KABUL (SW) – In-depth analysis and estimates compiled by Salam Watandar indicate the Taliban insurgents are siphoning AFN 665 million on annual basis from the power utility.
Although, Afghanistan has enough water resources and sufficient capacity to produce electricity, but it is still meeting much of its electricity demands through imports mainly from the Central Asia. The Da Afghanistan Breshna Shirkat, the power utility, is required to collect electricity charges from its subscribers. But, all subscribers do not pay for the electricity as there are a number of strongmen and outlawed subscribers in main cities as well as in areas under the control of the Taliban.
DABS usually publishes lists of subscribers who do not pay their electricity bills, but there is currently no such listing and information on the expenses of electricity distributed in the Taliban-controlled areas. Salam Watandar has studied the situation in a number of provinces to get statistics.
SW’s findings indicate that the Taliban's annual income from the electricity reaches to AFN 665,000,000. The money comes mainly from the provinces of Helmand, Kunduz, Baghlan, Faryab, Takhar and Herat and in other areas where the Taliban are privately distributing domestic electricity.
According to the reports, the collection of electricity bills in the Taliban-controlled areas is well-regulated, and this group has been collecting electricity bills every two months, and people are also paying their bills quite regularly.
Helmand; at the top of the list
The Helmand province has the largest volume of revenue for the Taliban from electricity. This amounts to some 36 million afghanis. Local officials in Helmand province said that while the Kajaki power generating dam is fully in control of the government, but the Taliban's full control over Musa Qala district has led the group to have control over revenues from the districts of Musa Qala, Kajaki and Sangin.
Helmand governor’s spokesman, Omar Zawak, said that the electricity lines to Lashkargah and Kandahar cities passes through Taliban-controlled areas. He said 50 megawatts of electricity is utilized in the province, including 20 megawatts passing to Kandahar, 11 megawatts to Lashkargah and 15 megawatts in the three districts of the province under the control of the Taliban.
Zwak said this amounts to revenue worth some AFN 176 million a year, and the Taliban's income from 15 megawatts of electricity amounts to AFN 218 million. He confirmed that the revenue from these areas also goes to the Taliban's pocket.
After Helmand, Kunduz is the second most lucrative province for the Taliban in terms of revenue from the power utility. The electricity bills issued by the "Islamic Emirate of the Taliban" show that more than 22,000 households (22,757 subscribers) are paying electricity bills to the insurgents.
Mohammad Momand, head of the DABS in Kunduz, said the Taliban have threatened these families in Kunduz not to pay their electricity bills to the government. According to Momand, the Taliban's income translates into over AFN 34 million (34.135.500) per two month. The head of DABS in Kunduz added that the power utility has not been able to recover a penny from the Taliban-controlled areas.
The Taliban’s presence in parts of Baghlan province is significant. Relevant local sources who do not want their identity to be disclosed in the report, said the Taliban are collecting electricity bills from the residents of the fifth and sixth district in Pul-e-Khumri and from some parts of the central Baghlan.
According to these sources, about 36 transformers of the DABS, each of which has close to 200 subscribers, are located in Taliban-controlled areas consuming 8,000,000 kw of electricity in each round. According to sources, the average Taliban income in each quarter reaches to AFN 18 million from these areas.
The Taliban in Faryab also directly collect electricity bills from people. Sayed Abdul Hameed, an official at the DABS in the province, said that the Taliban gather about AFN 12 million in each round of electricity bill collection in Khwaja Sabz Posh, Shirin Tagab, Dawlat Abad, Qarmqol, Khan Charbagh and from parts of Pashtun Kot district.
Syed Sharafaddin Mayhanyar, Shirin Tagab district governor, told Salam Watandar that the Taliban receive around AFN 2 million from the district in this connection. Local officials in the other five districts of Faryab said although the Taliban's incomes are not accurate, but local sources say that the Taliban's income in these districts is also equal to that in Shirin-e Gab district.
Herat is also not behind in terms of the Taliban siphoning from the state coffers. Mohammad Taher Aref, an official at the DABS in Herat, confirmed that the Taliban are collecting electricity bills in some 30 villages in the Keshk Rabat Sangi district and in 7 villages in the Gelran district.
Although, Aref did not provide accurate statistics, he said that there are about 4,000 families living in these areas, and the daily average consumption of electricity reaches here reaches to AFN 50. According to Aref, the Taliban's income from here amounts to some AFN 10,500,000 per two months. According to him, the Taliban charge only around AFN 2 to 3 per kilowatt, while as the power utility imports it for AFN 6 to 7 per kilowatt.
In Takhar, situation is slightly different. The Taliban here are in a secret pact with the power utility which earns them money against security guarantees for the power transmission lines. SW wished to get access to first-hand documents in this connection for an estimate on the income of the Taliban, but to no avail.
The Taliban are present in the Ali Abad, Khan Abad and Imam Saheb districts. They also collect money for electricity consumption in parts of Gul Tapa and Chahar Dara districts.
Inability to collect bills
Waheedullah Tawhidi, spokesman for the DABS, told Salam Watandar the power utility is unable to collect bills from the Taliban-controlled areas, and it can also not cut power supply to the Taliban-controlled areas for the sake of safe passage to other parts of the country.
He urged the warring sides not to politically manipulate this service delivering utility. Tawhidi said the loss of revenue in this connection is adjusted as ‘line-losses’ and compensated by 15 per cent of the DABS profit.
In conversation with SW, Zabihullah Mujahed, the Taliban spokesman, declined to provide statistics in this regard. He said the group invests the money earned from these means on safety of power transmission lines and delivery of electricity.
Last month, SW published an exclusive report highlighting the estimated AFN 22 billion Taliban have been earning on yearly basis via illegal customs and religious taxes.