Pakistan Violence Fuels Pot Boom
Army and miltia fighting is causing many anxious Pakistanis to turn to hash—despite the high cost.
Marijuana prices are skyrocketing to an all-time high in Pakistan due to an army offensive and militia infighting, but that doesn’t seem to be stopping users from paying double or triple what they previously spent. In fact, anxiety caused by the Taliban-linked violence is actually increasing the demand for pot in the country. “Everyone is tense, everyone is depressed and hash is the easiest available remedy. People use it to forget their worries,” says Kamal Khan (name changed on request), a 51-year-old English teacher. “Everybody is a hashish addict—police, doctors, officers—a lot of people come here.” Fighting is nothing new in parts of the country where the saying goes: “Even if the stove at home is cold, the barrel of a gun must be kept warm.” But since January, more than half a million Pakistanis have fled while the army and militants battle it out over some of the most fertile land for marijuana and opium. Before, a kilo of hashish cost the equivalent of about $200, but now it sells for anywhere between $530 and $690. “Bomb blasts, fighting, inflation, our society is full of worries and it is increasing demand,” says shopkeeper Arshad Afridi. Much of the money goes to local warlord Mangal Bagh, factions of the Taliban and rival group Ansar al Islam. Farmers say hash is worth much more than any normal crops, and merchants who stockpiled the drug in goat skins during previous years are cashing in on the high prices. Says Zaman Afridi, another shopkeeper: “We’ve been doing this business for decades because we have no other source of income.”