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Pakistan warns of surging heroin supply

 ISLAMABAD : A senior Pakistan official on Monday claimed that Afghanistan has had a bumper poppy harvest this year and close to US$10 billion worth of heroin would likely be on sale.

Interior Minister Faisal Saleh Hayat said an estimated 4,000 tonnes of opium would be produced from Afghanistan's poppies this year and refined into heroin.

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The figure is largely in line with US, Russian and UN estimates.

"If you look at the crop which has recently come up in Afghanistan and with those refined heroin laboratories being maintained inside Afghanistan and other areas bordering Afghanistan, you are looking at a market value, a street value, of close to US$10 billion, as far as this illegal drug is concerned," Mr Hayat said.

He was speaking in an interview with the Reuters news agency.

Poppy production in Afghanistan has surged since US-led forces toppled the Taliban government, which had earlier imposed a near total ban on the practice.

But now with output at an all time high, cracking down on poppy cultivation is getting increasingly tough.

"You know, these drug traffikers, they use satellite telephones, they have the most modern transport system, the most modern communications systems, they have highly sophisticated weapons with them.

"This is where we need to match them in order to give them a befitting response," said Mr Hayat, whose ministry is in charge of narcotics control.

Although Pakistan has made some major seizures in recent months, other foreign government officials fear this may not be enough amid fears that the export of heroin may reach their shores.

In Russia, Alexander Mikhailov, deputy chairman of the state drug control committee, feared 90 per cent of the heroin would be smuggled into the country after being shipped through Tajikistan.

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