Minister promises 50pc cut in poppy cultivationBy Khwaja Baseer Ahmad Sep 20, 2011 - 19:36
KABUL (PAN): Counternarcotics Minister Zarar Ahmad Muqbil said on Tuesday poppy cultivation would be reduced by 50 percent over the five years.
Under a new policy, farmers would willingly stop growing the illicit crop, he told the
Meshrano Jirga, or upper house of Parliament.
The policy, scheduled to come into effect in three months, would be implemented in collaboration with police, intelligence officials, prosecutors and judges.
The house summoned Muqbil along with acting Minister of Public Health Dr Suraya Dalil and deputy interior minister for counter narcotics, Lieutenant General, Baz Mohammad Ahmadi, to answer questions from senators.
According to Muqbil, the government has the capacity to rehabilitate only one percent of about a million drug-addicted Afghans. However, the number would increase to 40 percent under the policy, he said.
The minister added that 98 percent of the poppy crop had been cultivated in insecure areas of the country, making it possible for drug traffickers to easily smuggle its lion's share to the outside world.
However, he said the new policy would provide economic opportunities to farmers in those areas and thus would willingly switch to planting other crops.
Sustained cooperation with farmers, good alternatives and job opportunities could be of help in a "sustained reduction in poppy cultivation."
Dr Dalil blamed addiction on easy access to drugs, joblessness, poverty and illegal migration. However, she said 65 clinics were in the country providing treatment for addicts.
So far, 4,247 addicts have been treated, 21, 000 provided with medical advice and 470 workshops and seminars conducted on the subject, she said, adding 90 percent of rehabilitated addicts had relapsed.
Ahmadi said over the past seven months, the interior ministry had conducted 808 anti-narcotics operations in different parts of the country, resulting in seizure of tonnes of narcotics and 788 arrests. He, however, acknowledged more should be done to combat the menace.
But the briefings failed to satisfy lawmakers. Senate Chairman Fazal Hadi Muslimyar said mere statistical presentations were not the solution to the problem.
He asked the government to involve ordinary people in the campaign against poppy cultivation."Programmes for eliminating poppy and narcotics will not be effective without people's involvement."