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From A Kabul Prison to A House in Quetta; Helmand Violence Funder’s Spoor

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A report by Tamim Hamid- The aged man who opened the yard’s door moments ago looks wide-eyed to the two individuals standing in front of him.

He breaks the silence with a question – in Pashto language:

  • “It is amazing! It has been the first time a journalist asks us about it.”

One of the two men is a security officer said:

  • “Can we come in and talk?”

While the aged man wanted to say something, a voice heard from inside the yard asking “what is going on son?”

  • “Uncle! The journalists came and ask about Haji Lal Jan.”

And now an old man who only peeps from the door joins and shockingly looks at the two strangers.

  • “Lal Jan is not here, everyone knows he is in Quetta.”
  • “Yes, we know dear uncle, I am a journalist and came from Kabul to Kandahar, can we come in and talk?”

He welcomes the strangers abhorrently. One of the two strangers is me (Tamim Hamid freelance) who enters the house of Haji Lal Mohammad’s relatives – Afghanistan’s biggest drug smuggler and the number three person –among seven- in the United States’ wanted list of smugglers. The old man, according to the security officer who is not absolutely sure, is Lal Mohammad’s uncle. We were accompanied to a small room in that big yard.

While we sat, the old man talks:

  • “We do not have much words for talk, we know as much as people know, he was in Kabul prison for about a year, then he was transferred here (Kandahar prison), he was remitted months ago and went to Quetta.”

My escort (the security officer) asks: “How he was remitted? Who transferred him to Kandahar prison?”

  • “I don’t know about these, you know better that security personnel come and interrogated the people who knew him here and in Sangin district too (the most tumultuous district in Helmand).

I asked: “What is he doing in Quetta now? Does he contact you?”

  • “I don’t know, we are not in touch with him, I heard he lives in comfort at his house there.”

 

Who is Haji Lal Jan?

US president sends an official letter to some of the US authorities with below content

***

Letter from the President on the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act

June 1. 2011

Dear Mr. Chairman: (Dear Madam Chairman: )

(Dear Representatives: ) (Dear Senator : )

This report to the Congress, under section 804(a) of the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act, 21 U.S.C. 1901-1908 (the Kingpin Act*), transmits my designations of the following seven foreign individuals as appropriate for sanctions under the Kingpin Act and reports my direction of sanctions against them under the act:

Manuel Torres Felix (Mexico)

Gonzalo InzunzaInzunza (Mexico)

Haji Lal Jan Ishaqzai (Afghanistan)

KamchybekAsanbekovichKolbayev (Kyrgyzstan)

John HarunMwau (Kenya)

Naima Mohammad Nyakiniywa (Kenya)

Javier Antonio CalleSema (Colombia)

 

Sincerely

Barak Obama “

***

Apparently Washington puts pressure on Kabul following the above letter by Obama to kick-off targeting high profile smugglers. However in spite of all attempts for tracing and targeting Haji Lal Mohammad, he still continues smuggling and remains as the main funder of the Helmand battle.

“Haji Fatih Mohammad, Mullah Abdul Qadir and Haji Lal Jan are the prominent smugglers who play a key role in funding Taliban, particularly Haji Lal Jan who funds the grand portion of the battle in southern Helmand province.” TellsHamedSaifi, Afghan National Army (ANA) commander in Sangin district – a place where Haji Lal Jan had numerous drug factories and houses, but now under ANA control. It is rare in Helmand, particularly in Sangin district, that no one knows Haji Lal Jan; a huge number of people is under his control and imposed himself as “Tribal Elder” on the local residents for years.

“He did not have any other things to do here, but to encourage our youths in poppy cultivation and oppose these youths against the government to prevent eradicating poppy cultivation.”  Tells Daad Mohammad; a resident of Sangin district who moved to Lashkargah city along with his family due to the long-time battle in Sangin. He added “We were displaced and devastated because of these people.”

I asked if Lal Jan had any connections with the Taliban since before. Looking into my eyes, Daad Mohammad slowly tells: “Taliban are alive because of Lal Jan, he pays for their entire expenses.” Not only Sangin residents, but Helmand officials also complain about Haji Lal Jan saying steps to target or arrest Lal Jan have been remained abortive.
Helmand former deputy governor Amir Mohammad Akhondzadah who is the current governor in Nimroz province says: “He was an atrocious man! Haji Lal Jan was the biggest smuggler, he was under manhunt during my tenure in Helmand. Later we heard he was arrested, but now he is freed.” Nonetheless Haji Lal Jan is not only augustly involved in funding Helmand battle, but he is also known as a person who harassed European countries through smuggling drugs.

“He sends at least more than 10 tons of drugs abroad, particularly European countries.”, tells a foreign official in Kabul, while describing his release “Shocking”.

 

Beginning of the Adventure

Targeting prominent drug smugglers in Afghanistan was one of the key programs kicked-off by Afghan security agencies in cooperation with international community during recent years. As a result, about 3,000 people who were accused of production and smuggling drugs were arrested which includes 20 key smugglers. Haji Laljan who challenges Afghan and foreign forces for years was arrested on 6-Jadi-1391 (solar calendar) along with 391kgs of heroin and 1300kgs of opium in a special operation.

The documents I access reveal that Lal Jan was sentenced to 20 years of imprisonment based on the adjudicate 414 7-Hoot-1391 by primary special court of drugs in Kabul. The appeal court also sentenced him for 20 years imprisonment on 3-Sawr-1392.  However, Lal Jan was sentenced to just 15 years by National Security Court of the Supreme Court (adjudicate 455 14-03-1392). According to the findings of this report, Lal Jan’s entourages along with their supporters in government and judicial departments have put hands together to release him, but the attorney for the special court for drugs refuse to cooperate:

“In our Criminal Law, we have something called “Good Conduct”! Meaning that if a prisoner spends and behaves well, meanwhile if the prison chief is happy with his conduct during at least 9 months, then the prisoner well be entitled for rehearing. They wanted to release this smuggler using this Act, but we didn’t let our prosecutors to the court sessions and prevented the release of this man.” An official believes individuals have put untiring efforts to release him from Kandahar prison after lost hope for Lal Jan’s release from Kabul:  “Money can do anything, undoubtedly  corrupted local officials have put efforts for Lal Jan’s release; you know better that Lal Jan is rich enough to tempt anyone! They knew they could release Lal Jan if he was transferred to another province.”

The evidences reveal the official letter 705 by presidential palace dated 9-Sawr-1393 and orders by Ministry of Interior on 30th of Hamal and 4th of Sawr 1393 state Lal Jan’s transfer from Kabul to Kandahar prison – relating his transfer to the Paragraph 2, Article 20 of Prison Law and official letter 346 dated 12-02-1393. The documents show that Haji Lal Jan was released just after a month according to the Decree number 4 dated 14-03-1393 of Kandahar primary court and according to the Article 91 of Interim Criminal Code and based on Conditional Release. However Afghanistan’s new Criminal Code was issued a month ago (on 15thSawr 1393) and there is no need to implement the Interim Criminal Code!

“They acted so smart! If the court would judge based on the new Criminal Code, Lal Jan would not only spend his one year imprisonment, but he would have been in prison. He was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment and should have spent ¾ of this period (12 years) in jail and then he should be entitled for Conditional Release.” The Afghan official in Kabul said.

The New Criminal Code states:

***

Conditional Release Recommendation

………………………………………………

Article 335:

If the final decision of the court to the person who has been sentenced to imprisonment and he/she spends three-quarters (3 of 4) the total period of their sentences in prison, or to ensure good conduct during the stay in jail, his/her Conditional Release is entitled as legal.

***

Afghan Upper House’s head of complaints commission ZalmaiZabuli who investigates Lal Jan’s case says: “we can see several violations here: one, they implemented the former Code; second, a known criminal can never show good conduct in the prison as the law requires; third, he was arrested with 391kgs of heroin and 1300kgs of opium red-handed, how can he be a good person to conduct good behaviour; and how come all his three rounds of court sessions were completed in 9 months and how his Conditional Release was issued?!”

 

After the Start

This research shows that Afghan security departments in Kabul never received any official notice after Lal Jan was released from Kandahar prison. A part of the documents also show that Ministry of Interior does not consider him eligible for Conditional Release:

***

“The Prisons General Directorate after receiving informal reports orders Kandahar prison through cryptogram 176 dated 23-03-1393 that the Conditional Release of Lal Jan is against the law and he must be arrested by intelligence personnel as soon as possible. His Excellency Interior minister issues Lal Jan’s arrest warrant through official letter 4185 dated 10-04-1393 and his order is therefore sent to Kandahar prison through  issue note 1062 dated 11-04-1393.”

***

Though it is not clear how many hours did Lal Jan spend in Afghanistan after his release?

His relatives in Kandahar tell: “We did not see where he went, we just heard he was remitted today and the next day we got to know that Lal Jan is in Quetta.”

Lal Jan’s release does not create any fracas in Kandahar apparently; his case was also secretly investigated in Kabul, but its affect was visible in Helmand from the beginning.

The foreign official in Kabul:

“He started while he arrived to Pakistan! The recent violent, particularly in Sangin district was as the result of Lal Jan’s impacts which showed to us and our Afghan partners. It is really regrettable that a big part of your people’s life is getting destroyed as a result of the corruption is some parts of the government.”

Lal Jan’s release was also shocking for the officials working at the counter-narcotics related departments:

Counter-narcotics deputy minister Baz Mohammad Ahmadi says “Some of the Afghan governors, police chiefs and government officials stepped forward to release the prisoners in provinces which were far from our access; we could take actions if it happened here.”  Ahmadi in a press conference at Kabul said just days after Lal Jan’s release

“Release of the smugglers and individuals who are proved to have been involved in Afghanistan battle is really worrying us. Our problems boosted in Sangin district after Haji Lal Jan’s release.”SaidHamedSaifi, ANA commander in Sangin.

 

End of the Adventure?

“The bird has escaped from the cage and will never return for sure; Pakistan’s cooperation is also useless in this case. There are several Afghans like Lal Jan in Quetta and other Pakistan cities, but Pakistan security agencies never arrested them, but those who helped Lal Jan get of prisons must be revealed and punished. Your government must not connive or neglect in this issue.” The foreign official tells me, but while I asked Afghan official regarding this issue he said:

  •  “We have barred flights of relatives of an Afghan high ranking judiciary member –whom I cannot name at the moment- regarding this case; apparently he was the contact between this Afghan high ranking judiciary member and those who were trying to release Lal Jan.
  • How?
  • “The bank account of the relative of the Afghan high ranking judiciary member received more than 2 million USD right in the day Lal Jan released and still he could not provide us clear information regarding this money.”
  • How about the high ranking judicial member?
  • “Unfortunately he is out of Afghanistan; we are waiting for his return to start our investigations.”
  • What if he does not return?
  • “It can be expected, if he is aware of Lal Jan’s illegal release, I am sure he will not return to Afghanistan and in that case we can take the help of Interpol for his arrest.”

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