The Supreme leader of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, Hibatullah Akhundzada has announced a complete ban on opium trade in Afghanistan, the country with the highest opium production in the world. The drug ban had long been on the agenda of the Taliban which took control of the landlocked South Asian Country, back in August 2021.
The order came directly from the office of the minister of interior of Kabul stating all Afghans are ordered to stop the cultivation and harvesting of poppy across the country, the ban further extends to wine, heroin, hashish and other drug manufacturing factories.
The statement further added that violators will be punished according to Sharia law and crops would be destroyed completely.
A country engulfed in war for the past 4 decades has been on the edge of economic collapse since the Taliban retook Kabul last year. Prior to the ban, opium farming was a primary source of income for over 200,000 families in Afghanistan providing employment to millions of people across the country. According to UN data, Afghanistan generates a revenue of 1.8 bn USD through opium trade, with Europe being the biggest market for Afghan opium, with more than 95% produce making its way to European markets.
Opium poppy is used as a raw material to produce illicit drugs like heroin. The ban coincides with opium harvesting season in Afghanistan, which in 2021 produced over 6000 tons of opium. Since many farmers work on credit, experts have warned that the sudden ban can push the country towards irreparable economic turmoil, which can mean complete destruction of livelihoods and may cause a severe hunger crisis.
Production was banned back in 2000, just before the group was defeated and driven out of Kabul by U.S.A and allied forces in the aftermath of the 9/11.
During their 2-decade long insurgency against former Afghan government, the Taliban imposed heavy taxes on opium cultivating farmers in areas under the group’s control which became one of the primary revenue sources for the group’s militant activities, before coming to power.
Since August 2021 the international communities have abandoned investments and megaprojects, to rebuild the war-torn country. Without the investments, private and public sector jobs have virtually ceased to exist, giving rise to extreme poverty, food and fuel price rise and gross human rights abuses. Taliban officials have been seeking international recognition in order to withdraw sanctions imposed by western countries, that are severely affecting business and redevelopment.
Sources suggest a tough resistance has been anticipated from some elements within the group against the ban on poppy and that a trade deficit in recent months had led to an increase in number of farmers cultivating poppy.
An anonymous farmer in Helmand province stated that in recent weeks prices of opium had doubled on the anticipation of the Taliban’s ban on its cultivation. He further added that money from opium is essential, as other crops do not generate enough revenue to support his family.