KABUL, Afghanistan – The Taliban announced on Sunday that poppy cultivation has been banned in Afghanistan, a move that will have far-reaching consequences for the many farmers who have turned to the illegal harvest as a brutal drought and economic crisis hit the country. have a hold.
Mawlawi Abdul Salam Hanafi, the Prime Minister’s administrative deputy, 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 in attendance.
“All compatriots will be informed from the date of issue of this decree, poppy cultivation is absolutely prohibited throughout the country and no one can try to cultivate the plant,” said the decree issued by Taliban leader Haibatullah Akhundzada. “If anyone transgresses this, his cultivation will be destroyed and the violator 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 mounting international pressure over a series of decrees targeting women, including their ability to enter high school. to go to school.
The decree issued on Sunday also banned the use, sale, transfer, purchase, import and export of wine, heroin and other drugs.
After the Taliban overthrew the Western-backed government in August, the insurgents who were inducted into rulers expressed their intention to ban opium production, but shortly afterwards said there were no plans to stop or expand the cultivation. rowing. economic crisis.
Many farmers had planned some sort of ban after the return of the Taliban 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 Kandahar province, white-flowered poppy fields lined Highway 1, which runs through the region. The crop is mixed with wheat and grapes. The harvest is underway, with teams of workers cutting the bulbs and scraping the milky resin that will eventually be opium. Almost every farmer seems to have devoted part of his plots to the crop.
Poppy farmers in the area, considered the Taliban’s birthplace, said Sunday they were not aware of any kind of ban.
The Taliban have had a complicated relationship with the harvest. During the group’s first time in power, the group made several half-hearted attempts to limit opium before banning its cultivation on religious grounds in the late 1990s and 2000s. But after being overthrown after the US invasion in 2001, the Taliban turned to the harvest for funding, using the profits to fuel their war machine for two decades.
Safiullah Padshahi reported from Kabul, and Thomas Gibbons-Neff from Kharkov, Ukraine. Bryan Denton and Yaqoob Akbary contributed reporting from Kandahar, Afghanistan.