IN what could be called a welcome development, the Taliban regime in Afghanistan has issued a decree banning the cultivation of opium poppy.
Announcing the decision at a news conference, the group’s supreme leader Haibatullah Akhunzada said if anyone violates the decree, the crop will be destroyed immediately and the violator will be treated according to the Shariah law.
The production, use or transport of other narcotics was also banned. Drug control has been one major demand of the international community to the Taliban, which took over the country in August last year and is seeking formal international recognition in order to wind back sanctions that are severely hampering banking, business and development.
Poppy cultivation is a key revenue source for many impoverished farmers in the country which has seen relative peace since the US-led foreign forces withdrew after 20 years of war and occupation.
Afghanistan’s opium production, which the United Nations (UN) estimated was worth $1.4bn at its height in 2017 – had increased in recent months.
By bringing faster and higher returns than legal crops such as wheat, opium poppy cultivation became for farmers a way to survive amid a dire economic situation.
In this backdrop, responsibility rests with the international community to help the new Afghan regime implement this decision in letter and spirit.
Whilst the US through its bombings failed to eradicate opium cultivation in the country, the Taliban during their last rule more than two decades back had successfully banned the poppy cultivation.
This can be done again if the international community comes forward and extends financial support to the Afghan farmers to grow other cash crops.
As the Taliban is trying to assuage international concerns, it is also for the world to demonstrate openness and cooperate with it to deal with the humanitarian and economic crisis.
According to the UN, about twenty three million Afghans are struggling with acute food shortages.
Turning back to their woes will only descend the country back into chaos which will not benefit either the regional countries or the world at large.
Sanctions do not work. It is only through the process of engagement the country can be taken in the right direction.