Pakistan's President Talks Drugs
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Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari was the keynote speaker at the Regional Ministerial Conference on Counter-Narcotics in Islamabad, which featured leaders from 12 countries including Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Afghanistan, and explored ways to tackle the region's drug trade. Zardari said that Pakistan is no longer a drug-producer, after going poppy-free in 2011, and is also one of the world's top countries for opium and heroin seizures. But he admitted that his nation remains a primary transit point for drugs. "Transit is bad enough as far as I am concerned… and I am sure you feel the same way,” he said. While acknowledging that ending the drug trade completely isn't a realistic goal in the region, he pledged to keep trying to reduce it. Zadari added that money from the heroin trade is being used to finance terror operations. But rather than blaming 9/11 and its aftermath, he said drugs in the region have been an issue for nearly 40 years. "It goes back to choices we made during the decades of '70s and '80s," he said. "That was the time when heroin was created as a war weapon by the world community to fight the rival ideology in the region. After the [Soviet war in Afghanistan], the international community left the region in a hurry. Many things of that era have now come back to haunt us. One of these is the heroin trade.” Pakistan's status as a transit country rather than a producer does nothing to protect its citizens from harm; there are now an estimated 8.1 million drug users there, compared with just 50,000 in 1980.