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Challenges await govt's anti-corruption campaign

By Hujjatullah Zia for China Daily | Updated: 2018-08-08 13:23

Corruption is an overwhelming issue in Afghanistan's government machinery and has wreaked havoc on the country's economy and shredded its international reputation.

The crackdown by the National Unity Government within the last two years has failed to put an end to the scourge.

Last year, Transparency International's annual Corruption Perceptions Index ranked Afghanistan 177th out of 180 countries, trailing only Syria, South Sudan and Somalia. This indicates that Afghanistan has made no progress in ending corruption in the last 17 years.

There are several reasons behind the lingering problem. First, the warlords and corrupt political figures, who occupied high governmental posts following the collapse of the Taliban's regime, violate the law with impunity.

A number of MPs are purportedly involved in land grabbing, illegal mining and similar pursuits and some mid-to high-level police officers "collaborate with criminals in smuggling, kidnapping for ransom and other illegal activities".

For example, in the Kabul Bank scandal, which saw roughly $900 million lost to fraud, political elites, including cabinet ministers, MPs and warlords, were involved.

Second, prevailing bribery in the judicial system left it dysfunctional and allowed criminals to go unpunished.

Third, the "corrupt networks" are involved not only in bribery, fraud or extortion but also in cultivating and smuggling drugs. The Taliban is the main beneficiary of trafficking and illegal economies.

Being frustrated with the slow progress, the NUG established the Anti-Corruption Justice Center in 2016 and reopened the investigation into the Kabul Bank corruption case. In March, the ACJC convicted four Urban Development and Housing Ministry officials on charges of embezzlement and abuse of power.

The NUG has made fighting corruption a priority since taking office and President Ashraf Ghani's administration has put more pressure on warlords. To ensure the transparency of the upcoming parliamentary election and mitigate against corruption, the names of some warlords, who are allegedly involved in illegal activities, have been removed from the list of candidates.

Tension

There are two main challenges before the anti-corruption campaign: First, a number of political figures who are accused of corruption have fled the country and the government is not able to prosecute them. In such a case, the law is not applied equally on all individuals.

Second, the political rivalries between the heads of NUG have, on the one hand, overshadowed the anti-corruption campaign and, on the other, created tension between Ghani and the government's Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah over the appointment and removal of high-ranking officials.

As the government is constitutionally obliged to "maintain public law and order and eliminate every kind of administrative corruption", it has to fight against corruption on the basis of law and far from political or ethnic tendency and treat everyone equally.

The author is a columnist for Daily Outlook, an independent newspaper in Afghanistan.

 

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