While the Taliban are “offended” at Pakistan’s decision to lift a ban on Nato supplies, they are also apparently “glad” about the development.
The resumption of supply lines in Pakistan appears to be good news for the Afghan Taliban, as well as local militants, as the closure had deprived them of millions of dollars they used to receive as ‘protection charges’ from Isaf and Nato.
A prominent militant leader, known for his close ties with Mullah Omar, told The Express Tribune on the condition of anonymity, that the Afghan Taliban and local militants who are active on the Pak-Afghan borders were “seriously annoyed” over the ban.
The leader, who is also one of the key leaders of the Difa-e-Pakistan Council, said that the Afghan Taliban had even protested when his council was holding nationwide demonstrations pressing Pakistan against the lifting of the ban.
“The Taliban had frankly told me that the ban had caused them huge financial losses during the last eight months,” the militant leader said.
“We are offended over the resumption of the Isaf/Nato supply lines from Pakistan to Afghanistan but at the same time we are glad that at least our Taliban brothers in Afghanistan would be happy over this decision,” he said, adding: “Believe me it is good news for Taliban and militants.”
Meanwhile, Dr Ghirat Baheer, the chairman of the foreign relations council of Hizb-i-Islami, refused to comment on the resumption of Nato supplies in Pakistan.
He also refused to comment on reports that his party’s fighters and the Afghan Taliban were involved in extortion of money to ensure the safety and security of the Afghanistan-bound supplies for the foreign forces in Afghanistan.
According to international media reports, it is an admitted fact that US and Nato pay a handsome amount of money to the militants in return for safety and security of their supplies to Afghanistan via two land routes in Pakistan.
Pakistani Nato truck drivers are also supposed to pay the Taliban for their own security. Anticipating extortion by the Afghan Taliban and other militants, All Pakistan Truck Owners Association Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa President Nasir Ali Khan has requested the federal government to provide protection to the Afghanistan-bound oil and goods containers.
In a press statement, Khan expressed fears that militants in K-P and Balochistan could launch attacks on the Nato trucks and drivers.
Drivers delighted, locals apprehensive
Amidst fresh threats of attacks, oil tankers and drivers moved to Karachi to load their vehicles with supplies for Nato troops stationed in Afghanistan.
People associated with the business expressed their delight over the reopening of the supply line, while locals termed the tankers and containers “moving bombs” following threats from militants.
Gul Khan, an oil tanker driver, said he was happy when he heard that the supply route was restored but at the same time urged the government to provide them with security.
Khan said that they have decided not to enter K-P unless the provincial government provides them with security.
Tribesmen from Khyber Agency, on the other hand, expressed their dismay over the decision of reopening of the supply route.
“The government opened it for its own benefit, not for us,” Azmat Afridi told The Express Tribune, adding that the oil tankers and containers of Nato had devastated all the roads in the agency.
He further said that they were living in constant fear of an attack on the containers by militants. “Now, once again, there will be blasts and attacks on the containers … and innocent people will lose their lives.”
Rahman Gul, a local trader, said, “These oil tankers and containers are moving bombs”. He added that the government didn’t care about what the people wanted and “are just earning dollars”.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY OUR CORRESPONDENT IN PESHAWAR
Published in The Express Tribune, July 5th, 2012.