Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Sunday, January 21st, 2018

Opium Cultivation and Insecurity

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Opium Cultivation and Insecurity

Afghanistan, for last few decades, has not only been influenced by wars but by some other evils, as well. Among them opium cultivation, smuggling and its usage have been the most lethal one. Poppy cultivation and smuggling have not only brought bad name to the nation but they at the same time have made its usage more feasible for the people. Therefore, a lot of people are addicted to drugs in Afghanistan, including children and women.

Unfortunately, many people use drugs as medicine; in the absence of enough medicine for their diseases, the drugs serve as tranquilizer and painkiller for them; therefore, they do not even realize that they are being caught in a quagmire before it is too late.

Apart from the threat of addiction, 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. It is now an open secret that poppy cultivation and smuggling have their strong backers in the international drug market and national authorities who appear to be guardians of the nation.

But one of 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 and currently there are many reports that disclose the fact that the terrorist networks receive most of their funding from the same source.

This scenario is really very much threatening. This is going to ruin 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 there are reports that there has been and there will be increase in the opium production in the country.

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has recently mentioned in its annual report that in the ongoing year the production of opium may increase by 61 percent on the last year. This increase is really very large while we keep in our mind the efforts that are reported to have been made in order to eradicate the menace.

According to the report, the poppy cultivation has been extended on 131,000 hectares of land in 2011, which marks 7 percent increase as compared to 2010. The basic reasons of the rise in production are the rise in price and the prevailing insecurity.

The report suggests that the price of dry opium has risen to 43 percent this year and the total farm-gate income is set to increase by 133 percent to reach $1,407 million in 2011. In the same regard the reports says, "Buoyed by higher speculative prices arising from volatile security conditions, the farm-gate income of opium farmers rose markedly." This is really a threatening situation. The rise in prices will further encourage the production and the country may not be able to come out of the clutches of this evil.

Another important aspect of the report as mentioned by UNODC country head Jean-Luc Lemahieu, "We cannot afford to ignore the record profits for non-farmers, such as traders and insurgents, which in turn fuel corruption, criminality and instability. This is a distressing situation."

Definitely, the situation is distressing, as 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 now an open secret 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 may be considerable increase in insurgency from the terrorist networks that are already in the process of gaining strength.

The report clearly depicts that the cultivations mostly take place in the areas where Taliban seem to have more control. It says that 78 percent of cultivation is concentrated in southern Afghan provinces, and heartland of the Taliban-led insurgency, while another 17 percent is produced in the lawless and remote southwest regions also under the influence of the insurgency and beyond the reach of central government.

This clearly suggests that there is connection between the poppy business and the growing insurgency. Definitely, the poppy business 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 the important figures are involved in backing this business that 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 under international pressure to take notice of growing poppy cultivation, 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 has gone to the pockets of rampant corruption.

So, the menace of poppy cultivation 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 and on the other hand try to facilitate the farmers and landowners the opportunity of growing alternate crops.

Moreover, the corruption at least in this particular case must not be tolerated, because the country is passing through a very crucial period of its history and in this period there is very small margin of mistakes.

Dilawar Sherzai is the permanent writer of the Daily outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at outlookafghanistan@gmail.com

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