Thursday, November 13, 2003

HIGH ON HEROIN: Even though the Qu'ran strongly forbids Muslims from producing or imbibing intoxicants (5:91, 92, and 2:219), the Taliban provided a safe haven for poppy farmers. The cultivation of opium, as stated by Abdul Rashid, the then-anti-drugs control force in Kandahar, was permissible only "because it is consumed by kafirs [unbelievers] in the West and not by Muslims or Afghans." Rashid knew well that by making sure that farmers could freely cultivate their poppies, heroin would be cheaper on the streets of New York. It also made sure that people wouldn't rebel against the Taliban.

The Taliban had quickly realized the need to formalize the drugs economy in order to raise revenue. After capturing Kandahar, the Taliban quickly began colleting Islamic tax, or zakar, on all farmers and dealers moving opium, but the Taliban had no religious qualms in collect 20% of the value of a truckload. It made Pakistani dealers rich and helped Taliban fund weapons, ammunition and fuel.

The cultivation of poppies was also a tool for blackmail. Between 1997 and 1999, the Taliban repeatedly offered to substitute poppies for cash crop if the United States and United Nations would give it international recognition. The huge increase in drug trafficking and addicts in neighboring Asian countries prompted the United Nations Drug Control Program (UNDCP) to conclude an agreement after 6 months of negotiating in October of 1997. The Taliban would squash opium cultivation if the international community would help substitute it for crops. The deal was welcomed optimistically, but the deal was never implemented. The Taliban failed to live up to its obligations, the international agency failed to back it with a bigger UNDCP-budget and U.N. agencies pulled out in 1998.

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