Published on 05 Aug 2012 at 12:41
Many assume that insecurity and poverty are the biggest problems facing Afghanistan, but corruption is creeping to the forefront and causing more than its fair share of problems. A study released in 2010 by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) demonstrates that Afghans themselves see corruption as the biggest concern. In the UNODC report, 59% of Afghans say that public dishonesty is a bigger concern than security (54%) and unemployment (52%). Similarly, in a separate report by Transparency International in 2011, Afghanistan ranked 180 out of 182 countries on the world corruption rating – only North Korea and Somalia have lower ratings.
The issue of corruption in Afghanistan is coming under greater scrutiny, particularly among donor countries which are pouring in more money for the country’s development. The international community recently placed preconditions on its assistance, claiming it will suspend aid if Afghanistan fails to combat corruption.
At the same time, the Afghan government attributes part of this burgeoning corruption to the international community and blames donor countries for dubious contracting practices and a lack of transparency in their expenditures.
At a press conference in Kabul following the Tokyo Conference, President Karzai blamed the international community and claimed much of the country’s corruption stems from the nature of assistance to Afghanistan. “No sound is produced by a single hand. Neither government officials nor our international allies, who are granting contracts to officials or their relatives to influence the government, should avoid prosecution,” he said.
At the Tokyo Conference held on July 8, the international community pledged US$16 billion to Afghanistan and asked the Afghan government to seriously tackle corruption.
Mahmood Saiqal, a Kabul-based political analyst and the
former deputy minister for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“I welcome the clear vision presented by President Karzai and the Afghan Government today for unlocking Afghanistan’s economic potential by achieving a stable democratic future. That must include fighting corruption, improving governance, strengthening the rule of law, increasing access to economic opportunity for all Afghans, especially for women,” said U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, at the Tokyo Conference.
The Afghan people are concerned about this growing issue. They complain about corruption, lack of professionalism in government, circumvention of the law, and bias in the provision of economic opportunities. Bribery, lack of rule of law, nepotism, granting big contracts to government officials’ relatives, lack of transparency and accountability in governance, and no effective monitoring are all recognized as parts of Afghanistan's corruption problem.
During the Tokyo Conference, the Afghan government pledged to seriously tackle corruption. According to presidential spokesperson Emal Faizi, the government has developed a plan to fight corruption, which includes several phases. “President Karzai first presented this plan to the National Assembly. Secondly, he issued instructions to all government entities to seriously tackle corruption,” he said.
Further, both the Afghan government and the international community agreed on the Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework (TMAF) at the Tokyo Conference. Based on the TMAF, donor countries’ leadership along with Afghan cabinet heads will sit together every two years to review project implementation and the nature of international assistance in Afghanistan.
Abass Arman, spokesman for the Office of Administrative
Affairs & Council of Ministers' Secretariat
“Corruption does not exist only in one area or only in a few ministries. It stems from the highest government officials to ordinary civil servants in Afghanistan,” said Mahmood Saiqal, a Kabul-based political analyst and the former deputy minister for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “Reporting at the ministerial level cannot be an effective mechanism if no serious mechanism is adopted to tackle corruption.”
Abass Arman, spokesman for the Office of Administrative Affairs & Council of Ministers' Secretariat, says the government is committed to fighting corruption. “The Afghan government has developed a plan containing 14 articles to practically tackle corruption and ensure good governance,” he said.
President Karzai in his speech at the National Assembly said: “There would be no place for ‘compromise’ any longer.” Arman says this articulates the government’s willingness to seriously fight corruption at all levels.
Analysts claim that President Karzai has made several similar promises in the past. Even during his swearing-in ceremony as president, he promised the Afghan people and the international community to put tackling corruption atop his agenda. However, analysts argue very little has been accomplished. Afghanistan is still littered with corrupt officials, they say.
Shukria Barakzai, a member of the Afghan
Many analysts point to the involvement of President Karzai’s brother, Mahmood Karzai and First Vice President Marshal Mohammad Qasim Fahim’s brother, Hasin Fahim in the Kabul Bank scandal as evidence that corruption is embedded at the highest levels, making it a complicated issue to tackle.
Saiqal argues that corruption in a society depends on the level of law enforcement (or lack thereof). When laws are weakly enforced, then corruption is easily permissible. “We saw how government officials’ relatives [Mahmood Karzai and Hasin Fahim] were immune from prosecution related to Kabul Bank’s bankruptcy,” he said.
“As a representative of the people, I have heard from the Afghan government, particularly from President Karzai several times that he promised to bring reforms and tackle corruption. But, he did nothing over the past decade,” said Shukria Barakzai, a member of the Afghan National Assembly. “We doubt whether the president really wants to uphold his promises.” Barakzai argues that the government should start by weeding out its most corrupt officials. She says this will show the Afghan people and the international community that Afghanistan is truly committed to fighting corruption.
“Given the government’s track record of tackling corruption over the past ten years, it really seems it will be difficult for [the current administration] to do anything effective during its remaining 20 months,” added Saiqal.
- Michael Adebolajo's dangerous ignorance about Afghanistan - The Guardian
- Explosion heard in Afghanistan's capital - Fox News
- In Afghanistan, businesswomen must seek a delicate balance - Los Angeles Times
- Slain London soldier was 'loving father' who served in Afghanistan - NBCNews.com
- 'Currahees' uncase colors in Afghanistan - United States Army (press release)
- Mass. soldier killed in Afghanistan remembered - Boston.com
- Mes Aynak highlights Afghanistan's dilemma over protecting heritage - The Guardian
- I Traveled Through Afghanistan And Didn't See Another Tourist - Business Insider
- White House adviser on Afghanistan nominated as new US envoy to NATO - Stars and Stripes
- The sooner the US exits Afghanistan, the better - The Guardian