Funds for the Taliban

Published: February 11, 2012

A paramilitary soldier keeps guard near a burning pile of drugs, set ablaze in observance of the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, in Quetta, southwest Pakistan June 26, 2011. PHOTO : REUTERS

The war on terror — and the terrifying fact that we may be losing it — has been discussed over and over again at all kinds of forums. The nature of guerilla warfare, the possible lack of genuine commitment to oust the Taliban, and the complications created by the porous nature of the border with Afghanistan have all been discussed at length. But the president, in his latest comment on the issue, has raised and often-ignored but relevant point. He has highlighted that the war on terror is closely linked to drug trafficking, and can only be won if this source of funding was cut off. The matter is one that has, we are told, been taken up at various international forums. However, it is in many ways surprising that this issue has not been raised with greater frequency within our own country, despite all the focus on militancy and the devastating impact it has had here. It would seem obvious that cutting off funding for the extremists could go a long way towards stopping them, or atleast hampering their activities. Given this, there needs to be a much greater focus on battling trafficking and eradicating the trade of heroin which continues from both Pakistan and Afghanistan, where, along the border, poppy continues to be grown.

There is another dimension to this. While the drug trade may be the chief source of funding for the Taliban, they have through the years, also established links with criminal gangs involved in bank robberies, kidnapping for ransom and other such activities. This keeps the money flowing in and so action to end militancy must then be tied in with a wider drive against law and order. The need to stop drug trafficking exists not just because of the Taliban link but also because it will save the millions who have become addicted to the white powder which is responsible for evil of many kinds. One hopes that the governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan will work together on this pressing issue to fight a malaise that afflicts both their people.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 11th, 2012.


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