Illicit drug production: Balochistan madrassa students harvest poppy on holidays

Published: August 5, 2011
Children are routinely engaged by Afghan farmers for poppy cultivation. PHOTO: REUTERS/FILE

Children are routinely engaged by Afghan farmers for poppy cultivation. PHOTO: REUTERS/FILE


Afghanistan, as of March 2010, is the largest illicit opium producer of the world, ahead of Burma, and Pakistan has a clinical role to play in this statistic.

In 2007, Afghanistan produced an extraordinary 8,200 tonnes of opium (34% more than in 2006), becoming practically the exclusive supplier of the world’s deadliest drug (93% of the global opiates market), according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Afghanistan Opium Survey 2007.

(Read: “The Global Afghan Opium Trade – A Threat Assessment”)

Being one of the world’s largest opium and heroin producer, the labour demand needed to cater to this extensive poppy harvesting and cultivation is met in an invariably peculiar way.

Hundreds of madrassa students from Chaman and adjoining tribal regions of Balochistan are engaged by Afghan farmers for poppy cultivation in Afghanistan’s two major heroin-producing provinces of Helmand and Kandahar for the past three months.

These Pakistani madrassa students rush to the Afghan provinces with strongholds of the Taliban, on lucrative money-making projects as soon as their madrassas are closed in the first week of June for the three-month summer holidays.

“It is a source of easy money for madrassa students,” says Saifur Rehman, a local social worker of Ziarat who is well acquainted with many in the poppy harvesting workforce.

“Each student makes around $15 to $20 a day,” Rehman reveals.

“They are being paid in the local Afghani currency which has gained strength against the Pakistani rupee in recent months.

“Most students returned home with $1,500 to $2,000 after the harvesting season last year.” Muslim scholars in Afghanistan remain divided regarding the issue of poppy cultivation and its harvesting in Afghanistan. A majority of these scholars declare poppy production against the Islamic injunctions but a few of them disagree and argue that it was permitted in Islam for medical purposes.

However, all of them remain unanimous that heroin production is forbidden in Islam.

Despite the debates, no serious effort is being undertaken by these scholars to prevent the students from engaging in poppy harvesting in Helmand and Kandahar.

(Read: Strengthen border controls around Afghanistan to end drug trade, UN)

“A few of the workers even fell unconscious during harvesting since they were not properly trained for the job,” Rehman says.

Poppy harvesting became the main source of livelihood for many Afghan and Pakistani families since the fall of the Taliban regime after the US and Nato attacks in September 11, 2001.

A 2007 UN report revealed that leaving aside 19th century China, which had a population at that time 15 times larger than today’s Afghanistan, no other country in the world had ever produced narcotics on such a deadly scale.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 5th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (23)

  • Mirza
    Aug 5, 2011 - 8:10AM

    Badnam honge to kiya naam no ho ga?
    It is a matter of great pride that the Muslims of that part of the world have monopoly in opium and heroine production and smuggling. The fact that the madarsa students make $1500 to $2000 only in the summer break, should act as a magnet for their families. Finally, Pakistani students are learning multitasking. They go to madarsa to learn religion, make money in summer and the wage jihad when still in their teens! These students are number one in the world in terms of use of guns, bombs, beheadings, opium, heroine, blowing themselves and others and similar acts.


  • My Name is Khan
    Aug 5, 2011 - 9:34AM

    But it’s okay if it’s in the name of religion they say! What a joke. These people are not “good holy people” but sick monsters who do whatever they want and brand it with the name of religion thereby defaming the religion itself and all the honest, peaceful people who believe in it.

    Unless the good guys like us are willing to shut these idiots and lunatics down, they will turn Pakistan into another Afghanistan.


  • Khushdil Khan
    Aug 5, 2011 - 10:30AM

    There are three factors which is of concern.
    1. World most powerful nations along with their mighty armies are present in Afghanistan. The growth of poppy on vast track of areas in Afghanistan and its mark increase in the production cannot go un-noticed. It has to be the connivance or too inept forces not to see the growth and take action.
    2. UN is too naive or hand in glove with these mighty powers to stop the growth of poppy. Where is the famous term “DO MORE”.
    3. Contra case is not so old that people have forgotten it. Is the war effort being funded by the poppy growth in view of debt crisis of US.
    Pakistan could not see one man hiding in 180 million people and is accused of complicity. How can be believe in open growth of opium with out collusion.


  • Iftikhar-ur-Rehman
    Aug 5, 2011 - 10:40AM

    This all is happening during the occupation of Afghanistan by USA and NATO !! So who is responsible for this? USA and NATO!!!! Easy way to make extra money by the soldiers and Generals and maybe easy way to get out of economic crisis America is facing these days


  • abbas
    Aug 5, 2011 - 10:49AM

    MashAllah MashAllah what a service to Islam by our Madrassas. Keep it up!!! u hav mentaly runied pple now ruin health wise what a big deal. You won’t eat pork being haraam but ofcourse earnings from poppy are halaal, Right???


  • Salma
    Aug 5, 2011 - 1:42PM

    I was very happy to see someone highlighting an important issue related to children but “as soon as their madaras are closed in the first week of June for the three-month summer holidays” this one sentence in the article makes me wonder how this analysis was done and where the information was obtained from because I am from Balochistan and in most of Balochistan it is a winter break for three months…(summer break is only for a week or two). Can the writer please explain.


  • Ahmad
    Aug 5, 2011 - 3:39PM

    how many madrassas are involved? are the madrassas really invovled or the students go in provate capacity?? since it is their holidays?? i guess no background information makes this just a sensational story!!..maligning madrassaa as usual is the favorite pass time of our intelligent & with the time media people & journalists :(


  • Gul Khan
    Aug 5, 2011 - 3:43PM

    I do not know why the readers blindly believe on ET columns. Whatever the writer has said does not have any basis and untrue.


  • J Oberoi
    Aug 5, 2011 - 6:43PM

    I don’t think it is the fault of the Madrassas. When you’re talking about $1500-$2000 for a 3-week stint, it is big money in the region. You can hardly find fault with the children or their parents for letting them do the work. They have mouths to feed and there is not too much gainful employment opportunities in the region. The West has to take responsibility on this matter too. They have to educate their children about the horrors of drug addiction. They cannot keep pointing fingers. If they kill demand everything else will sort itself out.


  • ahmed
    Aug 5, 2011 - 7:30PM

    I wonder how deep into Balochistan our journalists go to dig up those facts? Is it just from a safe neighborhood in Quetta or maybe Islamabad?


  • Ali Mardan
    Aug 5, 2011 - 10:00PM

    @ Gul Khan
    Khan sahib ! why are trying to make people fool? you can hide the truth. Can you hide sunlight with your hands? yes, but just for your own face not for all people. Go and visit Helmand you’ll see what is going on there. These Talibans are trading poppy for weapons and hundreds and thousands of them are also addicted to opium. Poppy cultivation and making herion from its derivative and its trade is not “Haram” according to their faith, since they are cultivating it for medicinal purposes ….. what a joke !!! how many pharmaceutical companies are working in Afghanistan?


  • Cautious
    Aug 5, 2011 - 10:31PM

    Great example of how far the “religion of peace” has fallen. Where is the outrage? Why isn’t this news fodder for the nightly TV shows? It’s the darker side of terrorism — whether it’s the Taliban or IRA — they will justify any activity to provide funding for the “cause” and their supporters will turn a blind eye.


  • Niazi
    Aug 5, 2011 - 11:04PM

    a famous proverb in pashto whose theme is like this that when Mullah saib says some thing then follow that and do not adopt what Mulah saib is doing.
    Actually the problem is lack of education, poverty etc are the main causes of all these as we are observing. Madrasas are the places where the children of poor people getting a piece of bread in free in the current era. believe me those are not sending their children to Madrasses who have another way to educate them. as long as i know those are standing in the line of Taliban are jobless people. they have to fed their children by hook or by crook. The current government here in Afghanistan or similar in Pakistan are failed to provide jobs for common people.


  • NY
    Aug 5, 2011 - 11:37PM

    @ Mirza: Seriously Dude… I mean r u for Real?
    @ Khushdil Khan: I totally agree with U.
    I mean is it the fault of Madrassa… “After Madrassas Close for summmer/ Winter break” (Figure out which break u mean first), its not the responsibility of Madrassas whr the children go. its the parents responsibility so plz stop blaming ur religious institutions for every thng.
    Like Mis Salma and Mr Ahmed I raise the same questions. Whr the ressearch was conducted? who conducted the research? and How authentic is ur data and analysis?
    @ Abbas: Its clearly stated after the Madrassas clsoe down for break… Read carefully.
    First it was Madrassas in Swat… many Innocents kids were killed… I know many ppl who actually go to Swat k Madrassas and learn the teaching of Qura’n not how to use arms or how to make bombs… So first it was SWAT (try losing very important and dear family members just bcuz we get AID if we wage the so called war against Terror) and now its Baloushistan… So whats Next?


  • NY
    Aug 5, 2011 - 11:39PM

    Even the title is wrong… It should be sumthng like children in Balouchistan go to Afghan to earn money while harvesting Opium… this would raise issue of Child Labour and Unemployment in the country… Please rase important issues which will solve our Country problems not mark it as a TERRORISTS Country… PLZ


  • adam
    Aug 5, 2011 - 11:56PM

    take it this way, they doing bad very bad, and i suggest, harsh punishment. Nobody on earth can justify this either livelihood or in the name of religion. However, what about those who making bombs and atom bombs, any one has the courage to speek about those states who produced atomic weapons. If they produced it, then it means a time will come when they will kill million or billions. Don’t be just misguided that popy is more dangerous than atom bombs and other weapons, you have a choice here, don’t use the products produced by popy, liqur, tobaco etc are also bad, but govt all over the world have just advising not under age sale, harm to health, etc, they never killed those who producing it.


  • adam
    Aug 6, 2011 - 12:01AM

    @Gul Khan, you are not really khan, you are something like Kapoor or singg, don’t fake your self for merely to put a comment to prove that in Khanz defending it.. not a good business.


  • adam
    Aug 6, 2011 - 12:11AM

    Dear all opportunists, don’t jump to conclusions to spread hatter across the boarders and religions. Your intellectual comments are doing more than the poppies. Don’t be so shameless to generalize one incidence and declare a country or religion a hub of crimes. Try to digest the opportunity you got, then think and rethink before commenting and tell people who are users of drugs and prostitutes. Don’t be so shy to tell that what’s going on in your streets and along boarders, as the days are not far away when the poor people along the coasts, boarders and mountains start marching cities in search of those who did not invested back on them in return of what they exploited. note it down.


  • JB
    Aug 6, 2011 - 6:00AM

    $1500 to $2000 a month. That is just awesome.


  • Via Dehli
    Aug 6, 2011 - 10:24AM

    Question: What is the difference between a poverty stricken people doing what they can to survive and one of the world’s wealthiest people striving to develop drone and other weapon technology so that they can keep the upper hand over the rest of the world?
    Answer: Nothing

    Forget about religion, economics, culture etc . . . this is human nature. If the shoe was on the other foot, the same drama would be played out.


  • Siddiqui
    Aug 6, 2011 - 1:46PM

    It’s totally a false story. And the author knows too little knowledge to engineer a story. Any unbiased Balochistani will confirm
    1. Madressahs don’t have seasonal vacations rather theyclose in Ramadan
    2. Even the schools inthis region have winter vacations not summer vacation
    3. $2000 for three weeks,impractical the region has a ver high unemployment rate from Quetta to Kabul. You would get tens of thousands of adult labour for 100 $ only

    Seems the autthor has only one source whom he might have met in some safe heaven in khi or isb
    Please bring some genuine work, it’s destroying your image


  • Aug 11, 2011 - 12:21AM

    Even if the study/report is not a real research work and author has cooked it pointing out certain possibilities, Government of Pakistan should take notice of the issue and never let a single example ruin the Madrassa, School, Islam, and/or Pakistan.

    The author must be investigated with facts he pointed out and rewarded with appreciation or whatever if true, or punished if wrong. In later case, he is a public culprit and deserve strict obligations against his exaggerations.


  • Iftikhar-ur-Rehman
    Aug 11, 2011 - 9:39AM

    @Dr. Bashir Ahmad:
    Agree with you 100%


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