Pakistan remains among the countries most affected by drug trafficking, arms trading, organised crime — including money laundering — extortion and murder for hire, which challenge the power of law enforcement agencies in Punjab. Drug trafficking continues to devastate lives in Pakistan. In the 1980s there were a half-million drug users in the country while in 2011, eight million men, women and children were known drug users.Since 1980, with the flood of Afghan refugees crossing into Pakistan, drug trafficking became the source of finance for extremist and political groups while drug money began to fund and support terrorist and foreign networks, helping them fund their operations and even gain public support and influence in government. Drug smuggling thus poses a significant challenge to social, political and economic security in Pakistan. It also challenges the writ of the government. In Pakistan, specifically in Punjab and Karachi, drug trafficking has resulted in the growth of organised crime, target killings, terrorism and Talibanisation, which further affect social security. Organised crime is quite different from ordinary and traditional crimes in Punjab. Murder, robbery, kidnapping and extortion in some areas of Lahore, like Shad Bagh, Misri Shah, Badami Bagh and Defence Bhikiwall, Hangerwall, Shahnoor and Badami Bagh, have put the lives of the citizens in danger. Criminals also challenge the writ of the government and power of the police.In Lahore, drug money starts with the police as they protect mafia groups, drug dealers and criminal gangs. With the help of the Punjab police, criminal and extremist groups have succeeded in forming mini-markets of drug smuggling across the province. According to one of my friends, a deputy inspector general of the police in Lahore, the business of kidnapping is the most profitable business in the province. Various groups, according to him, kidnap more than 1,600 people every month. There are fears that the business of kidnapping and narcotics smuggling is set to grow, especially with opium production in Afghanistan hitting a record 7,000 tonnes a year. Lahore has, in recent years, become a new crossing point between Afghanistan, India and West Asia. In Lahore, drug-related crime has increased as certain groups grow and spread, bringing other criminals into their fold.Punjab has long been exposed to the consequences of illicit drug trafficking and abuse. The extent and gravity of the problem has, however, fluctuated over time. In 2012, according to the United Nations Drug Control Programme (UNDCP), $ 30 billion worth of drugs were smuggled from Afghanistan via Pakistan. Drug money reaches every institution in Punjab, particularly through bribes to police officers. Since the police receive payments every month, they do not try to arrest the involved criminals. I have experience documenting the political role of narco-money in Punjab and can say that heroin dollars contributed to finance political alliances in Punjab and the campaigns of political parties. In Lahore, Shad Bagh, a major commercial and residential locality, has become a hub for drug smuggling over the last two decades.While a resident of Lahore and during my association with different television networks, I exposed several drug networks. As a Pakistani journalist, I have made a study of narco-smuggling in Punjab and know about the involvement of police officers in this business. I carried out several investigative surveys in Shad Bagh and its vicinity and prepared informative reports on drug addiction and smuggling. Money extortion, or private tax, has now become common here and police never arrest the people involved because they get a share of the money. At present, the police and local administration are aware of dangerous and known money extortionists and drug smugglers operating in the area; Muhammad Latif ‘Puppo’ (drug dealer), Muhammad Hussain (extortionist), Muhammad Ishaq, Kali Baloch, Reshid, Shoukat ‘Shoka’ and Shahbaz are known members of criminal gangs who work under the protection of local police. Isa Nagar has become a no-go area for police and local journalists. These elements have close links with some extremist and terrorist groups in both Punjab and FATA.Drug addiction and extortion in Shad Bagh are pertinent issues that need government attention. Residents of the town have often registered complaints about the activities of various criminal gangs operating under the protection of the Lahore police, but police never consider their complaints properly. The police have often been instructed to carry out a clean up operation so that criminals involved in the supply of drugs are caught and held accountable for the lives they have ruined. However, when I speak to police officers in Lahore, they remain unwilling to tackle this criminal network, again because of the payments they receive.Parents of school going children are worried about the negligence of local police. They also monitor the activities of their children to save their lives. The common symptoms associated with drug abuse among children in the Shad Bagh area are massive loss in appetite, fatigue, lying to get money and long absences from home. When parents see any of these signs in their children, often they cannot report it to the police out of fear of being threatened by both criminals and the local police. Parents should deal with such situations by contacting addiction treatment units instead of trying to forcefully cut off their child from drugs, which could lead to detoxification or extreme withdrawal symptoms that might make the child prone to suicide. Responsibility also falls on the shoulders of elected MPs to provide security to the people and force the police to arrest criminals. These criminals are an unspeakable social evil and bringing them under control should be a priority. However, the case in Pakistan is different; here, the police are also part of this criminal business, collecting money, protecting criminals and expanding their networks. The writer is a former producer and reporter with Al Jazeera and ARY TV in Lahore. He presently works with the Law Enforcement Analysis and Research Centre, London. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.