The Counter Narcotics wing of the Ministry of Interior (MoI) on Tuesday in coordinated raids arrested several major drug distributers in Kabul. Officials at the ministry have already reportedly received calls from government members requesting some of those apprehended be released.
Close to 15 kilograms of hashish, opium and other forms of illicit drugs were recovered during the operations on Tuesday. But many of those arrested, as well as others TOLOnews sought comment from, scoffed at what they see as a theatrical move by police to make it seem as if there is a war on drugs when in fact officers themselves take bribes from drug dealers.
The police confiscated half a kilo of hashish and half kilo of a dangerous drug known as Sheesha from a man named Khawaja Mir in the Bagh Ali Mardan area of Kabul. However, when he spoke with TOLOnews, Mir claimed the whole operation was a sham.
"If the police of the district don't take money, then how can I sell these drugs?" Mir asked. Indeed, the Bagh Ali Mardan neighborhood is located just 500 meters away from the First Police District. "It's my first time here today, they are not arresting the real people, but they are arresting us."
According to a self-identifying drug user named Naseer, the price of a gram of heroin has gone up to 200 Afghanis, but it remains less than a gram of Sheesha, which is a more dangerous type of drug, and is valued at 400 to 500 Afghanis. Naseer also claims the police are wrapped up in the drug trade. "The First District police take money from us and are three percent partner with the drug dealers," he said.
The second target of the coordinated operations was drug dealers in the Kart-e-Now area of Kabul. The operation focused on major drug dealer named Ghulam Farooq, with whom 10 kilograms of hashish was recovered.
"I have collected this hashish from my land in Panjshir, and I sell it in kilos and small quantities to my customers," Farooq told TOLOnews.
Meanwhile, officials from the Counter Narcotics Department acknowledged that there were cases of police collusion with drug dealers in the capital. "We found out that in the Pul Sokhta area of Kabul that police were taking money from drug dealers or were involved, and we have referred the issue to investigative institutions to follow up," department director Mirza Muhammad said on Tuesday. "We will soon arrest them and will refer them to the judicial institutions."
A long track-record of drug smuggling suspects and convicts going free or being released secretly from prison has made many skeptical about the Afghan government's will to pursue and prosecute those involved in the trade at the highest levels.
"This is Afghanistan and you understand that these things happen; when we arrest someone, we get calls from our friends asking us to release these guys," acting deputy minister of counter narcotics Abdul Khaleel Bakhtyar said.
Afghanistan is estimated to have three million drug users, of which 1.4 million are said to be addicts.