Pakistan’s Coast Guard on May 5 announced the seizure of more than three tons of hashish in a raid of an oil tanker bound for the Middle East, news agencies AFP and Reuters reported. The tanker was intercepted on a tip after it set sail from Pakistan’s port of Karachi. Three crew members who hailed from the southwestern province of Baluchistan were arrested. Guardsmen used power-tools to pry open a secret chambers where the stash was hidden. Major Zafar Ahmed said the haul was the biggest ever scored in the history of the Coast Guard. He said the stash would have been worth some $50 million in the Middle Eastern countries where it was bound.
Hashish interceptions on the Arabian Sea route between Pakistan and the Arab states have soared over the past year, but this marks the first time the stuff was being hauled in an oil tanker rather than a small merchant craft. Increased policing is snaring boats once thought small enough to get through the net, with traffickers apparently now opting for ships they hope will be too big to come under suspicion—pointing to the trafficking networks co-opting the legal shipping and hydrocarbon industries. Pakistan is of course serving as a transfer point for hashish originating in landlocked Afghanistan, the region’s major producer—where opium is also booming.