Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Wednesday, October 17th, 2018

Uncontrolled Rise in Opium Production This Year

It appears that Afghanistan would require more time to set its fight against poppy cultivation and production on track. Rather, it should first control the negative influences poppy cultivation may have because of its rising production. A survey by United Nation Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) on Wednesday, November 15, revealed that Afghan opium production has jumped by a staggering 87 percent in the ongoing year – from an estimated 2016 level of 4,800 tons to about 9,000 in 2017. The survey has found that the total area under poppy cultivation has jumped by 63 percent or 127,000 hectares compared to 2016. In 2017, the total area of cultivation is 328,000 hectares.
According to a statement by UNODC’s Executive Director, Yury Fedotov, “In Afghanistan, already suffering from the opium produced within its borders, the increases will drive drug abuse, an increased dependency on the illicit economy, and rising levels of corruption … New actors and markets are likely to emerge; some of these new actors may be terrorist groups attempting to use the drug trade to finance their global operations.” So, the rise in opium production will ultimately finance terrorism, produce more drug addicts and make the war against terrorism very difficult.
It is widely accepted now that the poppy cultivation and its smuggling are linked with the networks of organized crime in the country that further extends to international mafia and drug dealing and they have their strong backers in the international drug market and national authorities who appear to be guardians of the nation. But the most alarming and unfortunate fact is that they have their links with the terrorist networks in the country. The growing insurgency and expanding networks of terrorism suggest that the terrorists have strong financial support from drugs. This situation is really very much intimidating. This is going to devastate the lives of the people of Afghanistan in various ways and unfortunately no break in it seems very much likely – at least not in near future as the statistics show that there has been and there will be increase in the opium production in the country if not handled properly.
The situation would not be difficult to handle if it was limited only to farmers but the fact is that the farmers are not alone to benefit from the rising prices and the rise in production; rather farmers take a negligible part of it while most of the income goes to the networks that manage its filthy business. And it is not concealed from knowing minds that the terrorist networks have a lion’s share in such income. So, it means that with the growth in the production of opium, there will be considerable increase in insurgency from the terrorist networks that are already in the process of gaining strength. Moreover, it has also been observed that the cultivations mostly take place in the areas where Taliban seem to have more control.
This clearly suggests that there is connection between the poppy business and the growing insurgency. Definitely, this in Afghanistan is well knit in the larger network of organized crime. But unfortunately, the measures that have been carried out to counter the growth of this menace have not been comprehensive and serious. It is even believed that some of the important figures are involved in backing this business who should, otherwise, have the responsibility to counter them. And the growing corruption and negligence of responsibility in the country does not let the government notice such realities. Though Afghanistan has been greatly influenced by this menace, it is yet to hit the bull’s eye in this regard. Moreover, there have been technical and financial assistance from the international community to help Afghanistan eradicate this evil, but most of it goes to the pockets of rampant corruption.
So, the uncontrolled opium production is determined to influence the country in various ways. It, on one side, is making drugs available to a large number of people, who are both intentionally and unintentionally becoming addict to it and becoming responsible for giving birth to different social problems. On the other hand, it is providing the fuel for insurgency as it is bound to benefit the terrorist networks in the country that largely depend on such sources of income after losing support from elsewhere. Government authorities in this regard have to get very much serious and try to take concrete steps to make sure that the production is reduced to a considerable extent.
Most importantly, the government must try to establish its writ and control over the places where there is widespread cultivation and production of opium. Moreover, there must be no tolerance for opium fields and they must be destroyed whenever and wherever they are found. At the same time, the efforts to grow substitute crops must be encouraged and promoted. Afghan saffron is one of the best in the world and its use as a substitute crop can be very successful. Above all, any sort of corruption in this regard must never be tolerated and the ones who are involved in this filthy business must be dealt with iron hands.