Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Saturday, January 20th, 2018

Taming an Unaccountable and Predatory Government

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Taming an Unaccountable and Predatory Government

The headlines and media attention both inside and outside Afghanistan seem to be dominated by the country's security situation and the planned next phase of transfer of security responsibilities in addition to the high-profile but equally futile Loya Jirga which concluded its four-day long deliberations with issuing a resolution. While news of military operations involving the Taliban, the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) and the international coalition grab the headlines and progress of Afghan forces regularly get reflected in Afghan and international media, no one seems to be cognizant of other areas of major concern that if not less, do deserve more of media coverage and reporting.

If one takes a look at such foreign media outlets as New York Times, the Guardian or the BBC, rarely would one come across reporting on or coverage of Afghanistan's full-blown governance crisis.

Foreign experts, talking heads and pundits, media and publications, think tanks and advisory institutions all seem to be perpetually engaged in pushing their own prescription of how the American-led western coalition in Afghanistan can reverse the tide of failures and move towards achieving their predetermined goals; yet virtually no one seems to be bothered with the pathetic state of governance in Afghanistan.

Moving closer to the end of 2011, it is more than two years since the second presidential elections that replaced to power Hamid Karzai and his team. More than a year has passed since the parliamentary elections and yet, the country's parliament is struggling to stand on its feet and find its place in the larger set-up of the country's administration.

The government and the president's seemingly incessant antagonism with the nascent parliament with no institutional system of checks and balances that could prevent and minimize the government and the executive branch's overt and covert interferences in the parliament have all contributed to the current state of the country's parliament. The president's hostility with the new parliament and the saga of the special tribunal and the subsequent controversies laid exposed the dysfunctional state of government and governance in the country.

The new Wolesi Jirga has been in place for more than six months now and the president is yet to send the list of many of his cabinet nominees to the Wolesi Jirga for a Constitutionally-required confidence vote. Legally, there can be no excuse for President Karzai to explain his inaction with regard to completing his cabinet.

Apart from the cabinet, a number of judges of the Supreme Court too have not yet received their confirmation from the Parliament which is a must according to the country's Constitution. The Constitutionally-mandated separation of powers as the first and foremost principle of a running a presidential system is in limbo with the country's Judiciary effectively in the government's pocket bidding for the government in every turn and bend.

At a time when the international community wishes to see some real progress in Afghanistan in terms of greater stability, better governance, falling appeal of Taliban and militancy to rural populations especially in the south and east, then the international community led by the U.S. and other western countries should not and cannot afford to shut their eyes to the ongoing crisis situation in the country.

Mismanagement, lack of management, apathy, indifference, incompetence, corruption and increasing authoritarian tendencies on the part of the government of Afghanistan must get reflected in the policies and actions of the international community in terms of pressures that have to be brought on the government to mend its way and try to improve things.

The government of Afghanistan at the moment is incapable of launching any serious initiatives on its own for the purpose of reducing corruption, appointing competent and committed officials and taking concrete steps towards achieving a measure of good governance in the country.

The most telling example of how the government at the center in Kabul is hapless and even unwilling to take any credible steps is the recent announcement by the Supreme Council for Vigilance against Corruption which says it has prepared a black list of high-level public officials who have a record of indulging in corruption.

The council has stated it will publish the list but it is very unlikely given the past records of the government in this regard. It will be interesting to see how the government including the president will sit on this report as they did with regard to such other previous reports and files that are only gathering dust in the prosecutorial offices of the government in Kabul and provinces. Mind-boggling levels of corruption that reach high into the stratosphere is only one among the numerous crises that are reaching catastrophe levels.

What is deeply disturbing is that the government is still looking towards foreign governments, NGOs and American, British and other development agencies to set the agenda for development, relief, poverty alleviation and many other tasks that are primarily the duties of the government.

With the approaching of the winter and snowy days in Afghanistan and the widespread drought and famine like situation in many parts of the country, the government, as before, is looking at how foreign NGOs and agencies will reach out to the desperate millions of hungry people out there; the government does not have any coherent plan of its own to take part in the relief operations except for occasional handouts by the Afghan Red Crescent Society in some limited areas.

The international community including the U.S. and other governments whose words carry weight with the government of Afghanistan should call on the government of Afghanistan and confront it on its poor record of restoring order, fighting corruption and bringing good governance.

if necessary, foreign aid and assistance programs including grants, loans and other forms of financial and non-financial aid should be transferred to the custody of Afghanistan government only on the condition that the government genuinely try to improve its poor track record.

The overarching objective should be to instill and even force a sense of accountability into the government and make it realize that there can be no free lunch without having to be accountable in front of its partners and allies.

The author is the permanent writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at outlook afghanistan@gmail.com

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