By Tehseen Khan
If drug money is seen behind the Taliban uprising in Afghanistan, militants in the troubled Swat district of the North West of Pakistan are also making money through looting natural resources, which is considered a factor in bolstering Talibanisation in this impoverished but resource rich tourist resort.
After consolidating positions in Upper Swat, the Tehrik Taliban Swat took control of the down town Mingora, headquarters of Swat district, and lay hand on the natural resources by taking control of the Emerald mines.
Former Taliban spokesmen Sirajuddin is handling affairs of the mine and draw share of money on behalf of Taliban. Taliban opened this natural deposit for unskilled general public, where excavation is continued unabated.
Staff of the NWFP Mineral Department including an assistant director and security personnel have already fled the area to save their skin. “Two to three hundred people from Mingora and surrounding villages daily work in the emerald mines and try their luck,” a sympathizers of Taliban who wished not to be named, told this scribe by cursing his luck as he could not find anything despite working for several days in the mine.
About the share of Taliban in mine work, he said, “Taliban get 1/3 of their share and the rest go to individuals or group who recovered the emerald.” “Some people have been using earth moving machinery and other equipments and some use conventional methods to extract emeralds worth hundreds of thousands of rupees daily,” he added.
He continued that those who cannot afford hard work search the remains and try their luck. To discourage theft, as mostly occurs in precious stone mines, Taliban have announced to chop off the right hand and left leg if any miner was found guilty of stealing emerald.
A Taliban commander after taking control of the mines reportedly collected iron fences erected around the mines and sold it to a scrap dealer for 40,000 rupees, said another man who hates Taliban but visits the mine regularly in a bid to find an emerald which may change his life.
According to sources Taliban have strong support of precious stone traders who provide them heavy machinery for excavation of mines. The Taliban have also set up courts in the mountains and award punishment to people they pick from Mingora and nearby villages.
An official of the Directorate General of mines and minerals Peshawar confirmed on condition of anonymity that assistant director mines Swat had sent a letter to the directorate general informing the officials concerned that Taliban militants have seized the emerald mines.
The officials said that the assistant director has even left Swat district after Taliban threats, adding that Taliban have issued notice to him (assistant director) to appear before Taliban court.
He said the emerald mines earlier auctioned for Rs. 90 million, have now been reserved for auction as the earlier auctioneer backed out, adding that three fresh parties interested in leasing of Mingora emerald mines have submitted applications but it is pending due to security situation.
As some people believe that wearing an Emerald brings wisdom, growth and patience, the emerald mines might have brought wisdom and growth to Taliban militants but not patience as they reportedly slit the throats of people including security personnel, government employees, watchmen of city markets and civilians on one pretext to the other. Ends