PAN, October 19, 2011

MPs accused of having ties to armed groups

The groups were involved in insecurity, land grab, murder and intimidation

By Abasin Zaheer

Lawmakers from eastern Nangarhar province on Tuesday accused some of their colleagues and former jihadi leaders of having links with illegal armed groups blamed for insecurity and corruption.

Senate Chairman Fazl Hadi Muslimyar told the upper house people of the eastern province had told him that a number of illegal armed had emerged in Nangarhar. The groups were involved in insecurity, land grab, murder and intimidation, he said.

Muslimyar alleged most of the groups had ties to a number of parliamentarians and former jihadi leaders. Without naming the lawmakers, he said he had talked to security officials about the presence of the gangs and their links to MPs.

Another legislator from Nangarhar, Lotfullah Baba, confirmed the presence of armed groups in the province. He claimed the gunmen were interfering in affairs of government departments.

He said the groups extorted money from traders to ensure the clearance of their merchandise-laden vehicles by the customs department without the payment of taxes. Baba said security forces were unable to take action against the strongmen.

"Everyone knows to whom these groups belong. I don't need to say something more in this regard," he added.

But Kuchi tribe representative, Sher Ali Ahmadzai, also a resident of Nangarhar, said the groups comprising 10,000 armed men belonged to former jihadi leaders. He said if the gangs were not busted, they would take control of government land and departments.

Another parliamentarian from Nangarhar, Lailuma Wali Hakmi, said the groups had long been operating in the province. MPs had taken up the issue with President Hamid Karzai, who promised a commission would be created to investigate the matter, she said.

Nangarhar governor's spokesman, Ahmad Zia Abdulzai, confirmed a number of such groups were threatening the security situation in the province. However, he declined to identify the groups.

He said the interior ministry had issued licences to the groups to carry guns. Abdulzai said Governor Gul Agha Sherzai had already directed security officials to take action against armed groups creating problems for the people.

Published originally on Oct. 18, 2011

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