Fact-checking

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Parents in Islamabad and elsewhere must have been reassured as the latest and credible survey pointed out that the no more than two percent of students are drug addicts. They were panicked and paranoid by a statement of State Minister for Interior Shehryar Afridi that 75 percent of girls and 45 percent of boys in Islamabad’s educational institutions were addicted to stimulating drugs. The minister’s earlier statement made in December about drug addiction among students was simply irresponsible. University and college teachers faced tough questions by concerned parents. The city police jumped to action and formed bodies to stop spread of drugs in universities. Even sections of international media started work to find educational institutions ostensibly filled up with addicts.
But teachers and Pakistani media have been sceptical of this report all along. As per data collected by The Nation, Islamabad houses around 25 universities, 1242 private schools and 423 schools and colleges. Over one million students are enrolled in these institutions, about 647,350 boys and 529,650 girls. Let’s do some simple math. Up to 397,237 girls and 291,307 boys, which adds up to over half a million people, are drug addicts only in educational institutions. Many universities in Islamabad are operated by security forces, making them almost impregnable by even the minor criminals, not to speak of drug barons. Unlike public sector universities in Karachi, Lahore or other parts of the country, universities in Islamabad are well protected. Since they are frequented by top decision-makers and high-profile foreign dignitaries, vice chancellors leave nothing to chance when it comes to guarding entry and exit points in addition to on-campus movements.
Removing layers from the report that the minister cited, it transpired that it was prepared by a non-governmental organization (NGO). The quality of research by NGOs is uneven. The finding that 75 percent of girls and 45 percent of boys at educational institutions are addicted to stimulating drugs is one such report.
To set the record straight, Quaid-i-Azam University (QAU)’s Department of Sociology, got down to conduct a survey on drug addiction in educational institutions of not only the federal capital, but also Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar. Adopting reliable methods, a team of researchers found that number of drug addicts is no more than two percent. The researchers also found that peer pressure is one of the many causes of drug addiction. College students are more prone to addiction than others. So parents are advised to keep an eye on the company their children have as one drug addict is enough to bring down misfortune on the entire family in our social system.
The university also called Minister Afridi on the launch of this research report, where he had a chance to right the wrong he had made last month. But it seems that he had simply missed the point by reiterating his stance. The minister as a senior member of the government should try to check his information as strong statements cause unnecessary panic and misdirected use of public resources.