Kabul, Aug. 29 (Xinhua) -- Noor Mohammad is a 58-year-old farmer living in Kandahar province of southern Afghanistan. He and his family grow poppy for a living. In his long-stretched poppy field, Noor told Xinhua, "I know it is banned, but we have to grow poppy.
Planting wheat and other things cannot support our families."
Another farmer Ali Mohammad also said,"We have no choice but to cultivate poppy. However, this year, we failed to collect any yield from our poppy land."
Afghanistan, one of the poorest countries in the world, once occupied 90 percent of global narcotics market. Now, it is still the world's largest producers and exporters of narcotics. After over 30 years of war and unrest, poppy cultivation and drug production have become the pillar of Afghan economy, as desperate peasants in rural areas turn to poppy growth to earn bread money.
However, drug industry worsened the social and political unrest, and hampered social development, plunging Afghan society into an ever deeper abyss. It has also turned into a tool for Taliban insurgents to raise money for their terrorist activities.
The emergence of Afghan drug problem is the product of the on- going war and unrest in recent 30 years. Since 1980s, poppy cultivation began to spread in this Central Asian country. During the "Holy War" against Soviet invasion and the civil war afterwards, opium production and trade have become the essential part of the War economy in this war-torn country, providing the much-needed capital for the holy warriors and later for the warring factions.
During Taliban reign, drug production and trade was once banned for "violating the Islamic traditions." Ironically, since Taliban regime was toppled, the Taliban outfit has largely relied on narcotics to raise capital. In an effort to cut off Taliban's income source, the Afghan government, with the assistance of NATO- led International Security Assistance Force, has launched a wide- spread anti-drug movement in the country, helping poppy-growing farmers to change their produce. However, this effort has born few fruit.
Abdul Qaium Samr, spokesman for Afghan Ministry of Counter Narcotics, said, "I can confirm that a total area of the country used for opium-poppy cultivation is at around 131,000 hectares this year with majority of the cultivations taking place in 18 southern provinces, where we still have some security challenges. Afghan special counter-narcotic police forces have conducted poppy eradication campaign this year. The campaign was launched in 13 provinces nearly two months ago. And the special counter-narcotic police forces, in some operations in collaboration of army, have eradicated over 9,000 hectares in since the campaign begun. A total of 100 brave policemen of the special counter-narcotic police forces have unfortunately lost their lives in the war against the menace only in the past two months."
In the past 10 years, the poppy cultivation in Afghanistan has seen a constant expansion. Opium production has surge from 185 tons in 2001 to 5,800 tons in 2011. In the 34 provinces across the country, 20 have declared clean of poppy cultivation, however, this Central Asian country still accounts for 90 percent of global opium production.
The constantly surging price for drugs also stimulates drug business in Afghanistan. In 2010, the average income for every hectare of poppy field was 4,900 U.S.dollars, while the wheat field was 770 U.S.dollars. No wonder why the Afghan peasants choose poppy cultivation as their way of living.
Saleh, 38, another farmer in Kandahar said, "Four kg of wheat is just 1.5 U.S. dollars while we can sell one kilogram of narcotics for 1,500 U.S. dollars. Now you tell me which one is better. We need money to support our family.
Narcotics industry not only poses serious threat to Afghanistan 's internal economy and political reconstruction, it also leads to over 100,000 cases of drug over-dose death every year in this country. In addition, the unchecked spread of narcotics also affected Afghan people's trust on their government. Afghan president Hamid Karzai once said, drug economy is the largest threat to the enduring security, stable development and government efficiency of Afghanistan.
Abdul Qaium Samr, spokesman for Afghan Ministry of Counter Narcotics, said, "According to latest reports by the ministry of counter-narcotics more than 1 million addicts have been registered across the country. Around 10,000 drug addicts received drug treatment in 67 Drug Treatment and Rehabilitation Centers across the country annually. Every year, several thousands of drug addicts reintegrated to their society after treatment in those centers."
Fazil, 33, a drug addict in Herat province, said, "I am from Uruzgan province. It has been four years since I started using drugs. I started in Iran during my migration in that country, then I was deported from Iran. I have four children but I don't know where they are. I don't have money to go to my hometown."
"I want to stop using drugs, but I can't. There is no hospital for drug addicts and no facilities here."
Shabir Khan, another drug addict said, "Go please. Every day you are coming and taking our photos. No need to take, no one will come here to help us. Every day and night we are in the outdoor. Every day, policemen are coming here and giving us some money. But I don't know what we should do."
Afghan government, with the help of NATO-led ISAF, has launched poppy eradication campaign throughout the country. However, fighting drugs is not easy. It will inevitably affect the interest of different political factions, further worsening the political conflicts and security environment within the country. It will also hurt the interest of poppy farmers in the south, pushing more of them into the arms of Taliban insurgency.
Nazari Paryani, chief editor of Afghan local news paper " Mandagar," told Xinhua, "Unless the drug lords responsible for the production and trafficking of drugs get punished, Afghan would never achieve real security and stability."
Ahmad Sayed, an ex-diplomat in Afghanistan, said, "Unless the Afghan government makes a comprehensive and firm plan to fight narcotics, they can't win the war. The drug threat will continue to trouble Afghanistan and the world."
Just as UN secretary general Ban Ki-Moon said, "Under the circumstances that 15 percent of Afghan GDP comes from drug trade, we can't expect Afghanistan to achieve stability. While opium production is still the income source of many Afghans, we can't expect Afghanistan to achieve sustainable development."
The sun rises. It's time for Noor start another day's work. For Noor,growing poppy is just a way of earning money. In this far- stretched field of poppy, Noor is very focused on his work at hand, perhaps in the hope that, through his work, his family would get a better life, a life without drugs, poverty and war.
By Chen Xin, Wang Qiwen
English.news.cn 29th August 2012