Wednesday, January 12, 2005

fwd: Afghan tribe threatens to burn opium growers' houses

More good news, I hope. Best, RLC

Please see my "concerns" page:
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Forwarded Message:
From: Rasul Mobin
Subject: Afghan tribe threatens to burn opium growers' houses
Date: Jan 9, 2005

> Agence France Presse
> January 9, 2005 3:02 AM GMT
> Afghan tribe threatens to burn opium growers' houses
> by Ramatullah Kawsar
> Tribal elders in southeastern Afghanistan have threatened to torch
> the houses of people found growing opium and make them pay a hefty
> fine in a bid to stamp out burgeoning poppy cultivation.
> By far the most drastic suggestion yet offered for tackling the
> country's rampant drug trade, the punishment failed to win the
> approval of Afghan President Hamid Karzai despite his anti-narcotics
> stance.
> But with tribal law replacing a non-existent justice system in the
> outer reaches of Afghanistan and without a clearly defined strategy
> for eradicating drugs, the extreme solution shows just how tough the
> battle against opium is going to be.
> Backed by the United States and other western governments, Karzai
> vowed after his inauguration last month to launch a "jihad", or holy
> war, against narcotics, which account for two-thirds of Afghanistan's
> economy.
> The tribal council of southeastern Khost province appeared to have
> taken him at his word, announcing in a radio broadcast earlier this
> week that anyone arrested for robbery, setting explosives or growing
> opium would have to pay a 100,000 Afghani (2,083 US dollar) fine and
> would have their house burnt down.
> "All the tribes agreed to obey this agreement and all tribes signed
> it, so ordinary people in each tribe will obey and respect it,"
> Sultan Mohammad Babrakzai, assistant Head of Tribes Affairs
> Department in Khost, told AFP.
> Babrakzai added that the tribesmen would also burn down the houses of
> anyone who supports Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked militants in the
> region, which has been a hotbed for attacks on US and pro-government
> forces.
> Khost's tribal elders made the headlines in September ahead of
> Afghanistan's first presidential election for threatening to burn the
> houses of any locals found not to be voting for Karzai, who later won
> the October 9 poll.
> Now they are throwing their weight behind Karzai's drive to stem the
> growth of Afghanistan opium crop which jumped 64 percent over the
> last year and now accounts for almost 90 percent of the world's opium
> and its heroin derivatives.
> Karzai distanced himself from the threats, saying that violence was
> an unacceptable way to tackle the problem.
> "While welcoming the determination of many Afghans to rid the country
> of the curse of poppies and drug cultivation, the government asks all
> Afghans to abide by the constitution and laws. The Afghan government
> is opposed to threats of violence against any Afghan citizen,"
> Karzai's spokesman Khaleeq Ahmad told AFP.
> Growing or trafficking opium is a jailable offence but across
> southeastern Afghanistan government structures are weak and ancient
> tribal law holds sway, enforced by young men belonging to tribal
> militias while local courts and police forces are not robust enough
> to tackle the problem through legal means.
> "Tribal leaders and rules have a big influence among ordinary people
> in Khost, so this agreement of tribal leaders will have an effect on
> security, reducing Taliban activities and clearing poppy cultivation
> in the region," Ghazi Nawaz Tani, the head of Tribe Unity Council
> told AFP.
> He was one of the those who drafted the new declaration and said
> tribal support could play a positive role in dealing with the two
> major challenges for the Afghan government -- security and stemming
> poppy cultivation.
> But the tribal ruling apparently fails to address the crux of the
> opium problem in Afghanistan -- offering an alternative money-spinner
> to despairing, near-destitute local farmers.
> "I cultivated poppies on my own land and if they grow and sell it can
> lift me out of poverty. I don't have an alternative," Khan Bad Shah,
> a 36-year-old local farmer from Khost province told AFP.
> If tribal militias eradicate his poppy fields Shah would struggle
> because opium generates around 10 times more income that wheat or
> other cash crops.
> Khost province is not one of Afghanistan's main opium growing regions
> because of the climate and the soil, and cultivation is mostly
> limited to more remote mountainous regions.
> However, unrest in southern Afghanistan linked to the government's
> drive to eradicate opium poppies has already begun with at least one
> government soldier working on eradication killed Thursday in Deh
> Rawood district in southcentral Uruzgan province.
> The soldier, who was part of a convoy of 50 soldiers working on poppy
> eradication, was killed by two militants local authorities said were
> linked to the Taliban. The attackers were killed later by government
> soldiers.
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