Baloch students hired for Afghan poppy cultivation

Afghanistan, as of March 2010, is the largest illicit opium producer of the world, ahead of Burma.

Islamabad: With madrassas in Pakistan`s restive Balochistan closed for the summer, students have been engaged by Afghan farmers for poppy cultivation in Afghanistan`s two major heroin-producing provinces of Helmand and Kandahar for the past three months, a media report on Friday said.

Hundreds of madrassa students from Chaman and adjoining tribal regions of Balochistan are engaged by Afghan farmers.

These Pakistani madrassa students rush to the Afghan provinces with strongholds of the Taliban on lucrative money-making projects as soon as these Islamic religious schools are closed in the first week of June for the three-month summer holidays, `The Express Tribune` reported today.

"It is a source of easy money for madrassa students," Saifur Rehman, a local social worker of Ziarat who is well acquainted with many in the poppy harvesting workforce, was quoted as saying by the paper.

"Each student makes around 15 to 20 dollars a day," Rehman added.

"They are being paid in the local Afghani currency which has gained strength against the Pakistani rupee in recent months.”

"Most students returned home with 1,500 to 2,000 dollars after the harvesting season last year."

Muslim scholars in Afghanistan remain divided regarding the issue of poppy cultivation and its harvesting in Afghanistan.

A majority of these scholars declare poppy production against the Islamic injunctions but a few of them disagree and argue that it was permitted in Islam for medical purposes.

However, all of them remain unanimous that heroin production is forbidden in Islam, the daily said.

"A few of the workers even fell unconscious during harvesting since they were not properly trained for the job," Rehman said.

Despite the debates, no serious effort is being undertaken by these scholars to prevent the students from engaging in poppy harvesting in Helmand and Kandahar.

Afghanistan, as of March 2010, is the largest illicit opium producer of the world, ahead of Burma, and Pakistan has a clinical role to play in this statistic, it said.

In 2007, Afghanistan produced an extraordinary 8,200 tonnes of opium (34 percent more than in 2006), becoming practically the exclusive supplier of the world`s deadliest drug (93 percent of the global opiates market), according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Afghanistan Opium Survey 2007.

Poppy harvesting became the main source of livelihood for many Afghan and Pakistani families since the fall of the Taliban regime after the US and NATO attacks in September 11, 2001.


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