Golden Triangle and the Golden Crescent
After having understood, what Heroin exactly is, we can move ahead to understand the dynamics of trade of this deadly and lethal Drug.
The world, as it exists today, has two major opium producing areas. The ‘Golden Triangle’, consisting of Myanmar, Cambodia and surrounding area on the North Eastern side of India and the ‘Golden Crescent’ on the other side and consisting of Afghanistan, North West Frontier Province of Pakistan and surrounding areas. India is, thus, more or less sandwiched between two of the major Opium producing areas of this world. Here, in this chapter, we will talk about the golden crescent.
Image of the ‘Golden Crescent’ and the Golden Triangle’
The Golden Crescent
Golden Crescent is located on the good old Silk Route; on cross roads of Central, South and Western Asia, overlapping mountainous peripheries of three nations; Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan, though only Afghanistan and neighbouring areas of Pakistan known as North West Frontier Province primarily produce opium. Iran and Turkey traditionally and primarily remained a consumer and a prominent trans-shipment route for the smuggled opium and opiates. Afghanistan is the primary opium producing area in this belt. On an average it produces about 90% of the world’s non pharmaceutical grade opium.
Opium Poppy and its Sap
As on date the Golden Crescent has a more notorious place in the history of opium production as compared to Golden Triangle of South East Asia, the older and traditional opium producing areas of the two. History of bumper production of opium over the years and manufacturing of heroin becoming a massive 'cottage industry' has its roots in the turbulent political history of the region.
Though Afghanistan was not a politically, socially and financially stable country but the ouster of Mohammad Zahir Shah, the last king of Afghans, in a coup in 1973 is considered to be the triggering point of a prolonged period of political unrest; on account of a number factors, international politics involving Russians and Americans included; and consequent turmoil within various Afghan war lords as also good chunks of mujahidin taking on to opium production in a bid to generate more and more drug money with which arms, ammunition, explosives and war machinery could be purchased. the period of turmoil is still going on in Afghanistan.
King Zahir Shah, Russian withdrawal, Mujaheddin, War lords
NATO forces in Afghanistan
At the peak of its opium production in 2007, Golden Crescent produced more that 8000 of the world’s total 9000 tons of opium. It had then almost monopolized the world market. Though the yield has come down a bit but it still is the most opium producing area in the world. This area also dominates the cannabis resin market on account of the high resin yields of the region, 145 kg per hectare of land which is almost four times than of Morocco standing at 36 kg per hectare of land. Available figures indicate that the Golden Crescent also caters to a much larger world market of Heroin, about 64% more than that of the Golden Triangle. It produces and distributes over 2,500 megatons of opiates to Africa, Europe, North American sub continent and the Central Asia and supplies to almost 9.5 million opiate users worldwide. On an average about 5300 tons of opium is estimated to be produced in Afghanistan alone of which, most is estimated to be converted into heroin. Most of the produce comes from the provinces of Kandahar and Helmand of this country. Despite worldwide efforts to capture and seize as much opium products as possible, only about 1% of heroin exported from Afghanistan in an illegal manner, is intercepted by various national governments. It clearly indicates either the ‘complicity’ or ‘a-complicity’ of the powers that be. The enormity of the problem, worldwide, can be gauged from the fact that over one million people are estimated to be involved in the business of drug trafficking.
Opium producing area in Afghanistan
Historically, in the late 1970s, the Afghan government began to lose control of its provinces during the Russian invasion of 1979-80 and it was during this time that Afghan warlords flourished and with them, the production of opium. It was primarily because the ‘regional commanders’ were in desperate search of modes to generate money to purchase arms, ammunition and the weapons. Till this time the smuggling route was primarily via Balkans, Turkey, Iran and Pakistan.
Drug routes from Afghanistan
This was the time when, in mid 1980s, the Pakistan I.S.I. started pushing drugs into India through smugglers, who in the intelligence language, are known as ‘common sources and resources’. When the Soviet army was forced to withdraw from Afghanistan, in 1989, a power vacuum came up and various Mujaheddin factions started fighting against each other for power. The West, by this time, had also discontinued its support to them against the Soviets and consequently the poppy cultivation out there was deliberately increased manifolds, by the warlords. It reached its peak in 1999 and the world was flooded with Opiates. Since then the poppy production in Afghanistan has been varying slightly up and down but more or less the average opium production has remained the same. And one of the favoured routes, besides others as depicted in the map, remains through the Indian Punjab.
India becomes a major route
Major destination of the Afghanistan produced opiates remains Europe and North America. Major routes include Afghanistan on to Iran, Turkey and then in to Europe. Turkey falls both in Asia and partly in Europe as well. Other prominent route is via Russia and parts or the erstwhile U.S.S.R.; and then came the route through Pakistan, the sea route via Karachi and other minor ports, besides the air route. The major route through India is via Punjab. Trying to understand, correctly, in this perspective, it is important to mention that the route of trade of opiates through Iran, Turkey, Russia etc remained and still remains quite hot and favoured one, but they have ‘problems’ of terrain, climate and the hostile geographic, ethnic and political reasons. Seizures have been quite high on those routes. As compared to this scenario, the smuggling of opiates produced in Afghanistan, turned out to be easier through the Indian Punjab. To start with, till mid 1980s, the border was almost porous and smuggling was easy, almost a child’s play. Then later conditions in the Indian Punjab became fluid and the concentration of the authorities got totally diverted to ensuring law and order and peace in the state or to put it more bluntly, in ensuring that Pakistan did not succeed in cutting Punjab from India. Besides these reasons, more important reason because of which the drug trade through Punjab flourished was the willing and direct involvement of some important political families of the Indian Punjab, in the drug trade. The latter successfully also ensured willing support of some of the black sheep in the security forces as also a part of the central and the state government machinery in their nefarious task of drug smuggling.
Heroin packed in plastic covers is stuffed in to PVC pipes and pushed in to Indian side of the border
PVC pipes used to stuff in heroin
Cutting through the border wires and crossing through is another mode
As on date the smuggling through the Iranian, Turkish and the Russian routes was and still is primarily being done by rich and organized ‘syndicates’ or ‘cartels’ with the help of police and some other powerful persons who get their cut. These syndicates and cartels are primarily based in Russia, Europe, Canada and the Unites States. (See Annexure). Initially smuggling through the Indian borders was primarily being done at the behest of some powerful political families of Punjab. The direct involvement of these families still exists but there are broad indications that this route is also in the process of being taken over by regular drug mafia, the one owned and bring run buy Dawood Ibrahim.
As already stated, in the initial years that is till mid 1980s and before, one of the major drug routes were through Pakistan itself. It was both through the sea as also air routes and it was primarily operated by the Pakistan’s I.S.I. itself. Drug consignments used to go off Pakistan either by air or the sea routes, courtesy the I.S.I. This was the time when Pakistan was getting huge American and European aid in terms both of finances and military ware. A good chunk of this money was, however, being cornered by the political bosses of Pakistan, who primarily were members of the Pakistani armed forces. They used good chunks of this aid to feather their own nests in Pakistan as also abroad. Major chunks of money coming in from these ‘donor’ countries ultimately found its way to the Swiss, American and European banks, besides the Bank of England, in the accounts of the Pakistan’s army top brass and other politicians who mattered from time to time. These, incidentally, were also the years of the growth of Pakistan’s I.S.I., the all powerful Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence that is the premier intelligence service of Pakistan which is operationally responsible for providing ‘critical national security and intelligence input to the government of Pakistan.
Pakistan's Dreaded ISI
Pakistan's Dreaded ISI
In the initial years the task and the activities of this organization included support to the Afghan and ‘other mujaheddin groups’ against India ( a task which still continues because creating internal security problems for India remains its primary task and duty ) as also in Afghanistan which was then under the Soviet occupation. In the latter task the American C.I.A. extended total support to it. Though the role of the I.S.I. still continues in Afghanistan but the point to be brought home is that its primary target, directly and indirectly, still remains India. The ‘donor countries’ are fully aware of this fact but choose to keep their eyes classed because of the so-called tactical and strategic reasons. Primary task of the I.S.I. is to establish and run its vast network in India, be-fooling the Indian intelligence agencies, and to create political, racial, and social as also economic unrest. And for this task it has to have access to vast amounts of unaccounted money. In the intelligence parlance it is called the Secret Service Fund, in short, the S.S. fund. This fund is not subject to audit in any country and is supposed to be used only for the ‘intelligence’ related tasks. Only one ‘utilization certificate’ is required stating that, ‘it is certified that the money has been used for the purpose for which it was intended to be used’. Is it not easy? All the intelligence agencies all over the world use it. Since the budgetary allocations are not enough for the nefarious things that they do, none of them hesitates to use all sorts of dubious means to garner and accumulate this fund. All the countries do it with impunity. Intelligence and espionage is a dirty game where all immoral and filthiest of practices are employed.
CIA ISRAELI MOSSAD
Russian secret services
Pakistan that is the I.S.I., always required and requires vast amounts of unaccounted money to run its operations in India and required funds came and still come, primarily, thorough the smuggling of opiates and narcotics under its patronage. Initially, they pushed narcotics into India through their henchmen, smugglers included. As already stated, this was also the time when Indian Punjab was witnessing serious disturbances within. I.S.I. ensured that drugs, that is, opiates; brown sugar (as it was then called), and heroin, were pushed into India along with the consignments of arms and ammunition. To push in drugs, along with arms and ammunition, was mandatory. Smugglers were ‘duty’ bound to carry both. While studying the problem and the magnitude of drug smuggling at that time, I was surprised to find that when the ‘drugs’ were first pushed in to India, they already had a ready-made exit route to take these drugs out to their ultimate destinations, that is the United States and parts of Europe. It did intrigue me. I wondered as to how Indian counterparts of the Pakistani drug smugglers as also of others overseas could find the ‘exit route’ over night. Of late, I had to visit all intermediate ‘drug destination’ cities to understand the situation and, as expected, I found that it was primarily the same group of erstwhile gold smugglers, which had become, jobless on account of the stabilizing of international gold prices. They were on the lookout for new business ventures and since they were already in the loop, they readily opted for the smuggling of drugs, it being a still higher return venture, though risks were almost the same.