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RFE/RL, November 15, 2007

Karzai Criticizes High Officials, Deputies For Corruption

Karzai: "They should know that the Afghan people will rise against us [if corruption continues.] And this time, there will be no place [abroad] for us to flee."

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has criticized members of his cabinet and deputies in parliament for corruption -- saying the problem is so widespread that it is setting back the reconstruction of the country. Karzai says the living conditions of ordinary Afghans are deteriorating every day while government officials think only about how to increase their personal wealth.

Afghan citizens have been complaining for years about corruption at all levels of government, saying nothing can be done in the country without paying bribes to officials.

"The luxurious houses and buildings either belong to government staff or members of parliament...there is deceit, misuse and playing with this land" Karzai told a meeting of village elders in Kabul.
Reuters, Nov.13, 2007

This week (November 13), Afghan President Hamid Karzai joined those critics when he told a conference on rural development in Afghanistan that corruption exists within Afghanistan's regional, local, and federal governments.

"All politicians in this system have acquired everything -- money, lots of money. God knows it is beyond the limit. The banks of the world are full of the money of our statesmen. The luxurious houses [built in Afghanistan in the past five years] belong to members of the government and parliament, not only in Kabul, but here and there. Every one of them have three or four houses in different countries."

Although Karzai did not mention any officials by name, he suggested that corruption is particularly rife among those officials who had fled the country -- or who had received support during the last three decades from neighboring Iran, Pakistan, and Tajikistan.

"With the support of the world community -- money, aircraft, and their soldiers -- and with the full sympathy of the Afghan people, the Afghan politicians were able to return to their country. Unfortunately, I see now that they did not learn the lessons of the past. They should know that the Afghan people will rise against us [if corruption continues.] And this time, there will be no place [abroad] for us to flee."

Political analysts -- including government advisers in Kabul -- tell RFE/RL that Karzai's remarks appear to be a reaction to criticisms made earlier this week by the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Zalmay Khalilzad.

Khalilzad formerly worked as the U.S. ambassador to both Afghanistan and Iraq.

Speaking on Monday (November 12) to Afghan and U.S. businessmen at a conference in Washington, Khalilzad said the United States is concerned about some of the activities of Karzai's political opponents. He said those forces have contributed to corruption, a lack of security, and a daily increase in political competition and rivalry within Afghanistan.

Izzatullah Wasifi, the government of Afghanistan's anti-corruption chief had a criminal records in the US and was arrested at Caesars Palace on July 15, 1987, for selling 650 grams (23 ounces) of heroin. Prosecutors said the drugs were worth $2 million on the street. Wasifi served three years and eight months in prison.
The Associated Press, Mar.8, 2007

Khalilzad made similar criticisms last month in an interview with RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan, saying that the major barriers to reconstruction in Afghanistan are corruption and a lack of cooperation between authorities responsible for rebuilding the country.

"The government is not able to control corruption as we have wanted. We hope that President Karzai, as he said he would do when he last visited the United States -- will come to a decision about some changes to his working team. The world is still very much interested in Afghanistan. This is an opportunity that must not be lost," Khalilzad said.

Wadir Safi, a professor of political science at Kabul University, says the issue of fighting corruption could show how much real power Karzai exercises in Afghanistan.

"I think that after the comments of American officials, due to both the internal and external pressures, Karzai will have to make a decision about some changes [to his cabinet]. But as for now, it has yet to be seen whether he is able to bring about these kinds of changes -- or if he is able to confront all of those powers that he mentioned. These are not just problems that appeared yesterday. During the last three years, Karzai frequently has been told about the problems of corruption, bribery, and increasing insecurity. But he has done nothing -- as if he was deaf."

In the end, Safi says, Karzai's remarks suggest that the Afghan president is likely to introduce major changes to his cabinet in the near future. "[Karzai's domestic political position] is very weak. If he doesn't bring changes after this speech, I don't think he will be able to keep his position as president. He must bring about broad and sweeping change to all areas -- to every field -- from top to bottom."

Mohammad Babur Nafirzada is a member of the Afghan parliament from the northwestern province of Faryab. He told RFE/RL that Karzai's remarks on corruption have put him in a position where he must take action -- either by sacking some of his government ministers or by introducing other reforms.

Nafirzada said: "President Karzai has acknowledged the presence of corruption inside his government. If he wants reforms in Afghanistan, he must do something after making such a speech. He must do something himself to bring about reforms."

In March 2004, faced with numerous complaints about corruption and extortion among the Afghan police, the judicial system, public utilities, and even the national airline -- Karzai established an anticorruption department in his administration.

But Karzai's recent remarks -- and the complaints of others -- suggest that the impact that office has had upon the problem has been inadequate.

(By RFE/RL's Ron Synovitz; RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan contributed to this report from Kabul and Prague)

Category: Corruption - Views: 11549


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