Corruptistan and its Corrupt Systems


Dr. G. Rauf Roashan

Abstract: This paper tries to throw some light on the Afghan government, its failure in corruption control, the historical background to the lack of an effective system to deal with the country’s problems and the part played by the local regional and international sources in the propagation of corruption to the detriment of the ordinary citizen and the state as a whole;

In Afghanistan an era of successes and failures, of clarity and confusion is about to come to a close and a period of uncertainty with a vague picture of a hard to tell future is shaping up. The term in office of one person, put at the helm of a malfunctioning ship donated to him mostly by the West would also come to a close in a little over one year’s time.  He would leave behind a legacy of a leader who was used to doing too little and too late and of course getting nowhere close to the expressed desires of a nation for peace, progress and security.  His legacy will be the story of a political novice that grew in a system that has made and broken many individuals thrown into its lap by circumstance. History will record him as a politician who attempted to swim in turbulent waters under pressure of self interested individuals and neighboring, regional and world powers. A leader who started up with making compromises with everybody and every interest in order to keep a ship he thought would otherwise be sinking. In doing so he even compromised some of the essential interests of his countrymen and more so a dire task that of controlling corruption.

The clarities offered him included a democratic system hurriedly incorporated into a constitution at par with some of the advanced world democracies. The problem was and still is with the fact that while the most important prerequisites for the functioning of any democracy is literacy and education both of these, two areas are extremely weak, underdeveloped and  for  the most part ignored in Afghanistan.  The Afghan constitution, for example, makes it a requirement that cabinet ministers must have higher education; it fails to name the requirement of any educational level for the representatives of the people especially those in the parliament. That is what that has led to the confusion in the affairs of the state and in the system of government. The separation of powers provided for by the constitution has not been effectively applied and therefore while there is provision for checks and balances in the affairs of the country, in practice there is no checking and no balancing. It is true that the lower house has from time to time summoned cabinet ministers for questioning and that on occasions has denied them votes of confidence, but like the pieces of a chess board, the executive has been able to shift them around.

The power remains not so much with the President but it belongs to many centers and individuals. The President from the outset has been sharing his power with warlords, corrupt individuals and officials, religious leaders and leadership and the so called mujahidin including a dead person who has even from his grave, overshadowed the Afghan government and has influenced the distribution of government jobs in favor of his followers and the minority to which he belonged. Not only has the Afghan President had to share power with, and sometimes to completely follow policies of, foreign military leaders in his country, but he has attempted to make everybody happy in order for him to survive.

None of the above has been conducive to effective remedy for corruption; quite on the contrary all of these situations have led to further expansion and increase of corruption at national and even international levels.

In an attempt to cling to power and to win elections the President has had to team up with corrupt and sometimes hated individuals who are accused of crimes against the people and of excesses against rival ethnic groups favoring regional interests and sometimes interests of selfish neighbors. He has bit into baits of the offer of political and financial support by interested groups inside and outside the country. As if ruling the country in a trance, he has been separated from the people within high walls of the Presidential Palace and a circle of flattering inner group that has fed him with either wrong information or incorrect guidance. The trance has been not only leading him into confusion but the whole nation has suffered because of it.

Uncertainty has ruled the affairs of the country ever since 2001. First the uncertainty over who should lead the transitional government. The fateful Bonn meeting against the principle of choosing the transitional leader to be a person with the highest vote of the participants decided otherwise and put Hamid Karzai in the realm instead. A silent nation watched with great anticipation hoping that after a tumultuous period in the history of the country now a skipper armed with a progressive constitution would pull the nation out of the troubled waters. Any administration would be better than the reactionary rule of Taliban. But the transitional period with its achievement of the constitution passed and a so-called democratic era began its difficult task of nation building, reparation of the injured framework of governance and starting anew at building an infrastructure. As one could visualize, this would not be able in a corrupt government system.

The head of the transitional government won the election with the hope that he would be able to implement the constitution in favor of democracy and the nation. Accusation of corruption finding its way into the electoral endeavor was heard far and wide.  Soon the nation found out that the government for its own survival made alliances with individuals and groups who were accused of crimes again the people and who should have been kept away and removed from getting any part in the government OF THE PEOPLE.  Democratic institutions provided for by the constitution were then formed, but remained perplexed and confused.  Those who were to run these institutions and represent the people represented only themselves, their ethnic interests and the interests of their selfish local and regional supporters.

One of the areas that have created strong doubts in the minds of the citizens in Afghanistan about the ability of the government to move the country forward is the issue of corruption. Corruption unfortunately goes hand in hand with individuals in power and with groups and centers that either have or have grabbed it in one way or the other. In third world countries, government offices manned by low paid officials with small amounts of power in the day to day administration of services traditionally make up for a sustainable income by practicing graft.  But when even the higher up government offices find themselves in confusion then corruption becomes part and parcel of other centers in the country including some members of parliament, government high ranking officials and in cases such as Afghanistan the warlords who are allowed to keep insurgencies of one form or another and who are armed with weapons and have gained unlimited and uncontrolled power in the periphery. At this level corruption occurs in millions of dollars that go to those in power.

The Afghan government has not done much beyond lip service to show that it is really determined to wipe out corruption, nor has it a scientific or practical plan to do so. In the lukewarm efforts of certain agencies the government has established to control corruption and in instances that even when these not so powerful institutions have identified corrupt officials, warlords, parliamentarians, government ministers etc the government itself has put the lid on the cases and fearing it might lose influence with those individuals and at times with their own families and ethnic groupings has refrained from following these cases to their legal ends.

Many times, the aid giving countries have conditioned their help to abolishing of corruption but they have, nevertheless continued to pour money into the corrupt system because their own citizens and companies have allegedly been involved in corrupt practices regarding their finances and payments and services, to their own benefit or those of their companies back home.

To blame the Afghan government alone for the continuation and even growth of corruption would therefore be unfair as before doing so one should consider the causes of corruption and corrupt practices, be these purely Afghan or international in nature. One example that comes to mind to explain this would be the issue of drugs. Afghanistan is a major producer of opium that causes more casualties than terrorism in Western world. The West and its allies are spending billions of dollars in wars against terror, but what they do against production; processing and illegal trafficking of drugs seems like a drop in a bucket. In a case like this we can see that corruption contaminates the whole system of the fight against drugs probably because of the billions in profits that it provides to those engaged in its business.

A recent Associated Press report stated that “Afghan President Hamid Karzai,” had said, “ that his national security team has been receiving payments from the US government for the past 10 years.” The report added: “Mr Karzai confirmed the payments when he was asked about a story published in The New York Times, which cited high-level Afghan officials saying the CIA had given the Afghan National Security Council tens of millions of dollars in monthly payments delivered in suitcases.”  “The newspaper quotes Khalil Roman, who served as Mr. Karzai’s deputy chief of staff from 2002 until 2005, as calling the vast CIA payments “ghost money” that “came in secret and it left in secret.” It also quotes unidentified American officials as saying that “the cash has fueled corruption and empowered warlords, undermining Washington’s exit strategy from Afghanistan.”

Any informed source would know that this is not a situation to help curb corruption, nor would it justify the secret cash dealings between a government and its foreign supporters because it cannot provide transparency in the receipt and spending of the funds. But we all know of a similar instance when the Afghan President admitted to receiving of cash money, also in bags, from Iran for the expenditures of the President’s office.

Now some sources refer to Afghanistan as Corruptistan. When a government fails to relieve the burden corruption places on the shoulders of the citizens it must be called corrupt. When a citizen, in order to pay his electricity bill to the government run Electric Company has to pay graft just for the official to accept his payment, then that government is surely a corrupt government. And when a government that already has an anticorruption and  anti-graft agency does not support that agency when it finds the culprit for example in the higher ranking government officials or members of power groups, then that government must be called a corrupt government. It shows that the whole system is corrupt and therefore either the whole system should be purged of corruption and corrupt officials or the title of Corruptistan be accepted for the country. 04/29/2013