The Taliban on Sunday announced a ban on cultivating poppy flowers, which are used to make heroine, in a move seen as courting global approval while also putting farmers’ livelihoods at risk.
The order also forbids the production, use and transit of other narcotics.
“As per the decree of the supreme leader of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, all Afghans are informed that from now on, cultivation of poppy has been strictly prohibited across the country,” the Taliban’s supreme leader Haibatullah Akhundzada reportedly said at a news conference on Sunday.
Akhundzada’s order warned that “if anyone violates the decree, the crop will be destroyed immediately and the violator will be treated according to the Sharia law.”
Amid the Taliban’s pursuit of international recognition since its takeover of Kabul in August, foreign leaders have encouraged the Taliban to control narcotics Afghanistan, which is the world’s biggest opium producer.
But with Afghanistan’s economy on the brink of collapse, the ban could drive already impoverished farmers into more dire conditions.
A 2021 U.N. report said that income from opiates in Afghanistan was between $1.8 billion and $2.7 billion and noted that “much larger sums are accrued along illicit drug supply chains outside Afghanistan.”
The report added that Afghanistan accounted for some 85 percent of global opium production in 2020 and supplied 80 percent of all global opiate users.
Near the end of its last period ruling over Afghanistan around 2000, the Taliban banned the poppy production, also seen as an attempt at garnering international legitimacy.