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By: Aziz Ahmad Tassal

Haji Asad was a rich and happy man last year in the same time who spent his half-life in five stars restaurants of Dubai but now he spend his uneasy life for releasing in a prison where thousands of people are buried alive beneath the ground.

It is a prison where many people were buried alive collectively by ruling government due to being members of opposite party in 1978.

How Haji Asad reached from five stars hotels to notorious Pole-Charkhi prison of Kabul?

Whenever Haji Asad saw a representative of parliament riding in tinted glass car, he hoped that he will also have such guards one day and will go to Parliament in armor vehicle escorting by them.

He thought that being a member of parliament is possible by having much money. So he chose drug smuggling for earning money.

He had a happy family and there had been tens guests in his guesthouse every night. He provided all facilities of life for his children. His villagers and people knew about his illegal trade but his wealthiness regard was as much that even high rank people couldn’t clearly tell anything about him.

Helmand, a province which is famous for opium and other drug cultivation among Afghans, Haji Asad also started his business from the same province. He says;

“Five type of drug trade is common in Helmand; heroin, raw and processed opium, crystal and morphine but my favorite trade was Heroin. At first, I had opium trade but it didn’t have much profit. When I started heroin trade, I earned five times more. It was easy and without problem. I just called and received the order.”

Haji Asad says that he will never start drug trade again if he is released from the prison. He also doesn’t want to be a Member of Parliament or go to Dubai. He just wants to stay at home. But let’s learn how he came to prison?

He says; “I was coming from Dubai that police suddenly arrested me in Kandahar airport. They had recorded my mobile voice. It has been about four years that I am in the prison. I have paid more than 70 thousand as bribe to different officials but it was useless. My family is really poor now.”

Asad has a daughter and three sons. His eldest son is 10-year old. He got engaged with another girl and should pay the family 20 thousand dollar but she is still waiting to her unseen husband in her parent’s home who is three times elder than her. His children are not watched over like the past. They are always insulted by their villagers about his father imprisoning.

He says; “I have decided many times to suicide because of bitter life in the prison but not succeeded. Once upon, I went to Dubai for entertainment. My children waited that I will have gifts for them. But now, I can’t go anywhere due to being in this dreadful prison.


Asad is one of 550 big drug imprisoned smugglers who earned around 30 thousand dollars in a month but he can’t earn it anymore and spend his life in a prison that is named a Hell by smuggling prisoners.

He is arrested based on conscious and deliberate plan but there are many other cases that innocent people are arrested by government accused by drug smuggling and imprisoned for many years. Sayed Ali tells me about his mother, Zohra.

“My sister’s husband wanted to take my sister on the pretense of illness to India. My mother also wanted to go to India with them for her illness treatment. But when they reached Kabul Airport, Police caught opium with my brother. My sister and mother didn’t know that he is having opium with himself. Now, my mother, sister, and sister’s husband are in the prison. We tried much for releasing them but government considers my mother and sister also shared in the crime with him.”

There are many cases like this that unaware women are insulted by their people with the accusation of smuggling and even accused them with prostitution. Their children grow up in the prison. There are some stories or perception among people that some women are made for sexual relations in some prisons which is not less than death for them after releasing. Recently, there are some reports that women are cheated with false promises by some prison officials to release them and rape them by different pretenses. We tried to find such an example but prisoners can’t dare before officials during interviews to share such stories with us.

Some penuries of smuggling are also hurting in the country. Many poor and underprivileged people can’t pay girls’ dowry (walwar) till the age of thirty and even forty. Disregarding wedding expenses, only girls’ dowry (walwar) is around 20 thousand USD in many rural areas of Afghanistan. But wedding in the urban has some other conditions such as wedding party in the hotel, gold, car, house and etc. Finding such a high amount of money is very hard for youths. Many youths go illegal to foreign countries or choose the path of drug smuggling to achieve such goals.

Raziq is one of those people in Pole-Charkhi prison who had newly found money for paying walwar by black market and wanted to marry a rural girl that he likes her. He says that girl also knew that I will send my parents to their home for matchmaking. But I am sad now that maybe her family won’t accept to get their daughter married with him after prisoning. He says;

“I didn’t have any other way without smuggling. I chose a girl in the village for myself but she was a daughter of a father who doesn’t accept anything without money. Before prisoning, I was just thinking about engagement but now I know that I will have such a secret death that I had never thought about it. I don’t think that I would be able to marry my favorite girl because on one hand, I have been accused on drug smuggling and on the other hand, I am heroin addicted.

Although Raziq has been addicted in the prison and it is very easy to take these materials to the prisoners of Afghanistan but many of the addicted youths are those who had gone to Iran for laboring and then came back addicted to the country. Many of them smuggle opium to Iran and some of them are killed by unknown death because of smuggling.

Drug smuggling penalty is five to twenty years prison in Afghanistan but hundreds Afghans are executed every year in Iran without having lawyer. Current year, some Afghans are executed in Iran not informing Afghan government. Although, Tehran and Kabul signed an agreement last year that Afghans shall be prisoned for long-term stead of execution.

Arrested convicted middle drug smugglers accuse officials that they have connections with big smugglers and receive their share or if their wishes are not accepted, they arrest them.

According to saying of Haji Asad; when officials become broke in Afghanistan, then they arrest people on the pretense of smuggling for gaining money. The most miserable is sent to Pole-Charkhi, although many high rank officials are involved in drug smuggling.

He says that he has paid bribe many times to officials according to his afford. He added that his heroin factory was discovered and siege by government but the officials weren’t able to imprison him.

There are 34 prisons in Afghanistan and the most dreadful one is Pole-Charkhi. Saleh Mohammad Shirzai, spokesman of General Directorate of prisons says; there are 30 prisoners in all prisons and only seven thousands of them are placed in Pole-Charkhi prison. According to saying of officials; 50 percent of them are the big and small drug smugglers and dealers. Haji Asad is also one of them who have been sentenced ten years prison on the name of big smuggler after 2010.

Department of Counter Narcotics of Ministry of Interior Affairs says that they have arrested 3077 drug dealers in 2013 which includes 50 government employees, 27 women, 550 big drug smugglers and 16 Irani, Pakistani and Bahrain smugglers and they have also arrested 410 smugglers current year. Sayed Mehdi Kazimi, press officer of the department added that poppies cultivation is increased 30% based on UN report in 2013. According to his saying, the percentage will increase this year which also effects on smuggling. Mr. Kazimi added that smugglers change their method time to time and they mostly operate in the areas which have security problems and provide cultivation facilities for farmers in the areas, therefore the cultivation is increased.

On the other hand, Hussain Andiwal, former Helmand Chief of Police says that the increase depends on international market and adds that the reason of increase in Afghanistan is the demand of foreign big smugglers.

According to Hussain Andiwal saying; the other reason of poppies cultivation increase is unspecific policy of USA and UK for eradicating the cultivation. He says that USA never really wants to decrease poppies cultivation to zero. He adds;

“I was witness in Helmand that UK forces told people that we don’t have any problem with your opium and even provided irrigation facilities in deserts for them and USA aids with Helmand had only presentational aspects. If they really supported farmers and if provided market facilities for their products, the opium would be zero now.

According to his saying, inaccurate and inappropriate behavior of a corrupt administration caused to use many youths as tools in drug smuggling and in exchange, government imprisoned innocent people accusing them by drug smuggling.

Getting heart words of the prisoners of Pole-Charkhi prison is really hard. Presence of officials doesn’t let them to clearly talk about their problems. Therefore, I received the interview by mobile with Haji Asad and other prisoners. Mobile is taken to prisoners by assigned soldiers after receiving money from visitors.

However, first wish of Asad is releasing from the prison and he is also tired of tight rooms and sleeping place. According to his saying; it is very hard for him to sleep.

He says; “Some nights around 160 people are put in a single room. We remain awake complete night. We even can’t find that dirty mattress and foul pillow in the same night but due to sleeplessness, I sometimes sleep on cold concrete like I am sleeping on silky bed of home.”

Officials also accept lack of place for prisoners and say that if they are supported by foreign countries, they will build new buildings for prisoners.

Somehow remaining wealth of Asad is useful for him because his family brings good food for him and he shares it with other prisoners and therefore he has popularity among prisoners.

Poppies cultivation and smuggling is increased because USA has decreased their support for preventing narcotics and has promised Afghan government that they will increase their support for eradicating poppies cultivation and trade again in 2015.

Second vice president, Karim Khalili told that drug trade and increase of addicted people is a silent tsunami in Afghanistan during inaugural ceremony of addicted people treatment center and added that tsunami is not a spring to green the country but will destroy it.

Freelance journalist


pol charkhi

Supported by the
TFI New Media Fund
and Ford Foundation