Taliban takes over mining, timber business in Swat to fund terror war chest

With a weak elected government and an unwilling military establishment unable to rein in militancy in Pakistan, the Taliban has been gradually taking control of the country's natural resources.

In the last few weeks it has forcibly taken over operations of two emerald mines and pine timber in the Swat region, to further augment its terror war chest.

The emerald mines in the Swat province hold the second largest known deposits of emeralds in South Asia and are known to produce this precious gem since the 1960s, when they were under the control of the Prince of Swat.

The mines came under the control of the Gemstone Corporation of Pakistan under the mines department in 1969 and now in March 2009, these mines have come under the control of the Taliban.

The famous Gojaro Kalay emerald mine in Shangla, next to the Swat valley, was leased to Luxury International, a US company for Pakistani Rs40 million per year. However, ever since the Swat province came under the control of the Taliban earlier this year, Luxury withdrew from the lease agreement as the Pakistani government was unable to provide security to the operations.

After the departure of Luxury International, the mines department, wanting to re-auction the mine, had floated a pre-qualification tender and was supposed to re-auction the mines on 18 April.