Encounter in Torghar: ‘Centuries-old’ livelihood of poppy cultivation to end

Published: April 9, 2012

Tribesmen in Torghar district to ‘voluntarily’ destroy their crop after a fall out with police. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

MANSEHRA: 

Authorities claim to have convinced poppy growers in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s Torghar district to voluntarily destroy their crop after parleys were arranged between local political leaders and the district administration, and local tribesmen.

District Police Officer Naqibullah Khan told The Express Tribune on Sunday: “We have succeeded in persuading the tribal elders of the Madakhel area to voluntarily destroy the banned crop – and I hope they won’t resist now,” Khan said, adding that the talks were arranged following an incident where police personnel were attacked.

Levies and police contingents had to suspend an anti-poppy crop operation in the Maira Madakhel area on Thursday when villagers attacked them with stones, according to official sources. The villagers also took two revenue officials hostage, who were later set free after the intervention of the district administration. Three constables received critical injuries in the encounter, and were later taken to the Oghi hospital for treatment.

The Madakhel tribe had been growing the crop over a vast area of land in Torghar. Earlier, at least 19 police and Levies officials were suspended from their jobs by the home department when it was proved that they had been cultivating poppy. It was also reported that apart from the officials, there were over 50 other farmers who were growing the banned crop.

The district administration had asked the tribesmen to destroy the crop voluntarily and given them seven days to do so – but they were reluctant to obey the directive without incentives and assurances for a livelihood alternative, claiming that they had been growing poppy in the region for centuries.

In order to pacify the tribesmen, the divisional administration had, two weeks back, announced Rs5 million for the poppy growers and offered seeds and fertilisers for alternative crops.

The govt had also announced Rs4 billion for development schemes in the newly-created district. The locals, however, claimed that the government had cheated them while changing the status of Kala Dhaka, formerly a Frontier Region, to a settled district. They claimed that the government had signed a 23 point agreement with the tribes assuring them of several incentives including the enforcement of Sharia and keeping the jirga system intact, but then had backtracked on its promises. It was after this alleged retraction from their original promises that the encounter between the police and locals took place.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 9th, 2012.

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