Usmani behind export of poppy seeds to Malaysia

KABUL (Pajhwok): The Narcotics Affairs Committee (NAC) working under the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) has allowed the export of 5,000 tonnes of poppy seeds to Malaysia, Pajhwok Afghan News reliably learnt on Saturday.

NAC Assistant Secretary Razia Nazari was against the delivery of poppy seeds to Malaysia.As a result, she was transferred by the public health minister to pave the way for the deal going ahead.

Nazari believed the export of poppy seeds was against the 1961 Convention and other international treaties and hence her aversion to the deal.

The head of the Ibrahim Sherzad Company, which has a licence for the export of poppy seeds, said its permit was suspended by the Presidential Palace — an issue taken to the Attorney General Office (AGO).

A well-placed source in MoPH revealed: “Health Minister Ahmad Jawad Usmani orderedthe evaluation of NAC’s performanceby a delegation. The team pointed out handicaps in the performance of the committee,which was subsequently abolished by the minister.”

Later on, in a recommendation letter,Nazari shared concerns regarding the abolition of the committee and issuance of the poppy seed export order, which was illegal and in conflict with national and international laws. But the health minister was not moved by the recommendation.

According to the source, Nazari was reluctant to issue the decision regarding the abolishment of NAC so health minister Usmani revived the committee and approved a separate recommendation from another member of the committee regarding the transfer of Razia Nazari and she was replaced by Mir Farid Ahmad as an acting secretary of the committee.

The NAC Secretariatdemanded the appointment of three new members of the committee. Usmani, however, issued an order suspending all members. Nazari formally reminded the minister’s office that each member was appointed for a four-year term under the law. The acting minister,however, ignored this suggestion as well.

An official letter from the NAC Secretariat, dated August 19, 2020, to the health minister’s office said that the Ibrahim Sherzad Khogyani Limited had sought NAC’s permission for the export of 5,000 tonnes of poppy seeds to Malaysia.

The company also provided a recommendation letter, dated February 9, 2020, from the Special Attorney Office at the Counter-Narcotics Department.

The source explained: “Poppy seed is an illegal substance under Article 22 of the 1961 Convention. The NAC, in line with its decision of July 7, 2020, shared the issue with the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) through an e-mail.

Given that fact that poppy seedsare obtained from an illegal crop, NAC did not approve their export and cited resolutions of the Commission on Narcotics Drugs (CND) in this regard.”

NAC also referred to Clause 4 of the Counter-Narcotics Law, which says: “In case of contradiction with Clause 3 of this article, relevant international treaties, conventions and protocols are preferred.”

But a NAC documentdated August 24, 2020shows that the Ibrahim Sherzad Khogyani Limited was allowed to export 5,000 tonnes of poppy seeds to Malaysia though Torkham and Spin Boldak ports.

NAChas experts from the Ministries of Public Health, Counter-Narcotics, Justice, Interior Affairs and Commerce and Industries

Two days after the export of the poppy seeds was permitted by NAC, the Security and Border Coordination Affairs Department (SBCAD) at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) wrote to the MoPH and NAMA that INCB had sent it an official letterexpressing its concern over illegal poppy cultivation and the export of poppy seeds. The letter asked member nations to halt the cultivation of the illicit crop and trade in poppy seeds.

INCB shared with the ministry links to some international resolutions and treaties banning the cultivation of poppy and trade in its seeds.

In addition, Article 2 of the counter-narcotics law says the prevention of poppy cultivation and trade in its seeds, coca and other illicit plants is its main objective. As per Article 11 of this law, poppy seeds are considered first-degree narcotic substance and it is not required for use in medicine.

Article 33 of the counter-narcotics law says the transfer of poppy seeds and related activities amount to a crime and individual committing this offense should be punished.

Clause 4 of Article 12 of the counter-narcotics law says: “In case of contradiction between Clause 3 of this article and international conventions and treaties.to which the Afghan government is a party, those protocols and conventions should be preferred.”

A credible source in the Ministry of Public Health, requesting not to be named, said according to the procedure, when a alicencefor exporting controlled substances for medical or industrial purposes is issued, the country should first identify and include the amount in the INCB quota list. But Afghanistan did not go through this procedure, he claimed.

The official explained that when a quota existed on the INCB list, then the import permit must first be obtained through diplomatic channels from a country that needs materials such as poppy seeds. But in case of the 5,000 tonnes of poppy seeds exported to Malaysia, no import licence existed at all.

Referring to opposition from Nazari to the approval of poppy seed exports, the source said: “Four members of NAC — two from MoPH and one each from the Finance Ministry and Counter-Narcotics Department — suggested to MoPH the transfer of Nazari in violation of existing laws. MoPH also approved the suggestion.”

At the end of this suggestion, whose copyis available with Pajhwok Afghan News, NAC head Dr. Bashir Ahmad Sarwari has put his signature.

The source said: “The export of poppy seeds to Malaysia will bring problems and disgrace to Afghanistan at different levels. If this export is not reversed, Afghanistan may suffer a huge diplomatic setback for the violationof the 1961 Convention by INCB.”

In separate letters, dated August 24, to the Department of Security and Border Cooperation of the Ministry of Foreign AffairsMinistry of Interior, Ministry of FinanceMinistry of Commerce and Industry, deputy ministers of counter-narcotics, customs, the Raisin, Fruit and Vegetable Export Promotion Office and the EbrahimSherzadKhogyani Limited, NAC wrote about the export of the poppy seeds.

“Attached to this letter is a copy of the licence number NAR14-0001 related to the Ibrahim SherzadKhogyani Ltd. which was issued on the basis of a letter dated 4/8/1399 from the Raisin, Fruit and Vegetables Export Promotion Department of the Ministry of Commerce and NAR decision. Thank you in anticipation of your cooperation.”

Referring to the dispatch of the letters, he said the committee reported to the Ministry of Public Health and considering the record of the Ministry of Public Works, a low-level official could not send a memo under his/her signatures to the relevant ministries. Previously, such letters were sent with the signatures of the minister of public health and his deputy.

The source added: “After the receipt of a replay from the International Narcotics Control Board, if the acting minister Ahmad JawadUsmani was no involved in the illegal export of poppy seeds to Malaysia, he should have moved with a sense of urgency to stop the deal … but the minister did not take any action.”

Ibrahim Sherzad, director of the Ibrahim SherzadKhogyani Ltd, said: “My case has been suspended and the president has referred it to the AGO. Prosecutors are investigating it.”

Pajhwok shared the issue (permission for the export of 5,000 tonnes of poppy seeds by NAR) with the MoPH, but NoorullahTaraki, a member of the media office at the ministry, said that ministries, with representatives in the committee, should be asked in this regard.

But AmanRiazat, spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice, said: “I don’t know about this. You can talk to other members of the committee.”

The ministries of interior, commerce and finance said they would provide information once they received it. The presidential spokesman’s office came up with a similar response.

“The case of the export of 5,000 tonnes of poppies by the Ibrahim Ltd has reached the Presidential Palace. The case has been referred to AGO for further investigation and you can ask AGO for information,” the presidential spokesman’s office said.

Pajhwok tried to contact AGO for comments on the issue, but failed.

By : Ahmad Shah Erfanyar – PAJHWOK AFGHAN NEWS

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