Tribal cooperation: Growers decimate poppy fields in Tor Ghar district

Published: May 6, 2012

DPO claims that up to 97% of the area has already been cleared. ILLUSTRATION: MUHAMMAD SUHAIB

MANSEHRA: 

Tor Ghar district’s administration has launched an anti-poppy drive to destroy the crop in different villages, District Police Officer Naqibullah Khan said on Friday.

Security has been tightened with police and levies posted in the area to avoid any scuffles. Khan, however, said that no resistance was expected this time around as tribal elders have agreed to cooperate with the authorities.

Tor Ghar was known till last year as Kala Dhaka (Black Mountain) and was a provincially administered area. It is now a district of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

Farmers had continued sowing poppy not knowing it was illegal under the law of the land, an official said. Since it was a cash crop and a source of livelihood for centuries, farmers belonging to Mada Khel, Basi Khel and Nusrat Khel tribes continued with the practice in most of the remote and hilly villages.

At least 19 of the personnel from police and levies forces were suspended by the home department after an inquiry report by Hazara Division Commissioner Khalid Khan Umerzai claimed them to be amongst the growers from the Mada Khel tribes.

When authorities came to destroy the banned crop for their reinstatement, other villagers from the same tribe clashed with the police. Three personnel were injured while a naib tehsildar was taken hostage but later released.

However, farmers of the Mada Khel tribe later agreed to a decision of the local jirga to destroy the crop, DPO Khan said.

Farmers from the Basi Khel and Nusrat Khel tribes had also been convinced through a jirga to destroy their poppy crops voluntarily. “They are destroying the crops on their own, with police and levies officials also taking part in the operation,” Naqibullah Khan said.

Khan added that 97% of the areas had been cleared, while the remaining was expected to be cleared within the next couple of days. He, however, dodged questions about the total area under cultivation, only saying that poppy was being grown in several villages.

He said the government was not giving any additional incentives besides initiating development schemes as per the promise of the provincial government, which has pledged Rs4 billion for the Tor Ghar district.

Khan added that since the farmers were destroying their crop voluntarily, no cases would be registered against them. Farmers from all the tribes have also agreed not to grow the crop again.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 6th, 2012.

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