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Helmand is one of the 34 provinces of Afghanistan. It is in the southwest of the country. Its capital is Lashkar Gah. The Helmand River flows through the mainly desert region, providing water for irrigation. Helmand is the world’s largest opium-producing region, responsible for 42% of the world’s total production.This is more than the whole of Myanmar, which is the second largest producing nation after Afghanistan. Afghan opium would account for more than 90% of the global supply. The Helmand valley region is mentioned by name in the Avesta (Fargard 1:13) as Haetumant, one of the early centers of the Zoroastrian faith, in pre-Islamic Persian times. However, owing to the preponderance of non-Zoroastrians (Hindus and Buddhists), the Helmand and Kabul regions were also known as “White India” in those days. Some Vedic scholars (eg. Kochhar 1999) also believe the Helmand valley corresponds to the Sarasvati area mentioned in the Rig Veda as the homeland for the Indo-Aryan migrations into India, ca. 1500 BC. Much of the fighting between NATO and Taliban forces is taking place in this province and Helmand is said to be a Taliban stronghold.

Border with Pakistan

Helmand has a southern border with the Balochistan province of Pakistan. Many domestic and international observers have criticized Pakistan’s efforts towards securing the border against Taliban insurgents.

Districts of Helmand

  • Lashkar Gah
  • Sangin
  • Musa Qala

Demographics

The population is 1,441,769 and the area is 58,584 square kilometres. Pashtuns are the majority (92% of the population), and there are also Balochs who are concentrated in the south, as well as smaller minorities of Hazara, Brahui and Tajik, who live mostly in Lashkar Gah.

 

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