Opium smoking in the Frontier Province of Pakistan

Sections

History
Methodology
Summary

Details

Author: Alauddin MASOOD,
Pages: 59 to 66
Creation Date: 1979/01/01

Opium smoking in the Frontier Province of Pakistan *

Alauddin MASOOD,
Assistant Director, Pakistan Narcotics Control Board, Ministry of the Interior, Islamabad, Pakistan

It is ironical that in the last century, while the Indo-Pakistan sub-continent was enriching the international opium trade of the colonial era, opium's invasion of the society in producing areas and the socio-economic factors underlying its production and use remained shrouded in legend and traditionary tales. Particularly in Pakistan the use or abuse of opium has never witnessed a systematic and scientific investigation and analysis. A modest start in that direction was made by the Pakistan Narcotics Control Board, which in 1975 undertook a survey through its Regional Office at Peshawar, to assess the nature and extent of opium abuse in the North Western Frontier Province (NWFP). The results of the survey now fill a gap and also pave the way for more detailed and in-depth studies in the future. The main objectives of the survey were:

  1. To estimate the number of persons addicted to opium smoking;

  2. To find out basic characteristics such as sex, age, marital status, occupation, income, education, criminal records etc. of the addicts; and

  3. To investigate the major causes and effects of opium smoking with a view to suggesting suitable remedial measures.

History

The history of opium smoking is centuries old in the areas now forming Pakistan. Until the 1950s, it was not a crime to indulge in opium smoking in this part of the world. The Punjab Opium Smoking Act of 1923, which was later adopted by the North Western Frontier Province, did not prohibit the smoking of opium ab initio. The Act only outlawed opium smoking when three or more persons were assembled.

Chandu khanas

Opium is traditionally smoked in dens, which are called " chandu khanas" in the local dialect. The den is usually a dark, dingy and sickly stinking place located inconspiciously in back alleys where one of the two preparations of opium - chandu or madhak is smoked. Only the lower strata of the society visit it. The opium smoker is known as " chandu baz" in the common parlance.

Chanduis prepared by boiling opium in water and evaporating its moisture. During the boiling process, a substance called " sokhta", which comprises the carbon deposits accumulated in the smoking pipe, is also added. When the preparation becomes paste-like, it is ready for use. The smoker lies down and holds a pipe, which is connected to a hollow ball with an aperture on a burning lamp in such a position that the flame just touches the aperture where a small quantity of is held with a needle. He then puffs the fumes. For greater satisfaction, chronic smokers also lick some chandu immediately before smoking.

* Condensed from the Report of a Survey on Opium Smoking in NWFP, published by the Pakistan Narcotics Control Board.

Madhak

The paste is prepared in the same way as chandu. However, some charred barley husk is added to the paste, and pills locally called madhak pills are prepared from the mixture. For madhaksmoking a "chillum" (hubble bubble pipe) is required. The smoke passes through the water and the pipe before it is inhaled. Madhak is considered to be a softer intoxicant than chanduand may be smoked by means of an ordinary tobacco pipe as well.

Methodology

Personnel of the Pakistan Narcotics Control Board went to every smoking den, 43 in all, on five different days and interviewed every smoker, including known private smokers as far as possible. While the facts collected as such are quite reliable, the data may suffer from some weakness because in the conservative and status-conscious society of Pakistan a well-to-do person will not visit a socially ill-reputed place like an opium den, although he may obtain his supplies from there. Further, it is impossible in the Pathan society to ascertain the number of private women smokers, particularly those belonging to the respectable upper class. Due to such factors the Narcotic Control Board estimates that some 15 to 20 per cent of smokers may not have been included in this survey.

Pattern of opium smoking

It is remarkable that out of the 43 smoking dens in the Province none existed in southern districts, viz. Kohat, Bannu and Dera Ismail Khan. No simple explanation could be advanced. The belief that opium smoking dens do not exist in the southern districts because no poppies are being grown does not hold good, as intensive poppy cultivation takes place in Tirah, and yet there is no den. Perhaps the explanation lies in the fact that opium smoking dens primarily originated in urban culture. Peshawar, an old historical city along with Kabul (Afghanistan), Teheran (Iran), Lahore (Pakistan), Delhi (India) and Sinkiang (China) once formed a great cultural centre in this region. It appears that the den-keepers or " saaqis", as they are known locally, starting from Peshawar gradually moved their business to culturally akin and nearby fertile areas like Mardan and Swat. Mardan is contiguous to Swat and was a tehsil (sub-district) of Peshawar district until recently.

Before the advent of the British, all foreign invaders from the north passed through these northern districts, therefore the possibility that these areas were more prone to foreign influence cannot be entirely ruled out. On the other hand, most of the southern belt was comparatively little known until about 200 years ago. The one significant reference to the "Bangash Country" by the Mogul Emperor Babar in his memoirs perhaps goes a certain length to show that inaccessible areas retained the simple virtues of good life and remained uncontaminated by the vices of great cities due to their remoteness.

TABLE 1

Total population by province, opium dens and number of smokers

District

Population

No of opium dens

No. of smokers

Peshawar
476824 21 300
Mardan
194681 13 117
Swat
50922 8 164
Hazara
142220 1 37

Another interesting fact is that opium smoking is apparently confined to Pathans, speaking a fine Yousafzai Pushto dialect, whereas in the southern districts distinctly harder dialects are spoken. Not a single Afridi, Khattak or Shinwari was found amongst the chandu smokers.

Village Kuria

Out of the eight opium dens in the Swat district, seven were found in an inaccessible and far off village by the name of Kuria, which is about 20 miles from the nearest smoking den at Rustam in Mardan. The existence of seven dens and 112 smokers in this village is quite surprising. According to a popular story, one Fazel Rehman of the village went some 40 years ago to Mardan in search of livelihood. On return he also brought the "gift" of chandu to his village and made a large number of converts. But, while the contagion has spread, the repentence is equally apparent. The smokers, like those of former years, after getting intoxicated visit the grave of Fazal Rehman and hurl curses and stones at it. On a complaint by the sons of the deceased the authorities intervened and persuaded the smokers not to desecrate the grave.

The solitary den in Hazara district is located in the New Colony at Haripur, which was established for the Tarbela Dam affectees. Twenty out of a total of 37 smokers in this colony also take intravenous pethidine injections. Nowhere else did such cases come to notice.

Characteristics of smokers

Characteristics of the addicts such as sex, marital status, age at initiation, income, occupation etc. were also recorded.

The youngest smokers noticed at these dens were both ten years of age and the oldest one 90 years of age. The greatest number of smokers (33.18 per cent) belonged to the 25-34 age group; over 76 per cent of the smokers were found to be within the age group 25-54.

The largest number of smokers i.e. 251 started smoking at a very young age (86 started between 10 and 15 years and 165 between 16 and 20 years). Almost an equally large group, i.e. 249, started smoking opium in the age bracket of 21-30 years. Although few smokers publicly admitted or regarded this to be an important motivation, excise officials who have been concerned with the opium smoking dens over a considerable period of time categorically labelled homosexuality as a major reason for the introduction of the young to opium smoking.

TABLE 2

Distribution of smokers by age

 

No. of smokers

Percentage

Age

Male

Female

Male

Female

Under 15
2
-
0.32
-
16-24
50
-
8.09
-
25-34
200 5 32.37 0.81
35-44
160 8 25.89 1.29
45-54
96 3 15.54 0.49
55-64
58 2 9.38 0.32
65-74
22 1 3.56 0.16
75-84
10
-
1.62
-
85-94
1
-
0.16
-

TABLE 3

Age at initiation

 

No. of smokers

Percentage

Age

Male

Female

Male

Female

10-15
86
-
13.92
-
16-20
165 3 26.70 0.49
21-30
249 14 40.29 2.26
31-40
82 2 13.27 0.32
41-50
12
-
1.94
-
51-60
5
-
0.81
-

As table 4 indicates, the majority of the addicts belonged to the lower strata of society. They were mostly tenants, petty farmers, labourers, tea vendors, hawkers, petty shopkeepers and den-keepers. The well-to-do classes and landlords accounted for an extremely low percentage.

The total daily consumption of opium by smokers in all the dens was found to be 2,892 g, as given in table 5, which means an average daily consumption of around 4.70 g per smoker. This figure widely differed from the 1972 survey conducted by the Social Science Research Centre of the University of the Punjab, which estimated the average daily consumption of an opium addict at 0.560 to 0.790 g. The average daily consumption of 4.70 g per smoker would cost from one-half of a U.S. dollar to slightly over one U.S. dollar.

As shown in table 6, over 60 per cent of the addicts belonged to the income bracket of less than Rs. 300 (one U.S. dollar = Rs. 9.90) and, working on the earlier derived conclusion of an average daily expenditure of about Rs. 5.(approx. one-half of a U.S. dollar) per smoker, it can be safely assumed that only the addicts in the last three income brackets can support their habit. How the rest manage their supplies should make an interesting study for the social scientists.

TABLE 4

Distribution of smokers by sex and occupation

Occupation

Male

Percentage

Female

Percentage

Petty farmers and tenants on the land
199 32.20 1 0.16
Labourers, tea vendors, watchmen and hawkers
145 23.46 1 0.16
Petty shopkeepers
48 7.77
-
-
Den-keepers ( saaqis)
43 6.96
-
-
Beggars
23 3.72
-
-
Menials
19 3.07 5 0.81
Drivers
19 3.07
-
-
Cobblers
17 2.75
-
-
Landlords
15 2.43
-
-
Unemployed
14 2.27 12 1.94
Thieves
12 1.94
-
-
Bakers
10 1.62
-
-
Barbers
8 1.29
-
-
Tailors
5 0.81
-
-
Teachers
3 0.49
-
-
Clerks
3 0.49
-
-
Masons
4 0.65
-
-
Lawyers
1 0.16
-
-
Others
11 1.78
-
-

TABLE 5

Daily consumption by sex

Quantity (g)

No. of smokers

Male

Percentage

Female

Percentage

1 55 54 8.74 1 0.16
2 119 117 18.93 2 0.33
3 94 91 14.73 3 0.49
4 112 105 16.99 7 1.13
5 47 46 7.44 1 0.16
6 95 90 14.56 5 0.81
7 2 2 0.33
-
-
8 24 24 3.88
-
-
9 1 1 0.16
-
-
10 17 17 2.75
-
-
12 46 46 7.44
-
-
13 1 1 0.16
-
-
18 1 1 0.16
-
-
24 4 4 0.65
-
-

Chandu is sold by weight and madhak by pills. The quantity shown here is according to the opium content in both the preparations.

TABLE 6

Distribution of smokers by sex and monthly income

Income in rupees

Male

Percentage

Female

Percentage

Under 100
46 7.44 14 2.27
101-200
187 30.26 1  
201-300
138 22.33
-
-
301-400
66 10.68
-
-
401-600
113 18.28 4 0.65
601 and above
49 7.93
-
-

TABLE 7 Distribution of smokers convicted or on bail by age, marital status and education a

 

Peshawar

Mardan

Hazara

Total

Age
       
years 10-24
6 1 3 10
 
5.31%
1.82%
42.86%
5.71%
25-41
61 33 3 97
 
53.98%
60%
42.86%
55.43%
42-55
24 10 1 35
 
21.24%
18.18%
14.29%
20%
56-75
16 11
-
27
 
14.16%
20%
-
15.43%
76-90
6
-
-
6
 
5.31%
-
-
3.43%
Marital status
       
Married
67 47 1 115
 
59.29%
85.45 %
14.29 %
65.71 %
Single
46 8 6 60
 
40.71%
14.55 %
85.71%
34.29%
Education
       
Illiterate
95 42 4 141
 
84.07%
76.36%
57.14%
80.57%
Primary b
6 7 2 15
 
5.31%
12.73%
28.57%
8.57%
Middle c
10 4 1 15
 
8.85%
7.27%
14.29%
8.57%
Matric d
2 1
-
3
 
1.77%
1.82%
-
1.71%
F.A. and above e
-
1
-
1
 
-
1.82%
-
0.57%

a There were no women in this group.

b Five years of schooling.

c Eight years of schooling.

d Ten years of schooling.

e Twelve years of schooling.

A study of the criminal records of the smokers revealed interesting facts. Out of 618 smokers 175 had committed offences, and 162 of the latter group had actually been convicted, as per police records. Among them, there were 28 cases of theft, burglary and stolen property. Five habitual criminals among the addicts were on bail. Seventeen cases were found to be involved in murders, attempts at murder or hurting other persons. Some were convicted under the Arms Act (31 cases), the Gambling Ordinance (22 cases) and a host of other assorted crimes.

According to the findings of the survey 81.22 per cent of the smokers were illiterate (table 9). They included 483 males and 19 females. Those who had studied up to primary and middle school level were 7.77 per cent and 7.93 per cent respectively. The number of smokers declined sharply with the rise in level of education-matriculates being 2.43 per cent and intermediates and graduates another 0.32 per cent in each group.

In a society where marriage is almost a societal compulsion incidence of opium smoking among the married was obviously higher. However the number of unmarried opium smokers (219) was rather high (table 10).

As indicated in table 11 peer pressure was one of the leading factors which lured people to opium smoking. It accounted for over 54 per cent of the opium smokers. Nearly 23 per cent smoked for enjoyment or sexual pleasure. Dr. Mohammad Shafiq of Mental Hospital, Peshawar, in his studies attributed 80 to 90 per cent of all kinds of drug addiction to the influence of peer pressure.

TABLE 8

Distribution of opium smokers by offences committed before and after addiction

Before addiction

After addiction

Drug offences

Offences other than those concerning drugs

Drug offences

Offences other than those concerning drugs

Persons Involved

Percentage

Persons Involved

Percentage

Persons Involved

Percentage

Persons Involved

Percentage

5 2.86 24 13.71 67 38.29 79 45.14

TABLE 9

Distribution of smokers by sex and education

Education

Male

Percentage

Female

Percentage

Total

Illiterate
483 78.15 19 3.07 502
Primary
48 7.77
-
  48
Middle
49 7.93
-
  49
Matric
15 2.43
-
  15
F.A
2 0.32
-
  2
B.A
2 0.32
-
 
2

TABLE 10

Distribution of smokers by sex and marital status

Sex

Married

Percentage

Unmarried

Percentage

Male
380 61.49 219 35.44
Female
19 3.07
-
-

Opium as medication for physical illness accounted for approximately 17 per cent. Causes like economic worries and escapism did not figure high.

Of the 618 smokers 230, who mostly belonged to the older age group, expressed a positive desire for their treatment and rehabilitation; 48 were against and 340 did not give any answer. More than 11 per cent of the smokers have made efforts at one stage or another to give up smoking, but without success.

TABLE 11

Causes of addiction by sex

Causes of addiction

Affected males

Percentage

Affected females

Percentage

Peer pressure
319 51.62 16 2.59
For enjoyment
116 18.77 2 0.32
Physical illness
102 16.51 1 0.16
For longer sexual intercourse
24 3.88
-
-
Economic worries
20 3.24
-
-
Escapism (frustration in love) etc
8 1.29
-
-
Association with poppy cultivation as cultivators and labourers
10 1.62
-
-

Summary

In a survey carried out by the Pakistan Narcotics Control Board 618 opium smokers were interviewed in 43 dens identified in the North Western Frontier Province (NWFP). The survey revealed that 4.70 g was the average daily dosage of consumption. Most respondents were illiterate and belonged to the lower income group of society. Variables such as age, sex, occupation, education, income, involvement in crime as well as causes of addiction were discussed in the paper.