Is your husband a drug addict?
There was a time when drug addiction was not a big a problem in Pakistan. Sadly, things have changed and that’s not the case anymore. Today, after ‘main aap ko missed call doon gi’ (I’ll give you a missed call), one of the most common sentences on the lips of women employed as domestic help is: ‘Mera mian nasha karta hai’ (my husband is a drug addict). It appears to be a problem in almost every home.
Tahira stitches well and possesses a well-stocked wardrobe consisting of refurbished items of clothing given to her by her employers. She also possesses three children and a husband and they all used to live together until she moved out to live with her parents taking her children with her. It was because her husband abused her and at the end of the month would turn the house upside down searching for her wages which she got working as a maid six days a week. He needed the money to buy drugs. He himself does not work.
Neelum is a middle aged woman but looks more than sixty. She too works as a maid, cleaning homes and washing clothes six days a week. It’s been almost ten years since her husband last worked because he too is on drugs; he too beats Neelum and takes her wages. Her children are grown up and married. They do not live with Neelum and her husband because her husband would be a bad influence on his grandchildren. As it turns out the husband of one of her daughters also stays home, is also drugged, also beats his wife and also takes her wages. Neelum’s daughter, his wife, also works as a maid.
Ishrat works in a hospital. She empties bed pans and cleans the rooms and wards. She is not married and wishes she were, yet she can’t help wondering if that wish is entirely sensible, given that her father and both her brothers in law are addicts. Her father works as does one of her brothers in law. But the other one stays at home drugged, beats his wife and takes her wages. Her father and the brother in law although they work also beat their wives (Ishrat’s father also beats his daughter) and take the money they earn. They need both incomes to support their addiction.
These are only some of the women within my own experience. Just what is going on?
According to the UNODC (the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime) Pakistan has one of the highest figures for drug addiction in the world. Heroin and cannabis are the most commonly used drugs in this country, they are cheap and easily available. Afghanistan is the major supplier of heroin to Pakistan, as it is to the rest of the world. Apparently ‘‘the number of injected drug users has increased sharply in recent years. In 2007 Pakistan had an estimated 90,000 users but the number rose to around 500,000 in 2014 accompanied by an increase in HIV: in 2005 about 11 percent of drug users were HIV positive. In 2011 40 percent.’’
These are shocking statistics but they may contain an indication of where to begin searching for reasons. Something happened between 2007 and 2014 allowing the number of users to increase more than five-fold, although this is simply the time for when figures exist, the time may possibly be stretched either way, yet it is undeniable that something made it easier for these drugs to get here at this time. What was this something?
As important as the reason behind the easier availability, in fact more important, is why such an overwhelming number of people feel compelled to take drugs in Pakistan. The reason for that is surely quite obvious in the problems the common man has to face in this country.
A poor man in Pakistan is probably poorer than a similar person elsewhere. A person who has no ‘contacts’ either is sunk indeed unless he works for someone who does, who is willing to help which is not always the case. Not in sickness or in health or at any other time would such a person be able to have a moment’s peace.
Asiya has the misfortune of having no money other than a small house which she was smart enough to purchase when she could. She also has no ID card. For some reason her finger prints match those of another woman somewhere in some other city. Attempts to renew her ID card have ended in utter non-cooperation and no action on the part of NADRA. It’s been three years. Any transactions on her house have to be done in her son’s name because he possesses an ID card. To me Asiya represents the faceless majority whose very identity has been taken away from them in this country and they are powerless to do anything about it. Asiya is luckier than most. At least she has a job and food to eat. If she were like the rest leading a life of frustration and fear at every turn small wonder that she should turn to drugs which is what so many of her countrymen have done.
A country is composed of the people who live in it and it should be geared to serve its people. Pakistan appears to be geared to serve only the very few. What happens to the rest? They drown their sorrows by means of needles of course.