25 September, 2020

Behind Faith's Iron Curtain

Under the Taliban's fanatical policing lurks a corrupt, decayed regime, one cursed by the Afghans

Gulam Hasnain
Behind Faith's Iron Curtain
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53
As the two turbaned strangers with unkempt beards stroll into the courtyard of his warehouse in Kabul, middle-aged Hashmat Khan's bearded face suddenly turns ashen. As do the faces of six other traders who were exchanging jokes with him a moment earlier. "Taliban," whispers one of them in the sudden silence. "Keep quiet," cautions another as Hashmat excuses himself and reluctantly walks towards the two. A little later, he returns. "They took 200 (Pakistani Rs 200)," he tells his friends with a sigh. His fellow traders giggle. "This is normal," explains another of them. Soon, they resume trading jokes over their green tea.

The incident isn't sporadic. For Hashmat and hundreds of other businessmen and traders in war-ravaged Kabul and in the rest of Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, bribes, extortion and blackmail have become a way of life. Each cargo truck leaving or entering Afghanistan has to pay at least (Pak) Rs 2,000 as bribe—or what in business circles is known as "speed money". This, of course, is in addition to the normal duties and taxes. Moreover, be it a vehicle...
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