GHAZNI: Local officials accuse Taliban militants of destroying several kilometers of roads and parts of highways with bombs in southern Ghazni province, saying road closures and destructions have created massive problems for commuters, as well as cargo transporters.
Ghazni public works director Eng. Mohammad Asif Zaheen told Orband News that the Taliban destroyed a three kilometers part of the Ghazni-Paktika highway with tractors in the Andar district of the province last year, diverting drivers to use unpaved routes.
In addition of that, the militants also destroyed different parts of Jaghato district road with machinery and dynamited four culverts of the route, he said, adding that a bridge and seven culverts of Khwaja Omari district road which leads to the capital of Ghazni were also blown up by the Taliban in Nawgurja area of the district.
Several culverts of Kabul-Kandahar highway passing through Qarabagh, Aab Band and Waghaz districts of Ghazni were also destroyed with explosives, he added.
Zaheen said that they were trying to implement projects that remained half done since last year due to security issues. He noted that the Ghazni-Paktika highway construction was part of the projects that would be executed next solar year (1400), starting on March 21.
It’s pertinent to mention that Ghazni-Paktika highway is shut for traffic for the last three years. Passengers and drivers complain that they are compelled to use alternative routes and travel for hours to reach their destinations due to the road blockade.
They blamed both the Taliban and the government, saying none of them cared about the people.
A few months back, Afghan forces launched an operation to open the highway and deployed security posts at some points along the route.
However, locals say that despite the operation and Afghan forces’ casualties during their fight with the Taliban, the highway was again yielded to the Taliban, causing people even more problems.
Haji Abuld Bari, a tribal elder from Andar district of Ghazni, said that the Ghazni-Paktika highway should be opened, particularly during winter when unpaved routes become impassable in times of rainfalls and snowfalls.
He asked the Taliban to stop the destruction of roads and let the government organs asphalt them.
Shah Mahmod, a tribal elder from Paktia province, said that they became very disappointed when part of the highway was destroyed by the Taliban’s tractors as their patients lost their lives using unpaved and longer routes for reaching hospitals.
He asked warring sides not to damage public facilities and work to construct roads instead of destroying them.
Mohammad Hussan, a driver on Ghazni-Paktika highway, said that they could reach Ghazni from Paktika in an hour using the asphalted road in the past, but now they spent five hours for the same destination due to using unpaved routes.
He said that despite the ongoing peace negotiations that should have eased the security situation, roads were still a target and people were subject to injustice.
An Islamic scholar, Mulavi Mohammad Ismail, said that both the Taliban and Daesh or Islamic State (IS) planted bombs on roads but no such activities were permissible in Islam.
Wahidullah Sabawoon, a civil society activist from Ghazni, said that roads were public property and the warring sides should not damage them.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid denied the group destroyed roads with excavators, saying they only planted bombs on roads that were used by government officials.
He said that the Taliban did not damage public facilities and the roadside bombs they used were a war tactic.
Mujahid said that the Ghazni-Paktika highway was closed only for government forces, not for ordinary people.
However, drivers say that parts of the highway were deliberately destroyed with machinery, and there were bombs planted in many points that permanently barred them from using it.
Several reports indicate that many people who remained unaware of the danger and mistakenly used the route have been killed and wounded as a result of roadside bombs planted by the Taliban.