Karzai: A poppy Raja
THE United Nations' Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has expressed concern at unabated cultivation of poppy in Afghanistan. The organisation claims that one seventh (about 14 per cent) of Afghan population is involved in opium production. It is alleged that the profits from drug trade finance the Taliban-led insurgency. It is suggested that poppy eradication would automatically exterminate the insurgency. Deprived of drug-generated funds, the Taliban would no longer be able to sustain their fight.
The essence of UNODC's policy is that there is a causal (a priori or cause and effect relation) between poppy cultivation and the ongoing insurgency.
Karzai's handpicked provincial governors have been made responsible eradication of poppy. These governors have been feeding fictitious figures to the UN agencies about their landmark achievements in rooting out poppy cultivation at its various stages. These focal nodal prodigies have created the euphoria that Karzai-controlled provinces are poppy-free.
Aside from euphoric reviews, the factual position is that poppy cultivation in Afghanistan is flourishing by leaps and bounds. The governors are motivated more by self-interest than by national objectives. They are minting money from all quarters, including India's intelligence agency, Research and Analysis Wing. The RAW is interested in turning influential Afghans against Pakistan, and planting insurgents in Pakistan-Afghanistan border areas, than in poppy eradication. The RAW understands that there is no single failsafe panacea for eradicating the curse of poverty. Exterminating the menace of poppy lies outside the RAW's mandate.
Aside from the RAW's machinations, the problem of poppy cultivation calls for a closer look in a multi-dimensional perspective. Afghanistan has a predominantly agrarian economy. Opium production contributes 35 per cent of Afghanistan's Gross Domestic Product while cereal crops only about 27 per cent. There is no industrial structure to name, despite its tall claims, India has not been able to lay tangible industrial infrastructure to boost Afghan economy.
Afghanistan is the world's fifth least developed country and the poorest in Asia. In terms of Maslow's hierarchy of needs, majority of the country's population is concerned about physical needs (food, clothing and shelter). Poppy cultivation is the main avenue of physical security. There is a symbiotic relation between the people's needs for socio-economic security and poppy cultivation. Majority of population is preoccupied with how to survive by ensuring food security by getting employed in poppy cultivation. Yet, they find it difficult to meets ends meet. The UNODC's observation that about 14 per cent of Afghans are employed in poppy cultivation does not reflect the reallife situation.
The agricultural-production system is mostly dependent on seasonal rainfall and poor water-management. As such, productivity per hectare is low. The centuries-old traditional cultivation system impedes their economic progress. The system if pivoted on salaam that is cash advance given on security of future crop yield. Poppy is the favourite crop by way of security rather than wheat, black cumin or some other crop. Karzai could veritably be termed a poppy raja because of his lack of interest in poppy eradication. He and his governors look like custodians of poppy-growing lands. How could he and his coterie axe their own object of interest? Even if his poppy income fluctuates owing to vagaries of weather, the RAW would be at his side to recoup shortfall in his income.