Peshawar: The boy was 2 when his mother dumped him on the streets, 4 when he spent his first night in a tiny prison cell, being sexually assaulted by an older inmate. Prostitution for money and shelter followed, then hashish, and glue-sniffing.
Now 10 and gangly, he fidgets and stares at the ground, speaking in a near-whisper. "I'm ashamed," he says.
Yet in this rugged frontier city in northwest Pakistan, where people carry guns as casually as they would a daily newspaper, this boy has hope. He has found refuge in what for Pakistan is relatively rare: a charity-run boarding school for homeless, drug-addicted children.
Around Peshawar, heroin sells for less than $0.20 a high. "It's the cheapest place in the world to get heroin," says Mazahar Ali, the school's manager. He gestures beyond the school's high walls. Heroin and just about every other vice are just a short walk away, he says.
Text and Images: AP
Image: In this Feb. 14, 2012 photo, a Pakistani drug addict turns around holding a needle and syringe after injecting himself with a dose of heroin in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. The flourishing opium production in Afghanistan has resulted in more than 4 million addicts in Pakistan. Some of the youngest end up in mud-walled rooms being drilled in extreme Muslim doctrine by the Taliban who roam relatively freely in Peshawar.