FC man killed in clash with tribes over poppy
ISLAMABAD: One Frontier Corps (FC) man was killed when tribesmen in Pakistan’s south-western province of Balochistan, on the border with Afghanistan, opened fire on paramilitary troops trying to destroy their poppy fields, Brig Sikander Ali of Pakistan’s Anti-Narcotics Division told journalists here, saying: “the clash took place on 26 April.”
“We know these tribesmen have these types of weapons due to their location and proximity to the border,” he said.
The incident took place in the Pinakai Valley in Gulistan district. Local newspapers reported that weapons such as Kalashnikov rifles, mortars and rocket launchers were used.
The poppy eradication campaign, which started on April 15, was concentrated in Qila Abdullah, 70 kilometres from Quetta, where about 90 percent crop was growing. “Obviously there will be resistance, but we are taking this matter seriously and we have to eradicate the fields,” Brig Ali pledged.
Haji Wali Muhammad, a tribal elder, told IRIN from Gulistan that farmers in the region turned to poppy cultivation because of a lack of infrastructure and a dearth of national or international assistance. “There are no schools; the hospital is not working and drought has destroyed our orchards,” he said.
“A severe drought for the past few years has hit the local fruit orchards,” Mr Muhammad maintained. He said most of the farmers were willing to destroy their opium crop provided they received assistance in return.
So far the authorities have destroyed 1,100 acres of poppy fields. “These are approximate figures, as this is also the first time that poppy has been reported to be growing in this province,” he observed.
Afghanistan is currently the largest producer of opium in the world, with 70 percent of the opium and heroin reaching European markets originating from it, despite the fact that the Taliban had banned opium production fairly successfully. According to estimates, there were around 79,000 hectares of opium-poppy cultivation in Afghanistan in 2002. —IRIN