After the Chicago and Shangai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summits and now the 'Heart of Asia' conference, Afghan government has come up with the optimism that international and regional countries are there to support Afghanistan to a great extent. Though optimism in this regard is not irrelevant as the international community and the regional powers have made serious promises with Afghanistan and many of them have even signed strategic partnership agreements (SPA's), theyare yet to go through the test of time. Expectations can never be called the outcomes, as there is a large gap between the two in today's political scenario.
President Karzai has after the summits and recent important meetings have started believing to be very confident of the current position of the country. In a meeting with US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, a couple of days earlier, President Karzai mentioned that Afghanistan had been able to win a strong commitment from the international and regional countries.
He said, "The Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Beijing granted Afghanistan the observer status and pledged support for its development." Moreover, citing the SPA's as examples, he said, "Afghanistan has strengthened its relationship with the world and the international community has reiterated its strong commitment to it." However, it must be mentioned that the support both from international community and the region will highly depend on the performance of the Afghan government and authorities. They cannot keep on supporting Afghanistan without real outcomes.
Most of their efforts have not brought the expected outcomes because of the shortcomings on the part of Afghan authorities. Corruption and ill-governance have incapacitated the efforts and have made them go astray. And it would not be inappropriate to say that the prospects are not very bright for Afghanistan.
President Karzai knows the fact that Afghanistan needs to do much as far as corruption and ill-governance are concerned, but he has not been able to follow tight rules in this regard as there are many culprits from within the government who are the promoters of corruption and instability. Currently, he has been reiterating the efforts on corruption once again. In the meeting mentioned above, he said, "Now we must work hard to combat corruption and ensure good governance…
I have convened a special joint sitting of Parliament for discussions on the need for good governance, strengthening state institutions and fighting corruption." However, it would be a Herculean task for the government to eradicate corruption from the country. Moreover, the current emphasis seems to be because of the demands of the supporting countries. It is fact that the supporting countries are not in a position to assist Afghanistan without their conditions. Controlling and eradicating the graft and good governance have been their main demands.
They have now realized that without achieving something worthwhile in these areas, it would be very difficult to pursue the war against terrorism and achieve stable Afghanistan. Therefore, they within their SPA's with Afghanistan have vehemently emphasized that the country must play decisive role in this regard. So, the emphasis of the government to eradicate corruption seems to be directed towards pacifying the same demands.
Corruption is rooted deep within Afghan society. The ruling elite itself benefits the most from it, so it would be difficult to fight this evil as it has strong backers. There are many examples which show the magnitude of corruption and its penetration within Afghan society; especially within the ruling elite.
However, it would suffice to discuss an example which comes along with the commitment of the President to fight corruption; and that is of the Zherai district of southern Kandahar province. Niaz Mohammad Sarhadi, the administrative head of the district, in an interview on Friday, June 15, 2012, has revealed many shocking realities.
He said in the interview, (excerpts) "The absence of an office complex in the district is a serious problem. A team of the Independent Directorate of Local Governance was allotted a 10-acre plot last year for the construction of offices.However, practical work on the much-needed project was yet to be initiated… In order to help resolve residents' problems, the individuals living within the district — not in Kandahar City — had been appointed as members of village councils… The district had heavily suffered over the past 34 years.
Funds released for rebuilding the town had ended up in the pockets of a few individuals, he claimed.A lot of money had been spent on the construction of two schools and a health centre in Kandiali and Pashmol areas, but the quality of the projects was far from satisfactory. Funds allocated for 3,000 for rebuilding water channels in Pashmol have been misappropriated. "Sarhadi accused a former US Army captain, an Afghan army commander and some residents of pocketing the money.
Unfortunately, there are many districts and institutions where corruption has been hampering the development works and misdirecting the funds to the wrong pockets. It is really important to note that making progress in other areas would be very difficult unless measures are carried out to reduce the menace of corruption. Security has been one of the major factors on which the international community has spent the money. Afghan forces have been supported much to guarantee peace, security and tranquility in the country.
Afghan National Army and Police have been supported much and they may further be supported in the times to come. However, if the corruption remains intact it would be really difficult for these two institutions to play their necessary roles. Already there have been concerns that corruption has crept in these institutions and is eating them like termite.
And to further add to the misery, there are concerns that some of the international organizations are also involved in strengthening corruption instead of discouraging it. If Afghanistan and international community are really serious about making tangible changes in Afghan society and in the lives of common Afghans, the menace of corruption must not be tolerated and it must be curbed with the severest means.
The law and order system must be made very much strong and must ensure justice. It should treat both the weak and powerful alike and must not become the servant of the elite. Both the national and international institutions should be made accountable for the funds they utilize and the policies they carry out.
The Daily Outlook, 17 June 2012