Based on a report from Interpol, a special team from Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) raided the offices of two Afghan trading companies on January 24 in Peshawar. FIA authorities confiscated all company records and arrested a person who was present. The bank accounts of the two companies have been seized and a probe has been initiated to assess the details of their links with the Taliban and the alleged substantial amount of financial transactions in Afghanistan.
The Interpol report received by the FIA states that two Afghan companies—Amria Food and Shirkat Special—recently shifted amounts in the tune of 2.8 million U.S. dollars, 1.7 million euros, and 1.5 million German marks to Afghanistan. The two companies have their offices in Indonesia, Malaysia and Dubai. Investigating Officer Habibullah said that 15 of the companies’ bank accounts were seized, and that the accounts—located in different banks—contained millions of U.S. dollars. The customs clearing agent for the companies, Kamran Sikanderi, was arrested and sent to jail under the court’s jurisdiction. FIA is searching for the owners of the companies who escaped the raid (Nawa-i-Waqt, January 26).
Interpol issued arrest warrants for the owners—two brothers named Haji Abdul Bari and Abdul Baqi—who allegedly used the food businesses to finance Taliban rebels in Afghanistan. The brothers are both Afghans who had been operating from Peshawar since 2003.
The raid on the companies’ offices infused new vitality into attempts to cut off the financial resources of Taliban and al-Qaeda militants. The success of the militants in maintaining operations lies in the ability to secure a consistent cash flow from the source of the funds to its final destination. Both the Taliban and al-Qaeda have been able to cleverly use the formal banking and company trading system for this purpose; additionally, both entities heavily depend upon informal means such as hawala (remittances).
Timely financial transactions are of utmost necessity for Taliban and al-Qaeda militants because recruiting new volunteers, purchasing weapons and equipment, and covering operational costs require cash transactions. Data from Interpol suggests that besides informal methods like hawala, militants are still using formal banking and trading systems.
The FIA is actively probing the accounts and business deals of these companies, and more raids are expected. Afghan traders are doing business all over Pakistan. Many of them are running businesses in collaboration with Pakistani partners.
Offices of Amria Food and Shirkat Special are situated in Mohmand Plaza, a well-known trading center in Peshawar. An Afghan neighbor, scared due to the raid by FIA, revealed to the author on condition of anonymity that the company is a family-owned business and mostly controlled by Haji Abdul Bari’s sons and nephews. The brothers Haji Abdul Bari and Abdul Baqi are the elders of an extended Pashtun family that runs a large business in at least six countries. Abdul Bari permanently lives in Dubai and rarely visits these offices. Apparently, the companies deal in food and non-food items, but it is believed that they are in the business of overseas recruitment as well. They provided employment to a number of Afghan and Pakistani nationals in Dubai and Malaysia. Abdul Bari, despite being a well-known associate of Mullah Omar, still enjoys influence in Afghanistan and the UAE.