By: The Kabul Times
“They are coming on motorbikes and asking larger stores for contributions. They say that they belong to the Taliban movement and that they are fighting in Allah’s path.”
KABUL: Donations to the Taliban militants are on the upswing in Pakistan border regions as the militant group intensifies attacks against Afghan forces ahead of the U.S. troop withdrawal, local sources told Voice of America.
Multiple sources and eyewitnesses on the ground with knowledge of these donations have confirmed to VOA that fundraising for the Taliban has continued in various parts of Pakistan.
An informed resident of Duki, some 210 kilometers (130 miles) east of Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province, told VOA that Afghan Taliban militants stay with coal miners in the nearby mountains and come to the bazaar area every Friday to solicit 5,000-10,000 Pakistani rupees ($50 to $70) from shopkeepers.
“They are coming on motorbikes and asking larger stores for contributions. They say that they belong to the Taliban movement and that they are fighting in Allah’s path,” said the resident, who did not want to be named because he fears retaliation by the militants.
“In the past, they were coming to a few mosques. But recently they have started coming to collect contributions from shops,” he added, as quoted by VoA.
A member of the Baluchistan assembly, who also requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, told VOA that members of the Taliban openly hold fundraising campaigns in several districts of the province.
“It is not a secret,” he said. “It is going on in Quetta, Kuchlak Bypass, Pashtun Abad, Ishaq Abad, Farooqia Town.”
The lawmaker added that he suspects Taliban supporters used the money to fund the insurgents’ recent fight against government in Afghanistan.
A resident of Quetta, where Quetta Shura — a militant organization linked to the Taliban — is allegedly based, said he regularly witnesses the Taliban at mosques.
“I went there for the Friday prayers,” he said. “A Talib with long hair gave a five-minute speech. He said that they were fighting, and we should help them financially. “‘If someone cannot go to jihad, he should support us financially,'” the resident said, quoting the Taliban orator.
Multiple videos have recently surfaced on social media platforms, showing people allegedly collecting donations for the Taliban.
The increased fundraising comes as Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a statement on Saturday asked Pakistan to avoid unrealistic and untrue statements against Afghanistan.
“Given the sensitivity of the situation and the opportunities arisen to achieve a permanent peace in Afghanistan and the region, comments and statements that spoil this trend are not favorable to the Afghan Peace Process,” the statement said.
“Unrealistic and untrue statements will obstruct strengthening relations between the two countries. Afghanistan is determined to discuss important and key issues with Pakistan through diplomatic channels,” the statement further said.
The statement came in response to Pakistanis allegations that once again hit out at Afghanistan’s National Security Adviser Hamdullah Mohib for what it called his “repeated impertinent and unwarranted remarks” and accused him of trying to “disregard and nullify” the progress made in the Afghan peace process.
In a rejoinder to a tweet by NSA Mohib on Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s interview with Afghanistan’s Tolonews, the Pakistan Foreign Office said: “Repeated impertinent and unwarranted remarks” were “a calculated attempt by his office to disregard and nullify the progress in the peace process so far”, Dawn reported.
In the interview with Afghanistan’s Tolonews, Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has sought to absolve the Taliban for the high levels of violence in Afghanistan.
The Afghan NSA had tweeted that Qureshi’s interview “comes as Taliban launches violent offensives against Afghan people across the country, we know how & why they continue to be enabled to do this. Quraishi is either uninformed, ignorant or accomplice. Maybe he also rejects that, Osama was found next to Pakistani Military HQ.”
Meanwhile, the Afghan government has longstanding reservations that Pakistan may be using the Afghan Taliban as a proxy. Pakistan has been long blamed for providing support to Taliban terrorists in Afghanistan.
Donations are only one of the sources through which the insurgent group finances its bloody insurgency against the Afghan government.
Noor Zaman Achakzai, a reporter and analyst of the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, said the Taliban have sources of income beyond donations.
“Taliban have numerous sources of wealth. They collect double the tax gathered by Afghan authorities, from smuggling, transportation of oil, narcotics, weapons and local cultivation,” he said, according to VoA. “In Ramadan, they also received huge Zakat (alms) from Islamic countries.”
The United Nations also says the Taliban subsidize their insurgency through drug trafficking, kidnapping for ransom, illegal mining and taxation in areas under their control. The annual Taliban income from different sources is estimated to be between $300 million and $1.6 billion, according to a U.N. report.
Some critics, however, charge that Islamabad’s actions against these individuals are symbolic and aimed at improving its image at the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
FATF, a global terror-financing and money-laundering watchdog, has retained Pakistan’s “gray list” status for its failure to curb terror financing and money laundering.
Liaquat Shahwani, a spokesperson for the Baluchistan government, told VOA that local authorities had “no such information” that the Taliban were collecting funds in the province. “After the FATF, we legislated in the Baluchistan parliament under the Social Welfare Act to strictly forbid any group from collecting funds,” Shahwani told VOA.
The Taliban enjoy the support of mainstream Islamic parties such as Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) and Jamaat-i-Islami, which have been part of the government. Some of the parties, including JUI, were involved in training the Taliban when they first emerged in 1990s.