Taliban extort millions from uplift projects in Paktia

GARDEZ (Pajhwok): The Taliban received hundreds of millions of afghanis against allowing development projects in southeastern Paktia province last year besides running customs points in some areas. The Taliban also acknowledged they collected money by imposing tax on each development project.

The rebels collected 300 million afs from the Machalgo Dam construction, 36 million afs from two long roads construction, 36 million afs from the Zurmat-Gardez Road second phase, 40 million afs from the education ministry’s projects and from other similar uplift schemes. In addition, the Taliban have established customs check-point in the Merzak district over the past six months, collecting around 400 million afs from vehicles.

Governor Mohammad Haleem Fedai termed the Taliban’s act as extortion and tyranny against the people of Afghanistan and said the Taliban imposed 10 percent tax on every uplift scheme. “They not only extort development projects but destroy our mosques, bridges, roads and schools worth billions of afghanis.” In charge of a Construction Company, who wished not to be named, said some elements in Taliban ranks committed corruption like government officials.

He said besides corruption practices by government officials the Taliban also demanded 10 percent share in every uplift project. Mohammad Sharif Kaliwal, the administrative chief of Syed Karam district, said the Taliban did not allow construction of a hospital worth 78 milliion afs because the company refused to offer the Taliban the 10 percent money in the project.

He said the Taliban demanded money against rehabilitation of the Kabul-Gardez second road again and again. The road passed through the Teairi Township, he added. The Taliban also collect a specific amount as decided by the Taliban leadership from telecommunication networks.

Lately, the Taliban torched the Salaam Network antenna and according to Eng. Abdul Rahim Abid, in charge of the Salaam Network, the Taliban did this because the company declined to offer them the amount of money they demanded. AsadullahAhmadi, a resident of Gardez City, said the Taliban carried out a bomb blast near a school in their area because the company that built the school had declined to pay them the amount of money.

“A boundary wall of Baghshah School was built and the Taliban asked the company to pay 10 percent, when the company did not pay the amount, the Taliban exploded a bomb in which one classroom was damaged.” Taliban spokesperson ZabihullahMujahid said they took eight percent from the Machalgo dam and currently they took two or three percent from uplift projects instead of 10 percent. Referring to the destruction of the Salaam Network facility, he said the company violated rules and principles. He did not provide more details.