Most jailed drug offenders are poor, illiterate
KABUL (Pajhwok): Due to the government’s ineffective counternarcotics policy, most of the convicted drug traffickers are illiterate and poor individuals who support their families, not the high level drug kingpins who control the industry.
A survey conducted by the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC) shows individuals who have been imprisoned for drug-related crimes were driven to crime by poverty and may have no choice but to go back to it after release due to unemployment. Eight of each 10 were illiterate.
The survey was conducted during the last six months of 2013 in which 185 prisoners convicted of drug crimes in six zones of the country --- Kandahar, Herat, Kabul, Nangarhar Badakhshan and Balkh provinces --- were interviewed. The survey was released in 2014. The UNODC study found that of 25,872 prisoners in Afghanistan, 3,880 (three in twenty) were serving their jail terms for drugs and drug smuggling related cases. According to information of the Counternarcotics Ministry, 19,000 drug smugglers were detained between 2003 and 2015 across the country.
Most prisoners are poor or have low income
According to the survey, the jail terms for drug related prisoners range from 10 years to 20 years. The survey cited poverty and illiteracy as main reasons behind drug addiction or smuggling. It also showed 84 percent of the drug prisoners were married and most of them were breadwinners of their families.
The UNODC survey shows six out of 10 of these prisoners belonged to families who lived under the poverty line and their monthly income was less than 5,000 Afghanis.
In line with Asia Foundation’s assessment, individuals with less than 1,253 income and nine-member families earning 12,250 Afghanis per month are considered living under the poverty line in Afghanistan.
Money spent over daily home expenses:
The UNODC survey shows most of the prisoners who earned money from drug smuggling used it for daily expenses of their families.
Of each 10 prisoners, nine spend their drug smuggling income on their family expenditures.
Tor Jan, 43, who has served three years of his 18-year jail term, told Pajhwok Afghan News his economic situation forced him into drug trafficking.
Held at the Pul-i-Charkhi prison, he has a wife, three daughters and two sons. He was the only breadwinner for his family. Tor Jan also said he would spend all his earning on family and he was not a high ranked smuggler to a lot of money.
Jan said his 13-year-old son was kidnapped one year ago by drug smugglers with whom he worked in the past.
He said his responsibility had been to transfer the drugs to border provinces, but security officials arrested him with the drugs that belonged to the individuals who had kidnapped his son.
Jan said most of the prisoners had little role in the production and smuggling of drugs and the real culprits roam freely. The drug phenomenon would continue until those in charge were arrested.
Haji Gul Sulaimankhel, a retired general at the Interior Ministry, said some high ranking government officials have direct or indirect links with big drug smugglers and thus they could not be arrested and put behind bars.
He did not name any high ranking government official involved in drug trafficking, but said the issue could not be resolved until key smugglers were arrested.
Ahmad Khalid Moahid, spokesman for the special attorney at the Justice Task Force (JTF) defended the large number of individuals that had been detained in connection with drug smuggling and said the government had made some progress in countering narcotics.
He said international smugglers of third and fifth rank had been detained by security forces with large quantity of drugs and were jailed.
He said the kingpins lived outside of the country and could not be arrested as small detainees He could not provide evidence to corroborate them
He said a new condition had been introduced for small detained drug smugglers: a 50 percent commuted jail term if they provided accurate information about cartel leadership.
Prisoners leave families abandoned:
Tor Jan’s wife said after the arrest of her husband, her 13-year-old son was the only one left to earn an income for their family, but he was kidnapped by drug smugglers.
She said her son was working in an automobile workshop before he was kidnapped. The frightened mother of Mohammad said the kidnappers had warned her of killing her son if they failed to pay the ransom money.
She said her economic condition was terrible and she was unable to feed her family. She could not pay the huge amount of ransom to free her son who she said was being kept in the Mohmand Dara district of Nangarhar province.
Abdul Khalil Samat, a university teacher, said it was dangerous when a family’s head of household was jailed by deepening the cycle of poverty and crime.
He said such circumstances were dangerous for families who then opted to begging, staging robberies and other criminal activity in order to survive.
He said the government should intervene in such a situation and provide necessary help so that families of jailed individuals could not be further exploited.
Returning back to drugs
The UNODC survey shows three out of every four prisoners after their release from jail plan to return to the business of drug trafficking due to unemployment and other social issues.
Tor Jan, who has to spend another 15 years in jail to complete his sentence, said there was no alternative but to resume drug smuggling to free his kidnapped son and resolve other financial problems. The kidnappers demanded $50,000 in ransom and he agreed to traffic an equivalent amount of drugs in exchange for his son’s freedom.
Abdul Khalil Samat, a social affairs expert, said it was government’s responsibility to train such prisoners in vocational training.
He said the government should help provide job opportunities to individuals completing their jail terms.
Abdul Fattah Eshrat, media advisor to the Ministry of Public Works and Social Affairs, said around one million people were currently jobless in the country.
Around six million people are working in cross-sectional areas, he said, adding 36 percent of people were suffering from poverty in Afghanistan.
A survey conducted by the Asia Foundation in 2015 showed the rate of joblessness in nine provinces of the country was over 20 percent, in five provinces up to 29 percent, in six provinces from 11 to 15 percents, in 12 provinces from six to 10 percepts and in two provinces up to five percents.
The Asia Foundation linked insecurity to increased unemployment in the country.
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