'Is this jihad?' Afghans ask, as Taliban destroys more electricity pylons in Herat
HERAT -- The Taliban's destruction of pylons bringing electricity to Herat city is the latest example of the militants' enmity toward Afghan public projects.
On August 27, the Taliban blew up two pylons between Ghorian and Zindajan districts of Herat Province, disrupting the supply of electricity to the city.
"Our crew went to the area and repaired both pylons within two days, but one day later, the Taliban blew up yet another pylon in Zindajan District that again disconnected electricity to Herat city," said Muhammad Tahir Arif, director of Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat (DABS) in Herat.
"A Taliban commander told us in a phone call that they demolished one pylon and plan to blow up others as well," he added. "But we have sent all our machinery to the area, and our crew is working around the clock to repair the damaged pylons."
"The Taliban distributed electricity bills in a number of villages in Ghorian District and asked residents to pay the electricity bills to them," said Arif, referring to phony bills that the Taliban issue for power that they did nothing to provide. "Barna Abad is one of the villages in Ghorian District they approached, but residents of Barna Abad village disobeyed... the Taliban and said they'd pay [DABS]."
The Taliban blew up the pylons in Ghorian in response, he said.
"The Taliban blew up the pylons for their personal interests," said Jilani Farhad, a spokesman for the Herat governor. "The security forces have provided security to the technical crew so that they can repair the damaged pylons."
Once the pylons are repaired, the security forces will search for the perpetrators, according to Farhad.
"It is impossible to have a soldier guard every pylon, but we, along with tribal elders, have put serious effort into preventing more pylons from being destroyed," he added.
'Is this jihad?'
About 70% of Herat city residents are affected by the blackout as workers attempt to fix the pylons.
"If armed anti-government elements have their differences with the government, why are they perpetrating actions that hurt civilians and Afghan society?" asked Ahmad Irshad Nizami, a resident of Herat city.
"You have problems with the government, so why do you blow up pylons? Damage to the pylons affects neither the Taliban nor the government -- only [ordinary] Afghans see the damage," Nizami said. "The Taliban claim that they perform jihad; is this jihad?"
"We call on the government to prevent the Taliban's attacks on pylons," he said. "Residents have faced serious problems for the past few days due to the blackout."
"The Taliban are the enemy of the government, and we are impartial people who don't hurt anyone, but the Taliban have cut our electricity, and we have been in a blackout for a few nights," said Muhammad Ashraf Rahimi, a resident of Herat city. "Our lives have really been disrupted, and we cannot work."
"We want the Taliban not to disrupt public services like electricity and water, and any issue they have with the government, they need to resolve it directly with it," he added.
"Electricity is one of the basic needs of life," said Ghulam Hazrat Hotaki, a resident of Herat city. "The Taliban... should not include electricity in their political and military issues.
"The Taliban have several times blown up pylons and created blackouts," he said. "We call on the Taliban to refrain from creating problems for electricity transmission and to let the Afghan people live an easy life."
The Taliban attack also halted production at the Herat Industrial Park.
The park has been blacked out for 10 days since the Taliban destroyed the pylons, said Hamidullah Khadem, director of the Herat Chamber of Industries and Commerce.
The Herat Industrial Park is fully dependent on electricity and the owners of factories lose millions of afghanis every day because of the lack of electricity, he added.
"More than 25,000 employees work at Herat Industrial Park, but because of the blackout, all of them are jobless," said Khadem. "Production facilities have lost millions of afghanis ... Raw materials have been stuck in factory machinery. They have gone rotten, and the machinery has developed technical problems."
"There are more than 300 factories at Herat Industrial Park, and after the electricity is cut, all these factories have remained idle," he added.
"It is sad that the Taliban are targeting public installations," said Noor Ahmad Haidari, a member of the Herat provincial council. "Civilians rely on the electricity that the Taliban have now cut."
Herat residents "have encountered many problems because of the blackout," Haidari said, adding that even hospitals have lost power.
"This act of the Taliban is against religious teachings," he added. "We ask the government's armed opposition that if they are fighting with the government and international forces to refrain from destroying public installations."