"There Are Indications That Public Representatives And Officials Are Involved In The (Drug) Business"

I also recommend my blog on Opium. - Jon


Wednesday, August 15, 2007

KABUL: Delegates at a joint Pak-Afghan peace jirga last week evinced a keen interest to solve problems facing the two neighbours - including drug trafficking.

Recommendations by the fourth of five working committees underlined the need to purge Afghanistan of drugs and the Taliban insurgency and to expand the Afghanistan government’s writ beyond Kabul, officials said. The committee acknowledged Pakistan’s efforts to make the country drugs-free. It asked Kabul to follow the Islamabad way of achieving success against drugs.

The Taliban banned poppy cultivation in 2000 and the United Nations and United States drug agencies called it “an almost total halt to opium growing” in the 2001 season. But a year later when the US ousted the Islamic militia following the 9/11 attacks, Afghanistan became the centre of the world drug trade. Official figures show that opium production in Afghanistan rose by 49 percent between 2005 and 2006. Around 6,700 tons of opium was produced last year alone - enough to make about 670 tons of heroin, which is about 90 percent of the total world drug trade.

The UN has warned that it could take a generation to eradicate drug trafficking and that the menace is also effecting Pakistan. The two sides in the committee recognised unemployment as a “major cause” of poppy cultivation and terrorism. They demanded that the international community – including the West and the Gulf states – provide visas and jobs to Afghan youths.

A recommendation of the committee said the West “is under an equal obligation to combat this menace and should take effective steps to reduce drug demand”.

UN figures to be released in September are expected to show that Afghanistan’s poppy production has risen by 15 percent since 2006 and that the country accounts for 95 percent of the world drug trade, 5 percent more than last year.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai is facing failures on many fronts, including corruption in the Afghanistan administration. The jirga also stressed upon him to eradicate corruption from his government. “Corruption should be checked at all levels as there are indications that public representatives and officials are involved in the (drug) business,” the fourth working committee recommended. The US State Department’s top counter narcotics official Tom Schweich, in a recent press conference, said, “Afghanistan is providing close to 95 percent of the world’s heroin, which ... makes it unique in the world history.” The committee also asked the world super powers to help Afghan farmers to grow alternative cash crops.