The central government has decided to cultivate cannabis in Mouza Lokot area adjacent to Murree Expressway, Haripur district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and Mirpur Sakro area of Thatta district in Sindh, however, people of Tirah and Orakzai have raised objections, urging the government to legalise cannabis cultivation as these valleys are famous of this crop all over the world, but still, they were ignored by the government.
The only source of income of 70-year-old Satori Gul Afridi of Tirah Barqambar Khel Valley is cannabis cultivation on his two acres of land. He said that for the last several generations, they have been cultivating cannabis in the area. He said the government’s decision to legalize cannabis cultivation would benefit only a few people who would be issued permits, while the farmers who are associated with this crop would be deprived of its benefits.
The International Center for Chemical and Biological Sciences (ICCBS) at Karachi University oversees the cultivation of cannabis in Pakistan. The central government estimates that 1 billion dollar annual foreign exchange earned from legal cannabis crop. The center has also expressed disagreement with the government’s announcement, saying the chemicals required from the cannabis plant can be obtained only when the crop has adequate climate and suitable soil.
Dr. Lal Badshah Mehsud, Assistant Professor in the Department of Botany, University of Peshawar, says that the areas identified by the Central Government for cannabis cultivation have a suitable climate for the crop and high levels of chemicals required in medicines. It is not possible to achieve quality pr. He said that hemp is a plant that can give better results in temperate zones, which means that it should be grown at least 4,000 feet above sea level in cold areas like Tirah, Orakzai, Waziristan and Dir in the Khyber Valley. And the water in some parts of Swat meets these needs.
The tribal districts have been suffering from a sense of deprivation for the past seven decades and the exclusion of these areas by Prime Minister Imran Khan for cannabis cultivation is seen by the local youth as a continuation of these deprivations, said Muhammad Siddique Afridi. He described the government’s failure to include Tirah in the legal cannabis growing areas as disappointing.
He said that in the last several decades, employment, education and other necessities of life have been non-existent in the region while the poverty rate has further increased due to instability and extremism in the region after 9/11. He said that churs was only obtained from cannabis under duress as nothing was done at the government level regarding its positive use on the basis of which farmers could get better compensation.
According to the Khyber Agriculture Department, 32,000 acres of land is under cultivation in the Tirah Valley, of which 80 per cent is cannabis, six per cent is vegetables and the rest is commodities and orchards. According to the agency, cannabis is grown in May and June, while after harvesting in November and December, the crop is kept for snow and rain to produce good quality cannabis.
According to Dr. Lal Badshah Mehsud, there are many varieties of cannabis in the world, the most important of which is Cannabis sativa which is cultivated regularly. He said that of the 400 chemicals in cannabis, 200 are extremely important. Mehsud informed that cannabis planted on roadsides does not contain the required amount of chemicals due to inadequate water and lack of care.
The cannabis trade has also been hit hard by the national and international lockdown due Coronavirus pandemic. Many farmers and smugglers, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that at present, high quality cannabis is sold at Rs15, 000 to Rs18, 000 as against Rs40, 000 earlier. According to him, at present, cannabis is being smuggled from Afghanistan to Pakistan on a large scale through Parachinar and Balochistan, which has severely affected the cannabis market in Tirah and Orakzai. “If the government provides legal protection to cannabis cultivation in Tirah and Orakzai, it will not only provide legal protection to the economic resources of the local population, as the income of the people of the area is linked to the agricultural sector,” he said.
Dr. Lal Badshah Mehsud said that the government should allow to cultivate not only cannabis but also poppy from which opium is produced as Pakistan’s neighbours China and India along with many developed countries earn billions annually from this crop. He said that the illegal cannabis and the poppy crop is cultivated in tribal districts is being used not only for making drugs but it also disgraces the country’s image by smuggling it to the outside world. Mehsud said that if the government purchases cannabis and poppy from local farmers at good prices, it would have been used now in medicine instead of drugs.