Taliban disrupt telecom services in Ghor, threaten to destroy towers

By Omar

Due to repeated threats posed by the Taliban, four private telecommunications carriers have ceased their operations since June 4, according to the Afghanistan Telecom Regulatory Authority (ATRA) in Ghor Province. [Najibullah Nazari/Salaam Times]

HERAT -- In addition to intensifying their offensive against security forces in Ghor province, the Taliban have also caused major disruptions to the area's telecommunication operations.

Afghanistan Telecom Regulatory Authority (ATRA) stated that following the Taliban's repeated threats, four private telecommunications carriers have ceased their operations in Ghor since June 4.

However the state-owned Salaam Network continues to operate, it said.

The Taliban threatened to destroy telecommunications towers if the companies refused to shut down their services, said Sayed Mir Ghafoori, ATRA director in Ghor.

Screenshot of a Salaam Times video shows a telecommunications tower in Firoz Koh, Ghor province, on June 11.

Screenshot of a Salaam Times video shows a telecommunications tower in Firoz Koh, Ghor province, on June 11.

"After receiving the threat, we shared the information with respective authorities and decided to suspend the services of private telecom carriers to avoid having their towers blown up by the Taliban," he said.

"Most Ghor residents use the services provided by four telecom carriers, all of whom were threatened by the Taliban," Ghafoori said, adding that almost 90% of local residents have been affected by the suspension.

Local residents are suffering a great deal from the shutdown, Ghor Governor Abdul Zahir Faizzada said on June 12.

"The Taliban are the enemies of development and stability," he said. "The Taliban's only goal is to push Afghanistan back into the dark days."

There are no serious threats to telecommunication services in the provincial capital Firoz Koh and various districts because of the presence of security forces, Faizzada said.

However, the Taliban have threatened to destroy telecom towers in remote districts and villages if telecom antennas were not turned off in Firoz Koh, he added.

Hate for the Taliban

Residents of Ghor see the Taliban's intention to cut off telecommunication services in the province as a sign of the group's enmity towards the Afghan people.

With the interruption of telecom services, residents face a lot of problems and people have been deprived of their basic rights, said Halima Parastish, a Ghor resident.

Cutting off telecom services is yet another brutal act by the Taliban against innocent people, she said.

"Such destructive activities of the Taliban will further increase the people's hatred towards them."

"The Taliban must understand that telecom carriers are public services and do not have any connection with the government," she said, adding that the Taliban should not disrupt such services.

The Taliban are an extremist group and their goal has always been to carry out destructive activities, Parastish said.

The Taliban do not bother thinking about the misery they bring to the people by cutting off telecom services, said Mohammad Gul Poya, a civil society activist in Ghor.

In addition to disrupting telecom services, the Taliban has also been planting landmines and other explosive ordnances on public roads, forcing people to avoid commuting between Firoz Koh city and many districts, he said.

"We strongly condemn this act of the Taliban," Poya said.

Because of the Taliban's actions, people can no longer stay connected with family members outside of the province, said Hamidullah Motahid, a member of the Ghor provincial council.

"By destroying infrastructure projects and disbanding public services and harassing people at the behest of foreigners, the Taliban have proved that they have no place among the people ," he said.

Abuse of Islam

The Taliban are an undeniable disgrace to the holy religion of Islam, said Mawlawi Abdul Ghaffar Akbari, a religious scholar in Firoz Koh.

"I do not understand the basis of the Taliban's brutal and destructive acts against civilians and public places," he said. "It is clear that all their activities are against Islamic principles."

The Taliban have discredited Islam by massacring innocent Muslims and destroying public facilities, he said, adding that safeguarding public services is the every Muslim's obligation.

Destroying roads, culverts and public buildings, and disrupting public services are strictly forbidden [in Islam], said Mawlawi Abdul Basir Serat, a religious scholar in Qala-e-Naw, the capital of Badghis province.

The Taliban do not have any legitimate justification to prevent people from benefitting from telecom services, he said.

Islamic scholars around the world have condemned the ongoing violent actions of the Taliban, but they continue to target and kill innocent people, taking directions from regional and neighbouring countries' intelligence agencies, he said.

"The goal of extremist groups such as the Taliban is defaming Islam," Serat said, adding that those who support the Taliban aim to undermine the values of the religion.

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