Yet another major drug seizure by the Sri Lanka Navy over 800 km off the country’s southern coast, in which nine Pakistani nationals have been arrested, has reinforced the contention of the Indian agencies that Pak-based cartels have been indulging in large-scale drug trafficking via sea routes in the region.
Confirming the seizure, the Sri Lanka Navy on Wednesday tweeted: “Navy brought the seized foreign vessel ashore along with 605 kg of cyrstal meth (methaphetamine) and 579 kg of ketamine. The 09 crew members were found to be Pakistanis.”
On March 5, in a similar operation, the Sri Lanka Navy had seized 500 kg of heroin and 100 kg of methaphetamine and arrested 16 persons, including eight from Pakistan. The contraband’s origin was traced to Pakistan’s Makran coast.
“The seizures in the high seas are usually very less than the actual amount being smuggled in fishing boats, as the carriers start disposing of the drugs the moment they spot patrol parties from far away,” said an Indian Customs official on condition of anonymity.
While smuggling of methaphetamine by sea in this region is an emerging trend, investigations into the seizures in the recent past have revealed that large consignments of heroin, processed mostly in laboratories located in Pakistan using the opium sourced from Afghanistan, are lately being transported via sea route.
Since 2015, about four dozen Pakistani nationals have been arrested in connection with various seizures in the high seas off the coasts of India, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Mozambique.
“Several gangs based in Lahore and Faislabad are involved in the trade. The consignments are sent to Karachi or Gwadar for further transport in fishing vessels,” said another official.
Through the sea route, the drugs are also sent to Seychelles, Tanzania and Kenya for supply to Europe and other destinations.
“Also, most of the drugs produced in Afghanistan are routed through Pakistan. The key local routes between the border districts in Kandahar and Pakistan are Shorabak-Chaman, Shorabak-Nushki, Spin Boldak-Chaman, Maruf-Qila Saifullah, Argistan-Toba Achakzai and Registan-Nushki. The crossing points around Torkham adjoining Nangahar, Gulam Khan adjoining Khost and Angoor Adda adjoining Paktia are also used,” said the official.
The drugs smuggled from Afghanistan to Pakistan’s Balochistan are shipped through the Gwadar port to the Maputo transit point in Mozambique. “Some Pakistani families based in Mozambique, South Africa and Tanzania are also involved in the drug trafficking in African countries,” said the official.
“The syndicate run by Pakistan-based Dawood Ibrahim has been involved in drug trafficking for years,” he said. In 2015, Sohael Shaikh— son of Dawood’s brother Noora Kaskar — was arrested in Barcelona along with two Pakistani nationals, in a joint operation of the US’ Drug Enforcement Agency and the Spanish police. They were accused of drug smuggling, narco-terrorism and conspiring to transport missile systems.
A probe into some recent in-land seizures in India have revealed that they were also part of the consignments smuggled out of Pakistan via sea. In February, the Narcotics Control Bureau had detected such a case, in which over 14 kg of heroin was seized and three foreign nationals, including two from Mozambique and one from Ivory Coast, were arrested.