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Pakistan PM Shehbaz Sharif’s close aide admits that Pakistani drones are smuggling drugs into India: Read how India has been tackling the drone-drug menace

As reported earlier, the Indian Army this year deployed indigenous anti-drone jammers and spoofers in the Jammu and Punjab region to counter terrorist organisations with bases in Pakistan's drones delivering weapons, bombs, and drugs.

There have been numerous instances in the recent past where Indian security forces have caught Pakistani drug mule drones. Pakistani authorities have long denied India’s allegations that drugs are being smuggled into the country via drones. However, a close aide to Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif admitted that drug dealers in Pakistan are using drones to smuggle drugs into India. 

Malik Mohammed Ahmad Khan, Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s Special Assistant on Defence, made the admission during an interview with Pakistani journalist Hamid Mir in Kasur. It is notable that Kasur borders the state of Punjab in India. Khan represents Kasur in Pakistan’s Provincial Assembly.

As seen in the video tweeted by Hamid Mir on July 17, Mir asked Khan a question regarding the cross-border smuggling of narcotics in Kasur, to which Khan assented. 

“Yes, and this smuggling is very scary. Recently, two incidents unfolded in which 10 kg of heroin was tied to each drone and thrown across.” Agencies are working to put an end to this,” Khan said.

Prior to his interaction with MPA Khan, Hamid Mir was spotted conversing with Kasur residents who stated that they do not have access to mobile networks. Mir told Indian Express that people informed him about drone movements and narcotics smuggling from Pakistan to India, as well as liquor smuggling from India into Pakistan.

Notably, Kasur is located across Khemkaran and Ferozepur in Indian Punjab. According to data provided earlier this month by Punjab Police, 795 FIRs were lodged under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act in Ferozepur district alone between July 2022 and July 2023. According to the official data, the majority of the drugs were seized in Punjab regions bordering Pakistan.

Drug menace in Punjab and the role of Pakistan 

India has been affected by drug smuggling and abuse as the country is sandwiched between the world’s two greatest opium-producing regions, the Golden Triangle on one side and the Golden Crescent (also called Death Crescent) on the other. Thailand, Myanmar, Vietnam, and Laos form the golden triangle. Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iran are all part of the golden crescent region. Punjab, which is closest to the Golden Crescent (Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran), is heavily impacted by illegal drug smuggling.

In January this year, the Border Security Force (BSF) revealed that in the year 2022, around 22 drones were captured. Along with weapons and ammunition, the BSF also seized 316.988 kilograms of heroin. 

Furthermore, according to BSF data, there was a threefold surge in drone sightings along the India-Pakistan border, with 311 occurrences of such Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) until December 2022, as opposed to 104 in 2021.

In 2023 itself numerous Pakistani drug mule drones have been detected, captured or shot down by Indian authorities. In January this year, BSF shot down a six-wing drone along the Indo-Pakistan border and seized 5 kg of heroin. The hybrid drone, probably worth Rs 10 lakh, was assembled with parts made in the United States and China and was outfitted with high-tech features such as a long-lasting battery backup, an infrared-based night vision camera, and GPS.

Other than Punjab, states like Rajasthan and Gujarat which share border with Pakistan are also faced with the Pakistani drug smuggling menace. In February this year, the BSF Jawans shot down a Pakistani drone entering India in Sriganganagar carrying five packets of suspected drugs. 

Another Pakistani drone was shot down near Amritsar in March, shortly after it infiltrated into Indian territory carrying a load of illicit substances.

In April, BSF personnel found over three kilograms of heroin airdropped by a Pakistani drone near the India-Pakistan border in Amritsar’s Mullakot village. 

On April 27, the BSF shot down a Pakistani drone carrying heroin and opium near the village of Dhanoe Kalan in Punjab’s Amritsar. According to the BSF, one iron ring was attached to the cargo, along with a huge packet wrapped in yellow adhesive tape that included two suspected heroin packets and two smaller packets of opium. Two packets of heroin weighed two kilograms, while one packet of opium weighed 170 grams.

Narcotics seized by BSF from a Pakistani drone intercepted in Dhanoe Kalan village in Punjab (Image via ANI)

In May, the BSF once again foiled Pakistan’s nefarious attempt to smuggle illegal drugs in India as it intercepted two drone sorties entering India from Pakistan carrying around 15 kilograms of heroin along the Indo-Pak border in Ramkot and Kakkar village of Amritsar in Punjab. 

Another such incident was reported in the month of May wherein the BSF intercepted three Pakistani drones along the international border in Punjab. The BSF jawans seized 2.06 kilograms of heroin from a Pakistani Quadcopter DJI Matrics drone near the Rattan Khurd border outpost area. 

On June 10, the BSF jawans shot down a Pakistani drone carrying 5.5 kilograms of heroin in five packets wrapped in yellow adhesive tape along the international border near Rai village in Punjab’s Amritsar. 

Narco terrorism and Pakistan

Interestingly, along with Pakistan’s conventional cross-border terrorism, the Pakistani government over the years have have worked in collusion with the terrorist organizations it fosters, along with the ISI. 

During an interview in 1994, Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif stated that in 1991, Pakistan’s army chief and the head of ISI devised an explicit plan to fund military operations through heroin trafficking. Sharif went on to say that, while he disagreed with the “plan,” he had no way of knowing whether or not the ISI followed his orders.

Where does the Modi government stand?

In October 2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi lambasted Pakistan for hatching a conspiracy to push drugs into India in a bid to destroy Indian youth. 

“When our neighbor could not succeed in its nefarious designs by sending terrorists and weapons, it hatched a conspiracy to smuggle drugs into our country to destroy our youth,” PM Modi said back then while asserting that the menace of drug smuggling needs to be dealt as strictly as India deals with terrorists. 

In March this year, Union Home Minister Amit Shah emphasized the need to bolster security in the ocean and said that around 60-70 percent of drug smuggling happens through sea routes. He added most of these illegal drugs are shipped in Pakistan and go via Iran to Sri Lanka, and Africa. He further stressed that state governments along with citizens need to join hands in the fight against drug smuggling to make India drug-free by 2047.

Notably, the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) in January last year launched an initiative named ‘Operation Samudragupt’ which targets the maritime trafficking of drugs originating from Afghanistan. In May this year, the NCB seized 2500 kg of methamphetamine worth Rs 12,000 crore from a vessel in the Arabian Sea off the coast of Kochi in a joint operation with the Indian navy. The authorities had also arrested a Pakistani national.

The Deputy Director of NCB had told that the drug consignment seized made under Operation Samudragupt was linked to Pakistan’s biggest drug smuggler Haji Salim. Moreover, Haji Salim is said to be funded by Pakistani intelligence agency ISI.

In December 2022, Home Minister Amit Shah informed the parliament that drug money corroborates terrorism and that all drug traffickers would be apprehended within two years. 

India’s anti-drone system countering Pakistani drones

As reported earlier, the Indian Army this year deployed indigenous anti-drone jammers and spoofers in the Jammu and Punjab region to counter terrorist organizations with bases in Pakistan’s drones delivering weapons, bombs, and drugs. Using the stellar system, the Indian Army successfully blocked numerous such drones from flying into India. The army bought 30 jammer and spoofer systems for the Jammu and Punjab sectors.

Security agencies are using a variety of counter-UAV equipment at the border. These include systems capable of detecting, identifying, and neutralizing various forms of drones, such as Small Hybrid UAVs, Micro UAV/Multirotors, and Nano UAVs. A typical anti-drone system includes components such as radar for drone detection and tracking.

A day and night camera with laser range is used to detect and track a drone target. System for detecting and blocking communication channels (soft kill) and system for GPS jamming/spoofing (soft kill). In addition, the system of laser-directed energy weapons (hard kill).

The BSF is also collaborating with local police. In Punjab, the state police have deployed 300 patrol officers and set up permanent and temporary checkpoints to track suspicious movements. Police officers are also engaging with local communities to raise awareness of the threat presented by drones and promote the reporting of potentially dangerous drone activities.

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