Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Monday, April 22nd, 2019

Political Corruption: As the Main Cause of Weak Social Trust in Afghanistan

Political corruption is a social phenomenon that destroys the fabrics of the Socio-political system in a given society. In other words, it is the use of power by government officials for illegitimate private gain. In such a context government officials do not consider the people supreme or as their clients that their main duty is to serve them. Rather, they only look for opportunities to misuse the public resources and change the bureaucracy to a tool for personal gains. In such an environment, corruption can facilitate criminal enterprise such as bribery, extortion, cronyism, nepotism, patronage, graft and embezzlement. In the case political corruption is very common and high, we may use the term “ kleptocracy”, literally meaning “Rule by Thieves.”
It is clear that people who live in a corrupt society should have low social trust. The opposite case is that, in order to make life bearable in a very corrupt society, like Afghanistan, ordinary citizens should develop a lot of social contacts that they could trust them. But this does not seem to be the case in our society, the people mistrust, envy, pessimism and cynicism towards, public officials and other communities or ethnic groups. On the other hand, the type of trust the people in Afghanistan have developed is, a personalized trust which means that they only trust very close friends, relatives, and people of their own ethnic group, while they are distrustful of people outside their close circle. This kind of trust is totally different from the social trust which entails giving people you don’t know the benefit of the doubt and having an optimistic outlook.
One critical issue that should be considered here is that, when it comes to forming beliefs about social trust, people usually make inferences from the behavior they encounter from public officials in the given society. As mentioned before, social trust could be interpreted as peoples’ moral evaluation of the society in which they live. As a result, the behavior of the Afghan public officials is one important device that people use when establishing beliefs about to what degree they in general can be trusted in their society. From theoretical perspectives, it is termed as “heuristics” which could be understood as the kind of clue people who lack perfect information use when they have to decide if they should or should not trust other people they have to deal with them. This social behavior of the people has three causal mechanisms, firstly, the inference from public officials: If public officials in a society like Afghanistan are known for being corrupt, citizens will believe that even whom the law requires to act in the service of the public cannot be trusted, as the case is about the in our society. As a consequence, they would come to a conclusion that most other people cannot be trusted either. Such a social belief leads to a gap between the people and government. If the situation persist the gap between the people and government would be such deepened that could lead to a total social crisis in the given society. Unfortunately, the signs of such mistrust are visible in our society. Secondly, the inference from people in general: Citizens would see that most people in the given society with corrupt officials take part in corruption in order to obtain what they feel their rightful due. As a result, the citizens would come to a conclusion that most of other people cannot be trusted.  Due to this, social trust, among different social groups, is very weak in Afghanistan. And even if a person from a specific ethnic group goes to a public office he usually looks for a public officer of his own ethnic group to help him in his official work or to receive the public service. Thirdly, the inference from oneself, such a social environment makes the citizens to take part in corruption, even though they consider it morally a wrong act. Ultimately, they would come to a conclusion that since they cannot themselves be trusted, other people cannot be trusted either.
Political corruption is a wide spread social issue in Afghanistan. Due to this, public officials mainly focus on their personal gains in the public offices and do not give due attention to the citizens’ concerns or needs. This has led to a strong public distrust to public officials, lack of social trust to others and ultimately has encouraged the people to take part in corruption themselves. As political corruption leads to wide spread social distrust, insecurity and economic crisis in a given society, it is the duty of the government of Afghanistan and the people to strongly stand against it, in order to restore social trust in the society.