The college students got the hash. They got the opium. But they left their high school-age friend behind as promise for payment in a cross-border drug deal gone bad.
Now Ahmadshoh Sherov and Rahimali Sharif will pay the price, having been sentenced by a Tajik court to 14 years in prison each on charges of drug dealing and illegal border crossing.
The two 19-year-old college students are residents of the southern village of Yol, located not far from Tajikistan’s porous border with Afghanistan, the world’s largest opium producer.
Tajik officials say the two admitted to crossing the Tajik-Afghan border illegally in January to buy hashish and opium from Afghan drug traffickers.
According to Tajikistan’s State Committee for National Security, the men crossed the border in search of drugs along with a fellow villager, high-school student Alisher Abduhafiz. Sherov and Sharif returned with 17 kilos of opium and 15 kilos of hashish, upon which they were arrested by security services, according to Tajik officials. But Abduhafiz never made the trip back -- he was left with Afghan drug dealers as a guarantee of future payment.
Abduhafiz, 19, was released in an operation carried out by Tajik security forces in early February.
Abduhafiz’s parents insist their son was deceived -- claiming he was told they were merely going to collect wood -- and taken to Afghanistan against his own wishes. But the Shamsiddin Shohin district court saw things differently, and Abduhafiz was sentenced on June 16 to six years in prison for illegal border crossing and involvement in drug smuggling.
Tajikistan shares more than 1,400 kilometers of border with Afghanistan, which produces 90 percent of the world’s opium, according to the United Nations.
Tajikistan’s Drug Control Agency estimates that at least 20 percent of drugs coming from Afghanistan are smuggled to Europe through the so-called northern route, via Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
Written by Farangis Najibullah based on reporting by RFE/RL’s Tajik Service