29 Oct 2017
Writer: Ali Arash

No transparency in counter narcotics

Seized drugs are set on fire but the government has been trying to persuade the UN to allow legal usage of the confiscated contraband.

Information provided by the justice and judicial centre for counter narcotics and liquor to Killid reveals the government has confiscated and destroyed more than 50 tonnes of heroin, 132.5 tonnes of morphine, 474 tonnes opium and 891 tonnes hashish over the past 12 years.
It is hard to estimate the value of the confiscated narcotics since prices fluctuate from year to year.
The Ministry of Counter Narcotics estimates the price of one tonne could be one million USD. The ministry has been lobbying to use the confiscated narcotics for medical purposes. But the authority to sell is within the ambit of the UN – the international board that takes the decision has not arrived at a decision.

Zabihullah Dayem, the legal advisor in the Ministry of Counter Narcotics told Killid the government has been trying to get permission for more than one decade.
Afghanistan is a member of the international board of control over narcotics of the United Nations. There are now six countries including India and Turkey that are legally permitted to trade in narcotics.
How much would be enough to put on the market? Can Afghanistan ensure transparency in the process?
Mubarez Rashedi, the former minister of counter narcotics believes that Afghanistan will find it hard to get a permit. Insecurity and lack of transparency in the process of confiscation are the main problems. According to Rashedi, in the current situation where Afghanistan is faced with the twin challenge of being both a producer and consumer of narcotics the plea to legalise trade is not tenable.
He is convinced the UN board will never give the Afghan government permission, and lack of security and stability will be cited as reasons. He too believes that the war, porous borders and failure of law enforcement are the main obstacles in the way. He thinks that abuse of the privilege would not be unexpected.
Rashedi, former minister of counter narcotics, says that narcotics has a direct link with terrorism. The UN wants to see farms cultivating poppy eliminated. Hence, allowing Afghanistan to legally sell narcotics would be a contradiction.

There are no specific figures for confiscated narcotics by the security forces before 2005 but records exist after the establishing of the justice and judicial centre for counter narcotics and liquor.
The centre has kept track of drugs confiscated and burnt. Khaled Moahed, head of the publication department, shared figures with Killid.
Based on the information, 7,500 individuals including the staff of public services, women and expatriates mostly Iranian and Pakistani nationals, have been arrested. In addition, over the past 12 years, scores of illegal narcotics distilling laboratories have been busted, 500 different types of weapons seized,
Narcotics that is confiscated by security forces is collected in zones and between 15 and 30 tonnes is burned by the government. There are concerns about the lack of transparency in the process but Khaled Moahed, the spokesperson, says that the confiscated narcotics is burned in the presence of representatives of the attorney general office, justice and judicial centre for counter narcotics, national department of security and provincial police headquarters.
He added that as well as government representatives, media and civil society representatives also monitor the process of burning drugs.
The government makes a bonfire of most of the confiscated narcotics valued at many million dollars. This has created a strange situation: the centre is faced with an acute shortfall in its budget.
The US is reported to have spent 155 million USD on alternative livelihoods for Afghan farmers between 2006 and 2015. Also one million USD is being spent on a public awareness campaign. The government's budget changes from year to year.
The deputy minister of counter narcotics, Jawed Ahmad Qayem, says 500,000 USD was allocated this fiscal year for public awareness. He adds awareness programmes are being launched to sensitise youths about the perils of addiction to drugs.
Salamt Azimi, minister of counter narcotics told Killid the government has set aside 6 million USD for "encouraging packages". Moreover, roughly 3 million USD are spent each year on the treatment of drug addicts through the Ministry of Public Health.
The minister of counter narcotics says the budget to counter drugs is far from adequate considering the size of the Afghan market. The drug business is an estimated 70 billion USD each year.
The office of Abdul Jalil Bakhtiari, deputy minister of counter narcotics in the Ministry of Interior Affairs, did not respond to efforts to get information.
Opium cultivation has spiraled upwards this year.
Authorities in the Ministry of Counter Narcotics say a status report will be soon published. They say that where there is insecurity, opium farming has spread.
A 2016 UN Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC) report assesses the rise at 43 percent over the previous year.


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