Taliban’s taxes, kidnapping bring road construction to halt

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BALKH: The construction work on a 14-kilometer-long road in Nahr Shahi district of northern Balkh province has come to a halt since Taliban militants abducted seven workers of the construction company last week.


Provincial police officials say the rebels kidnapped the company workers after they refused to pay the so-called taxes imposed on them by insurgents.


The road that stretches over 14.5 kilometers and is seven-meter wide connects the Langar Khana area of Nahr Shahi district with Qachqar village of the district and culminates at Shebrghan-Mazar-e-Sharif highway.


The project is being carried out at a cost of around 148.96 million AFN under the auspices of the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development.


Balkh police officials say that the Taliban abducted seven workers of Galaxy Sky Construction Company that’s responsible for implementing the project last Friday (Oct. 23).


Local authorities confirm that the project was stopped after the abduction of the workers of the company and because insurgents levied taxes on the construction affairs.


A security official who wished to go unnamed told OrbandNews that the project was ready for implementation but it couldn’t continue due to security issues.


However, Balkh Governor Farhad Azimi said that a number of the company workers have been released with the mediation of local tribal elders and influential figures.


He said that the rest of the workers would also be freed in the near future and efforts were underway in this regard. Azimi, however, didn’t provide further details.


Farhang Farhang, in-charge of technical and sectorial services at the governor’s house, said that no strong security measures had been taken for the implementation of the project as there were no threats expected in the area.


He said that the Taliban appeared in the construction area out of the blue and took away workers of the construction company. OrbandNews tried to contact the Taliban for their comment on the issue but hasn’t been able to have their response.


Mohammad Zamir Akbari and Murtaza, residents of Balkh province, grumbled about increased tax collection by Taliban militants in their areas and urged the government to ensure the safety of such projects.


They say that public works and welfare projects benefit only locals and stopping them would merely damage and negatively affect ordinary people.


Fahim, a resident of the Langar Khana area of Nahr Saraj district, said “the road project in their area has started months ago but its construction is going on tardily.”


The project could have played a vital role in facilitating travels in the area if it were executed, Fahim lamented.   


Asked about the security situation of the province, Mohammad Afzal Hadid, head of the provincial council of Balkh province, stated that six or seven districts were under high-security threats.


He did not provide details about areas under threats, but Balkh, Chahar Bolak, Chamtal, Shulgara, Nahr Shahi and Zaree are districts with unstable security.


Hadid said that the Taliban inflict a 10 percent tax on all construction projects being implemented in areas under their influence.


Jannat Gul Sharafat, provincial economy director, acknowledged reports of collection of tax by Taliban but said “no formal complaints have yet been registered in this regard.”


He said that projects under security threats could not be implemented properly and took longer than normal.


Surprisingly, the Balkh governor expressed unawareness in this regard, saying that they did not have accurate information on whether the Taliban collected taxes or extorted companies of construction projects.