The 'D' Trail
Language and literature are the essence of any civilization. Language is the mode of expression where as literature is the most important manifestation of the progress or decline of any civilization. Humans as also animals have their own language. They denote things good and bad. One would not have thought that over a period of time, some words or letters of a language could become unpalatable and denote different things. In the Indian context, letters like ‘K’, ‘M’, ‘K2M’, ‘N’ etc have denoted different things, issues, problems and even political philosophy. In not too distant a past the ‘D’ word was and, for that matter, still is dreaded along with its expansion, ‘the D Company’. Then since 2007, the letter ‘D’ started denoting another thing, ‘Drugs’. It became the talk of the town in the areas west of Delhi, particularly Punjab when I exposed the ongoing drug racket in Punjab which has its tentacles spreading all over the world and there after ‘the hell let loose’. No, I am not talking about the threats which were given to me or the attempts on my life, but the attention of the anti drug agencies of some countries of Europe, Australian and America continents which started rushing to Punjab for ‘inquiry and investigation’. The ‘D’ word even prompted the Indian politicians including Rahul Gandhi and later the Prime Minister of India, who referred to it in his ‘Man Ki Baat’. People of Punjab thought that something worthwhile, some positive step was now imminent, but they are still waiting. Life goes on. With a view to create awareness on the issue, I feel that probably it is time to let people know what exactly this deadly ‘D’ trail is. The contents of this article are based on my study, research, inquiries and individual investigations spanning last about three years, starting 2012.
The present article concerns only one type of drug that is ‘OPIATES’; heroine and its derivatives. From this angle, the world, as it exists today, has two major opium producing areas, the ‘Golden Triangle’ consisting of Myanmar, Laos, Thailand and surrounding areas on the North Eastern side of India and the ‘Golden Crescent’ on other side which consists of Afghanistan, North West Frontier Province of Pakistan and surrounding areas. The generic names, ‘Crescent’ and the ‘Triangle’ denote the general shape of the concerned opium producing area.
The ‘Golden Crescent’
Traditionally, the ‘Crescent’ has been a poppy cultivation area and opium was being used both as an addiction as also a medicine. The area however, saw a boom in the opium production during the years 1979-1989. These years, also known as the Soviet Period witnessed a rise in the ‘Mujahidin’ movement with the tacit help of the United States and its allies to seek the ouster of Soviets from the area. Afghan warlords and regional commanders used the opportunity to drastically promote opium production so that with opium and its drug money, they could purchase more and more arms and declare their suzerainty. With the withdrawal of Soviets in 1989, various Mujahidin factions started fighting within themselves in their bid to capture as mush areas as each of them could. In view of the withdrawal of the Soviet army, U.S.A. and allies also cut down their help to Mujahidin and the latter resorted to poppy growing and opium trade in their respective area to purchase arms and weapons. This period was followed by the period of rise of Taliban, during the years 1994-2001. A bumper crop of 4500 metric tons of opium was reported in year 1999. Though Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar and some others tried to impose a ban on opium production calling it ‘anti Islamic’ but not much of success was achieved. Starting 2008, Taliban insurgency is now generally supporting cultivation of poppy and production of opium. Now opium, the ‘Black Gold’ is another name for money and several high officials, Taliban, war lords and insurgents are encouraging local farmers to cultivate poppy and produce opium. In Afghanistan, the regions of Helmand and Kandhar top the opium production, followed by lesser areas including Farah, Badghis, Day Kundi, Urozgan and Zabul, though not necessarily in that sequence because production has often been varying.
There have been allegations that besides the Mujahidin, warlords and corrupt officials; the C.I.A. and a large number of 32,000 regular foreign troops of the N.A.T.O., 8,000 U.S. and other special operations forces, primarily the ‘Contracted’ (read Mercenary) soldiers did promote the initial international illegal drug trade from across Afghanistan. Antonio Maria Costa, an Executive Director of U.N.O.D.C (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime) had rightly described the situation in Afghanistan saying that, ‘There is no rule of law in most of the Southern Afghanistan- THE BULLETS RULE’.
Traditional routes of drug smuggling through Balkans, into erstwhile U.S.S.R, now new countries there from like Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan besides Iran, Turkey and Pakistan still continue. Mid 1980s, witnessed the opening of a new route that is through Indian Punjab. This route was the brain child of the Pakistani I.S.I. which needed huge amounts of money for their nefarious design, dismembering of our Punjab from rest of India. They did not encounter much problem in this. Petty smugglers from both India and Pakistan had been working as ‘double agents’ for their respective intelligence agencies ever since the partition of the country. They primarily operated through the borders along Gujarat, Rajasthan and Punjab besides, to a lesser extent, J&K. Punjabis living in both Indian and Pakistani Punjab, have had old ethnic and economic bonding. They are also well off as compared to the population living on either side of the border along other states. We still have similarly named subs castes in both Punjabs. The initial years of Indian independence had witnessed heavy fluctuations in the international prices of gold. Western Maharashtra and Indian Punjab emerged as major centers of gold smuggling. Smugglers like Haji Mastan as also a number of Punjabis living across the borders had access to money, basic ingredient for gold smuggling. Quite a few highly placed political families of yesteryear's of Punjab as also some high official of the police and security forces were known to be top gold smugglers. I.S.I. did not have much problem in cultivating the descendants of such families and also several other petty smugglers and to lure into the trade of drug smuggling across the border. They were already ‘out of trade’ because of the somewhat ‘stabilizing international gold prices’. The drug trade has immense margin and in the initial years, they were just interested in pushing the drugs into India on their way to the ultimate destination, Europe and the United States. The smuggling was via Delhi and there ill famed Paharganj was the center for storage, cooling off and further export, one way or the other. It was only over a period of time that some of the Indian smugglers started adulterating the heroin and selling them in Punjab and elsewhere to make a quick buck because the normal mode of payments through ‘hawala’, often took time and was made only after the receipt of the consignment. The mode of payment now, is through internet banking with some of the notorious banks. Such accounts are generally maintained in various smaller countries, both in South East Asia and European / American continents. The trade goes on with the direct involvement and blessings of some political big wigs belonging to various parties as also greasing the palms of officials of the security forces and the police. Number of ‘Front’ NGOs and business establishments are also making a quick buck on the corpses of the young and other addicts, generally Punjabis. None of the Punjab or central governments have seriously tried even to study the problem, what to talk of trying to nip it.
The ‘Golden Triangle’
‘Golden Triangle’ consisting of mountainous regions of Myanmar, Laos, Thailand and the surrounding areas sits on the North Eastern side of India. Until 21st century, most of world’s
heroin came from this region which also designates the confluence of Ruak and the Mekong rivers. Within this region Myanmar takes the lead coming only next to Afghanistan in the matter of opium production. As per a UNODC report, in year 2005, about 430 sq. km of its area was under opium cultivation. A study of the Golden Triangle makes a fascinating and interesting study, bordering unique ‘romanticism, mysticism, intreague and a bone chilling trail of cruelty and ruthlessness’ as compared to a blatantly raw and brutally violent story of the Golden Crescent. This area prominently figures in the Chinese opium wars and the mystic Chinese secret societies.
Despite the crackdown on the drug lord Khun Sa’s Mong Tai army and his subsequent surrender, opium cultivation continues unabated in the tribal regions of Myanmar, Laos, Thailand and some adjacent areas. Primary reason there for is the extreme poverty of the region and lure of money to them by major opiate growing and exporting organizations operating primarily from the American continent, besides the urban Chinese centers in Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand and even Kolkata etc. Latter is again emerging as a major hub because of the increased vigilance in other regions. Investigations with respect to the ‘Triangle’ have been more open and indicting as compared to the ‘Crescent’ where none, worth its name has taken place.
Opium and heroin base produced in north eastern Myanmar are transported on the backs of horses and donkey, moving in caravan, to the ‘refineries’ on Thailand and Myanmar border for conversion into high grade heroin. Finished product is known to have been sent in all neighbouring ‘areas’ primarily Bangkok, followed by Kolkata for further distribution. Some South East Asian countries have established cartels controlling the trade. The trade from this region is primarily in the hands of Ethnic Chinese. The primary destination of drug produced in this region, is North America, both the United States and Canada. There also trade of this drug is again primarily in the hands of Chinese associated with various Triad societies.
A triad is one of the Chinese transnational organized criminal organizations. They are primarily based in Hong Kong, Macaw, Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand as also in Kolkata and various other countries having significant Chinese population including United States, Canada, England, France, Australia, South Africa etc. some Chinese Triads claim their origin in China way back in 1760s. While talking of a Triad, mention also needs to be made of ‘Tongs’, literally meaning a ‘Hall’ or gathering place, they are also to be found in Canada and in United States. They are secret societies or ‘sworn brotherhood’ and are often known to be indulging in criminal activities. Tongs follow the pattern of the secret societies existing in Southern China, e.g. Tiandihui. The trade of the heroin / drugs produced in the Golden Triangle is primarily in the hands of these Triad and Tongs.
My extensive study of the global activities related to Drugs has led to some shocking revelations and patterns.
To start with, obviously it is a worldwide phenomenon. Drug in question, that is heroin of various purities and potencies are primarily produced in Asia, in the areas falling within the Golden Crescent and the Golden Triangle. The ultimate destination of major part of this drug is United States, Europe and Australia. It has many routes, but India has become one of the major routes of its smuggling or ‘export’ abroad. The other lethal drug, that is Cocaine is primarily produced in South America and is ‘exported’ all over world. Of late India has also become its ‘significant’, if not major importer.
In Afghanistan opium trade is known to have the patronage of a section of Mujahidin, regional war lords and high Afghan army and civil officials. There are allegations that the CIA is still actively involved in drug trafficking because of its requirement of huge amounts of money for their clandestine operations all over the world. There are several books and writings to this effect, notable being works of Alfred McCoy, Peter Dale Scott and journalists like Alexander Cockburn and Gary Webb. Their ‘exposures’ led to various ‘official’ investigations by American Senate and others. Similarly there have been allegations about the role of the Russian secret agencies.
In Pakistan the dreaded I.S.I. started this game with vengeance against India. Top Pakistani army brass, which controls the government there, either directly or indirectly remain willful partners in the trade, using this money for their personal as also the ‘misguided plan’ against India. Of late, on account of the international ‘exposure’ they are said have transferred the actual trade to top smugglers and dons, including Dawood Ibrahim, who work under the patronage of the I.S.I., top Pak army officials and politicians.
Studies indicate that in India that is Punjab, is the only country where the drug trade is going on with active political connivance and support of corrupt police and security officials. The borders and routes through Turkey, Iran and the new neighbouring countries emerging after the downfall of the U.S.S.R. and bordering Afghanistan, the trade is protected and carried out by drug cartels directly which pass on drug money of security and other officials besides some top politicians on ‘as is where is’ basis. Same is true in respect of Russia, Australia and various European countries through which the drugs pass. These drug cartels have been using various nationalities to act as their conduits and carriers.
It appears that in the developing and underdeveloped countries, falling on the international drug route, this nefarious trade is going on either under the direct or indirect political patronage where as in the developed countries, it is the ‘responsibility’ either of the established drug cartels, organized crime syndicates as also their dreaded intelligence agencies. It is only a matter of time that the drug trade in developing countries is also taken over by organized crime syndicates and drug cartels.
And The 'D' Trail continues…
*Note: Pictures and Maps are from the internet.