The 12-kilometer-long road being built through the meddling of tribal elders and influential figures is a dream come true for the residents.
GHAZNI: For the first time in Afghanistan’s recent past, the Taliban insurgents have allowed the construction of a road in southeastern Paktia province while promising to monitor the asphalting project and ensure its security.
On the other hand, rebels active in neighboring Ghazni don’t permit such development projects as they even ravage the already-paved roads and built culverts.
The unprecedented move by the Taliban comes as about four years back, their fighters partially destroyed the Ghazni-Paktika highway on the outskirts of the capital of Ghazni province to prevent Afghan security forces from commuting.
Another highway between the two provinces – which is just a case in point – is also blocked by the insurgents for two years.
The Taliban claim the second highway is open for civilian traffic but drivers grumble that they use unpaved routes which increase their travel time from three to six hours.
Notwithstanding the Taliban’s notorious role in destructing infrastructure, the group has pledged to provide security for the road construction project, something unexpected of the insurgents.
Interestingly, the road is being built under the auspices of the World Bank and is being implemented by the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation.
Residents see the 12-kilometer-long road in the Kulalgo area of Zurmat district as a dream finally coming true. The construction of the road has been one of their two ambitious dreams – with the second being a long-lasting peace in the country.
Malakyar Baba Construction Company is executing the road construction project that is supposed to complete in the span of one and half a year. Eng. Shakil, director of the company, told reporters that the 10-meters wide lane costing 340 million AFN would connect two areas – Guldadkhel and Gulkhana – of the district.
Local influential Islamic scholars have taken upon themselves to encourage the Taliban for cooperating in the implementation of welfare projects, urging them to let the war-devastated areas be developed.
Maulavi Saifullah Haqmal called upon the Taliban not to create hurdles for welfare schemes and instead help the public in their implementation.
He said that Zurmat district was deprived of development projects over the past 18 years due to conflicts in the area and now was the time for its development and prosperity, asking the Taliban to oversee construction affairs in the region.
Malak Guldad, a tribal elder of the area, said that the construction process of the local road had started and the Taliban were supervising the project. “The insurgents also don’t want the funds allocated for the security of the project.”
This is while the group usually demands its share in such projects.
Civil society activists say that the Taliban’s support for such initiatives has boosted their trust in peace.
Ekramullah Ekram, a civil society activist, expressed his gratitude to local tribal elders and clerics for convincing the Taliban to let the project be executed in the province.
However, he lamented the irony of the Taliban’s policy as in neighboring Ghazni province, they destroyed roads and blew up culverts and bridges. Ekram urged tribal elders and clerics to encourage the insurgent group to permit implementation of construction projects in the whole country, particularly in Ghazni province where the Taliban have extensive influence.
Meanwhile, current affairs analysts say that the Taliban’s position had generally softened compared to the past and they hoped the group would gradually support and sanction projects in their regions.
A Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, confirmed to OrbandNews that they supported the road construction in the district and would provide security during its implementation, adding that members of the group would also oversee the quality of the construction affairs.
This is a rare move from the Taliban insurgents; they have never supported a development project in none of the country’s southern provinces.
The rebel group usually imposes duties on projects being implemented in areas under their writ and even prevents developmental affairs, particularly road constructions in regions under their control.
Nevertheless, Mujahid said they always supported projects that benefitted merely the public and were not used for any military purposes.
However, he said that any company that wanted to implement such projects should first coordinate and solicit permission from the group. “This way we figure out and make sure that the sole aim of the construction is only public services and not military.”
This comes as among the latest instances of dynamiting roads and plowing them through tractors at the hands of the Taliban was one in Kandahar. An asphalted road and about 20 culverts were destroyed by the insurgents in Kandahar’s Arghistan district a few weeks back.
Moreover, last month it was reported that people in Uruzgan’s Chinarto were starving because the Taliban had blocked and mined the road connecting the district to the provincial capital.