Balkh residents, police differ on poppies
MAZAR-I-SHARIF (PAN): Residents of Chamtal district in northern Balkh province on Wednesday claimed police had destroyed poppy crops over hundreds of acres, but officials rejected the claim, saying the illicit plant had not been planted in any part of the town.
Deputy police chief Col. Abdul Razzaq Qadiri told Pajhwok Afghan News police had wrapped up a clean-up operation aimed at driving armed rebels and detecting roadside bombs in Chamtal district.
He hailed the nine-day operation as a success, saying 28 villages had been cleared of insurgents without any resistance. He said a number of landmines were found and defused during the operation, rejecting the claims that poppy crops had been grown in insecure parts of the district.
But residents said the operation was aimed at destroying poppy crops. Tribal elder Mohammadullah, a resident of Jarkala village, said poppy crops spread over hundreds acres of land were destroyed during the operation.
He acknowledged poppy cultivation had been zero over the past several years in the district, but claimed residents had recently resumed its cultivation in insecure parts.
The elder said residents had assisted police in eradicating the crops in Joi-i-Sher, Baloch, Now Shahar, Alizai, Baburi, Qala-i-Razzaq and Hotak villages.
Tilla Mohammad, who lives in Naw Shahar village, also claimed police had destroyed the poppies he had grown on one acre of land. "I realise I made a mistake by cultivating the plants, but I praise police for destroying that.”
Faizullah from Baburi village said many like him resumed planting poppy crops as a result of unemployment. He said other crops had less yield and could not help them get rid of economic constrains.
"The eradication of poppy farms is the only way to reduce people’s addiction to drugs in the country," remarked Dr. Ghulam Rassoul Malikzai, a drug rehabilitation centre director in Mazar-i-Sharif.
He said though poppy cultivation in Balkh remained zero for past several years, yet the government should stay alert to prevent farmers from returning to the crop.
But the deputy police chief insisted it was a false propaganda that poppy crops had been sown in Chamtal. Col. Qadiri said Balkh retained the status of poppy-free province over the past six years.
He said the security personnel had not come across any poppy fields during their operation in Chamtal nor they had destroyed any.
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