PAN, May 23, 2011

Police collecting opium tax in Uruzgan

Local police commanders allow the opening of a drug shop in the district bazaar in return for 100,000 Pakistani rupees

By Ahmad Omaid Khpalwak

Police in Afghanistan allow drug smuggling
(Photo: AFP)

Some policemen are collecting the opium tax from farmers while others are smuggling the drug in Deh Raud district of central Uruzgan province, residents alleged on Monday.

Checkpoint commanders charge the tax from opium growers in different areas of the district, a member of Deh Raud District Council told Pajhwok Afghan News on condition of anonymity.

Several police officials, who have opened shops in the area, prevent farmers from selling their opium to others. They are buying the drug at dirt-cheap prices, he said, suspecting senior officials of involvement in the sordid business.

"Each checkpoint commander is said to have extorted more than 100 kilograms of opium from the people. They are selling the narcotics at high prices," claimed a provincial council member and resident of the district, Jan Mohammad Karimi.

Local police commanders allow the opening of a drug shop in the district bazaar in return for 100,000 Pakistani rupees (52,566 afghanis), he charged.

"I have earned seven kilograms of opium after a few days of harvest. I have neither sold nor brought it home for fear of police extortion. The drug is being kept at my friend's house in the district," said Lal Gul, a resident of Tirinkot.

Without any reluctance, police grow the banned crop and take opium in tax, said Deh Raud district chief, Khalifa Saadat. "I have summoned checkpoint commanders time and again and directed them not to do such things, but they continue to..."

Tribal elders from the Hazak area have brought the problem to his notice, the district chief said, adding the gap between police and residents was increasing as a result of such acts.

However, district police chief Omar Khan denied the allegation as baseless, saying a policeman might have asked to people for the opium tax by way of joke. But the people have made an issue out of it.

"I have directed all policemen not to do such things. Anyone found involved in it, will be punished," he warned.

Officials collecting the tax would be brought to justice if proof is provided against them, said the provincial police chief, Col. Fazal Ahmad Sherzad.

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