KABUL, Afghanistan — The Taliban announced on Sunday that opium poppy cultivation has been banned in Afghanistan, a move that will have far-reaching consequences for the many farmers who have turned to illegal harvesting as a brutal drought and economic crisis hit the country have captured.
Mawlawi Abdul Salam Hanafi, the administrative deputy prime minister, read the official decree to local and international media during a press conference at the Interior Ministry. Senior Taliban officials, including Acting Interior Minister Sirajuddin Haqqani, were present.
“All compatriots are informed as of the date of issuance of this decree, poppy cultivation is absolutely forbidden throughout the country and no one is allowed to attempt to cultivate the plant,” reads the decree, issued by Taliban leader Haibatullah Akhundzada. “If one violates this, his cultivation will be destroyed and the transgressor will be treated according to Islamic law.”
The Taliban’s decision to ban opium poppies in Afghanistan, which accounts for about 80 percent of the world’s opium supply, comes as the group faces increasing international pressure following a series of decrees targeting women, including their ability to open secondary schools to visit.
The decree, issued Sunday, also banned the use, sale, transfer, purchase, import and export of wine, heroin and other drugs.
After the Taliban toppled the Western-backed government in August, the insurgents-turned-rulers showed a desire to ban opium production, but shortly afterwards said there were no plans to stop or eradicate cultivation and vacated admit that Afghans are in the midst of an opium crisis.
Many farmers had planned some sort of ban after the Taliban returned to power and knew that growing the crop – which can be stored for some time after harvest – would be a good investment as supply dwindled and prices rose. The Taliban’s announcement on Sunday came during the poppy harvest.
In the province of Kandahar, fields of white blooming poppies lined Highway 1, which runs through the region. The harvest is mixed with wheat and grapes. The harvest is underway, and teams of workers are slicing the onions and scraping off the milky resin that will eventually be opium. Almost every farmer seems to have dedicated part of his plots to the harvest.
Poppy farmers in the area believed to be the birthplace of the Taliban said Sunday they were not aware of any ban.
The Taliban have a complicated relationship with the crop. During its first term, the group made several half-hearted attempts to restrict opium before banning its cultivation on religious grounds in the late 1990s and 2000. Funding and used the profits to fuel its war machine for two decades.
Safiullah Padshah reports from Kabul, and Thomas Gibbons-Neff from Kharkiv, Ukraine. Bryan Denton and Yaqoob Akbary contributed reporting from Kandahar, Afghanistan.
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/04/03/world/asia/taliban-outlaw-opium-poppy-afghanistan.html Taliban ban opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan