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Pakistani Tribal Leaders Criticize West as Hypocritical for Opposing Opium


June 1993

Faced with pressure to change their traditional livelihood of opium poppy farming, Pathan tribal leaders criticized the West as hypocritical for demanding an end to poppy cultivation while continuing to manufacture liquor, bombs, missiles and other deadly products that are lucrative (Salamat Ali, "Opiate Of The Frontier: Pakistan's Tribes Find It Hard To Give Up Poppy Crop," Far Eastern Economic Review, 5/27/93, p. 18).

Pakistan has come under increasing pressure from the West to curtail poppy cultivation, although modest reductions in such cultivation there have more than been made up for by huge increases in poppy cultivation in neighboring Afghanistan. The poppy growing region of Pakistan borders Afghanistan, where enforcement measures ceased entirely after civil war broke out in the late 1970s. In Pakistan, the growers are from the Pathan tribe, which was legally permitted to grow opium in the past as long as it was sold to governmental authorities. Addiction has been relatively uncommon among the tribal cultivators, but there are an estimated 1.7 million heroin addicts in Pakistan.

Because the poppy regions are inaccessible by road, enforcement is almost impossible and adequate intelligence, other than that gathered by satellite, is unreliable. In addition, tribal poppy cultivators are heavily armed and have vowed to fight fiercely to protect their age-old livelihood. There is little optimism among international narcotics experts that opium production in Pakistan and Afghanistan can be meaningfully curtailed in the foreseeable future.