Afghans Decry Corruption

25.06.07

Categorie: Afghanistan |

afghan-cops-in-kabul-on-june-12-2007.jpgTraffic in Kabul converges at a major intersection adjacent to a sprawling market ringed by wedding halls. Here, a dozen Afghan traffic police in white uniforms stop seemingly random cars. Heated conversations ensue, documents are passed back and forth, then money changes hands and the cops wave the drivers through.

The driver’s violation? “They are always making up excuses,” Mohammad Zaman, a commercial minibus driver, says of the traffic police. He says that every day he and his fellow drivers pass through the intersection in order to pick up passengers on a nearby side road, they have to pay 400 Afghanis – around $9 in a country where the average worker makes just $2 a day.

The price of disobedience is steep, according to Zaman. “If we step on the road and we do not pay the money, they will take us to the station and we will have to pay double.”

This is business at usual in Afghanistan, a country firmly in what U.N. Special Representative Tom Koenigs called an “era of lawlessness and corruption.” Underpaid, poorly led policemen are the most visible perpetrators – and the major target of everyday Afghans’ frustrations. Never mind the international military occupation, frequent Taliban bombings and the growing problem of heroin addiction: crooked cops are urban Afghans’ number one complaint.

Corruption can double or triple the price of certain goods and services. Ghullam Ishan, another bus driver, estimates that he pays 50 Afghanis in bribes for every 80 he earns.

Barialay, a Kabul student who moonlights as a clerk at a car dealership, says that every time he helps a customer get his driver’s license renewed, he has to pay the traffic police bribes worth twice the license fee. Barialay, who like many Afghans goes by just one name, says the police once invented a “tinted window fee” that cost a customer $60.

Low pay plays a role in the cops’ corruption. Abdullah, an auxiliary policeman in Uruzgan province south of Kabul, says he earns just $70 per month and needs at least $20 more to feed his family.

a-cd-polisher-at-a-kabul-market-on-june-11-2007.jpg“Corruption is a culture,” explains Dutch army Major Jaap, Abdullah’s instructor, who for security reasons declined to give his last name. “If you earn $70 per month and you’re standing at a checkpoint, you ask for money.”

Jaap adds that corruption isn’t just a police problem. Corruption extends “to the highest levels” of government, he says.

Around Kabul, completion of the main road connecting the international airport to downtown has been stalled by alleged misdirection of funds by corrupt senior officials. Major portions of the so-called Great Massoud Road have been widened and paved and now handle steady traffic.

But a mile-long stretch remains unpaved two years after a ribbon-cutting ceremony marking a project to improve this part of the road. Local businessmen, many of whom also live nearby, say that the dust kicked up by passing cars makes their children sick and chases away customers. Malik, a local shop owner who, said he blames government corruption that leeches away construction funds. Another resident of the area, Ahmad Zia, seconds that assessment, describing the multiple lavish Kabul homes built by many government ministers since the fall of the Taliban.

At least one academic is hoping to change the attitudes of Afghan civil servants, if not the underlying pay problems that encourage police corruption. Abdul Sattar Hayat, director of the Afghan Civil Service Institute, which trains bureaucrats, says that education can “reduce or eliminate” corruption by instilling a sense of professionalism in government officials.

Instructor Zabihullah Ziarmal teaches a leadership course at the institute that he says aims to inculcate a sense of duty in budding bureaucrats.

But the straight arrows in Afghan government are badly outnumbered. Abdul Jabar Sabat, Afghanistan’s chief prosecutor and an anti-corruption crusader, was reportedly attacked and beaten recently, allegedly by agents of an Afghan security firm he was investigating.

Sabat told the BBC on Tuesday that he had asked NATO forces in Afghanistan to help him disarm security firms he suspects of protecting corrupt officials. NATO declined, saying that was outside its mandate, according to the BBC.

Cross-posted at World Politics Review

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9 Responses to “Afghans Decry Corruption”

  1. American Garrity says:

    Outside of it’s mandate? Umm… you are a foreign country that you are trying to stabilize. Wouldn’t you try and do whatever you can to help out the locals who really need help?

  2. Brian H says:

    Well, if the mandate isn’t nation-building, WTF are they doing there? Go home, not wanted or needed.

  3. [...] The opium trade finances the Taliban resistance in Afghanistan. Efforts to eliminate the trade have seen limited success. Poppy fields are just too numerous, alternative crops too few and the Afghan government too corrupt; plus the Taliban aren’t taking eradication sitting down. New Yorker scribe Jon Lee Anderson accompanied an American-led poppy-eradication force that came under Taliban attack in Dutch-occupied Tarin Kowt in March: As I walked along a trail between the poppy fields, gunshots rang out. Men began running, taking cover, and looking up toward the village on the bluff; the firing seemed to be coming from the mud-walled compounds there. Kelly, the ex-cop from Arizona, yelled at me to take cover. I headed toward a stand of trees with Aaron Huey, the photographer who was travelling with me; from there we could no longer see any other Americans. A group of six or seven Interior Ministry policemen — almost all of the local police had disappeared as soon as the shooting started — ran past with their guns drawn, and we followed. [...]

  4. [...] Afghanistan. And efforts to eliminate the trade have seen limited success, at best. Poppy fields are just too numerous, alternative crops too few and the Afghan government too corrupt; plus the Taliban aren’t taking eradication sitting down. New Yorker scribe Jon Lee Anderson accompanied an American-led poppy-eradication force that came under Taliban attack in Dutch-occupied Tarin Kowt in March:As I walked along a trail between the poppy fields, gunshots rang out. Men began running, taking cover, and looking up toward the village on the bluff; the firing seemed to be coming from the mud-walled compounds there. Kelly, the ex-cop from [...]

  5. 111 says:

    David,

    I read here on the front page of the kansas city star “STRIDES MADE IN THE DRUG BATTLE”. As good as it sounds, the small print … The second line quote by the Ap reads – - – The availability of all illegal drugs except Afghan Heroin is flat or down, according to newly released global figures. The study was done from 95 to 2005 and heroin is stabalized at 347 metric tons floating readily available to the streets. It looks like in 01 the war was on and it was at it’s lowest at 84 metric tons. The 2007 figures are conveniently not reported to this article as I suspect because it is by the Ap…
    As I have stated in the reports to the defense news wire the crimenet is centering out of Europe, but as the studies shows, there are other grow areas of Africa and Southeast Asia.
    The report also shows when I was in service, conveniently enough, was at a all time low as seizures were up signifigantly.
    Cambodia, Morroco , and Laos have cracked down , but they are major producers as well.
    It is good to know statistics , facts, and math, when we are talking about our kids futures when we are gone off of this planet. Personally my opinion is not to wait untill I am gone to reap benifits of drug seizures, I say hit em now daily, and torch the crops. Then I know the streets are safe today and tomorrow. Then as the seizures increase the past,present,and future is safe.
    As for mexico, there were 14 major drug tunnels seized this year by ice. Metric tons of cocaine , pot, and heroin have been seized . The mexicans sell it as it is expensive and reaps big pockets, but mostly it is grown further south, and in areas listed in this demograpics studies. Iraq is supposed to be a staging grounds, but as we all know the troops are mooving around regularly, the aq would be retarded to start there now. A mortar and napalm can cure that. Why seize it when we can burn it down in the feilds before it has a chance to be smuggled by global criminals linking the war on terror to the war on drugs as a congruant campaign once again as in the columbian drug wars years ago. Studies show that history repeats itself. Also if we nip this flower in the bud, so to speak, we can get the crap off our street corners and out of our schools . I would be very interested in being a silent observer as the feilds burn down to see it with my own eyes. Too many times politicians step in, and bellyache , it is used for morphine. I ask you this politicians, why wait untill the day the Dutch troops are going to burn it all down , to bring up that you knew the Taliban was growing Heroin , and did nothing about it. Terror funds for the morphine I say. Seize the banc accounts and shut em down. Let em process it to morphine if they must, but they must turn over the revenues to the anti war rebuilding funds and schools rebuildings. It is time for reform and change, time for a revolution!

  6. [...] Kabul — Poor security and alleged government corruption have slowed transportation projects in Afghanistan, exacerbating the dire need for better roads to facilitate commerce and military operations. [...]

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  8. [...] Related: Afghan women burn themselves Afghans bemoan corruption Afghanistan photo album No Comments so far Leave a comment RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI Leave a comment Line and paragraph breaks automatic, e-mail address never displayed, HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong> [...]

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