KARACHI -- A planned auction of a deceased Afghan Taliban leader's properties in Pakistan shows the extent to which the militants were involved in local businesses and investments.
An anti-terrorism court in Karachi on February 14 advertised in local newspapers the impending auction of six properties once owned by deceased Afghan Taliban chief Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansoor.
The court on February 20 directed the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to complete the process of gaining possession of the properties. Since then, the process has continued working its way through the legal system.
On April 11, that court in Karachi sought further information on the case, as reported by Dawn.
The court ordered the FIA to submit reports on its progress in seizing Mansoor's property and in finding two fugitives who allegedly helped Mansoor in terror financing and money laundering.
No auction has occurred yet.
Mansoor, who took leadership of the Afghan Taliban in July 2015, was killed in an air strike in May 2016 in Dalbandin District, Balochistan Province, while travelling from Iran.
Pakistani authorities opened an investigation after discovering a Pakistani identity card and passport under the name of Muhammad Wali at the site of the air strike, according to an FIA official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
In August 2016, the FIA arrested a tribal elder in Chaman, Balochistan Province, in connection with charges of attesting to the forged Pakistani documents of Mansoor.
Because of the sensitivity of the issue, authorities never disclosed whether the man was convicted.
The FIA investigated Mansoor's terror financing and money laundering activities in Karachi, which included a real-estate business operating under several aliases.
Last August, the FIA opened a post-humous case against Mansoor in connection with charges of terror financing and money laundering, forgery and cheating and dishonest inducement of the delivery of property.
An investigation found evidence that Mansoor owned a real estate business in Karachi, according to a First Information Report (FIR) submitted by the FIA's counter-terrorism wing in Islamabad last July 25.
Mansoor had two phony Pakistani identification cards and bank accounts and owned several properties and land in Karachi, according to the FIA investigation.
"It transpired that despite being designated under United Nations (UN) Security Council 1267 Resolution, he was engaged in real estate businesses and subsequently was found to be the owner of six immovable properties," the FIR said, referring to a UN resolution mandating sanctions against the Taliban and al-Qaeda.
Mansoor's properties included a house, a plot and four flats situated in the affluent areas of Gulshen-e-Maimar, Gulzar-e-Hijri and Shaheed Millat Road in Karachi, according to the report.
He had also invested in a life insurance policy, for which he had already made payments of Rs. 333,000 ($2,160).
The value of all of these assets is now Rs. 100 million ($649,000).
Living 'posh' life
For years, Taliban leaders have presented themselves as humble servants of their cause and have been careful to cloak their business dealings in obscurity.
However, the increasingly criminal nature of the group over time -- its role as Afghanistan's top drug cartel, its extortion schemes, etc. -- has enriched its leaders immensely, while victims of its terrorist attacks and the rank-and-file members of the group exist in abject poverty.
Top Taliban leaders with business ties to Karachi include Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, political deputy of the Taliban and director of the group's Doha office, and Amir Muawiya, the group's liaison officer for al-Qaeda militants based in Pakistan's tribal areas, among others.
Leaders of the Afghan Taliban have invested large sums of money in various trades including real estate, construction, mining and transport and have run a financial network in Pakistan, particularly in Karachi, several Afghan community elders in Karachi and analysts in Kabul corroborated.
The Taliban have established businesses in Pakistan and in the United Arab Emirates, said Samiullah Khan, an Afghan community elder in Karachi.
Such businesses include construction and transportation firms that launder money, he said.
"These businesses are apparently used to support militancy ... in Afghanistan, but most Taliban leaders are secretly running their businesses in a personal capacity," Khan said.
Taliban commanders do business mostly through Pakistani front men, he added.
"They [the Taliban] are hypocrites and frauds. They use the name of religion and jihad to exploit the innocent but in fact run businesses in Karachi's affluent areas for personal economic gain and greed," said Ashraf Zada, a refugee who migrated to Karachi from Helmand Province, Afghanistan, after the Taliban seized control of the area in the 1990s.
"We who suffered from their atrocities have been forced to live in misery in the city's slums," Zada said, explaining how he brought his family of eight from Helmand to escape Taliban violence.
"But Afghan Taliban are living a posh life by spending huge investments collected through various illegal means, especially extortion, in businesses," he said.