Taliban collecting taxes to raise funds for ‘jihad’
* Meagre Zakat and Ushr funds cannot meet militant expenses
* Abductions for ransom, tax on goods transport among major revenue sources
By Iqbal Khattak
PESHAWAR: The Taliban are financing their “jihad” against the United States and supporting the families of the militants killed in the war with private taxation, besides Zakat and Ushr.
Sources close to militants, tribal elders and government officials in various tribal regions where Taliban-linked militancy has paralysed business told Daily Times that the organisation has not made a uniform policy on Zakat so far.
Taliban vary the taxation from area to area and depending on the financial status of traders. Bajaur is the worst case, where reports say the Taliban have imposed fixed taxes on traders, ranging from Rs 30 to Rs 25,000 per month.
“I pay Rs 500 a month to the Taliban as per their decree,” said Rustam Khan, who runs a small business in the Khar bazaar. “I can afford to pay the sum, otherwise it would have been great injustice.”
Maulana Waheed, in charge of Zakat for Taliban in Bajaur, said the total collection was around Rs 175,000 so far – much lower than what Taliban need to spend. Waheed denied the Taliban were forcing Khar residents to pay Zakat to them, but accepted collecting 12,000 kilogrammes of wheat as Ushr from farmers.
Fuel stations give 120 litres of fuel each to the Taliban, who are frequently on the move to avoid United States spy planes.
“That is true, we provide a certain quantity of fuel to the Taliban as per their desire and our contribution for jihad,” said a manager at one of the fuel stations in Khar.
In the neighbouring Mohmand tribal region, the Taliban are not collecting Zakat, but seek contributions from harvested crops and also collect skins of sacrificed animals.
The Maulvi Nazir-led Taliban in Ahmedzai Wazir areas of South Waziristan collect neither Zakat nor Ushr, but the heavy fines they impose on the residents are one of the main sources of revenue to run the “Movement for Return of Taliban rule in Afghanistan”.
Brig (r) Mehmood Shah, former FATA security chief, says the sum that they collect through Zakat or Ushr is too small. “They are collecting taxes which the political administration used to collect on transport of goods. The militants earn up to Rs 30 million a month from tax collection in Kurram tribal district alone,” he told Daily Times.
Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud, leading the single largest militant group, is said to be spending around Rs 3 billion annually on militancy, and tribal sources say he was not heard emphasising too much on collection of Zakat.
Senior counter-terrorism officials say the militants abduct affluent people for random to generate funds.
Militant groups raised special squads for bank robbery, high profile kidnapping and taking away Afghanistan-bound containers, said the officials, citing certain cases as examples.
The only militant groups that vie for collection of Zakat and Ushr happen to be in North Waziristan.