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Court can't cure Afghan drug woes

Court can't cure Afghan drug woes

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has declared it his nation's biggest problem. The international community has poured billions of dollars into the country to combat what they see as the greatest threat to Afghanistan's stability.
And yet, despite all the money and concern, Afghanistan today is producing more opium than ever before, flooding the world with inexpensive and readily available heroin.
How is that possible?
Most blame rampant corruption among police and the courts for the continuing failure to prosecute growers and drug traffickers.
Even the establishment in 2005 of a special court, intended specifically to try major traffickers, has failed to make a dent in the flow of illegal drugs.
The court falls under the oversight of the Afghan Ministry of Counter-Narcotics. Judges and lawyers and law enforcement officials associated with the court receive special training lasting from three weeks to two months.
At present, the unit has a staff of 141, including 22 judges, 55 attorneys and 64 police officers.
"Given the present situation, Afghanistan needs an organ or institution that can act independently and over a broad spectrum to address this important problem," said Zalmai Afzali, a spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Counter-Narcotics. "The regular courts could also deal with these issues, but we are trying to speed up the trial procedure for drug dealers."
Court practices
The court only deals with major drug cases, according to Mohammad Zaman Sangari, who oversees the count's operations
"This court is composed of two parts - a lower court and an appeals court," he explained. "We deal with those who are arrested with more than two kilograms of heroin or cocaine, more than 10 kilos of poppy paste or with more than 50 kilos of hash. Those caught with smaller amounts go through the regular court system."
To date, 349 people have been arrested for drug trafficking, of whom 317 have already been tried and sentenced, Sangari said.
Afghan General Daoud Daoud, the deputy interior minister in charge of counter-narcotics, acknowledged that public officials are among those who have been arrested.
"We cannot deny that there are people inside the government who are allies of the drug traffickers, but we are trying to purge them from the system," he said.
Fast track
Daoud insisted that the new court system had accelerated the process of apprehending and convicting smugglers.
"We are serious about this problem," he said. "We will root out this phenomenon, and no one will be granted immunity."
But even some of those involved with the anti-narcotic campaign have their doubts.
"Smugglers are able to free themselves by giving money to judges and prosecutors, and even to the special court," said Afghan General Khudaidad, who the deputy minister of counter-narcotics and who, like many Afghans, goes by only one name.
"The judges and lawyers in this court did not fall from the sky," said Nabi Assir, a political analyst in Mazar-e-Sharif. "They are a part of this corrupt system and they are out to make more money. Smugglers are the richest class in Afghan society, and they can easily free themselves from any kind of charge or arrest."
Others complain the anti-narcotic unit lacks the equipment needed to interdict drug traffickers.
"We cannot cope with the smugglers; they have the best cars and we can't even chase them in our old jeeps," said Afzali, the court's spokesman.
But Sangari insists that the drug court is making progress.
"All of our trials are conducted according to the law. We are committed to the law," he said. "The judges and lawyers in our court have taken many exams, and honesty is the No. 1 criterion for working here."
Sayed Yaqub Ibrahimi is a journalist in Mazar-e-Sharif who writes for The Institute for War & Peace Reporting.


Updated : 2021-10-18 23:15 GMT+08:00