Even after formally being out of power for a dozen years, the Taliban has been able to sustain diversified and balanced revenue streams from a wider span of sources than nearly any other terrorist group on earth. They collect royalties on opium and ordinary crops, taxes on shipments within and beyond Afghanistan, state sponsorship through Pakistan’s ISI spy service, zakat from wealthy Gulf donors siphoned through third party Islamic charities, jizya from Sikhs and other religious minorities in South and Central Asia, and ransoms from ordinary and wealthy Pakistanis—all of which they justify on the basis of Islamic law.
Dawn calls the ransoms “extortion,” which is vibrant and growing enterprise for Mullah Omar’s men:
Terror group sees Islamabad as a lucrative city for extortions
For the last couple of years, the capital city has seen an alarming increase in extortion cases. Unable to trace the culprits, the police say an outlawed terror group is behind the crime.
The banned Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has a hand in all the small and big extortion incidents. The terror outfit is involved in extorting money from rich people directly and indirectly, a police officer told Dawn on the condition of anonymity. He added that the TTP was found directly involved in targeting big businessmen, traders and professionals, especially doctors. But these cases were not so rampant.
The disturbing factor is that the TTP was also indirectly encouraging small groups to collect extortions and share the money with it. This racket of splinter groups has widened its activities across the city but most of the cases are not reported to the police on time, he said.
The TTP started getting extortions after its traditional source of foreign funding was either plugged or reduced. In the early days, militant groups in Pakistan and Afghanistan used to receive funds from abroad.
Though the militant groups still receive funds from other countries, they are not sufficient to carry out terror activities. This has forced them to look for other sources of income inside the country, with extortion, kidnapping for ransom and bank robberies being the most lucrative of them.
It was in September 2012 when the police arrested three people in the capital city and unearthed the TTP’s direct involvement in receiving extortions. The network had demanded Rs 6 million as extortion from a trader in the Blue Area.
During investigation, the accused disclosed that they collected extortions from traders and transferred the money to Manchester, UK, through Hundi for onward delivery to the terror network.
In June this year, traders of Sabzi Mandi informed the police that a group of Afghan nationals was forcing extortions from them, but when the police registered a case, the group escaped from the area. During investigation of the case, it was revealed in August that some people in Khana Pul, Sihala and Mandi Mor areas also collected millions of rupees every month and diverted them to militant outfits, the officer added.
The second direct involvement of the TTP in extortion came to light when a business centre in Sihala was attacked a week back. This was the second attack on the centre since July 26.
On June 17, Mohammad Raja Asif, the owner of the centre, received a telephone call in which the caller threatened him to pay Rs100 million. Later, he continued receiving similar calls from different local and Afghan numbers.
On July 26, his business centre was attacked with hand grenades in which his office was damaged. The next day – July 27 – he received another call from an Afghanistan-based number and the caller told him that the attack was the result of his failure to pay the extortion sum.