Taliban 'Tax' Phone Companies

The Taliban has reportedly ordered telecommunication companies to pay them a fixed fee of 10 percent on phone recharge cards – the same levy introduced recently by government on cell phone users in the country.

According to reports, representatives from telecommunication companies and the Taliban met in Helmand province and in Dubai to discuss the issue recently.

“Taliban collects taxes from telecommunication companies and other private firms. They [telecommunication companies] have often discussed this with the Taliban,” said Senator Hashim Alokozay.

The Ministry of Telecommunication and Information Technology (MoTIT) neither rejected nor confirmed the claims but said telecommunication companies used to pay protection money to the insurgent group so as to prevent them from destroying property and attacking staff.

The MoTIT officials said they have started investigations into these reports.

According to the MoTIT, telecommunication companies have not paid protection money to the Taliban or other insurgent groups for the past three months.

“There has been an unwritten agreement between telecommunication companies and militants. The Taliban and also a number of local armed men used to put pressure on the companies to pay them money,” said MoTIT spokesman Salim Samim.

“Some of the companies have paid a type of protection fee to the Taliban and a number of local armed groups in order to carry on their services,” he said.

The interior ministry meanwhile said they have enough soldiers to ensure the security of these companies and their projects around the country.

“Companies should call for support. We have enough forces – particularly the Public Order Police – in order to ensure their security,” said Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi.

“We have experienced forces [among the Public Order Police] that can ensure security in different areas – particularly in areas that economic and other projects are implemented,” Sediqqi added.

Meanwhile, analysts said the Taliban, by demanding such fees, are trying to act like a parallel government.

“It is a big concern to the system in Afghanistan. It means that they [the Taliban] want to establish a parallel government. Again I want to say that it is a dangerous alarm for the government of Afghanistan,” said Taj Mohammad Talash, an economic analyst.

There are four private and two state-owned telecommunication companies in Afghanistan and gains in telecommunication services in the country are seen as one of Afghanistan’s major achievements over the past 15 years.

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