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Families of dead terrorists live in misery
Philanthropists, relatives and neighbours help, interviews reveal
By Ashfaq Yusufzai
MARDAN – Abdullah Shah, 28, used to sell cigarettes and candy, and earned enough to support his three children.
“Then last year, he encountered a person who invited him to join a militant organisation and took him along,” said his father, Faizullah Shah, a roadside vendor in terrorism-stricken Sikandari Koroona, Mardan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Abdullah died somewhere in Afghanistan or in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, and now his family is paying the price.
“The Taliban informed us in January that Abdullah had died ... and now they would support his children,” Shah said. “Three bearded men knocked at our door after midnight to give us the message of the death of my son. They also gave me Rs. 20,000 (US $213) and promised that his kids would be given Rs. 5,000 (US $53) every month, but we didn’t receive ... that money they had promised or see those men again.”
Deprived of their breadwinners, the families of terrorists who died in battle or in suicide attacks often become penniless, and are forced to survive on charity and the kindness of neighbours, Central Asia Online learned from interviews with the families.
Faizullah’s income, for example, can barely support his family, and the burden of caring for his three grandsons (ages 6, 5 and 4) has shattered him, he said.
“Now, we look toward rich people in the village to give us alms and zakat (annual tithe money) for upbringing of my orphaned grandchildren,” he said.
Betrayal by the Taliban
Faizullah said he feels betrayed by the Taliban. “They didn’t honour their promise of giving financial support to the widow and children of my son,” he said.
The adjacent Charsadda District is also home to many such militants who died violently, leaving their families to beg for survival.
Muhammad Yousaf, a blind man, still curses Taliban militants for luring his lone son to militancy, leaving his family destitute.
“It was in 2009 when some unknown people met my son in a makeshift restaurant on Peshawar-Charsadda Road and invited him to go with them to Kashmir,” said Yousaf, a resident of Shabqadar Tehsil, Charsadda. “My son told me that he would become rich after fighting in Kashmir, but I didn’t allow him because his income supported our four-member family and I didn’t want to lose him.”
After 10 days, his son Muhammad Rafiq disappeared and a month later came the news of Rafiq’s death. “Since then, we have been living like animals,” Yousaf said through tears.
Yousaf was left to care for his diabetic wife and Rafiq’s mentally disabled brother, 17, with no means to support them, he said.
“We eat from the money we receive from our relatives,” he told Central Asia Online. “The other people don’t give us alms because they thought that giving money to us amounted to supporting a family of terrorists.”
Terrorists low on money
Investigators often find that the families of slain militants suffer greatly when their sons are killed, said Ahmad Wazir, an officer of the KP Special Branch Police.
One reason for this trend can be attributed to an international crackdown on terror financing, Ahmad said. Before 2008, terrorists financially supported the families of dead colleagues, but the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) is suffering from a shortage of funds in light of these efforts.
Although the TTP has turned to raising money through kidnappings for ransom, extortions from the rich, and bank robberies, the cash flow is insufficient for the militants to support surviving families as they once did, he said.
He gave contrasting examples to illustrate this trend.
“I investigated a case in Tank where the family of a dead militant had been given Rs. 5m (US $53,000),” Ahmad said, referring to the way the militants used to do things.
Then he described the situation for Bakhtiar Ali, a cobbler from Buner District, who joined the militants in Swat District in 2007 but was killed by Pakistani troops in 2008. His mother led a decent life when her son was supporting her, but has now been reduced to begging, Ahmad said.
“I forbade him time and again from joining the militants, but he told me he was working in Swat,” she told investigators, according to Ahmad. “People told me that my son had joined the Taliban, but I didn’t believe them and lost my son.”
He also mentioned two brothers from Bannu District, who reportedly died in Orakzai Agency during a military campaign. “Now their parents and three sisters are begging to earn two square meals a day,” Ahmad said.