Frontline: Punks who make a favourite uncle's day

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The Independent Online
COLONEL SHAHID Hamid Jaffrey is a rather unlikely looking "Dirty Harry". With his smiling, jowly face, prominent mole, greying hair and slight paunch he looks more like a favourite uncle than one of Pakistan's top drug cops. Only his slightly crumpled, slightly dodgy tweed jacket - and the pistol he keeps in a shoulder holster at all times - link him to the world of shoot-outs, busts and car chases.

From his office among the barracks and mess halls of the cantonment area of the bustling northern Pakistani town of Rawalpindi the colonel directs much of Pakistan's Anti-Narcotics Force - the elite body tasked with intercepting the thousands of tonsof heroin and cannabis that come through the country heading to Africa and the West each year.

Col Jaffrey is not a policeman but a soldier. The police turned out to be too corrupt to combat the drugs barons so the army - well-trained, well-equipped and well-officered - was brought in. Many of the soldiers who make up the bulk of the Colonel's unit have, like their commander, seen active service. They need to have done. When the Anti-Narcotics Force goes on a raid it is a military operation, complete with armoured cars and heavy machine guns. Last year, when troops were sent to Pakistan's wild north west frontier to destroy opium fields and heroin refining laboratories they took light artillery and tanks.

Earlier this month, the Colonel raided the village of Jatli, a few miles from Rawalpindi in search of 400kg of cannabis resin. After a brief skirmish the drugs were found. The traffickers got away. "I took it as an insult to me and my men," the Colonel said. "No one should make fun of my force. When people hear we are coming they should quake in their boots." Picking up a few score more armed men, and some armoured vehicles and heavy weapons, the Colonel threw a cordon around Jatli and, despite heavy resistance, combed the village until they found their men.

The fruits of his team's labours are stored in a strongroom near the Colonel's office. In it are several dozen sacks full of hashish, about a ton in all, picked up on its way from Afghanistan. It is worth about pounds 4m. Nearby are drums containing the chemicals needed to make heroin siezed in Karachi.

In another room are the props of smuggling. One is a blonde wig, which a Nigerian woman thought might hide a few hundred grams of heroin. There is a hollowed out cricket bat, complete with an Imran Khan logo, nuts and bolts with the centres drilled through, and even children's books with pages removed.

For all his avuncular appearance, Colonel Jaffrey may yet have the makings of a screen hero. He has a passion for "the movies", particularly Ben Hur, Anthony and Cleopatra and The Ten Commandments. He likes modern films too, such as Heat - a recent Hollywood cops and robbers production known for being very loud with an over the top shoot-out. "It was a great film," says the Colonel, with a solid, military nod of approval. "I learned a lot from it."