Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Sunday, November 18th, 2018

Challenges before Afghanistan’s anti-Corruption Campaign

Corruption is an overwhelming issue in Afghanistan’s government machinery and has wreaked havoc on the country’s economy and shredded its international reputation. The crackdown of National Unity Government on corruption within the last two years failed to put an end to this syndrome.
Last year, Transparency International’s annual Corruption Perceptions Index ranked Afghanistan 177th out of 180, trailing only Syria, South Sudan and Somalia. This indicates that Afghanistan made no progress in ending corruption within the last 17 years.
There are several reasons behind the corruption lingers in the government’s body. First, the warlords and corrupt political figures, who occupied high governmental posts following the collapse of the Taliban’s regime, violate the law with impunity. A number of MPs are purportedly involved in land grabbing, illegal mining and other such activities in the country and some mid to high-level police officers “collaborate with criminals in smuggling, kidnapping for ransom and other illegal activities”. For example, in the Kabul Bank scandal, which saw roughly $900 million lost to fraud, political elites, including cabinet ministers, MPs and warlords, were involved.
Second, bribery prevailing in the judicial system left it dysfunctional and criminals go unpunished. That is, the poor law enforcement could not alleviate corruption.
Third, the “corrupt networks” are involved not only in bribery, fraud or extortion but also in cultivating and smuggling drugs. The Taliban fighters are the main beneficiary of drug trafficking and illegal economies.
Being frustrated with meager progress in fighting corruption, the NUG established the Anti-Corruption Justice Center (ACJC) in 2016 and re-opened investigation into the Kabul Bank corruption scandal. In March, the ACJC convicted four Urban Development and Housing Ministry officials on charges of embezzlement and abuse of power and sentenced them on the basis of law.
The NUG has made fighting corruption a priority since taking office. Starting from Kabul Bank scandal, Ghani’s administration has now ushered in pressing warlords. To ensure the transparency of upcoming parliamentary election and mitigate corruption, the names of some warlords, who are allegedly involved in illegal activities, have been removed from the list of candidates under the NUG.
The anti-corruption campaign seems to be seasonal rather than being in an organized way and therefore the efforts made in the past three years did not bear the desired result. For example, although the Former Minister of Communications and Information Technology Abdul Razaq Wahidi was suspended and prosecuted after being accused of corruption and misuse of power, the 10 percent tax levied on public mobile credit cards still remain ambiguous and the government is not able to give a transparent detail to people. Above all, Wahidi’s trial was widely claimed to be due to his political orientation and ethnic background as he was exonerated by the court. 
There are several challenges before the anti-corruption campaign. For instance, a number of political figures who are accused of corruption have fled the country and the government is not able to prosecute them. Likewise, the powerful and influential figures still perpetrate crime with impunity. In short, they use their leverage in judicial system. In such a case, the law is not applied equally on all individuals.
The unmitigated insurgency and involvement of Mafia members in the issue are the second obstacle before fighting corruption. Due to the insurgency, local courts are not able to function properly and the government lacks control over the restive areas. Worst, the Taliban support cultivating and smuggling drug in such areas. 
Meanwhile, due to the presence of some corrupt officials in the government’s machinery and their involvement in illegal activities, there seems to be no strong will for fighting corruption.
As the government is constitutionally obliged to “maintain public law and order and eliminate every kind of administrative corruption”, it has to fight against corruption on the basis of law and far from political or ethnic tendency and implement the law on all – be it grassroots or officials – equally.
It goes without saying that only one institution is not able to tackle the deep-rooted corruption. To eradicate this problem, all the government institutions will have to work in line with one another. If all the three powers, i.e. the legislative, executive and judicial powers, move parallel with one another in a genuine way, the bulk of the challenges will be resolved in the country. But if a single of them remains behind, the problems will continue unabated. Hence, the government will have to start fighting corruption from within and bring the high-ranking corrupt figures into justice.