Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Thursday, November 23rd, 2017

Uncontrolled Poppy Cultivation

Khat, a civil society organization, disclosed on Sunday, August 13, 2017 that poppy has been cultivated on more than 20,000 acres of land in northern Balkh province. The organization also claimed that more than 336 tons of crops’ yield have been collected. This is really alarming and it points at the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan. And, as Khat believes, poppy cultivation has a direct link with insecurity and terrorism; therefore, there are possibilities that crop yield under discussion will most likely fuel insecurity and terrorism in the times to come.
As a matter of fact, poppy cultivation and narcotics have been Afghanistan’s major concern and, on many occasions, the country has topped the list in this regard. Yet, the attitude and seriousness through which this problem is being tackled is miserable. Different studies have shown that the fight against narcotics and policies in this regard have been only superficial and illusive over the past 16 years. They also reveal that the discussions held regarding policies making for elimination of narcotics production in the country remain confusing and ambiguous. And most of people with poor economy in rural areas grow poppy due to its multi-seasonal harvests and higher income. Moreover, it is not wondering that policymakers and the international community are unaware about the facts in rural areas because they cannot go out of Kabul city, they even cannot go out of their residence.
With such scenario in hand, what can be expected of the outcome of the efforts that are being made in the name of ‘fight against narcotics’? In fact, 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 one of the most alarming and unfortunate facts 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.
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. It is believed that most of the cultivation is concentrated in southern Afghan provinces, and heartland of the Taliban-led insurgency, where the government does not seem to have much control. However, as the above report depicts, poppy cultivation is spreading in other parts of the country as well. 
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 goes 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. Destroying the crops is one of the most practical steps at the present scenario and can to a very great extent discourage the poppy cultivation but it has certain complexities with itself. For the long-lasting solution it is preferable that the government must try to facilitate the farmers and landowners the opportunity of growing alternate crops; particularly, saffron can be the best substitute crop. Moreover, corruption, in this regard, must not be tolerated in any condition, as it is the matter that has been influencing the entire nation and would keep on influencing many generations to come. The relevant authorities must consider their responsibilities and play their part in extracting the nation out of this evil; otherwise it would be too late to mend anything.