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Kidnappings Harming Business in Afghanistan

in Afghan Business

Kidnappings Harming Business in Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan — Shour Niazi says the armed men who abducted him wore the uniforms of the National Security Directorate, the domestic intelligence agency. After hustling him into a waiting vehicle, the local businessman said his kidnappers placed a black mask over his face. He said he was taken to a building where he was regularly beaten while his captors waited for his family to comply with their $3 million ransom demand.

 “When they realized they wouldn’t get the money, they wanted to kill me,” Niazi recalled recently. “I made a hole in the wooden ceiling of the room where I was being held and escaped. I then informed the police, who arrested some of them.” While kidnappings are nothing new in Afghanistan, some say the problem is getting worse in advance of the scheduled 2014 withdrawal of American forces.

The Afghan Chamber of Commerce and Industry says 85 of its members have been killed or abducted since late March 2011.

Ahmad Shah Hakimi, deputy chairman of the Kabul Chamber of Commerce, and his brother were victims of a similar attack in July while they were transporting $3 million in cash.

While Hakimi and his brother managed to escape, the assailants killed two of his bodyguards and made off with the cash. He’s convinced that government officials were involved in the attack.

Chamber vice chairman Khan Jan Alokozay agreed, saying that senior officials and their relatives, rather than insurgent groups or ordinary criminals, are often involved in the attacks “These are officials who have positions in the government. High-ranking officials support them and they use government facilities,” he alleged.

Even when suspected kidnappers are arrested, few face prosecution, Alokozay said.

“There are documents and evidence available that indicate that some kidnappers have been released by the legal and judicial authorities,” he said.

Alokozay pointed to a current case where police are being pressured to release a suspected kidnapper by his brother, who is a member of the upper house of parliament.

Gen. Mohammad Zaher, the head of criminal investigations in Kabul, acknowledged being pressed to release the suspect, but insisted that, “We have never released a criminal because he is someone’s relative or client, nor will we ever do so.”

The violence against businessmen is doing little to encourage investment in the country. And with international aid expected to sharply decline in the coming years, domestic economic activity will become increasingly important. Economist Hekmat Samsor says poor security and suspicions of official complicity in criminality is already hitting businesses hard.

“When investors are kidnapped or assassinated, and when they don’t feel safe, they will undoubtedly freeze their capital and transfer it abroad,” he said. “I’ve personally witnessed the closure of dozens of companies and factories. They have all stopped working for this one reason.”

Businessman Babrak Sherzai is among those now considering leaving because of the lack of protection.

“Over the past decade, investors have faced many problems – interference by neighboring countries, extortion by police on the highways, kidnapping and assassination – yet the government has done nothing about it,” he said. “If security cannot be guaranteed for our capital, for ourselves and for our families, we will have to move abroad.”

Author: Mina Habib
Source: http://www.sacbee.com/2012/02/17/4271221/kidnappings-bad-for-business-in.html

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