Country Profile

The UNODC Country Office based in Islamabad, Pakistan, is responsible for both domestic issues and transnational issues that affect Pakistan. UNODC has been working in various forms in Pakistan for over 35 years. During this period domestic and regional conflict, as well as social, political, and economic troubles have exacerbated drug and crime issues in the region.

Prominent transnational criminal industries operating from, in and through Pakistan include drug trafficking, precursor trafficking, arms smuggling, human trafficking and migrant smuggling. Despite efforts to curb criminal activity, increasingly high volumes of trade and traffic, coupled with potential corruption, facilitate the movement of contraband and allow exploitation by criminal groups.

Drug Trafficking

Pakistan is geographically vulnerable to drug trafficking, sharing a 2,430km-long, porous border with Afghanistan, the world's largest producer of illicit opium. Pakistan itself has over 1,000 hectares of poppy cultivation, concentrated in the restive Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) on the border with Afghanistan.  Cannabis is also produced in large quantities in the sub-region. Most of the cannabis trafficked in the region also originates from Afghanistan, and is processed in the inaccessible areas of Pakistan's FATA region.

The ramifications of drug processing and trafficking are felt globally. UNODC estimates that Pakistan is now the destination and transit country for approximately 40% of the opiates produced in Afghanistan. Most processing takes place in small, mobile laboratories in the Afghan-Pakistan border areas although increasing instances of processing on the Afghan border with the Central Asian Republics have been reported. The sub region itself has become a major consumer market for opiates. Opiate processing on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistan border have created a trafficking and, importantly in the case of Pakistan, a drug abuse problem since the early 1980s.

Drug abuse and addiction problems are often exacerbated along trafficking routes. Heroin users in Pakistan are estimated to consume 20 tons of pure heroin annually. Although drug use in Pakistan is a known - and likely increasing - problem, credible research into use and the distribution of drug users is lacking. The last assessment, conducted in 2006, has serious flaws and almost certainly underestimated the problem. It is difficult to gauge accurately the impact of drug trafficking upon drug use with the existing body of research.

Precursor trafficking

Pakistan is a known destination and transhipment point for precursor chemicals - substances used in the production of drugs - such as acetic anhydride, ephedrine and pseudoephedrine. Drug trades such as that in Afghan opiates are essentially massive chemical industries, relying on huge quantities of controlled and uncontrolled precursors. The money, crime and drugs associated with these chemicals means they contribute directly to organised criminality; they are also the foundational or feed-in problem for numerous national and regional security issues arising from drug trading.

Human trafficking

Pakistan is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children trafficked for the purposes of forced labour and sexual exploitation. There is considerable trafficking in women, children, and young men for prostitution through Pakistan but trafficking for forced labour is probably more widespread. Although estimated numbers of internal and external human trafficking victims are lacking, the trafficking of people from Pakistan for sexual exploitation, forced labour, forced marriage and use as camel jockeys has been well documented.

Pakistan's large number of Afghan refugees, entrenched poverty, porous borders and presence of organized international smuggling networks make it a fertile operating environment for human traffickers. Children are particularly vulnerable, often accessing smuggling networks in search of work. Although victims from Pakistan are trafficked all over the world, people trafficked from South Asia are most commonly trafficked to the Middle East.

Migrant smuggling

Hundreds of thousands of Afghan and Pakistani migrants are smuggled in and out of Pakistan every year, mostly in search of work. Perceived differentials in socio-economic opportunities at home is the most common driver of migration from Afghanistan and Pakistan - emigration from Pakistan due to insecurity is a more recent phenomenon and has not yet become entrenched. Pakistan (and Iran) act as the de facto exit points for most Afghans aspiring to reach third countries - largely due to the fact that Afghans can exit their country with ease. To a significant extent Afghans and Pakistanis use the same services, criminal organisations and routes.