Rampant corruption has always been a hot issue in the country. It is considered to be a huge obstacle in the way of progress in the country, has disappointed the general Afghan public and the international community alike and continues to erode the very pillars of Afghan state. As one of the first rules of governing people, it is important to manage perceptions of the general public. The rage of corruption both large-scale and small, petty bribe-taking has adversely affected the meager lives of poor and destitute masses.
People's perception of the government has plummeted to historic lows. The efforts of the government of Afghanistan and its international supporters to curb the menace have largely been to throw money at the problem, erecting one anti-corruption agency after another without giving due attention to those fundamental factors that drive the vicious cycle of corruption in the first place.
It is time to view the problem of corruption in the country from a new perspective and in light of new findings devise effective strategies. In Afghanistan much like other similar countries in Asia, fighting corruption has always meant going after the corrupt bureaucrat i.e. the director of a government office, the judge of a low level court, the administrator of a public utility department, etc.
The broader picture that is the politician-bureaucrat nexus is conveniently placed outside the realm of investigation and prosecution. In other words, it is critical to clean up the political leadership that sits at the top of the bureaucratic and administrative structure of the government whether in the center or provinces. Once the politicos stay away from corrupt wheeling and dealing, bureaucrats working under their control will not find much space for indulging in corrupt practices.
Therefore, as the saying goes, the fish rots from the head. At the same time, regulatory, vigilance, oversight and law enforcement mechanisms need to be radically strengthened. In present Afghanistan, targeting and prosecuting the influential corrupt among the political class might be politically very difficult; entrenched powers and powerful vested interests might not be willing to cede their liberty in practicing corruption.
But until and unless difficult decisions are made and implemented and the status-quo shattered, curbing corruption will remain a pipedream and a figment of imagination. The other factor is reforming, revamping and modernizing the archaic and extremely old structures of government which is a legacy of the era of monarchy and before.
Bringing greater democracy and diversified representation to political appointments in provinces done by Kabul as well as emphasizing personal competence rather than political loyalties all will go a long way in reducing corruption. The state of affairs on the front of fighting corruption is disheartening. Before time runs out, we have to pull back the country from the verge of this self-created abyss.