Afghan drug menace might worsen as Taliban indicate legalising poppy

KABUL: When the Taliban overran Kabul in August, concerns were raised that the drug menace in the country could get worse. However, the group then promised to eradicate the poppy cultivation will be stopped.

Cut to October, Taliban leaders have hinted that they are mulling legalisation of farming of poppy, according to a report.

Afghanistan, which exports more than 90 per cent of the world’s heroin, might get fresh impetus for the drug trade under the Taliban.

According to the report in Knews, the Taliban can now freely nourish and cultivate the raw element of opium and its killer byproduct, heroin. This comes despite the Taliban claim that they will annihilate poppy farms in the southern parcel of the war-ravished country as they endeavor to institute a hardline interpretation of Islamic Law.

Haji Abdul Haq Akhond Hamkar, Deputy Minister of Counter Narcotics, Ministry of Interior indicating that the door is still open to potential “legalization” of farming – providing Afghans are not the ones harmed. “We either create alternative jobs or legalize it. Then the problem is solved,” Hamkar conjectures. “We are working on it; we are open to the idea.”

Some in Taliban leadership are of the view that legalizing the poppy would help them in growing the war-battered economy of Afghanistan. The high pharmaceutical-contingent nations uses the poppy fields in countries such as Australia and Turkey as a legal means to harvest the plants required for opioids and other critical painkillers.

“If such a thing is possible, it’s best to work on legalizing it. It will help grow the economy, and we won’t have to put a lot of effort into it because it’s already being cultivated widely,” surmises Mawlawi Noor Ahmad Sayeed , the Director of Information and Culture in Kandahar.

Afghanistan has been among the world’s top illicit drug-producing countries. There are scores of drug addicts currently on the streets. Multiple reports indicate that poppy cultivation and drug trafficking provide a big income source for the Taliban, mainly in the southern and northern parts of the country.

Most of the drug smuggling goes through Iran and the Taliban make a big buck with it. Taliban so far have a crackdown on small drug dealers and but big dealers have been given a free pass.