Pakistan Freezes Assets of Rich Drug Barons
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) _ In a new assault on seven of its richest heroin traffickers, Pakistan has frozen $70 million of their assets, an anti-narcotics official said Thursday.
Last week, the government unveiled a sweeping new narcotics law that permits a drug dealer’s assets to be confiscated and imposes the death penalty for trafficking in even small amounts of drugs.
Two of the seven are in Pakistani jails and the others are at large. Four of them also are wanted by the United States on drug-related charges, said Saleem Tariq Lone, a member of a U.S.-funded anti-narcotics task force.
``After the courts are satisfied that the assets are drug assets, they will be forfeited,″ Lone said. ``It will be a big breakthrough.″
One of the four wanted in the United States, Mirza Iqbal Baig, is serving a seven-year jail sentence for drug dealing and is likely to be extradited, Lone said. Baig’s assets, worth $21 million, include cinemas, textile mills and vast property holdings.
A warrant has been issued for the arrest of another one, Haji Ayub Afridi, who is in hiding. He is Pakistan’s wealthiest drug lord, with assets valued at $29 million, according to Lone.
Anwar Khattak, in jail awaiting extradition hearings, had assets worth $11 million frozen, and Ashraf Rana, who is wanted in Pakistan as well as in the United States, had $3 million frozen, Lone said.
The remaining three, Habibullah, Asif Ali Khan and Tasnim Jalal Gorya, had assets totalling $6 million frozen, he said.
In 1993, the United States gave Pakistan a list of 17 drug dealers it wanted extradited. Seven were extradited, including two who were acquitted in U.S. courts, five are in jail in Pakistan and five are still on the loose.
Most of the drug cartels in Pakistan are family operations. Several focus only on the domestic market because the consumption of heroin in Pakistan has soared dramatically.
Interior Minister Nasrullah Babaar said earlier this month that Pakistan has up to 3 million drug addicts.
About half the heroin produced in Pakistan is consumed at home and the remainder is exported abroad.