The world was awash with narcotics in the 1980s. The drugs business was certainly larger than any multi-national business of the time. Many Latin American states were known as 'narco-states' with regimes dependent on the mercy of drug lords and organized crimes.
Today, the world is awash with terrorists and terrorist networks. The Medellin Cartel has disappeared but Al-Qaeeda and its affiliates have ably assumed their place.
My own birthplace, Pakistan, is fighting a brutal struggle against Islamic militancy. In an embarrassment to Muslims, Islam is used to justify some abhorrent acts. Women are flogged for working or interacting with men. Men are forced to grow beards. Suicide, one of biggest sins in Islamic theology, is a gruesome weapon deployed against innocents.
I can go on but, undoubtedly, you have seen and heard enough on the daily news. Sadly, it is a good day when Pakistan is not in the news.
In the past, Islam has had problems with heretical sects who have used violence to try and overthrow the prevailing political system. The most famous being the Hashashin group within Shia Islam. The group used assassination and other covert forms of violence to pursue their political aims.
More recently, brutal insurgencies were fought against Islamic militants in Algeria and Egypt. It took years before the violence was brought under control by both regimes.
Like today's militant Islam, whether found in North Africa or in South Asia, the movement based itself on a particular theological philosophy. Al-Qaeeda's roots lie with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood organization while the Taliban intellectual underpinning can be traced to Wahabism. A version of Islam practiced in Saudi Arabia.
By contrast, drug dealers are mercenaries. They are in the business only for the money. Make the risks higher and the profits lower and most dealers will move away from drug dealing into other occupations.
It is the warped intellectual justification which gives Islamic militancy the resilience to battle Islamic modernism and create the mayhem we see all around us. It is in the theological sphere that the Islamic world is losing the battle.
Some of us may remember the Brian de Palma and Oliver Stone cult classic movie, Scarface. Scarface was the 'good, bad guy,' a drug dealer with a conscience.
Towards the end of the movie, there is a pivotal scene where Scarface refuses to follow through with a political assassination because the intended target's young child will also fall victim to the car bomb. Scarface's failure to kill precipitates a fatal war with a rival dealer.
Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) on the border with Afghanistan. Parts of FATA are heavily infiltrated by the Taliban
Today's Islamic militants have no such conscience. The recent attack at Meena Bazaar in Peshawar specifically targeted women and children – the main patrons of the bazaar.
Many in Pakistan yearn for the days when the international heroin trade flowed through Karachi's port. Drug dealers have a conscience. Religious bigots spawned by Al Qaeeda's philosophy have no limits and even fewer scruples.
They just don't make criminals like they did in the past!