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INTERNATIONAL INTERNATIONAL

PAKISTAN MARBLE HELPS


appeared to have no problem with the government taking a
share, he said.
So far, he said, the Taliban were overseeing the opera-
tion with a light hand: a single armed Taliban fighter sat at a

TALIBAN STAY IN BUSINESS checkpoint not far from Zaman’s hut, to ensure that the tax
was paid.
The Taliban is today a loose organization of mostly eth-
nic Pashtuns divided in two wings, one on each side of the
border. Their leader in Mohmand goes by the name Abdul
Wali, a guerrilla fighter in his 30s who rose to prominence last
year when his group occupied a famous shrine in the village
of Ghazi Abad in Mohmand.
He is affiliated with the overall leader of the Pakistani
Taliban, Baitullah Mehsud, a powerful ally of al-Qaida who
keeps his base in South Waziristan, another part of the tribal
areas.
Working with al-Qaida, the Taliban have steadily tight-
ened their grip over much of the tribal areas in the last several
years by cowing or killing hundreds of local tribal chiefs who
were the area’s traditional authorities.
In Mohmand, the Taliban have speedily consolidated
control in the last year. They have filled a vacuum left by a
vacillating government, unable and unwilling to assert its
authority, said Munir Orekzei, a member of Parliament from
Kurram, southwest of Mohmand, one of the seven districts, or
agencies, in the tribal areas.
“In every agency the most powerful man is the Taliban,”
Orekzei said. “Because if someone says, ‘I’m in favor of the
government,’ he will be killed.”
At the same time, people in the tribal areas believe some
ZIARAT, Pakistan -- The mountain of white marble shines exact, to strengthen their hold and turn themselves into a self- branches of the Pakistani government are encouraging the
with such brilliance in the sun it looks like snow. For four sustaining fighting force. The quarry alone has already brought failed over the last several years to mediate a dispute between
the Masaud and Gurbaz subtribes over how the mining rights Taliban in their route to power, he said.
years, the quarry beneath it lay dormant, its riches captive to the Taliban tens of thousands of dollars, Zaman said. Orekzei said he recently attended a meeting with Rehman
tribal squabbles and government ineptitude, in this corner of The seizure of the quarry is a measure of how in recent to the marble should be allocated, according to Pakistani gov-
ernment officials familiar with the quarry, who spoke on the Malik, the Pakistani interior minister, and tribal leaders in Pe-
Pakistan’s tribal areas. months, as the Pakistani military has pulled back under a se- shawar, capital of the nearby North-West Frontier Province.
But in April, the Taliban appeared and imposed a firm ries of peace deals, the Pakistani Taliban have extended their condition of anonymity, because of the effort’s failure.
A new government mining corporation, Pakistan Stone “Rehman Malik asked why the people in the tribal areas
hand. They settled the feud between the tribes, demanded a fat reach through more of the rugged 600-mile-long territory in were not fighting back against the Taliban,” Orekzei said. “I
fee upfront and a tax on every truck that ferried the treasure northern Pakistan, known as the Federally Administered Trib- Development Co., offered last year to invest in modern mining
machinery, but even with the lure of added value, the develop- told him the people believe the government is behind the Tal-
from the quarry. Since then, Mir Zaman, a contractor from al Areas, or FATA. iban. I said, you tell the public what you are doing, and if they
the Masaud subtribe, which was picked by the Taliban to run Today, the Taliban not only settles disputes in their con- ment authority could not sort out the feud.
the quarry, has watched contentedly as his trucks roll out of solidated domain but they also levy taxes, smuggle drugs and The arguments were fierce because the tribes knew that
the quarry with colossal boulders bound for refining in nearby other contraband, and impose their own brand of rough jus- the Ziarat marble was of particularly fine texture and purity,
towns. tice, complete with courts and prisons. comparable to Italian Carrara marble, according to an assess-
“With the Taliban it is not a question of a request to us, From the security of this border region, they pivot their ment done for the FATA Development Authority.
but a question of force,” said Zaman, a bearded, middle-aged fighters and suicide bombers in two directions: against NATO The Taliban came eager for a share of the business. Their
tribal leader who seemed philosophical about the reality of and U.S. forces over the border in southern Afghanistan, and reputation for brutality and the weakness of the local govern-
Taliban authority here. “At least the quarry was now operat- against Pakistani forces -- police, army and intelligence of- ment allowed the Taliban to settle the dispute in short order.
ing”, he said. ficials -- in major Pakistani cities. Today the quarry operation is rudimentary, using dyna-
The takeover of the Ziarat marble quarry, a coveted na- The quarry here in the Mohmand tribal district, strategi- mite, which harms the marble and renders production ex-
tional asset, is one of the boldest examples of how the Tal- cally situated between the city of Peshawar and the Afghan tremely inefficient. Antiquated trucks grind their way up the
iban have made Pakistan’s tribal areas far more than a base border, is a new effort by the Taliban to harness the abundant steep, tiered roadways carved into the mountainside to haul
for training camps or a launching pad for sending fighters into natural resources of a region where there are plenty of other the rock away. But the quarry’s reopening has given some-
Afghanistan. mining operations for coal, gold, copper and chromate. thing to everyone.
A rare, unescorted visit to the region this month, during Of all the minerals in the tribal areas, the marble from Zi- The local tribes are profiting along with the Taliban. Once
which the Taliban detained for two days, a freelance reporter arat is one of the most highly prized for use in expensive floors the trucks reach the processing plants, the government, too,
and photographer working for The New York Times, revealed and walls in Pakistan, and in limited quantities abroad. collects a hefty tax, nearly double that of the Taliban, Zaman
how the Taliban is taking over territory, using the income they A government body, the FATA Development Authority, said, though there was no way to verify the claim. The Taliban

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