The Taliban has issued a decree banning the cultivation of opium poppy. “As per the decree of the supreme leader of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, all Afghans are informed that from now on, cultivation of poppy has been strictly prohibited across the country,” the Taliban supreme leader Haibatullah Akhunzada said.
“If anyone violates the decree, the crop will be destroyed immediately and the violator will be treated according to the Sharia law,” he added at a news conference in the capital, Kabul. The order said the production, use, or transport of other narcotics was also banned.
Drug control has been one major demand of the international community to the Taliban, which took over the country in August and is seeking formal international recognition in order to wind back sanctions that are severely hampering banking, business, and development.
Taliban banned poppy growing towards the end of their last rule in 2000 as they sought international legitimacy, and succeeded to eliminate drugs.
Following the decree, Afghanistan’s acting Deputy Prime Minister Abdul Salam Hanafi urged the international community to cooperate with the country in the treatment of drug addicts and to help farmers diversify their business, local agency TOLO news reported.
Poppy cultivation is a key revenue source for many impoverished farmers in the country which has seen relative peace since the US-led foreign forces withdrew after 20 years of war and occupation.
Afghanistan is among the well-known triangles famous for drugs cultivation. A war-torn nation, facing severe economic challenges and passing through the worst humanitarian crisis. Not only Afghans but, the CIA was also depending on drug money. Afghanistan’s opium production – which the United Nations (UN) estimated was worth $1.4bn at its height in 2017 – has increased in recent months, farmers and Taliban members told Reuters news agency.
It is an interesting fact, that the local Afghans are not using these drugs, and exporting them to the rest of the world. The local consumption is almost negligible. So it is a source of earning foreign exchange. So some of the neighboring countries welcome the Taliban’s decision. It is hoped that the international community may also welcome the new decree and appreciate their sincere efforts.
By bringing faster and higher returns than legal crops such as wheat, opium poppy cultivation became for farmers in the country’s southeast a way to survive amid a dire economic situation. Fruits are a unique crop that is an equally good cash-earning crop in Afghanistan. The demand for Afghan fruits and dry fruits is ever-increasing regional and globally.
Afghanistan’s economy is in free fall as the country is facing a dire humanitarian crisis with some 23 million people struggling with acute food shortages, according to the UN. The UN has urged the international community to extend humanitarian assistance generously. The immediate neighboring countries are helping Afghans to overcome the crisis and move toward self-sufficiency and self-reliance. Pakistan has been advocating for Afghans globally.
The country is under a state of war for almost four decades. Infrastructure has been damaged, the economy has been destroyed, and sanctions have crippled the country. Under such harsh circumstances, the hard decision by the Taliban needs International recognition and cooperation.
Taliban are reformed and trying to satisfy the international community and fulfilling their demands. It might take time to fully satisfy the international community immediately. But, their sincere efforts are in place and tangible progress is witnessed on the ground. Taliban are behaving smartly and wisely. They have shown much more flexibility and introduced reforms in modernizing governance. They have a clear vision to live along with the civilized world on an equal basis and are struggling to achieve their right and recognition. If the West extends cooperation and helping hand, things can improve rapidly and Afghanistan may transform into a peaceful moderate state, contributing toward global peace, stability, and prosperity. Taliban has the potential to transform Afghanistan, they enjoy full rite and confidence of the people. The majority of the public supports them and listens to them.
Author: Prof. Engr. Zamir Ahmed Awan, Sinologist (ex-Diplomat), Editor, Analyst, Non-Resident Fellow of CCG (Center for China and Globalization). (E-mail: email@example.com).