AFGHANISTAN: HARSH PUNISHMENTS OR FORWARD THINKING PRAGMATIC POLICIES?


According to a Report on Afghanistan issued by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) on 29 August, opium cultivation has decreased by 21%, down from 131,000 ha in 2004 to 103,000 ha in 2005. UNODC Director Costa attributed the change to the Government’s success at persuading farmers to voluntarily refrain from poppy cultivation. Costa saw close links between the elimination of opium cultivation and freedom for the Afghan people; in fact he was quoted as saying “democracy may never come of age in Afghanistan as long as violence remains the tool in dispute resolution, resource allocation depends on corrupt officials, and half of the national income is generated by opium,” .

Statement by Marco Perduca, Executive Director of the International Antiprohibitionist League:

“Despite the reduction in the areas dedicated to the poppy production - and one has only to guess where the new fields will appear, if in Burma, Laos, Pakistan or perhaps in Iran, China or North Korea - the overall output of Afghanistan for the current year stands at 4,100 tonnes, which represents a minor decrease if compared with the 4,200 tonnes produced in 2004 that make Afghanistan yet again the largest supplier of opium to the world with 87% of global production (mainly destined to the European market).

Ever since the Talibans were defeated almost three years ago, the new Afghan administration has launched a couple of eradication campaigns, which, according to the UN, have been instrumental in destroying opium crops in another 1,000 hectares, which must be added to the less than 30,000 eradicated recently. At times those campaigns have been carried out urging peasants to wage a Jihad against the evil plant.

In presenting the 2005 report, Mr. Costa was quoted by the AFP as saying "The governors should be punished, they aren't punished enough [...] They should be removed or jailed." In a time when the “international community” should contribute to the reconstruction of Afghanistan with pragmatic and forward thinking proposals, but also in period when we are witnessing a questionable administration of justice around the world, it is particularly disheartening to hear a UN Under-Secretary stating that the lack of enforcement of failing measures to “reduce the supply of narcotics” should be punished with imprisonment or early retirement.