Hyderabad: The South Zone task force arrested last week a youngster for possession and selling of ‘QAT leaves’, a stimulant drug substance. The drug was procured from sources in Ethiopia and Yemen. Qat leaves are prohibited in India.
The accused are Khaled Bin Ali, 20, and Abdul Rahman, 30, a native of Yemen who is still absconding. According to the police, the team nabbed Khaled at the Hindustan Petroleum pump in Tolichowki with the drugs. He was taken into custody and upon further interrogation, confessed to the crime.
He revealed that the ‘Qat leaves’ were sourced from Ethiopia and he and Abdul Rahman would buy them for Rs 400 and sell them for Rs 500 to Rs 600 to Yemen nationals in the city. The police seized about 100 bunches of ‘Qat leaves’ from him.
Qat chewing is a practice that dates back thousands of years in the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula where the Qat plant is widely cultivated and known by a variety of names, including qaat and jaad in Somalia, and chat in Ethiopia. The chewing of khat leaves releases chemicals structurally related to amphetamines, which give the chewer a mild high that some say is comparable to drinking strong coffee.
There is some debate about where the plant originated, but wherever it came from it has certainly been a part of Yemeni culture for a very long time. In the words of Qahtan Al-Asbahi, implementation officer for the National Programme for Integrating Water Resources in Yemen: “There is no social event [in Yemen] without khat.”
Sitting in animated groups, men and, increasingly, women (though never men and women together – that being the tradition in this Islamic country) talk and laugh while plucking the tender leaves from the branches and tucking them into the cheek, eventually forming a wad that can bulge almost to the size of a tennis ball.
It is estimated that up to 90% of adult males chew khat three to four hours daily in Yemen. The number for females may be as high as 50% or even higher as young women take up the habit; a recent study for the World Bank estimated that 73% of women in Yemen chew the khat leaf more or less frequently. Meanwhile, a staggering 15–20% of children under the age of 12 are also daily consumers.