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Friday, April 24, 2009

Syed Saleem Shahzad: Frontier wisdom

OAG: Afghanistan today is practically a narco state and it is not that we did not warn them [US] in 2003-04 on the record and I especially told them they were going to fail in Afghanistan, that they must not allow opium cultivation in Afghanistan. Ryan Crocker is a witness, Nancy Powell is a witness. In 2006, president Musharraf sent me to Washington and LA [Los Angeles] and I delivered talks on that. I predicted that they would fail because of two reasons. One, politically you got it wrong and, two, narcotics.

Let me explain the narcotics first. At that time when I gave them the warning there were 10,000 acres [4,000 hectares] under cultivation in Balochistan. I was then the governor of Balochistan. There were 28,000 acres in NWFP and 38,000 acres under cultivation in Afghanistan - this is United Nations data. Within two years in Balochistan, it was zero. They [US] would not believe us. They came and they surveyed for themselves and said, "You guys have done it!" I said that if we could, you could too. In FATA and the frontier region [NWFP], from 28,000 acres it came down to 4,000 acres. In Afghanistan it shot from 38,000 acres to over 400,000 acres [within two years from 2003-04 to 2005-06] and today Afghanistan is supplying over 93% of world demand for opium and heroin, these are United Nation figures, and it is valued at $38 billion per annum on the international market. Only three to four billion dollars comes back into Afghanistan and the rest goes into the hands of the international narco mafia.

Today, about 56% of Afghanistan's GDP [gross domestic product] is narco, it is practically a narco state. We warned them that if they allowed this two things would happen. One, you would provide a funding lifeline to the insurgency. This has happened now. And second, you would create such a massive vested interest of the international narco mafia, which is so powerful in the West, that with the local narco mafia in Afghanistan they would develop such a huge vested interest in continued conflict in Afghanistan that they would never allow Afghanistan to settle. And today that has happened, and now they are publically acknowledging that narcotics is the problem. Is Pakistan responsible for that?

Is it fueling the militancy? Last year we conducted, in September, an analysis that showed that about 15,000 militants in arms [in the Pakistani Tehrik-i-Taliban] on an average then, today it is more, were getting a 8,000 [US$100] to 10,000 rupees salary. Their rations were free. All their arms and ammunition were free. They were highly mobile with 4x4 off-roaders, diesel free, petrol free, everything was free. They had fantastic communication equipment, including satellite phones. So who was paying for them? We estimated that they were spending at least 20,000 rupees per person [per month]. A very conservative estimate, 20,000 times 15,000 men times 12 months equals a 3.6 billion rupees per annum budget.

We asked, "Where is this money coming from?" Pakistan has not given this money. no zakat [charity] or donation is going to raise that sort of money. Please tell us where this money is coming from. The route is Afghanistan. They, [US] talk about cross-border intrusions from Pakistan into Afghanistan. What about the reverse, which has been taking place for years, this ammunition, money, narco, everything is coming from Afghanistan.


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