Detained Helmand poppy growers released
LASHKARGAH (PAN): As many as 2,000 poppy farmers were released from a jail in southern Helmand province after they promised not to grow the illicit crop, officials said on Tuesday.
The growers had been arrested over the past three months as part of an anti-poppy campaign that was launched in November, said police chief, Col. Kamaluddin Sherzai.
Eight of the farmers were referred to judicial organs after they refused to stop cultivating poppies in their fields, the police head said, blaming the men for encouraging people to grow the crop.
A court, dealing with the cases, sentenced them from three to 10 years in jail, Sherzai said. The released farmers destroyed their standing poppy crops grown over 2500 acres of land.
Sherzai accused the Pakistani intelligence agency of encouraging poppy cultivation in Helmand to raise funds for the Afghan insurgency. The police chief said they had some problems with foreign troops who did provide support to the Afghan forces engaged in the drive.
He said the PRT job was to provide assistance to farmers. The problems with police occurred when their calls for an airstrike during the campaign were turned down, he explained.
A comprehensive counternarcotics policy was being implemented in Helmand, the world's largest opium producing region, said Hamdullah Noori, an adviser to the governor on counternarcotics.
The policy included public awareness programmes, provision of alternative livelihood to poppy farmers and implementation of relevant laws, he concluded.
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