Most families of Taliban men killed in fighting against the army in Pakistan or in Afghanistan have been reduced to living in abject poverty.
“The majority of the families of the militants have now resorted to seeking alms from the people to get a meal,” Taj Muhammad Khan, a schoolteacher in Tank, one of the 25 districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) adjacent to the militancy-infested Waziristan in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) told IPS.
“There is no one to help them,” said Khan. “The people also look down upon such families whose men had joined the Taliban and were killed by the army.” The Taliban had recruited teenaged and illiterate men but didn’t help their families when they were killed, he said.
Ikramullah Shah, 28, a fruit seller, left his home in Tank in January last year. “He left to pray in a local mosque but didn’t come back,” his father Abdullah Shah told IPS. “In April, some Taliban leaders came to my house after midnight to tell me that my son [Ikramullah Shah] had become martyred in the fight against the ‘infidel army’. Now, I beg to bring up his children and widow.”
Young farmer Shafqatullah from Charsadda district was killed in Afghanistan in June 2010. Shafqatullah, 21, supported his two young brothers and parents. “We feel shattered,” his father Abdullah Shah told IPS.
“The Taliban had given me US$400 when they gave us news of my son’s death,” he said. “The Taliban had promised to give money every month but they didn’t. Some people now give us money in charity.”
Little or no compensation
KP sports minister Syed Aqil Shah told IPS the Taliban were mercenaries who ditched their friends. “The Taliban deprived hundreds of families of their breadwinners by luring youngsters to militancy and then didn’t care about the wellbeing of the grieving families,” said Syed Aqil Shah, who has survived three Taliban attacks.
Initially, Taliban leaders paid some money to those who died in fighting in their cause, but now they are facing severe financial crisis, he said.
The international crackdown on financing terror had led to financial troubles for the Taliban, Syed Aqil Shah said. Support to families of Taliban members who died fighting had dried up after 2008, he said.
“The outlawed Tehreek Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has now been raising money through kidnappings for ransom, extortions from the rich, and bank robberies,” he said. “The cash flow is insufficient for the militants to support surviving families.”
Police officer Muhammad Khalid, who has investigated more than a dozen such cases, said families suffer massively when militants are killed. But in some cases earlier, he said, the Taliban had paid lucrative amounts to heirs of slain soldiers.
In Bannu district, adjacent to Waziristan, the police found that the Taliban had paid $34,000 to a family for the death of a militant in 2005.