Published On: Sat, Feb 10th, 2018

A hasty decision

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The way the Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah recently directed the authorities to draft a law making drugs tests mandatory for those enrolled in both public and private education institutions has become a subject of debate as experts have termed it a hasty decision. Starting with those at secondary school and going all the way up to university students. We understand that Pakistan has a drug problem. Indeed, the Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) earlier this month put this figure at 7.6million people countrywide. It dropped an additional bombshell: 67 percent of the national student body are users. That being said, we would urge against such knee-jerk reactions.

Meaning that rather than subject our future generations to invasive drugs tests — the Sindh authorities would do better to prioritise drug education and awareness programmes for students; and even for parents, too. The story of narcotic abuse in Pakistan is a complicated one. After all, the sheer accident of its geographical location makes it particularly vulnerable to drug trafficking. Put another way, we share a 2,430km-long border with Afghanistan; the world’s largest producer of illicit opiates. And, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), this country represents a destination and transit route for 40 percent of these.

Indeed, rates of drug addiction are much higher along transit routes. Stopping the flow of these narcotics is further hampered by corruption, the poor law and order situation in Pakistan’s western border regions as well as the country’s flawed justice system. If the provincial government does resort to drug testing students because it has ostensibly failed to address the aforementioned problems — then it must commit to devising a mechanism to ensure that those who fail the test are not unnecessarily marginalised and that they get the help they require; particularly when it comes to those using hard drugs, such as chemical substances.

For if left unchecked, regular usage may, in some cases, lead to anti-social and violent behavioural patterns. But we must ask if the provincial set-up will take responsibility for putting students through rehab if necessary; while picking up the bill? For simply kicking out those who fail a drugs test doesn’t get rid of the overall problem. In fact, it’s an approach not too dissimilar to fudging the books. And then there is the question of distinguishing between hardcore addicts and recreational soft drug users. All in all, moves towards such proposed drug tests appear to throw up more questions than they answer.

If only governments at the provincial and federal were so eager to crack down on communal mischief-making on our university campuses. For the latter brings with it the potential for more serious results.

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