Newsbrief: Pakistani Opium Farmers Confront Police, Army 4/23/04

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As if the Pakistani government did not have enough problems in its largely ungovernable tribal areas -- its forces ran into heavy armed opposition when it tried to sweep the area as part of the "war on terror" earlier this month -- it has now enraged farmers eking out a living by growing opium in the area. According to the Associated Press, on Wednesday, hundreds of gun-toting opium farmers whose crops were destroyed earlier in the day blocked a major highway in southwest Pakistan and burned paramilitary and United Nations vehicles.

The paramilitary police had been responsible for uprooting the crops, and when farmers armed with assault rifles clashed with them on a highway near the Afghan border, the paramilitaries were forced to retreat and their vehicles torched. Paramilitary commanders then called in the Pakistani army to clear the roadblock 85 miles northwest of Quetta, the capital of southwestern Baluchistan province. The farmers melted into the hills with the arrival of the military, and the scene was reported quiet by Wednesday evening.

While according to the US DEA, Pakistani opium production peaked in the mid-1990s before declining late in the decade, poppy cultivation has been increasing in the remote tribal regions adjacent to the Afghan border. Recent press reports have suggested that opium grown in parts of Afghanistan and neighboring areas of Pakistan is financing the Taliban and Al-Qaeda fighters, who remain strong in the region more than two years after a US invasion overthrew the regime of the mullahs.

The poppies were destroyed under a government eradication program, Pakistani anti-drug official Abdul Basit told the AP. "We took action only when they refused to destroy their crop voluntarily," Basit said.

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Issue #334, 4/23/04 Another Victory in California: Federal Judge Tells Feds to Leave Medical Marijuana Co-op Alone | Florida Pain Patient Sentenced to 25 Years | Texas League of Women Voters to Study Drug Policy | Going Dutch, American Style? Netherlands Politicians Take Aim at High-Potency Nederwiet, but Restrictions Still Seem Unlikely | Newsbrief: Pakistani Opium Farmers Confront Police, Army | Newsbrief: Montana Medical Marijuana Initiative Ready for Signature Gathering | Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cop Story | Newsbrief: One Cop Fired, One Cop Cleared in Kentucky Drug War Killings | Newsbrief: Bostonian Sues Over Drug Raid Strip-Search | Court Denies DEA Extension Request for Hemp Food Rehearing | This Week in History | The Reformer's Calendar

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