Taliban engages Pakistani company for coal exports amid controversy

Taliban’s minister of industry and commerce has engaged in talks with a Pakistani company, Abbas Afridi, to discuss exporting Afghanistan’s coal to Pakistan, according to a statement from the Taliban-run ministry. However, this company has previously been implicated in significant financial misconduct.

Pakistani media, including Geo News, reported in 2018 that Abbas Afridi, the company’s head, was involved in a money laundering and fraud case concerning up to 50 billion Pakistani rupees. Afridi was listed among 96 individuals under investigation in Pakistan.

In a meeting with Nooruddin Azizi, the Taliban’s minister, Afridi expressed his company’s intention to secure a contract for exporting one million tons of Afghan coal. “We are ready to make extensive investments in the mechanization, cost reduction, and use of standard machinery in the extraction and effective use of Afghanistan’s coal in cooperation with the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan [Taliban] and the private sector,” the Taliban quoted Afridi in their statement.

Further scrutiny from Geo News on September 27, 2018, revealed that Afridi’s net assets were reportedly over Rs500 billion, with investigations ongoing into their accounts as part of a probe into fake account usage. The outcomes of these legal inquiries and the actions taken by the Pakistani government against Afridi for allegations of corruption, fraud, and money laundering have not been disclosed by Pakistani media.

Economic experts caution against the Taliban’s decision to engage companies with a history of fraud. “Handing over coal mines and export contracts to companies listed as fraudsters in Pakistan represents a significant loss and injustice to Afghanistan. The current government should thoroughly vet any company before signing contracts,” one expert advised.

Since the Taliban’s return to power, Pakistan has become a primary importer of Afghan coal. According to the Taliban’s Ministry of Finance, Afghanistan earned over $130 million from coal exports to Pakistan in the first 10 months of 2022.