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An Apparent Deal & A Denial

From Imperialist Britain to erstwhile Soviet Union, almost all the major global powers have invaded Afghanistan, time and again, mainly for poppy and opium. After returning to Power for the second time in the last two decades, the Taliban announced that it would ban the illicit trade of opium. However, they have changed their mind, as reports suggest that the Taliban have successfully attracted foreign investment due to Afghanistan’s natural resources. The Taliban-led Government in Kabul recently announced that it signed a deal with Australian pharmaceutical company, Cpharm, for setting up a Cannabis Centre in the war-ravaged South Asian Nation.

Speaking at a media conference in Kabul in the last week of November 2021, Taliban Press Director Saeed Khosty confirmed the news, saying: “All the stages of the contract with Cpharm have been completed and in a few days, the project will be officially launched which will create jobs for many citizens.” According to the Taliban official, the proposed venture would attract investment to the tune of USD 450 million. “Afghanistan’s deputy narcotics minister met Cpharm’s representative on November 23 in this regard,” stressed Khosty.

Meanwhile, a senior spokesperson of Cpharm, which produces medicinal cannabis cream, claimed that the Taliban-led Afghan Government would give them access to thousands of acres of land for cannabis crops. “Afghanistan has 6,000 acres of land for cannabis cultivation and Cpharm needs 5,000 acres,” said the spokesperson, reportedly. Later, the Australian officials rejected the claim made by the Taliban Press Director, stating that Cpharm signed no such deal with the terror outfit.

It may be noted that soon after taking control of Afghanistan in August 2021, the Taliban Authorities had announced that they would crack down on the illicit drugs trade. In October, Kandahar’s Taliban Governor Yussef Wafa stated that the Government started arresting drug users, and also ordered farmers not to grow cannabis or opium poppies. However, poppy and hashish (cannabis) cultivators in the country did not notice any real change in Taliban’s attitude towards them. The cultivators are of the opinion that the Taliban are well aware of the fact that cannabis and opium crops are significant sources of revenue for the country. Even the hardliner group used to depend on cannabis and opium crops for money that they had used in fighting decades-long war against the US Forces in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan is famous for producing a huge amount of cannabis and manufacturing methamphetamine in local ephedra plants. The South Asian country, the world’s largest opium producer, accounted for 85% of the global production in 2020. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) stated in its latest report that opium production in Afghanistan increased by 8% in 2021. However, the land for poppy cultivation has decreased. As per the UNODC report, the collapse of Afghanistan’s economy would boost the drugs trade. “The current contraction of licit economic opportunities makes households even more vulnerable to engaging in illicit activities,” it added.

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