Kabul — The Taliban’s supreme leader on Sunday ordered a ban on poppy cultivation in Afghanistan, warning that the hardline Islamist government would crack down on farmers planting the crop.
Afghanistan is the world’s biggest producer of poppies, the source of sap that is refined into heroin, and in recent years its production and exports have only boomed.
“All Afghans are informed that from now on cultivation of poppy has been strictly prohibited across the country,” said a decree issued by Supreme Leader Hibatullah Akhundzada.
The decree was read out by government spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid at a gathering of reporters, foreign diplomats and Taliban officials.
“If anyone violates the decree the crop will be destroyed immediately and the violator will be treated according to the sharia law,” it added.
It is not the first time the fundamentalist group has vowed to outlaw the trade. Production was banned in 2000, just before the group was overthrown by US-led forces in the wake of the September 11 attacks.
During their 20-year insurgency against foreign forces, the Taliban heavily taxed farmers cultivating the crop in areas under their control.
It became a key resource for the group to generate funds.
The United States and NATO forces tried to curb poppy cultivation during their two decades in Afghanistan by paying farmers to grow alternative crops such as wheat or saffron.