- The Washington Times - Monday, April 21, 2003

BOMBAY Drug traffickers in Pakistan are using carrier pigeons to move their wares so they can beat the latest technological advances in surveillance, according to intelligence reports disclosed by the Pakistani press.
The Daily Times of Pakistan, quoting intelligence sources, said flocks of pigeons are being used by Afghan and Pakistani drug traffickers to carry heroin from Afghanistan to Pakistan, where the traffickers are mostly based.
The homing pigeons being used have their lofts in "safe" custody in villages along Pakistan's western border. From Pakistan, it is mostly the Afghan refugees who carry the pigeons, packed in small cages, to the bordering villages of Afghanistan, where makeshift drug refineries are located in areas controlled by Afghan warlords.
"For the traffickers, it involves very little risk, as birds are immune to the latest technology used by the Anti-Narcotics Task Force in Pakistan," one Karachi-based antidrug activist said.
"In a good climatic condition, a pigeon is made to fly almost daily across the border," he said. "In a month, for an average Pakistani trafficker who operates with six to eight pigeons, it is just too easy to smuggle across as much as [4.4 pounds] of the powder, which costs about $300,000 on the European market."
About 10 grams of heroin is stuffed into a bullet-shaped tin capsule, which is then fastened to one leg of each of the pigeons. The hungry and thirsty pigeons are released from Afghanistan, and in one to two hours, flying nonstop at a speed of about 30 mph, they return to their lofts in Pakistan, where the heroin capsules are collected by the traffickers.
According to intelligence reports, there are at least 300 pigeons engaged as heroin carriers in Pakistan, carrying across about 1,100 lbs of heroin from Afghanistan every year.
The semiautonomous tribal territories where these drug traffickers and their pigeon lofts are located are not under the jurisdiction of Pakistan's federal laws, so they can escape the crackdown by the country's Anti-Narcotics Task Force or the police very easily. But if they are caught plying their trade in the so-called settled areas of the country, they can face the death penalty.
The flow of narcotics from Afghanistan has made drug trading the most organized crime in Pakistan, the Daily Times said.
It quoted sources in the task force as saying that traffickers were resorting to new methods to carry on their trade in the face of increased vigilance and interdiction. In the new strategy, large, guarded convoys have been replaced by individuals or small groups of people who carry across small consignments of heroin from Afghanistan. In that situation carrier pigeons have been a big help to the traffickers, the paper said.



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