Thomson Reuters

In Kandahar currency market, the money trail proves elusive

Date : 23 December 2012

Author : Matthew Green

‘Edwina Thompson, a researcher who conducted extensive interviews with hawaldars in 2005, points out that the trade plays a vital role in facilitating economic development in Afghanistan, where few people trust banks. Kandahar’s exchange is also central to the mechanics of the heroin trade. Thompson’s 2011 book, Trust is the Coin of the Realm, is the most authoritative account of the hawala system in Afghanistan; some of her research can be found in a report on Afghanistan’s opium industry by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Afghan drug cartels run a sophisticated system of agricultural credit and payment to poppy farmers that could not function without the hawaladars in Kandahar, the largest city in the south. Thompson found that hawaladars in Kandahar experienced a huge influx of funds for advance payments from traffickers to farmers during the poppy cultivation months of October to December. She discovered a similar surge in payments from the end of April to June when opium harvested from the poppy crop was ready for purchase. One in four hawaladar in Kandahar might be considered significant facilitators of drug payments, Thompson estimated, handling up to $810 million of opium-related funds in 2005. She made similar findings in neighbouring Helmand Province, the epicentre of the drug industry in Afghanistan, which supplies an estimated 90 per cent of a global market for heroin and other opiates worth some $68 billion a year, according to U.N. estimates.’

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Lounge Magazine

Book Review: Trust is the Coin of the Realm

‘Simorg (TM) is a multilingual, non-political and non-religious publication created to promote Afghan culture outside Afghanistan. It provides an opportunity for readers to be well informed and involved with the progress of Afghans abroad.’

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Pakistan Today

A matter of trust

Date : 24 July 2011

Author : Syed Afsar Sajid

‘Dr Edwina Thompson has specialised in the ‘hawala’ system and its global socio-historical dynamics. She has been working with INGOs, the UN, Red Cross and the military in difficult geopolitical milieu like Somalia, Sudan, Sri Lanka, Papua New Guinea, Pakistan and Afghanistan.’

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Dom Morris

I wish that I had read this book before deploying to Afghanistan. A better understanding of where and how the money moves is a strong introduction to the political economy of any country. Perhaps a better informed appreciation for the power vested in those small shops that I passed in the bazaar every day would have stopped me from ignoring their power and their potential to affect everything that I was trying to achieve.

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