5 years ago
In Financing the Taliban we addressed the issue of poppy, and why its eradication wouldn’t end the Taliban or the threat they pose to Afghanistan, Pakistan and the larger region. In addition to poppy, Taliban support comes from taxation of various businesses as well as active participation in larger industrial-size operations.
ZIARAT, Pakistan — The Taliban’s takeover in April of the Ziarat marble quarry, a coveted national asset, is one of the boldest examples of how they have made Pakistan’s tribal areas far more than a base for training camps or a launchpad for sending fighters into Afghanistan.
A rare, unescorted visit to the region this month revealed how the Taliban are grabbing territory, using the income they exact to strengthen their hold and turn themselves into a self-sustaining fighting force. The quarry alone has brought tens of thousands of dollars, said Zaman, a tribal leader.
The seizure of the quarry is a measure of how, as the Pakistani military has pulled back under a series of peace deals, the Pakistani Taliban have extended their reach through more of the rugged 600-mile-long territory in northern Pakistan known as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, or FATA.
The quarry here in the Mohmand tribal district, strategically situated between Peshawar and the Afghan border, is a new effort by the Taliban to harness the region’s abundant natural resources of coal, gold, copper and chromate.
Of all the minerals in the tribal areas, the marble from Ziarat is one of the most highly prized for use in expensive floors and walls in Pakistan, and in limited quantities abroad …
The Taliban decided that one mountain in the Ziarat area belonged to the Masaud division of the main Safi tribe, and said the Gurbaz subtribe would be rewarded another mountain, Zaman, the contractor, said.
The mountain assigned to the Masauds was divided into 30 portions, he said, and each of six area villages was assigned five of the 30 portions.
Zaman said the Taliban demanded $1,500 commission upfront for each portion, giving the insurgents a quick $45,000.
The Taliban also demanded a $7 tax on each truckload of marble, he said. With a constant flow of trucks, the Taliban were collecting up to $500 a day, Zaman said.
Taliban interest doesn’t stop with marble quarries though. The recent deal with the Taliban in Swat has led to Taliban control over precious stone mines.
The Pakistani Taliban have taken control of mines producing precious lapis lazuli stones in the insurgency-hit Swat valley and started operating them on their own.
The Taliban have confirmed that they took control of the mines two months ago when they arrived in the hilly area of Fiza Ghat, a resort on the outskirts of Mingora, the main city in Swat valley.
The militants have appointed hundreds of local labourers to work round the clock to excavate lapis lazuli stones as authorities in the area had left the mines, BBC Urdu reported on Wednesday on its website.
One-third of the income from the mines is taken by the Taliban while the rest is offered to the labourers, a Taliban militant said. The Taliban have deployed senior commanders at several mines to monitor the excavation of stones.
The mines hold the promise of a significant source of income for the Taliban.
When fully operational, the mines yielded a quarter of a million carats of emeralds between 1978 and 1988. The last official estimate put the projected yield at about 13.2 million carats. Gemstone dealers say that most emeralds range from just under one carat to just over five. Prices range from $1,000 to more than $100,000 for a cut stone.
The problem is not pomegranate, marble, emeralds, or small businesses. The problem is the Taliban, and until they are dealt with, the targeting of their sources of income will only end up harming our reputation among the very population whose cooperation we need to win the campaign.