Is Afghanistan the Drug’istan for Nato?

Afghanistan's yearly opium output accounts for more than 90 per cent of the global supply. Photo Courtesy: Express Tribune

Afghanistan's yearly opium output accounts for more than 90 per cent of the global supply. Photo Courtesy: Express Tribune

Published at Express Tribune Blog

The heavy cultivation of opium in Afghanistan is known to all of us. The pertinent question then is: why has Nato been unable to control this opium cultivation in the nine years of its occupation?

According to a recent article on TIME titled “Is NATO to Blame for Russia’s Afghan Heroin Problem?” Russia has lambasted the US and NATO for not doing more to stop little baggies of heroin from getting into the hands of Russia’s youth.

Russia further alleged that “NATO has fueled drug production by refusing to destroy Afghan poppy fields, which it stopped doing last year in the hope of winning the support of opium farmers.”

“In its way, Russia is making an important point. Between 2005 and 2009, Afghanistan’s yearly opium output jumped from 4,000 to 7,000 tons, and it now accounts for more than 90% of global supply, according to the United Nations. Russian state statistics say that opiates such as heroin and morphine kill around 30,000 Russians every year, three times more than the total number of Soviets killed during their 10-year war in Afghanistan in the 1980s.”

But the question stays the same: who will control this illicit drug cultivation and its trafficking and how will it be coped? Will the US led Nato forces and CIA will slash down the opium cultivation? Seriously?

Hordes of news reports regarding the Afghan opium cultivation have been highlighted on the media lately. Nearly all of them blame US led Nato for not doing enough to undermine the opium cultivation. Of late, a report in the New York Times surfaced. It said:

“Ahmed Wali Karzai, the brother of the Afghan president and a suspected player in the country’s booming illegal opium trade, gets regular payments from the Central Intelligence Agency.”

Ahmed Karzai, however, denied this news, saying that “he cooperated with American civilian and military officials, but did not engage in the drug trade and did not receive payments from the CIA.”

Simultaneously, American officials also acknowledge that the relationship between Mr Karzai and the CIA is wide ranging.

Whatever the case maybe, one’s doubt on the role of Nato in dealing the opium cultivation is valid.

Nato believes that the March offensive in Marjah redoubled the crackdown on drug traffickers with the aim of cutting the Taliban off from their main source of funding. Meanwhile, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC): “a mystery disease infecting opium poppies in Afghanistan could cut this year’s illicit crop in some areas by up to 70 percent. The disease has led authorities to expect a ‘significant’ reduction in opium production this year.”

UNODC further said that the output of opium could fall by up to 25 percent.

According to the above explanations, the Marjah operation as well as the disease infecting opium poppies, the natural inducement, must bring a significant reduction in opium cultivation this year. Stats on it will be cleared up in the near future.

The solution to reduce the illegal opium cultivation is quite simple in my view. The impoverished people of Afghanistan cultivate opium not because they enjoy doing it or they consider it some sort of a redemptive act. They cultivate it to get money to buy food to feed their families. Opium is cheaper than the food many Afghan families consume. According to a blog at New York Times: “The poverty in the region (Badakhshan) is so consuming that parents blow opium smoke into their children’s noses to soothe the pangs of hunger.” The solution to end all of this is to overhaul the country’s infrastructure. Instead of spending billions of dollars on the war in Afghanistan, the United States must spend richly on humanitarian work. Humanitarian work, it seems, has nowadays become a sole job of NGO’s and private humanitarian organizations rather than the respective governments.

In Pakistan, a horde of people die each year due to the drug abuse. During the time of former President Musharraf regime, the then Health Minister stated that Afghanistan’s opium trade is sabotaging the efforts of Pakistan in controlling the spread of HIV in the country, particularly amongst the injection drug users. To be sure, drug trafficking and drug abuse directly affects

Pakistan’s internal security as well as its social stability. It ought to be dealt with iron hands.

Being a Pakistani, I’d also like to ask the government of Pakistan as to what role it is playing to limit the Afghan drug cultivation and its trafficking? According to some analysts, around a quarter of Afghanistan’s opium production is shipped through Pakistan from the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan region. Pakistan government has all the right to question the ability and legitimacy of Nato in regards to the Afghan opium cultivation and trafficking.

Despite the fact that the government of Pakistan has taken some measures to cope with the drug trafficking issue, the trafficking is still prospering in Pakistan and feeding problems of drug addiction and the prevalence of HIV.

Does this not substantiate the fact that the government should do “a lot more” and not just “more” in this regards?

Hypocrites On The Loose

MQM's Hypocritical Rally Against Talibans

MQM's Hypocritical Rally Against Talibans

The above picture exposes the hypocrisy of MQM, and the likes of hypocrite political parties who protest only when it serves any good purpose to them. MQM has never put into practice any protestation rally in favor of “Missing Persons”, Dr. Aafia Siddui, or the Drone Attacks. Why? Reasons are, which I learn from the stalwarts of MQM, quite silly. Most of the time they don’t respond coherently, rather beat around the bush. If the MQM, PML-N and others are so very sincere to the nation, respect the dignity of the citizens and oppose the heinous acts such as the ones mentioned above, they should be protesting like they do for other things purely relevant to their party politics.

Interesting is the thing that the supporters of MQM immediately came out of the closet to the roads of Karachi last year to protest against the alleged flogging of the 17 year old girl by Talibans in Swat. The video is now proved fake. But it was and it is the MQM who always need a wee excuse even to bash the Talibans, the extremists. They really don’t miss any opportune moment at anytime in Pakistan. Whereas, these yahoos, the MQM walas and the likes, are the other kind of extremists who work solely for the personal political agenda and personal benefit, not for the awaam’s benefit. They’re the sanctimonious ones who virtually should be ashamed of calling themselves humans, let alone Pakistanis.

These champions of democracy didn’t support one of the clause of LFO — which was brought by veteran president Musharraf — that made the internal party elections indispensable by law. Astonishing thing, isn’t it?

From the other point of view, the obsession of ANP to change the name of province is unshakeable. It shocked me when I heard one ANP spokesman saying: “why so much fuss, just few are killed”, while citing the indiscriminate firing event in Abbottabad that killed nearly 8 protestors who were demonstrating against the name change of NWFP. Is he, the ANP yahoo who uttered such a nonsense, a human, really?

Let’s come to the Mian Sahib, the another champion of democracy and principled politics. What’s his stance on the issue of “Missing Persons”? How powerfully has he demonstrated in favor of Missing Persons like he does at Raiwand at different occasions?

Last, but not the least is the party calls itself the advocate of Bhutto. Jamshed Dasti, the MNA, who was elected from NA-178 Muzaffargarh on the ticket of PPP resigned on 25th March of last month as he was found guilty of holding a fake degree in MA Islamic Studies. But quite startlingly, after few days of sitting at home, Jamshed Dasti is again given with the PPP ticket. Such a shame that a person caught posing MA in Islamic Studies, a fake degree, is still considered eligible to contest elections. Where is the morality? Are the good moral people, better than the Jamshed Dasti, lacking in the PPP, or there never were any?

These are some of the brief instances on the mainstream political parties call themselves the champions of democracy in Pakistan. There are a legion of such hypocrisies to outline, but guess these would do for the moment. Quite deplorably, we hide these facts from our own selves. Why can’t we come out of the party politics shell for sometime and think about the Pakistan as a whole?

How To Produce A Terrorist

How To Produce A Terrorist

How To Produce A Terrorist

The sky roared, the thunderous sound was echoing and then there was a loud explosion heard. The air strike caused a ruckus, there was bloodshed everywhere — with 10’s of fatalities and 100’s of wounded. People were shouting, crying — everyone was sad yet full of wrath. A lot of them lost their brothers, fathers, sisters, mothers, sons, daughters in the air strike. The present was full of grief.

This was a usual routine that sometimes Pakistani fighter planes would turn up and bomb the suspected hideouts of the militants and mostly the US led drone attacks sketch a real picture of another hell on earth. God knows how many militants the air strike killed, but what is apparent is that every air strike or drone attack for the purpose of hunting down the militants had never reduced the number of militants, instead it gave birth to the 100’s of more fighters against the state government and Nato, who show their ire against the state government and Nato because they lost their loved ones for no reason. Some of the peaceful people before the strike becomes terrorist after the air strike or drone attack parce que they lost their loved ones and the moxie for retribution intensifies within. How would you satisfy or pacify the people when “you” go on a killing spree of innocent civilians and make them loose their brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, fathers, mothers and other acquaints in the drone attack or airstrike or bomb blast? You killed their beloved ones too, because you never raise the voice against the atrocities and you’re as blamable as the militant’s facilitators and ratifiers.

The ongoing terrorism, I daresay, has always been a bilateral process — and where the chances of peace has been practically deep-six. Subsequently, the battlefront is formed which we see today: you kill our brothers, sisters, daughters, sons, wives, fathers, mothers, husbands and friends etc. — in retaliation we’ll kill yours too. This is a ‘general’ situation, exclusive of the religious hype. This goes on, and we’re majorly loosing innocents day-after-day — the rural innocents in drone attacks and air strikes, the urban innocents in suicide blasts. In a word of one of my American friend: When American army or any army regrets the loss of innocent lives, I ask whose life isn’t innocent? We all are innocent.

Want to know more about how, by and large, the world produces terrorist? One should watch the movie “The Peacemaker”. His only daughter was killed and he went on a rampage to blow the whole city with a nuclear bomb. This is the state of mind of ‘many’ of the suffered ones — furiousness at its peak. Those tagged terrorists of today kill someone else’s loved ones .. and the status quo afloat, under a revision. We ought to find out the root cause of the problems and start rendering the justice to the best we can. Justice is the solution to all problems, and not the war or oppression of any kind.

Action & Consequences

Something out-of-the-way. Few days back when NATO announced a major offensive in the southern Afghanistan in an area call Marja, there was a donnybrook mobilizing everywhere regarding the civilian casualties. American officialdoms said the civilian casualties in this major offensive is inevitable. And see, this is what happened: an errant American rocket strike on Sunday, 14th Feb 2010, hit a compound crowded with Afghan civilians, killing at least 12 people, including 5 children.

On Monday, 15th Feb 2010, NATO officials said an airstrike, unrelated to the Marja operation, killed five civilians and wounded two others. They were mistakenly believed to be planting roadside bombs in Kandahar province.

But somehow at this point in time US has taken the notice of civilian casualties and in order to avert the civilian casualties, today U.S. curtailed the use of airstrikes in assault on Marja.

Since this is something I again term as out-of-the-way, I thought I must share it. Simultaneously I just don’t think that in war the action should ever be divorced from the consequences. This is a war — a useless too — and civilian casualties are inevitable in the light of the situation. May the self proclaimed Godfather of Democracy and Justice realize it sooner than later.

Do’s & Dont’s With The Loans

Yet another financial dole of up to $1.3 billion for Pakistan in the 2009/10 fiscal year has been announced by the World Bank. Good, a lot of countries, mostly poor countries, in the world seek the support of World Bank; hence, Pakistan isn’t exceptional. Simultaneously, it’s always argued that poor countries can’t survive and modernize itself without money and advice from the foreign. Fine, this is a much acceptable statement, but under a ‘certain’ limit. Do you agree?

The World Bank, during the latest bankrolling process of $1.3 billion, also said that it’s much satisfied with Pakistan, and the frail security condition in Pakistan can’t deter the World Bank from supporting Pakistan. Despite all that, first thing first: how and when would we be able to pay off the heavy loans?

In Latin America, countries are paying off their World Bank loans early, cutting off ties with the Bank, and creating their own financing instruments to replace the world’s oldest multilateral lending agency. For example, countries like Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador and Venezuela have made efforts to break themselves free from the debt chains that tie them to these financial culprits. A couple of years before, Venezuela announced that it was paying off all its outstanding debt with the World Bank, totaling $3.3 billion. The then Venezuelan Minister of Finance said that because of this, “Venezuela is free, and thank God, neither today’s Venezuelans nor children yet to be born will owe one single cent to those organizations.”

When are we going to develop this sense of responsibility in the making of good future, I ask?

We’re constantly been bankrolled by the World Bank and different foreign countries. Despite that we’re receiving well enough financial doles for civil and military purpose from all over, we’re incapable of addressing many issues that need attention in order to be rectified through this money. Hence, to me, this much money is getting dwindled away from its actual worth. In all aspects, we’re at loss significantly.

A news caught my attention lately while I had in mind the new financial dole World Bank is bankrolling to Pakistan.

The news at New York Times was about the porous border of Afghanistan and Pakistan at Chaman’s side. Chaman is in Baluchistan, and quite a famous place due to the cheap smuggled items which can be bought from there easily. Coming to the point, I comprehended this news in a broader way. If anything, it’s actually not about the border region of Pakistan with Afghanistan only at the Chaman’s side. It’s generally about the whole Durand Line, unsecured and lawless. The news at New York Times with the title “Even Where Pakistani Law Exists, Taliban Find a Porous Border” states that:

The thick brown sack that a man named Abdulmalek carried over his shoulder on a recent afternoon might have contained anything: weapons, drugs or explosives. But crossing back and forth between Afghanistan and Pakistan was no problem, he said.

Afghan border guards never search him, even though he passes through this bustling crossing four or five times a week. “What searching?” said Mr. Abdulmalek, a 34-year-old clothing store owner who like many Afghans has only one name. “There is no searching.”

Other Afghans say they can easily enter Pakistan by bribing guards on either side of the border with the equivalent of less than a dollar, or by paying taxi drivers a similarly token amount to drive them across. The guards do not ask those in the taxi for identification or search the trunk.

Well, after reading all this, I ask: where are a lot of terrorists coming from? It’s officially said that some 50,000 to 60,000 Tajiks, Uzbeks, Chechens and Arabs are present in the lawless area of Pakistan, the FATA. On November 18th, 2009 I wrote: From where exactly these Tajiks, Uzbeks, Chechens and Arabs coming from? Exactly not tumbling from air whereby parachutes. Can we not spend finally and forever this much on stockading the Pakistan-Afghanistan border just like Iran has, lo and behold, started building a concrete wall on Pakistan-Iran 700 km border — and just like Pakistan-India border, which is almost 2,900 km long, is secured with walls, barbed wire fences and barricades stretch almost half the 2,900 km of boundary line.

Some issues remain inconspicuous despite that they’re more decisive than many other issues we’ve in Pakistan. Once we develop a fine strategy to minutely secure the Pakistan-Afghanistan border and use the funds we get from World Bank to stop the illegal touring of people on both sides of the border, we shall see a positive change resulting in the slashing of terrorism in Pakistan to a good extent. We’d have to pay off the loans anyway 10 or 20 years later depending on the conditions of World Bank; therefore, why not use the funds more prudently for a better future we could have after few years so that we can pay off our loans more early than it’s prescribed. There are few other issues besides, demanding a little attention for a better future. And that’s enough, paying off loans as early as we can will help us standing on our own feet, which goes to the shaping up of a better future.