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Pakistan is the new epicentre of narco-terror network

Islamabad’s primacy in the global narcotics trade and the funding of terror activities has been time and again confirmed by investigation agencies around the globe

N.C. Bipindra



The world is at present obsessed with, rightly so, the fight against coronavirus, with suspicion and rumours of it being a bio-weapon. In this fight against the virus that has claimed hundreds of thousands of human lives, the world’s attention to another major war, this one against terrorism, fuelled by the dark money from the global narcotics trade, particularly in Asia, has weakened.

The region’s “Golden Crescent” comprises Muslimmajority nations Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran. These nations have been the most important poppy cultivating triumvirate of the world and heroin has been the main source of illegal revenue for the countries, especially for Afghanistan, where the narcotics trade has fuelled the birth, existence and rise of the Taliban, a dreaded Islamic terror outfit.

As per the UNODC annual report of 2019, it is seen that there is a major increase of 37 per cent opium production in Afghanistan and a reduction of 25 per cent production in Myanmar, the main player in the Golden Triangle. This further crystallises the fact that Afghanistan contributes to more than 87 per cent of the opium production of the world. Most of the areas that grow opium in Afghanistan are under the control of the Taliban, whose close ties with Pakistani establishment, especially the Pakistan spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), is well known.

Heroin obtained through further refining of opium in Afghanistan traditionally takes three routes for its global distribution, namely through Balkan States or Central Asian countries or the Indian subcontinent. It has been noticed that from 2015, both the routes, namely the Balkans and the Central Asian countries, have reported less seizures of heroin indicating that there may be an increase in government intervention in Iran and Central Asia in controlling the menace. With such bumper production of heroin in Afghanistan, the only other alternate route available for global distribution is through Pakistan.

 The drugs that are produced in the rugged places of Afghanistan — more than 10,000 tons as per 2018 estimates — finds an easy outlet at the hands of the Pakistan-based networks that are working with the ISI. These drugs produced at the heart of Afghanistan travels at least thousands of kilometres to reach the coast of Pakistan for further distribution. The border between Afghanistan and Pakistan is one of the most sensitive zones and Pakistan has deployed huge military apparatus to guard these borders.

 To become a viable option for smuggling, the drugs in tonnes need to be transported through trucks or cars through these borders and then further split for distribution inside Pakistan into smaller quantities of 100 kg or 200 kg. Many gangs based in Lahore and Faisalabad are involved in such splitting and then the consignment are transported to Karachi or Gwadar for further transport through fishing vessels. In many of the seizures that happened in 2019, the packing covers were of some popular brands of oats and wheat flour in Pakistan.

The Trends of Seizures Indicate:

1. Involvement of Pakistani nationals linked with ISIS as the kingpins. They are the ones who procure and further distribute it to countries like the Maldives, Sri Lanka, Seychelles, India, Mozambique, Tanzania, and Kenya from where it is further transported to the West.

2. ISIS-linked Pakistan gangs use Makran coast as the staging point and also use the traditional dhows that are plying between West and South Asia as a part of their distribution channels.

3. The network has Pakistani nationals based in Sri Lanka, Maldives, Dubai and East Africa to assist the kingpins in Pakistan.

 4.Involvement of Nigerians is also noticed in the transactions, which leads to the suspicion of Heroin moving out and Cocaine coming into the region.

 Pakistan’s primacy in the global narcotics trade and the funding of terror activities has been time and again confirmed by investigation agencies around the globe. On 18 May, in one of Asia’s biggest ever drug bust in Myanmar brought out the links of top Southeast Asian drug syndicates and the involvement of Karachi-based underworld don Dawood Ibrahim, who controls major narcotics operations in the region including Bangladesh and Thailand.

Last year, investigations into the seizure of 532 kg of heroin on the Wagah-Attari border in Punjab showed that the same Pakistani network pushed narcotics consignment and transferred funds to terror outfits operating in Jammu and Kashmir. The Customs Department seizure on 29 June last and the law enforcement probe brought out that the contraband was concealed in six rock salt consignments.

Gurpinder Singh, the owner of Kanishk Enterprises (Amritsar), was arrested along with the contraband and subsequently, Tariq Ahmed Lone of Handwara in Jammu and Kashmir was arrested. The National Investigation Agency, which was brought into the investigations in July last, has so far charged Lone’s Pakistani uncle Farooq Lone, Pakistani nationals Sahil and Sohaib Noor.

Recent seizures of Methamphetamine (ICE) along with heroin are also a disturbing trend. There have been cases in Mozambique in November and December 2019 involving Pakistani nationals, where the law enforcement agencies have caught Methamphetamine along with Heroin. In the recent seizure made by the Sri Lankan Navy, it was noticed that along with 400 kg heroin, there was another 100 kg of ICE. This indicates the same Pakistani gang’s operation.

ICE has been a recent addition to the Golden Crescent. A naturally growing shrub in the region named Ephedra has been found to contain an easily extractable drug called Ephedrine. This drug is the precursor for ICE and was synthetically manufactured earlier. It is noticed that there are illegal labs in Pakistan, where they are able to extract Ephedrine from the plant. Recent seizures in huge quantities indicate that the trade is slowly moving towards ICE in the region.

Illegal labs have mushroomed in Pakistan for processing opium into heroin. The main precursor for production of his Acetic anhydride. This is a restricted item to trade and is completely controlled and restricted. As far as Afghanistan is concerned, this product needs to be imported by air. However, with stricter law enforcement in place, it is noticed that the processing labs in Pakistan, controlled by a few gangs, are sourcing Acetic anhydride from within Pakistan, where there are huge industries, which can fudge utilisation of Acetic anhydride as a raw material.

Undoubtedly, the hardcore evidence now points out that Pakistan is the epicentre of both the international narcotics trade and global terrorism, and an international effort is required, led by the Indian government, to not only name and shame India’s western neighbour, but also to get the multilateral institutions to impose hard punitive action against Islamabad for its shenanigans. The writer is chairman, Law and Society Alliance, and editor, Defence.Capital. He can be reached at ncbipindra@gmail. com.

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The Army is fully prepared to meet any challenge like the use of drones and social media by adversaries to safeguard the country, said Commandant of Chennai-based Officers Training Academy (OTA) Lieutenant General M K Das. Lt Gen Das, who is also the colonel of the Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry (JAKLI) regiment, said the situation in J&K is getting better with the Army and other security agencies working together to stamp out terrorism. Speaking to media on the sidelines of the maiden attestation parade of 460 new recruits of the 126th batch after a successful 40-week training period at Dansal here, he said the Indian Army is aware of the challenges and prepared to give a befitting response to the enemies of the nation.

Talking about the need to introduce special training courses for soldiers in the aftermath of the developments in Afghanistan, he said, “Our training is very contemporary as it caters for all the contingencies and unforeseen situations. My young soldiers, who have taken the oath to defend the constitution and the country, will live up to all the challenges. One of the unique things of this regiment (JAKLI) is all our troops hail from J&K and Ladakh. They have ingrained quality to be security conscious much more than others.” Lt Gen Das said, “All the situations unfolding in the country or in our neighbourhood, the JAKLI regiment will continue to excel and be the lead agency in the fight against terrorism.” Asked about the challenges posed by the use of drones to hit targets and deliver weapons and narcotics from across the LoC and International Border, he said a capsule course on anti-drone measures has been introduced. “On Army Day on 15 January, our chief took the threat seriously and our soldiers are being prepared to deal with the challenge in a better way.” During recruitment training, Lt Gen Das said that besides the arms handing and exercises, thrust is also given on science and technology, cybersecurity and other new challenges. He said the misuse of social media by “anti-national” elements is a reality and the new recruits are being trained in cybersecurity during their basic and orientation courses.

On attempts by Pakistan to mislead the youth of J&K, Lt Gen Das said, “The youth of J&K is showing keenness to be a part of the regiment which is a message to those who think they can mislead our youth. Joining the regiment is the best way to serve the nation, the youth live like a family and there is complete communal harmony.” He said the regiment is increasing the number of local youth from Ladakh and would also go for recruitment in J&K to provide an opportunity to the local youth to become part of this regiment. Asked about his message to the misguided youth, he said, “J&K is the crown of India but if I focus as a soldier, I feel they (misguided youth) have not understood their country… the situation has not gone out of hand and the Army has kept its window open to allow them to surrender and join the national mainstream.”

He added, “We have a unit of 162 Infantry Territorial Army who are former militants but have become upright soldiers.” Lt Gen Das said the Army and other security agencies are working in close coordination and the situation in J&K is getting better and the “day is not far when this region will make our country proud.”

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The Southern Naval Command observed International Coastal Clean-up Day on Saturday with a focus on mangrove plantation and clearance of plastic/non-biodegradable waste along with waterfront areas in and around Kochi, said a press release from the Ministry of Defence.

Pursuant to the global campaign of keeping coastlines clean, more than 600 Naval personnel and the families of Southern Naval Command undertook clearance of plastic and non-biodegradable waste at different locations spread across the city, coastal areas such as Fort Kochi beach, Thevara waterfront, Willingdon Island, Cherai beach, Bolgatty and around 2 km stretch of the Venduruthy channel while restoring around 1 lakh sqm of mangroves to the pristine condition. In addition, 80 mangrove saplings were also planted along the Venduruthy channel. Similar coastal cleanup drives and lectures/webinars/competitions emphasising protection of the coastal and marine environment were undertaken with the enthusiastic participation of the Naval community at other outstation Naval units located at Lonavala, Jamnagar, Chilka, Coimbatore, Goa, Ezhimala and Mumbai.

Being the Training Command of the Indian Navy, the Southern Naval Command has always been at the vanguard in promoting environmental conservation activities both at the Command Headquarters, Kochi as well as at Naval stations spread across the country.

Mandated to oversee naval training, the Southern Naval Command has conceptualised and implemented a variety of green initiatives. Keeping environmental preservation as one of the Key Result Areas, the Command has constantly endeavoured to motivate young officer and sailor trainees of the Indian Navy to imbibe the habit of protecting mother nature as part of their grooming efforts in preparing them to become responsible future Naval leaders and dependable citizens of India.

Particular attention has also been given to create more awareness among the families and more importantly the children.

During the last three years, the Command has adopted a multi-dimensional approach towards conservation of the environment and implementation of energy conservation methods.

To highlight a few, the personnel of the Command were actively involved in the rejuvenation of 4.5-km-long Venduruthy Channel near Kochi Naval base, creating awareness in and around Naval establishments.

Efforts were undertaken to enhance green cover by conducting mass plantation drives which included planting more than 75,000 trees, using the fast-growing Miyawaki forestation method. In addition, regular coastal clean-up drives, mangrove plantation drives, in-house handling and recycling of bio and non-biodegradable waste, adopting efficient energy and water-saving methods etc were also undertaken. The Command has also earnestly endeavoured to continue all the efforts for protecting and conserving the environment and natural resources. Towards achieving the same, the Command has implemented a Green Initiative and Environment Conservation Roadmap with a prime focus on Carbon footprint reduction.

With the personal involvement of Vice Admiral Anil Kumar Chawla, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Southern Naval Command is committed to creating a clean, green and healthy environment in line with the visionary environment conservation policies of the Govt of India. On the occasion, Adv M Anilkumar, Mayor, Kochi Municipal Corporation and staff also participated in Kochi.

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An air show will be held here on 26 September where IAF’s skydiving team Akash Ganga and Suryakiran Aerobatic and Display Team and paramotor flying will manoeuvre the skies over the famous Dal Lake, officials informed on Saturday.

The air show will be organised by the Air Force Station Srinagar and the Jammu and Kashmir administration as part of the ongoing celebrations commemorating ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’, they said. The main aim of the exercise—under the theme ‘Give Wings to Your Dream’—is to motivate the youth of the valley to join the Indian Air Force (IAF) and to promote tourism in the region, the officials said.

The event will be flagged off Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha at the Sher-e-Kashmir International Conference Centre (SKICC) overlooking Dal Lake.

More than 3,000 college and school students are expected to participate in the programme to witness the impressive manoeuvres of the IAF, which will motivate them to dream about a career in the force and in the aviation sector, the officials said. “The show will also develop passion among the students to give wings to their dreams. Along with the students, 700 teachers will also be present at the venue,” they added.

During the demonstration, students will also be familiarised with the new technological advancements achieved and incorporated by the IAF while flying aircraft in the sky over the world-famous Dal Lake, the officials said. Stalls will be established at SKICC where students will be familiarised with the achievements of the Air Force, employment opportunities in the IAF, recruitment rules and eligibility criteria, they added.

Srinagar-based PRO Defence Col Emron Musavi said the display will include flypast by various aircraft of the IAF. The spectators would also get to witness paramotor flying and IAF’s skydiving team Akash Ganga in action. ‘Ambassadors of IAF’, Suryakiran Aerobatic Display Team, will be performing in the valley after a gap of 14 years, he said. Col Musavi said the symphony orchestra of the IAF would also be performing at the event. The event would also consist of a photo exhibition depicting the history of the

IAF, he said. 

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JAIPUR : South Western Command of the Indian Army on Saturday organised an exhibition showcasing defence equipment at Chitrakoot Stadium in Jaipur to mark the 50th anniversary of India’s victory over Pakistan in the 1971 war.

Speaking to ANI, an Indian army official said, “We have displayed the defence equipment in this exhibition to make people aware of the Indian army achievements. We want to motivate the youth by showcasing these types of equipment.” “Under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, these events had been started to make people aware of Indian Arm Forces. So, we are also continuing the move by organising these kinds of events,” he added.

Further, he said that India’s victory over Pakistan in the 1971 war is memorable for all the Indians, so, every citizen should be aware of this war.  

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BRO makes history, appoints woman Army officer in-charge of road construction unit



The Border Roads Organisation (BRO) has appointed a woman Army officer for the first as the Officer Commanding of its 75 road construction company (RCC) in Uttarakhand, the Defence Ministry said on Sunday.

The three platoon commanders under Major Aaina, Captain Anjana, AEE (Civ) Bhawana Joshi and AEE (Civ) Vishnumaya K became the first women RCC. The appointments were made on August 30.

BRO on Sunday recalled the list of women officers who were assigned higher leadership roles in the organisation in the current year.

According to a statement issued by the Defence Ministry, BRO has inducted a large number of women into its workforce over the years, right from officers to the level of commercial pilot license holders. “In this regard, a General Reserve Engineer Force (GREF) officer EE (Civ) Vaishali S Hiwase took over the reins of 83 Road Construction Company on April 28, employed on an important Indo-China road connecting Munisairi-Bughdiar-Milam, in an area full of adversity and challenges. The lady officer has taken control and is leading the charge with meticulous execution of her tasks,” the statement said.

“The BRO created history again on 30 August when Major Aaina of Project Shivalik took charged as Officer Commanding, 75 Road Construction Companies (RCC) at Pipalkoti in Chamoli district in Uttarakhand. She is the first Indian Army Engineer Officer to command a road construction company. Not only this, all three platoon commanders under her, Captain Anjana, AEE (Civ) Bhawana Joshi and AEE (Civ) Vishnumaya K are lady officers and they have together created a first-ever women RCC. The Border Roads plans to make four such all women-led RCCs, two each in North Eastern and Western Sectors.”

As India celebrates 75 Years of Azaadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, it also celebrates the ongoing efforts of our Nation towards women empowerment. Women today have started assuming their rightful, equal place as the frontrunners in nation-building and representatives of our strong national character, the statement read.

Over the last six decades, in a graduated and steady manner, the BRO has increased the number of women employed in various roles and duties of road construction. A consolidated effort is being made to empower them by giving them authority and responsibilities to undertake work independently. These women have become symbols of Nari Shakti in their respective areas.

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In his first visit abroad after taking over as the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Bipin Rawat will be visiting Russia and the US.

Rawat took over his new office as CDS on 31 December 2019, and since then has been declining foreign invitations for focusing on the new assignment of integrating the defence forces as a combined fighting force. “There is a conference of the CDS-rank officers of the Shanghai Cooperation Agreement member countries. China and Pakistan are also part of this grouping,” senior defence officials said.

The CDS conference would be focusing on addressing the regional security issues and Afghanistan is also likely to come up for discussion, they said.

The CDS would also witness the activities of the respective armed forces taking part in the SCO peace mission drills being held in Russia. Indian Army and Air Force are also taking part in the exercise there.

The visit will take place in the coming week and soon after return from Russia, Rawat would be leaving for the US for meeting his counterpart and other American military leadership at the Pentagon.

The two countries have been coming closer militarily in the last few years and have been holding multiple military exercises and hardware cooperation.

The Indian military saw a major change in senior-level structures under the Narendra Modi government as the focus is now on the theatrisation of the fighting forces and bringing in more capabilities and jointness among the three services. 

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