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Border liaison office network expands beyond the Mekong region, moves to China-Pakistan frontier

Tashkurgan (China) and Sust (Pakistan), 17 September 2018
- Leadership of the National Narcotics Control Commission (NNCC) and Ministry of Public Security (MPS) of China, Pakistan Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) and Ministry of Narcotics Control (MNC) and Ministry of Interior (MOI) of Pakistan, along with the UNODC Regional Office for Southeast Asia and the Pacific and UNODC Country Office for Pakistan, have completed an assessment mission to the China-Pakistan border at the Khunjerab Pass, inaugurating a UNODC border liaison office or BLO in Tashkurgan China and breaking ground for a BLO in Sust Pakistan. Road and check-point inspections were conducted along the border to understand current security and crime challenges including drug and precursor trafficking and other forms of transnational organized crime, as well as discussions with leadership of security forces and law enforcement based in the area. The BLOs are being established to help improve cross-border cooperation and communication and the collection and analysis of information, and support the knowledge and skills of staff including through joint training.

At 16,000 feet above sea level the Khunjerab Pass one of the highest border crossings in the world and the only official crossing between China and Pakistan. At the same time, the Karakoram Highway or KKH connecting the two countries is adjacent to the Wakan Corridor and China's only official border crossing into Afghanistan. Numerous cases of heroin and precursor trafficking have been reported over recent years on the KKH between Tashkugan and Kashgar in China and Sust in Pakistan, and as the China Pakistan Economic Corridor initiative is projected to expand cross-border trade between the two countries illicit trade and trafficking of different kinds is also expected to increase and likely diversify.

Based on several years of work with the UNODC Regional Office establishing BLOs in the Mekong region, the Government of China recently sought assistance to establish a BLO with Pakistan to ensure that security personnel have access to the UNODC methodology, training and equipment package to address cross-border security and crime threats. At the opening of the BLO in Tashkurgan, Deputy Secretary General of the NNCC Wei Xiaojun commented, "we have been working with the UNODC Regional Office team for many years around BLOs in the Mekong region and find they effectively improve cross border cooperation to address transnational crime. Most importantly, BLOs can adapt to circumstances and have an operational benefit, and establishing one here in support of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor is an important initiative." Adding to the comments of Mr. Xiaojun about the practicality of BLOs, Regional Representative Jeremy Douglas remarked, "the expansion of the BLO network westward is a sign the approach can be adopted and used in different places, and it is well timed before cross-border trade and traffic increase as they are expected to under the Belt and Road plan. It is also good to see the BLO embraced as a solution to transnational organized crime and trafficking beyond the Mekong region where the work first started and the methodology was tested and developed, and I am particularly pleased it is able to happen here in partnership with our Pakistan office and government agencies from both countries."

Following the subsequent ground-breaking ceremony in Sust, delegations visited the local dry port where containers and cargo are loaded and offloaded, risk profiled and inspected, then met with local officials ANF, Pakistan Customs, and Pakistan Immigration officials to understand the infrastructure, equipment, volume of traffic, and technical resources available to security officers. Representative Cesar Gueddes commented at the ground breaking, "We often talk about the need for best practices to be shared in the United Nations, and in the case of the BLO we can see this type of exchange happening in very practical terms. The BLO concept has been effectively developed with ground realities in mind and helps countries address different forms of trafficking, often in remote areas. It is rewarding to see it come to the border here in support of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor initiative."

The UNODC Regional Programme for Southeast Asia Sub-Programme 1 on Transnational Organised Crime and Illicit Trafficking helps strengthen cross-border law enforcement cooperation in particular through establishing and supporting border liaison offices in the region including along borders with China. The border assessment being undertaken is one of a series completed by the UNODC Regional Office to understand challenges and needs, and to inform strategies and related technical assistance. The UNODC Country Programme for Pakistan Sub-Programme 1 on Illicit Trafficking and Border Management similarly assists Pakistan with strengthening cross-border law enforcement cooperation in-part through establishing and supporting BLOs.