The political administration of Mohmand Agency is aggressively pursuing an anti-poppy drive in the agency. On Monday Yousaf Baba area bordering Malakand and Bajaur agencies was cleared of all standing crops of poppy.
While culling poppy crops with the help of khasadar and security forces, Lower Mohmand Assistant Political Agent (APA) Muhammad Naeem told The Express Tribune the drive has been going on for nearly a month and in the first phase poppy crop was cleared from 4,000 kanals of land in Ambar. The second phase was conducted in Pandiali while Yousaf Baba and its adjacent areas were being cleared in the third phase.
“In Yousaf Baba, we will destroy nearly 100 kanals in Karkanai and Suleman areas,” said Naeem. According to him, the ongoing drive is the first such campaign after nearly five years because militancy prevented the administration from carrying out such activities. This is why farmers in the agency have grown the crop on such a large scale, claimed Naeem.
The APA further said the political administration is providing wheat and vegetable seeds as well as fertilisers to the farmers, but they do not cultivate them, preferring to plant poppy which sells at a higher rate.
He added the government has also installed 15 food-processing plants in the agency to assist farmers in making tomato ketchup.
Residents, on the other hand, complain the administration only claims to provide seeds to them, but in reality the seeds are given to maliks; the farmers remain without any source of alternate income once their poppy crop is destroyed.
Gul Nazeer, 60, said 10 kanals of his poppy-cultivated land was destroyed by the administration. “One kanal produces two kilogrammes (kg) of opium, and one kg sells for Rs15-25,000. I’ve lost around Rs150,000 in profit. I do not know what I will do now to return the debts I had taken from shopkeepers in Charsadda,” said Nazeer.
He added he had not been given any seeds or fertilisers. The area even lacks irrigation channels. “When the government makes them, then we will cultivate off-season crops,” he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 22nd, 2014.
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