Opium being freely bought and sold in the drug bazaars of southern Afghanistan will soon make its way as heroin into the neighbouring countries and then into the world beyond, The Telegraph, UK, reported.
It is a trade, which, till a month ago, the Taliban had said they would stamp out in a repeat of a ban imposed under their 1990s regime.
Opium growers in Helmand told The Telegraph that they are again preparing to plant fields full of poppies, with the Islamist group having so far stalled on implementing a ban one of a number of promises that appeared designed to please the West and have since been broken, the report said.
Afghanistan’s militant rulers used one of their first press conferences to announce that they would halt the business, which provides more than 90 per cent of heroin in the UK. But they have fallen back after the growers said they had received no such order and were preparing to carry on as normal.
One trader in Nowzad district, who declined to be named, said business in the province’s opium bazaars was proceeding unhindered. “The trade in opium is free and everyone can buy and sell without threat,” he said.
Afghanistan is by far the world’s largest opium supplier and is estimated to produce four-fifth of the global supplies. The drug accounts for 11 per cent of the Afghan economy, the United Nations estimated in 2018.
Production grew year by year even as the international community poured millions of pounds into counter-narcotics efforts during their two decades in Afghanistan.
A farmer called Mohammad Gul in Marjah said that he plans to plant an acre of opium and knew that hundreds of farmers are preparing to do something similar.
While the trade brings in huge sums for some kingpins, many farmers scrape by but have little other way to make a living. Any Taliban move to halt the trade would probably face stiff resistance, the report said.
“No ban has been announced by the current government,” he said, adding: “People are in a bad economic situation and would not agree with a government ban this season. We don’t have any other way to get money.”
Jan Mohammad, a farmer from Nad-e-Ali district, said he is planning to sow three acres when the planting season begins in a month, adding: “Without opium, we cannot get good returns from our land,” the report said.
“If the Taliban want to ban poppy cultivation, we want them to make a good government and create economic growth, jobs and everything. If they can’t, we will grow opium,” Jan Mohammad said, as per the report.
(Sanjeev Sharma can be reached at Sanjeev.email@example.com)