Taliban Poppy-Growing Ban Will Measure Afghan Fear

Taliban Poppy-Growing Ban Will Measure Afghan Fear
Posted by FoM on November 16, 2000 at 07:52:34 PT
By The Associated Press
Source: New York Times
Zulmai Khan has planted wheat instead of poppies this year, and expects his income to plunge to $400 from $10,000. For Mr. Khan, it was switch or go to jail. Like many other Afghan farmers, he finds himself at the sharp end of an edict from the Taliban government, which has decreed it un-Islamic to farm poppies for heroin production. "Of course it's because we are afraid," Mr. Khan said of deciding to comply. "That is the only reason. It wasn't against Islam before, so how can it be against Islam now?
The Taliban have aroused Western disapproval for their strictures on women, as well as for harboring Osama bin Laden, whom the United States sees as a terrorist. But their uncompromising attitude toward drugs may win the Taliban some points, even as it tests the credibility of the Taliban leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar.If the fields are awash with crimson poppies next spring, the reclusive Mullah Omar's claim of absolute authority will be debunked. But if his edict is obeyed, the world's biggest source of heroin will be cut off, reinforcing the Taliban's hold over a country ravaged by 21 years of war and lawlessness."I tell you, I think it can be done," said Shams-ul-Haq Sayed, an officer of the Taliban drug control office in Jalalabad, capital of the eastern opium-growing province of Nangarhar.He pointed to the Taliban's success in controlling the number of weapons openly carried in the streets  even though there is no outright ban on weapons possession."Twenty years ago I would have thought it impossible to take weapons away from people," he said, adding that in every Taliban city, "people don't carry guns." Last year Afghan farmers produced more than 4,000 tons of opium  more than the rest of the world put together, the United Nations says.The edict in July was typical of the way the Taliban run the country: sudden, harsh and irrevocable."We were surprised," said Mizan- ur-Rehman Yuzufzai, a United Nations drug control officer in Nangarhar. "We had been talking to the Taliban, but we did not expect a total ban. But now they are bound by it." Twenty-two defiant farmers have already been arrested in Nangarhar alone, Mr. Sayed said. Farmers are jailed until they agree to destroy their crop, he said. If they refuse, the crop is destroyed and the cost of destruction charged to them.Stories circulate about farmers unsuccessfully defying the edict. A farmer who bragged of challenging it is said to have been paraded around his village with his face blackened.But the ban coincides with the United Nations' decision to close its drug control program in eastern Nangarhar for lack of funding."Now our credibility with the people is under question," said Zalmi Sherzad, a program official. "They will say to us, `You have no right to tell us not to grow. You give us nothing.' "Source: New York Times (NY)Published: November 16, 2000Copyright: 2000 The New York Times CompanyAddress: 229 West 43rd Street, New York, NY 10036Fax: (212) 556-3622Contact: letters nytimes.comWebsite: Articles: The Paradox of Poppy in the Opium Bazaar: Can't Make a Profit Holy Men of Heroin
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Comment #3 posted by freedom fighter on November 18, 2000 at 19:57:16 PT
Moral deliemna
"Of course it's because we are afraid," Mr. Khan said of deciding to comply. "That is the only reason. It wasn't against Islam before, so how can it be against Islam now? 
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Comment #2 posted by TroutMask on November 16, 2000 at 09:51:08 PT
Supply and Demand
"expects his income to plunge to $400 from $10,000"That says it all, folks! The hit to the Afghan economy will change this situation in short order. Just watch!
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Comment #1 posted by Ethan Russo, MD on November 16, 2000 at 09:25:00 PT:
Plants are Not Evil, Only People are Evil
The poppies will not be totally suppressed in Afghanistan, and cultivation will merely increase elsewhere. The same is true of cannabis. People have used these plants for their medical benefits for more than 5000 years. Fortunately for us, politicians and bureaucrats don't live that long. Occasionally one demonstrates insight, or even wisdom. Too bad it is so infrequent!
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