UN Volunteer Conducts Research on Pakistan's Illicit Pharmaceutical Industry

Islamabad - The United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme is the UN organization that contributes to peace and development through volunteerism worldwide. Volunteerism is a powerful means of engaging particularly young people in tackling development challenges. Volunteerism benefits both society at large and the individual volunteer by strengthening trust, solidarity and reciprocity among citizens, and by purposefully creating opportunities for participation.


Bahadur Khan works as a UNV National Research Officer for the UNODC Country Office Pakistan over six months from September 2013 to March 2014. This is the first time that UNODC has engaged a UNV in Pakistan. Bahadur brings vast experience to the organization having previously worked in several NGOs across Pakistan. Volunteering with UNODC gives him a unique opportunity to contribute to international development organization in his own country. Bahadur's expertise is within research and analysis on drug trafficking, mainly related to the southern drug trafficking route through Pakistan. In UNODC, Bahadur is being exposed to issues related to the Pakistan's problems with the illicit pharmaceutical industry. Having conducted extensive research and completed a national survey, Bahadur is working to understand the underlying causes of the problem.

"First I collected data from government officials such as the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan, Pharma Bureau of Pakistan, Health Department of KPK and Baluchistan, Customs Quetta, and ANF Quetta. From that information I came to know in which areas the illegal pharmaceutical industry business is growing. I then conducted questionnaire interviews in the specific areas from drug treatment centers, with drug users, pharmaceutical companies, pharmacies and grocery shops where illicit medicines are sold." Bahadur explains.

Subsequently his goal is to come up with recommendations for solutions on how to improve control of the pharmaceutical industry in Pakistan. Improving cooperation and flow of information between the relevant agencies is necessary in order to tackle this issue.

When talking about what was the most challenging about this research project Bahadur says it was tough to complete the research on such a tight schedule. Gathering information on a sensitive topic meant being creative and cautious in his approach when interviewing people. Some people were more comfortable with talking than others and I had to be careful with how I approached the subject. I also worked entirely on my own which meant I continuously had to plan my time-table in order to achieve my task. There were things I had to prioritize over others, but completing the task was the main achievement, he says.  

Bahadur hopes that his research will help Pakistan to minimize the illicit pharmaceutical industry and consequently make a positive contribution to the health sector.