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Closer government-public co-operation needed
By Max Maksudov
KHUDZHAND – Co-operation among law enforcement agencies has meant more drug seizures and a reduced flow of Afghan heroin in Tajikistan, but much remains to be done.
In 2010, Tajik law enforcement seized 3.902 tonnes of drugs – 10.5% more than in 2009, the Drug Control Agency (DCA)’s Rustam Nazarov said.
“The bulk (2.173 tonnes) of the drugs stopped en route from Afghanistan was cannabis, and the amount of smuggled heroin decreased 23%,” he said.
The 10% growth in the volume of confiscated narcotics is the most positive of the anti-drug statistics, Khoirot Abbosov of the Interior Ministry’s anti-drug unit said.
He credited the increase to improved inter-agency co-operation within Tajikistan’s law enforcement sector and more vigorous interaction with local residents, international organisations and neighbouring countries.
In Tajikistan, five government agencies fight drug trafficking – the DCA, Interior Ministry, State National Security Committee (GKNB), border guards, and customs service. Last year, the country voted to establish a CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) anti-drug agency, took part in the international operation “KANAL” (Channel), and held numerous meetings with regional neighbours on stepping up the fight against drugs.
“The changing dynamic in the seizure of confiscated opiates results from enhanced interaction between law enforcement agencies in Afghanistan and Tajikistan,” DCA spokeswoman Umeda Yusupova said. “Besides, the production of opium in Afghanistan decreased 48% from the 2009 figure due to local ... parasitic fungi. Also, security tightening along the border shut down many drug trafficking routes.”
Over the past six months, the efficiency of anti-drug operations has improved considerably “due to substantial support we have received from the border guards, customs service and the DCA's departments in Dushanbe and other regions,” Nusrot Emometdin of the Khatlon Oblast Interior Department’s anti-drug unit said.
“Also, our officers have gone through retraining courses, including those at the OSCE Academy, and new equipment has been installed,” he said. “We hope for continued support this year, now that the volume of drugs we stop has increased by 14%, a doubling from previous years’ levels.”
Improvements can be made
But Abbosov pointed to some deficiencies.
“What we lack is a transparent system for exchanging information,” Abbosov said. “It would be good to have each unit file monthly or quarterly reports that would be communicated to the other departments. We are planning to request this kind of arrangement officially.”
On the other hand, he said, “colleagues from other units have been quick to respond to our inquiries about criminals, and to furnish requested information. The only ‘but’ is that they fear leaks to underworld groups.”
Co-operation with local residents has room to improve, a DCA official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. Some citizens will voluntarily help expose criminals and aren’t afraid to testify, he said, but others want something in return. “Which is quite understandable, though; they take risks,” he said.
Informers should be offered money or basic food in exchange, Emometdin said. “But they need to be duly protected too – against vengeful friends of the drug mafia.”
Building up trust between the police and residents is “a must,” Emometdin noted. “It’s high time the police regained their former standing in the eyes of the people.”
Working with residents of border areas is essential, Rukhniya Kabirova, a border situation analyst, said. “Officials often know nothing about secret trails or hideouts in border areas, and this is where local residents’ advice can help a lot.”
The Tajik and Afghan anti-drug agencies stepped up their co-operation in 2010, Kabirova said.
“They held many joint training sessions, talks and seminars to build up trust between the two neighbouring countries, and work in that direction must continue.”
Abbosov said the two countries need to work out a strategy to fight drug trafficking, because “this is our common problem that no one but us can solve.”