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From Arms to Alms

Captured Taliban fighters in north-west Pakistan with arms and ammunition reported to have been seized from them. Credit: Ashfaq Yusufzai/IPS.

PESHAWAR, Jul 23 2012 (IPS) - Most families of Taliban men killed in fighting against the army in Pakistan or in Afghanistan have been reduced to living in abject poverty.

“The majority of the families of the militants have now resorted to seeking alms from the people to get a meal,” Taj Muhammad Khan, a schoolteacher in Tank, one of the 25 districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) adjacent to the militancy-infested Waziristan in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) told IPS.

“There is no one to help them,” said Khan. “The people also look down upon such families whose men had joined the Taliban and were killed by the army.” The Taliban had recruited teenaged and illiterate men but didn’t help their families when they were killed, he said.

Ikramullah Shah, 28, a fruit seller, left his home in Tank in January last year. “He left to pray in a local mosque but didn’t come back,” his father Abdullah Shah told IPS. “In April, some Taliban leaders came to my house after midnight to tell me that my son (Ikramullah Shah) had become martyred in the fight against the ‘infidel army’. Now, I beg to bring up his children and widow.”

Young farmer Shafqatullah from Charsadda district was killed in Afghanistan in June 2010. Shafqatullah, 21, supported his two young brothers and parents. “We feel shattered,” his father told IPS.

“The Taliban had given me 400 dollars when they gave us news of my son’s death,” he said. “The Taliban had promised to give money every month but they didn’t. Some people now give us money in charity.”

KP sports minister Syed Aqil Shah told IPS the Taliban were mercenaries who ditched their friends. “The Taliban deprived hundreds of families of their breadwinners by luring youngsters to militancy and then didn’t care about the wellbeing of the grieving families,” Syed Aqil Shah, who has survived three Taliban attacks, told IPS.

Initially, Taliban leaders paid some money to those who died in fighting in their cause, but now they are facing severe financial crisis, he said.

The international crackdown on financing terror had led to financial troubles for the Taliban, Syed Aqil Shah said. Support to families of Taliban members who died fighting had dried up after 2008, he said.

“The outlawed Tehreek Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has now been raising money through kidnappings for ransom, extortions from the rich, and bank robberies,” he said. “The cash flow is insufficient for the militants to support surviving families.”

Police officer Muhammad Khalid, who has investigated more than a dozen such cases, said that families suffer massively when militants are killed. But in some cases earlier, he said, the Taliban had paid lucrative amounts to heirs of slain soldiers.

In Bannu district, adjacent to Waziristan, the police found that the Taliban had paid 34,000 dollars to a family for the death of a militant in 2005.

Over recent years the Taliban have abandoned several of their Jihadists and their families in Mardan district of KP, minister Syed Aqil Shah said.

Najibullah, 20, a mechanic, met some Taliban members in an auto workshop where he worked back in 2009. He went missing the very next day. In January 2011 some Taliban members came to tell his father Shakirullah that his son had been martyred.

Shakirullah told IPS that the Taliban were responsible for the killing of his son. “My two grandchildren are now literally surviving on charity and alms extended to us by wealthy people.”

Habibur Rehman in the adjacent Nowshera district suffered similarly. In April 2009, his son Gul Rekhan, 17, was taken away by Taliban members from a shop in his village. Rehman was informed on telephone three months later that his son had died in a suicide attack that killed 10 NATO solders in Afghanistan.

“The Taliban congratulated me on the martyrdom of my son,” Rehman said. “But since then I am unable to cope with the problems at home.”

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