A total ban on the cultivation of opium in Afghanistan is not designed to win international recognition of the country's Taliban regime, the ruling militia's supreme leader Mulla Mohammad Omar said in a report Sunday, reported (AFP)
Omar told the official daily Anis newspaper that he ordered the ban last month only to reform Afghan society and control a rise in the number of opium and heroin addicts.
"The decree which the Islamic Emirate (Taliban) has issued is not for its recognition," the newspaper quoted Omar as saying.
"We have banned this thing with the sole intention of reforming the Afghan Muslim nation," he said, adding the Taliban had not been tempted or encouraged by external elements to do so.
Afghanistan last year emerged as the world's largest opium producer with a record yield of 4,600 tonnes.
However, a United Nations report last week said the country's opium crop dropped this year to 3,275 tonnes, marking a 28 percent decline.
The United Nations Drug Control Program annual opium survey confirmed poppy cultivation in 125 out of 344 districts in the country.
"The survey estimates that there were 82,172 hectares of land under poppy cultivation in the 2000 season, showing a 10 percent reduction" from 1999 season, the report said.
The survey also confirmed the opium-rich southern province of Helmand had the highest cultivation with 42,835 hectares of poppy followed by the eastern province of Nangarhar with 19,747 hectares.
Omar said the ban was declared because a limited number of people benefited while a large number suffered.
"You will repent if your minors become drug addicts," he said, adding poppy-growing provinces were in a poor social shape compared to the regions with no opium cultivation.
The ban of poppy was ordered in the national interest, he said. "It is your obligation to implement it," he told the paper.
"The ultimate provider is God the Almighty," Omar said, urging Afghanistani farmers to seek alternate means of survival.
Warning against disobedience, Omar told provincial governors and local administrators they would be held responsible if opium was cultivated in their areas.
Only Pakistan, Saudi Arabai and the United Arab Emirates recognize the Taliban regime, controlling most of the country.
The export of raw opium and heroin has been a major point of international criticism of the ruling religious regime, as well as the Taliban's poor human rights record and backing for Muslim militancy – (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com )