Reeling from the huge losses inflicted by terrorism and extremism in recent years, Pakistan is now fighting a battle against a different kind of menace: drug addiction. According to the latest but unofficial estimates, around nine million people in the country are drug users, most of them teenage boys or girls. Going by the statistics, drug addiction appears to be a problem far bigger than terrorism in Pakistan. In July 2015, the Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) informed the Senate Standing Committee on Interior and Narcotics Control that an estimated 700 people in the country die every day due to drug-related complications, compared to terrorism-related instances which result in loss of an average 39 lives per day. More alarming are the recent reports of the fast-growing trend of drug use among the school-going population of the country. According to a survey by an NGO, 53% of students – more than half – of leading private schools in Islamabad are addicted to drugs. Another report about schools and universities in Lahore indicates that 57% of students are using at least one drug. Peer pressure, heavy competition for top marks and bullying by fellow students makes young students fall prey to synthetic drugs. Irony is that synthetic drugs are a new phenomenon in Pakistan and neither students nor parents or teachers are aware of these new drugs. Pakistan is one of the few countries in the world who are blessed with enormous human resource as 65 percent of its population comprises youth. This youth, if channelized, can become an engine of economic growth. However, this youth can also fall prey to drug addiction too if the government fails to provide youngsters with employment opportunities. Amid regretful lack of awareness and the required sensitivity that we as a nation should attach to the menace of drug addiction, even the governments in the past have remained little concerned about the issue. A deep nexus between highly influential drug mafia and police has not only caused a devastating effect on the foundation of families, institutions, and society but also provided a breeding ground for violence, crime, and insecurity. Discussing drugs and drug addiction used to be a taboo despite its prevalence in almost every part of the country but not anymore. The credit for making drugs a burning issue goes to Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Minister Shehryar Khan Afridi. Amid decades-old narcotics-police and narcotics-politics linkages in Pakistan, Shehryar Khan Afridi, the PTI MNA from Kohat, took over as Minister for Narcotics Control late last year and announced turning the tide against the war on drugs envisioned by Prime Minister Imran Khan. However, as soon as he leaped into action against the influential drug barons, full-throttle defamatory propaganda on mainstream and social media was launched against him to discredit the initiative he took to save the ‘future of the nation’ – the younger generation – from destruction at the hands of narco-barons. Take Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Rana Sanaullah’s arrest as a case study. The former Punjab law minister was arrested by the ANF – which is headed by a serving major-general of Pakistan Army – on July 1. The ANF claimed to have seized 15kg of heroin from Rana Sanaullah’s vehicle. Subsequently, an FIR was lodged under Section 9(C) of the Control of Narcotic Substances Act 1997 against the accused. His case is currently pending in a special court for control of narcotics substance, while the Lahore High Court has granted him bail. The trial of the case has not yet started, and the ANF says it has already submitted ‘adequate’ evidence with the court. Though the PML-N leader was arrested by a professional and highly credible force, a vicious campaign was launched against Shehrya Afridi by the vested interests on social media, later joined in by elements in the mainstream print and electronic media as well as political parties. The propagandists painted Rana Sanaullah’s arrest as part of so-called ‘victimization drive’ allegedly launched by the PTI government against its political opponents. The narcotics control minister – who otherwise bears a reputation of a man of impeccable integrity and uprightness – was, under a design, dragged into a self-created controversy around the case; his statements were misinterpreted and presented out-of-context and an intense media trial was unleashed against him. Rather than grilling the accused, the media started grilling the minister in live television shows, painting the accused as innocent. However, Afridi stood undeterred and emerged as a ‘lone warrior’ in Pakistan’s battle against drugs. The role of media and some other sections of the society in this particular case is quite skeptical. The intense defamation campaign against a minister going behind drug mafia gives rise to a number of questions. While the arrest was made by the ANF, why was a political leader singled out as a target? While the case is in court and trial has yet to begin despite the lapse of six months, why an impression has been strongly created that the accused is not guilty and that he is being punished for political reasons? Why a media trial was launched even before a court trial? Who are the people behind this and what are their objectives? Why can’t we wait for the prosecution to prove its case and the court to give a verdict? Rana Sanaullah may be innocent or guilty, but let the courts decide it. It is time for the society as a whole to rethink its priorities since fight against drug menace is the war for saving our future generations, in fact it is the war for our survival. The government needs to stand behind its minister with full force, since the fight against drugs is not a ‘personal issue’ of MrAfridi. There is still a long way to go. If there can be a National Action Plan against terrorism, why cannot be one there for this national affliction which kills far more than terrorism?Will the nation wake up to the enemy which has already attacked nine million youth?