Helmand projects to discourage poppy useless
LASHKARGAH (Pajhwok): Tribal elders and farmers on Thursday claimed projects implemented by the Ministry of Counternarcotics to discourage poppy cultivation in southern Helmand province were not fundamental and had no impact.
Some 300 tribal elders and farmers attended a gathering in Lashkargah, the provincial capital, to voice their concerns about the increase in poppy cultivation in the province, the world’s leading opium producing region.
The deputy counternarcotics minister was also present at the gathering. Wolesi Jirga member from Helmand, Nasim Niazi, said the Ministry of Narcotics had implemented a number of short-tem projects aimed at encouraging farmers not to cultivate the illicit plant, but the schemes had no long-lasting impact.
“Still a buzkhashi game is underway between some high officials who have confined the awareness-creating, law implementation and other projects to paper only.”
Provincial council head Haji Mohammad Karim Atal told the gathering if foreigners and the ministry concerned wanted to prevent poppy cultivation in Helmand, they should first deal with international smugglers and implement basic infrastructure development projects, something yet to be done.
He said hundreds of farmers were languishing in jails on charges of cultivating poppy crops in their fields despite their urgency to grow the plant due to extreme poverty.
Helmand peace committee chief Fazl Bari Fayaz said not even three percent of people in Helmand had jobs, they lacked food and were being harassed by the government under various pretexts.
He said the government was razing to the ground people’s homes and arresting the youth in the name of poppy growers and the injustices had led to increased opposition to the government.
“Helmandis want nothing from the government except security, food, clothing and medicine. If these are provided, there will be no war and no problem.”
Deputy Counternarcotics Minister Mohammad Ibrahim Azhar acknowledged problems existed in Helmand and promised to work for their solution.
He said the poppy eradication campaign would be launched from Friday (tomorrow) in Helmand, which he said produced 50 percent of Afghanistan’s narcotics.
He said the poppy production in Helmand was the main reason behind insecurity, corruption and other problems that prevented basic infrustrucutre development projects from being implemented.
He said his ministry had so far completed construction projects worth $10.5 million in Helmand and the new projects would be related to the agriculture sector.
A tribal elder from Marja district, Haji Sardar Mohammad Haqyar, told Pajhwok Afghan News government’s projects and campaigns only remained confined to paper and funds for them always ended up in pockets of the officials concerned.
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