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Wednesday, March 12, 2014
- When the Independent Election Commission announced that Hamid Karzai would be president for another five years, local and international powers began to demand that the newly re-elected president clamp down on the corruption that had spread like a virus throughout his administration and the ministries.
International donors threatened to withdraw funds from the country unless Karzai could turn the ship of state around and sail in bribe-free waters. U.S. President Barack Obama began calling for accountability, giving his Afghan counterpart a six-month deadline to get hold of the dishonest elements of Afghan government.
Other NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) coalition members were similarly blunt. In a congratulatory call to Karzai after his victory in last summer’s election, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, made clear that her country was also growing impatient with the nature of afghan government.
Other Europeans were decidedly blunter. One European diplomat told The New York Times that many in the international community wanted to see “some heads on a platter,” delivered by Karzai.
Even Ban Ki-moon, the U.N. secretary general, has put pressure on Karzai to rein in graft.
Alako named two former ministers of transportation and the former chair of Ariana Afghan Airlines, Nader Atash as people with connections to the highest levels of government who would face prosecution for misappropriation of public monies. The two ministers were Hamidullah Qadari and Enayatullah Qasemi.
Qadari was sacked in November 2008 for using his ministry to run a scam on the 30,000 Afghans selected to go to Mecca, Saudi Arabia for the hajj last year.
The pilgrims, selected by lottery, were charged around 3,000 dollars a piece by Qadari’s ministry in order to make the journey. But when they got to Mecca, delays abounded and the government hadn’t reserved the proper facilities. Unfortunately, the prosecution of Qadari and Qasemi may take some time, as they are both out of the country and currently being pursued by international police.
In addition to these named suspects, Attorney General Alako has said that there are a number of other government officials who are under suspicion for various fraud and corruption. His office declined to name these men, citing to constitutional law. He did reveal that five of the suspects were sitting governors and three are former ministers.
He said the charges include embezzlement, bribery and misuse of power. Astonishingly, murder is also one of the charges, according to Afghanistan’s top legal authority. “There is enough evidence,” Alako said recently. “As soon as we establish these special courts, we will begin prosecuting the cases.”
Recently, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Rangin Dadfar Spanta held a joint press conference with his Swedish counterpart announcing that President Karzai is in fact serious about fighting corruption in his government.
But some observers say that if Karzai bows to pressure from those who helped get him elected, the fight is already lost.
Noorullah Khpewak, a Kabul political analyst, says that if Karzai can choose a cabinet based on the most honest and well qualified applicants, it will be possible to begin rooting out government corruption. “But,” Khpewak says, “if President Karzai appoints his key cabinet members under pressure from his supporters, he will not be able to defeat corruption.”
Khpewak believes that those who supported Karzai through the long hot months of the summer campaign will expect some kind of reward for their efforts. “They want to share power,” he says. “But they will not help reduce corruption.”
But there are some who believe that Karzai will have more success rooting out corruption than in previous years.
Sayed Jawad Husseini, head of the Afghan Youth Party, believes that the incoming administration will be able to get a hold on corruption.
* This is published under an agreement with the Killid Group, an independent Afghan media group. IPS and Killid are partners since 2004.