish the connection of the physically disabled person with the crime. Likewise, the Apex Court in the year 2017 acquitted the accused person on the ground that the police was not able to satisfy the Apex Court that after alleged recovery of 48 packets of narcotics, the samples that were taken by the police from recovered substance, had safely been transmitted to office of chemical examiner without the same being tampered with or replaced while in transit.

Similarly, Punjab High Court in the year 2017 acquitted the accused facing trial of the FIR lodged under Narcotic Substances Act 1997 for the possession, import and export, trafficking and financing trafficking of narcotics, on the ground of lack of concrete evidence, and failure to produce the case property without any justification. The failure to produce the case property clearly showed that the police had malice towards the accused regarding recovery of the drugs. Similarly, Punjab High Court acquitted the accused allegedly carrying 70 kilograms of heroin, on a sole ground of non-production of case property by the police before the court for more than one month, which casted serious doubts with regard to the genuineness of the FIR/case.

Likewise, Sindh High Court in the year 2017 acquitted the accused allegedly found holding one plastic shopper in his hand, containing narcotics weighing 1050 grams. Despite the incident having occurred on a busy road where many private persons were available, however, the investigating officer of the police did not try to arrange any private witness of the locality to fulfill the requirement of section 103 Criminal Procedure Code 1898, thus the case lost its sanctity and evidentiary value in the eyes of the law. Also, in another case lodged under the Control of Narcotic Substances Act 1997 in the year 2017, the Sindh High Court acquitted the accused on the ground that the Police alleged that 1050 grams narcotics was recovered from the possession of the accused. However, the police failed to send the sample of narcotics to the chemical examiner for analysis. And this despite the law specifically states that the exercise of sending sample for testing of recovered drug was required to be completed within seventy-two hours of the recovery.

Balochistan High Court acquitted the accused persons allegedly carrying 40-kilograms narcotics in two bags found beneath their seats.

Surprisingly, neither the recovery memo nor the FIR contained the seat numbers of the accused persons and even no tag or documentary evidence was on record connecting the accused person with the said bags. Consequently, the case cast reasonable doubt about the veracity of the case and benefit of doubt which went in favour of the accused person. In another case, Balochistan High Court granted bail to the accused who was allegedly carrying 87 kilograms of heroin in his vehicle. The police not only failed to produce any document proving that the accused was the actual owner of the vehicle but also failed to establish that after the alleged recovery, the substance so recovered was either kept in safe custody or that the samples drawn from the substance were safely transmitted to the office of Forensic Science Laboratory without being tampered with or replaced while in transit.

Lastly, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa High Court in the year 2017 also acquitted the accused, allegedly carrying 171 Kilograms of heroin in the secret cavities of his truck. Astonishingly, the police officials failed to produce case property (truck) during the whole trial and eventually the benefit of the sheer negligence on part of police officials was given to the accused as a matter of right. In another case, Peshawar High Court granted bail to the accused allegedly carrying 80 kilograms of narcotics, on the grounds that the police witnesses contradicted each other and the prosecution also failed to bring on record any previous history of accused person regarding his previous conviction or involvement in narcotics case, which could connect the accused with the commission of offence.

It is obligatory upon the police officials to understand that a public office is a trust, created in the interest and for the benefit of the people and since an incumbent of a public office is invested with certain powers and charged with certain duties, the powers so delegated to the officer are held in trust for the people. It is important that the malicious acts of the police and negligence in the investigation of the genuine cases must not be brushed aside. It is incumbent upon the senior police officials to conduct in-depth inquiries against the investigation officers and the complainant of the cases registered under the Control of Narcotic Substances Act 1997, in which the accused persons are ultimately acquitted by the courts and the cases are subsequently quashed.

The legislators of Pakistan must introduce new laws related to the Narcotics and repeal the laws inherited from the British colonial era such as criminal procedure code 1898, civil procedure code 1908, Pakistan penal code 1860, and the Control of Narcotic Substances Act, to fill out the loopholes in current legal system.

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