Cooking in Karachi: The world’s most dangerous megacity is the next frontier in the global meth trade

Taimur Khan in Foreign Policy:

ScreenHunter_298 Sep. 05 14.02As night fell on Saturday, Nov. 24, the deputy superintendent of police, Zameer Abbasi, was out making the rounds. He had decided to take one last patrol when he received a phone call around 9:20 p.m. about a small explosion at a nearby apartment building. “My first thought was that this might be a high-value target, a terrorist who had planned to target the procession but had made a mistake with the bomb,” Abbasi later told me. When he arrived at the scene, smoke was pouring from a third-floor apartment window.

Abbasi didn't wait for the bomb squad to arrive. He quickly cordoned off the street and raced inside, fearing that there might be more explosives or a suicide bomber. When he got to the apartment, however, the scene was unlike anything he had seen before. A red chemical had been sprayed across the white walls. There was what seemed to be a laboratory: conical flasks connected by rubber tubing, sacks and boxes labeled with the names of chemicals, a small centrifuge. A silvery blue powder was spilled across the bathroom floor, and blood-red footprints crisscrossed the living room. “I thought this might not be the kind of blast I thought it was,” Abbasi said. “It looked like some kind of chemical reaction had happened.” He didn't know it at the time, but he had just made the first bust of a Pakistani meth lab.

It's hard for an outsider to understand the pace of change in Karachi these days. Statistics don't really do it justice. But here's one: From 2000 to 2010, Karachi's population grew more than 80 percent. That's roughly equivalent to adding more than New York City's entire population in just a decade. (For all the talk of the staggering boom of Chinese metropolises, the world's next fastest-growing city — Shenzhen — grew only 56 percent, adding fewer than 5 million people.)

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