Country Profile

The Islamic Republic of Pakistan is the thirty third largest country in terms of area and fifth-most populous with a population of over 210 million. The country has a huge reservoir of young people, with 64% of the population below the age of 29 and 30% between 15 and 29 years. According to the World Bank's statistics, Pakistan is among Asia's five fastest emerging economies, registering a growth rate of over 5.7% in 2017, a trend which is projected to continue in 2018 as well.  To date, Karachi remains country's main trade and economic hub but with the ongoing development of another port city Gwadar and regional connectivity ushered in by China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a major impetus to country's international trade and economic activity is expected.

Like other countries of the region, Pakistan also faces significant challenges in the field of Transnational Organized Crimes (TOC s ), requiring coordinated efforts by the national authorities in tandem with the international support, especially through capacity building. Though Pakistan is signatory to a number of multilateral treaties on TOCs including those related to drug trafficking and corruption, efforts are underway to enhance effective implementation of these treaties at the national level. UNODC has been working closely with the Government of Pakistan and civil society to fill this gap. A country program (2016-19) was signed between the government of Pakistan and UNODC in December 2016, highlighting commitment of the two sides to jointly work in the areas of illicit trafficking & border management; the criminal justice system & legal reforms; and drug demand reduction, prevention, & treatment.

Counter Narcotics


Pakistan's Anti-Narcotics Policy of 2010 is built around three pillars: (i) Drug Supply Reduction (ii) Drug Demand Reduction (iii) International cooperation. Efforts are underway to launch a new policy in the wake of new challenges emerging on the counter-narcotics front.

Since 2001 Pakistan has followed a 'zero tolerance policy' toward poppy cultivation on its territory. The two-pronged policy built around law enforcement measures and alternative development met with extraordinary success leading to almost complete poppy eradication in the country. 

Law enforcement

Pakistan is geographically vulnerable to drug trafficking due to its borders with Afghanistan, the world's largest producer of illicit opium. In 2016-17, Pakistan seized a total of 2860 metric 1 tons of different types of narcotics drugs. The figure is expected to rise in view of phenomenal increase in poppy cultivation this year in Afghanistan, a development which poses enhanced interdiction challenges for Pakistan's law enforcement agencies.

International Cooperation

At the international level,  Pakistan remains an active member of the UN Commission on Narcotics Drugs (CND), and has contributed to global debate on World Drug issues based on its commitment to the principle of multilateralism and international cooperation.  

During the last CND session in Vienna, Pakistan tabled a resolution highlighting the issue of drug abuse in educational settings, which was unanimously approved by the Member States. National initiatives, in collaboration with UNODC, are being pursued to scale up measures aimed at preventing drug abuse in educational settings. Pakistan has also become the first country in the region to develop an implementation roadmap for UNGASS, a feat achieved through effective support from UNODC.

Drug use prevention and treatment

According to the 2013 national survey on "Drug Use in Pakistan", 4.25 million people are considered dependent on substances and require structured treatment for their drug use disorder 2 .

Survey findings show that cannabis is the most commonly used drug, with around 4 million users nationwide. Around 860,000 people used heroin regularly, approximately 19,000 people reported they had used methamphetamine and nearly 1.6 million people reported misuse of prescription opioids (painkillers) for non-medical use. In order to better understand the scale and magnitude of drug use in the country, especially after the exponential increase in poppy cultivation and opium production in the region, preparations are underway to launch a fresh drug use survey in the country.

Human trafficking and migrant smuggling

Human trafficking and migrant smuggling reflect negative trends in human development in the region. These criminal activities often result in forced labour 3 and servitude, leading to serious human rights violations. Among other factors, human trafficking and migrant smuggling are caused by absence of safe, affordable and legal avenues of movement for people across  borders.

Pakistan has taken important legislative steps to combat these crimes, including the promulgation of "The Prevention of Trafficking in Persons Act, 2018" and "The Prevention of Smuggling of Migrants Acts, 2018". These laws empower the law enforcement agencies of Pakistan to effectively prosecute the organized gangs perpetuating and benefitting from these crimes, while providing safeguards to the rights of victims of human trafficking and smuggled migrants.


Pakistan is party to the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), which is the only legally binding international instrument against corruption.

With Government of Pakistan's renewed commitment to combat corruption, we can expect a more proactive role by Pakistan to promote and augment international cooperation in the realm of anti-corruption. UNODC is already supporting Pakistan in this effort by partnering with country's premier anti-corruption watchdog, the National Accountability Bureau, through various capacity-building initiatives.

Criminal Justice System

Criminal justice system is one of the highlights of partnership between Pakistan and UNODC. Currently, the major lacunas in Pakistan's criminal justice regime are reactive policing approaches, lack of effective crime prevention measures and issues with evidence collection. 4 Criminal procedures tend to be tedious and time consuming, and there is a sizeable backlog of court cases in the country. Cognizant of these challenges, the Government of Pakistan is taking numerous steps to reform the existing criminal justice system, in collaboration with its international partners, including UNODC.


1 Anti-Narcotics Force

2 See report

3 Trafficking in Person Report

4  Policing Urban Violence in Pakistan, International Crisis Group 2014.