Pakistani authorities have intensified their crackdown on drug sellers in the northwestern areas. But the dealers have found a way to keep their business running: they are using WhatsApp to sell illegal substances.
Pakistan's northwestern region is notorious for its drug markets. Some say that selling and buying substances like marijuana or heroin is as easy as selling and buying vegetables. But the officials have stepped up efforts to crack down on drug dealers. Hence, it is no longer as convenient to sell and purchase drugs in the region as it used to be in the past.
"I have been consuming marijuana for the past eight years, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to buy and sell illegal substances. Some dealers are still running their businesses from home," a Peshawar-based student told DW on condition of anonymity.
"But a new trend has emerged: people are using social media to both sell and purchase drugs. The security officials have not yet tightened their surveillance on the Internet apps," he added.
The student elaborates that he has been part of a WhatsApp group that allows him to contact drug dealers. After receiving a message from the costumer, the dealer tells him to collect the item from a particular spot in the city. Everything else - the amount of substance, the price - is decided on the social media group.
Ittehad Afridi, a security official in Peshawar, told DW the authorities were unaware of such dealing on WhatsApp and other social media platforms.
"We have been asked to close down the shops that sell illegal drugs. So far we have shut down 500 of them. Selling and purchasing drugs are punishable crimes. Anyone found with drugs can be fined up to 300,000 Rupees (3,000 euros). We are also authorized to raze the shops and even the markets," Afridi said.
Our anti-narcotic drive has been pretty successful so far, underlined Afridi.
Muhammad Yamin, a drug dealer in the Khyber Agency, said he opened up a utility store after the authorities clamped down on his drug business.
"We could sell drugs freely in the past. But the government's actions have instilled fear in the people. There are very strict punishments for buying and selling drugs," Yamin told DW.
It is only a matter of time that the officials would find a way to deal with the mobile phone applications used to trade drugs.
However, Inayatullah, a Khyber Agency resident, points to the loopholes in the government's anti-drug drive. "People always find a way to get things done. Many shopkeepers in our area have telephone numbers of the drug sellers. They continue to pass it on to the costumers," he said.