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Afghanistan Eradicates Opium Despite Protests April 19, 2005 scotsman.com
Afghan police and soldiers are pressing ahead with a plan to eradicate the world's largest opium crop, moving from field to field in southern Kandahar province with shearers and large sticks as angry farmers look on.
Authorities have destroyed about 48 acres of illegal poppy crops since Sunday in and around Sanzeri, said Haji Mohammed, the local police chief. In other parts of the country, similar operations were underway, though it will be some time until officials get a clear sense of how much of this year's crop is destroyed.
The eradication campaign was suspended on April 12, its first day, when police sent to destroy poppy fields in Kandahar opened fire on rock-throwing protesters. At least seven people were hurt, though officials denied reports of fatalities.
Local and central government authorities have held meetings with tribal elders in an effort to restore calm, and it seemed to be working. Today, there was anger, but no violence, among the farmers as they watched officials hack through their crops.
"I had no idea whether growing this was legal or illegal," said one farmer, Mohammed Gull. "All I know is that I was about to harvest my field and now the government has destroyed everything. They have ruined me. I've lost everything."
Another farmer, Yar Mohammed, said the government had promised aid for the drought-stricken region, but none had arrived.
"I have not seen it. The government should provide us with schools, roads and electricity and give us some other job we can do to make money if they don't want us to grow poppies," he said. "After this I will have no choice but to go begging for work in town to feed my family."
President Hamid Karzai has called for a "holy war" on drugs after Afghanistan's share of the market for opium, the raw material for heroin, leapt to 87% last year, sparking warnings that it was fast turning into a "narco-state".
The president sent Gen Mohammed Daoud, the deputy interior minister in charge of counter-narcotics, to Kandahar today to oversee the operation.
Countries including the US, Britain and France are training new police units to destroy poppy fields, smash drug labs and arrest smugglers, while providing hundreds of millions of dollars to help farmers switch to legal crops.
But it is expected to take years to replace a crop that has powered Afghanistan's post-Taliban revival and provided a lifeline to war-impoverished rural communities.
Much of the country's opium crop is expected to be harvested in coming weeks, meaning time is of the essence. But in Kandahar, the going has been extremely slow.
Police have waited for days for the go-ahead from the governor to start eradication in other districts in the province.
Haji Mohammed, the district police official, expressed sympathy for the farmers, but he said he would follow his orders.
"Certainly, the people in the area are very poor and need the help of the government and the international community," he said. "They should be given an alternative business or get help to improve their agriculture. But in accordance with our directives, we must destroy all their poppy fields."
A little off-topic but sometimes I wonder why you aren't the mod of this forum.
-------------------- Acid doesn't give you truths; it builds machines that push the envelope of perception. Whatever revelations came to me then have dissolved like skywriting. All I really know is that those few years saddled me with a faith in the redemptive potential of the imagination which, however flat, stale and unprofitable the world seems to me now, I cannot for the life of me shake.