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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - KABUL: It was the province from where the Taliban set out to control the rest of Afghanistan, and it was here that the revolt against the insurgent group gained a clear hold. Now, however, the people of the forgotten province of Uruzgan are once again turning to the Taliban to resolve their legal matters.
“The Taliban began their movement from Uruzgan and it was here that people began the revolt against them, too,” Amanullah Timoori, who served as Uruzgan’s governor until recently, told Arab News by phone.
“The sphere of the government’s control has become limited, people feel frustrated, do not trust government’s judicial organs and many go to settle their disputes in Taliban courts,” he added.
Nestled in central Afghanistan, Uruzgan is one of 34 provinces in the country.
It lies close to Kandahar and nearly 470 km away from Kabul.
With a population of 450,000, a majority of its residents make a living by trading in fruits such as pomegranates, apples, pears and poppies.
However, disillusionment with the government and a lack of funds to pay for judicial expenses leads many to turn to the Taliban for help.
Haji Mira Jan, a prominent tribal chief in Uruzgan who serves as an adviser to Chief Executive Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, says he remembers the revolt against the Taliban, adding that in recent years, he has voiced people’s concerns to Abdullah, President Ashraf Ghani and former President Hamid Karzai, too, but to no avail.
“People go to Taliban courts because the Taliban take swift action and take no bribes, while we have no judges, prosecutors, district chiefs in almost all of Uruzgan, except in the center and people do not trust them because of corruption,” he said.
“We have plenty of water, but no dam for storing it or using it to generate power, we have good fruits and harvest, but roads are almost closed or bad and we cannot export out commodities. People here feel as if Uruzgan is not part of Afghanistan,” he said.
He added that a lack of coordination among top provincial officials, government infighting and the fact that a few people have influence on the central government to appoint men of their choice as top provincial officials, means that the schism between ordinary people is widening and corruption is flourishing.
The flow of hundreds of billions of dollars in foreign assistance from the US, Europe, Japan and the Gulf nations, and the fact that Uruzgan served as a starting point of the rebellion against the Taliban, convinced people that they would benefit from the aid far more than other parts of the country and would see the establishment of a decent local government.
However, people felt let down by both the local and central government in recent years.
Tribal elder Mira Jan said that the local government was losing its grip in many parts of the province, too.
In one embezzlement case he said, a former police chief, in just four months of service, had stolen 58,000 liters of oil, which was to be used for government vehicles and generators.
Amanullah Hotaki, who served as the provincial council chief for four years in Uruzgan, described the situation today: “90 percent of people in the province refer to Taliban for settlement of their legal cases. The remaining 10 percent are too afraid to go Taliban because they either serve in the government or think (they) will be killed by Taliban.”
“And when this 10 percent go to government courts, either their work is delayed or they have to pay bribes and do not expect to receive justice,” he added.
Besmillah Mohammadi, a lawmaker from Uruzgan, said the Taliban “have the decisiveness for sorting out a case immediately and following up on it. If either side (accused or defendant) disobeys the Taliban’s verdict afterward, they face harsh punishment.”
The private Tolo News TV quoted Uruzgan’s governor, Assadullah Saed as saying: “80 percent of our problems are decided by the Taliban because we (the local government) are not present there (in district centers and towns).”
Saed did not respond to calls from Arab News, while the spokesmen for the Supreme Court and the attorney general’s office in Kabul declined to comment.
Abdul Satar Saadat, a legal expert said that “some people in government-held areas also go to Taliban courts because they decide on issues quickly.”
It’s a problem which analyst Zubair Shafiqi says could “serve as a blow to the government’s legitimacy.”
“Because the government’s legal and judicial organs have moved to the center and the government courts and judicial organs are weak in implementing their rulings, people are compelled to go to Taliban courts. People cannot defy the Taliban’s decisions and this shows the government lacks control and further damages its legitimacy too,” he said.
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