The Taliban’s Extortion Scheme: Minibus Drivers Expose Forced Payments

By: Behnia

Numerous minibus drivers in Kabul, the capital city, express grievances regarding Taliban members extorting money from them. They claim that these militants compel them to pay daily fees in order to operate their minibuses from designated stations. The Kabul Municipality, under the Taliban administration, has appointed specific individuals at busy stations to collect 40 to 60 Afghanis from minibus drivers, depending on the vehicle type. If drivers refuse to pay the Taliban members, they face restrictions on picking up passengers from crowded public stations. The drivers consider these payments to be “extortion” and expect the Taliban to facilitate a favorable working environment.

Asadullah, a minibus driver with over twenty years of experience in Kabul, shares with Hasht-e Subh Daily, “The Taliban issue us a receipt and demand 60 Afghanis in return. It doesn’t matter how many turns we make throughout the day.” Asadullah further explains, “Initially, they used to charge us 15 Afghanis per day, but that increased to 30, then 50, and now it’s 60 Afghanis. I hope they won’t reconsider and raise the amount in the future.”

He clarifies that the Kabul Municipality, under the Taliban administration, supplies these receipts. Asadullah, solely reliant on driving as his source of income, stresses that after deducting fuel and vehicle expenses, he only earns a meager daily income of 150 to 200 Afghanis, which falls short of meeting his family’s expenses.

In light of this situation, minibus drivers feel obligated to adhere to the demands of the Taliban members. If they do not possess the receipt, they are prohibited from picking up passengers at public stations. Asadullah further explains, “When the Taliban raised the price of the receipt to 60 Afghanis, we gathered and approached the Taliban administration, requesting a reduction in this amount. However, the Taliban responded, stating that if we are willing to work under these conditions, it’s our choice, but if not, we can stay at home.”

Ahmad, a minibus driver in Kabul, criticizes the Taliban’s practice of collecting money from minibus drivers as unfair treatment. He asserts, “On one hand, there are limited work opportunities, and on the other hand, prices have soared. We are compelled to surrender half of our daily earnings to the Taliban. This is inherently unjust.” Ahmad further remarks, “Under the previous government, I used to complete five or six trips a day, but now I can’t exceed two.”

Furthermore, the Taliban have established passenger fares for minibuses based on vehicle type. According to drivers, the fare per passenger is 5 Afghanis for Caster minivans, 10 Afghanis for Toyota Town Ace and Mercedes vehicles, and 20 Afghanis for taxis. Ahmad highlights the lack of regulation in the current government, stating, “There are no provisions in place. Even if fuel prices fluctuate, we are not permitted to adjust the fares.”

According to minibus drivers, who reference Taliban members, the Kabul municipality collects approximately six million Afghanis each month from minibuses without offering any corresponding services. The Taliban administration has not provided an explanation regarding the monthly collection amount and its allocation. Under the Taliban’s categorization, Caster minivans are required to pay 60 Afghanis per day, while Mercedes, Toyota Town Ace, and taxis are expected to pay 40 Afghanis daily for picking up passengers from public stations.

Minibus drivers are urging the Taliban to generate employment opportunities for citizens rather than engaging in extortion. They firmly believe that by opening doors to girls in universities, academies, and schools, there will be increased activity in the city, leading to the flourishing of their work.

Since the Taliban regime took control in Afghanistan, citizens have experienced significant changes in the political, social, and economic landscape. Unfortunately, ordinary people have been the most affected by unemployment and poverty. It is worth mentioning that the Taliban have previously raised revenues by collecting money from business owners through various pretexts. Shopkeepers in different provinces have voiced their grievances about a four to sixfold increase in income taxes, while street vendors report daily collections by the municipality.

Meanwhile, unemployment and poverty have skyrocketed during the nearly two years of Taliban governance, reaching unprecedented levels. The majority of citizens are unable to afford even a basic meal. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), around 80% of Afghan citizens are experiencing a decline in income, with 20 million people enduring severe hunger and an additional 6 million on the brink of famine.