What corruption indexes don't tell us about Afghanistan

Three global watchdog reports came out last week highlighting Afghanistan’s scornful predicament in 2015. Their findings reveal a rise in corruption and human rights violations and a consistent failure in political freedom and civil liberties.    Transparency International’s annual Corruption Perception Index placed Afghanistan at 166th among 168 nations. World Report 2015, published by Human Rights Watch, criticised the war-ravaged country for failure to effectively tackle abuses in key areas. Freedom House’s annual Freedom in the World 2016 Report ranked Afghanistan among countries that are “Not Free”. While it is true that the Afghan government and its international supporters must be alarmed by these findings, rankings and scores in such global annual reports must be contextualised if they are to inform policy. In the case of Afghanistan, these scorecards only describe symptoms of more fundamental problems. The ongoing conflict that expanded and became more brutal in 2015 has contributed greatly to the bleak human rights situation as well as to the shrinking of civil liberties and political freedoms in restive areas.

International community

Another factor, which is often omitted from such reports, is the heavy hand of the international community, especially the United States, in shaping events in Afghanistan from 2001 onwards. But above all, endemic corruption, continued rights violations and restricted civil liberties are symptoms of weakness in the implementation of the rule of law.
READ MORE:  Afghanistan’s tough year, but optimism persists
From denying information to journalists to beating of traffic police to the impossibility of winning a contract in a tender process sans association with influential people, liberties, rights and transparency are impeded because rule of law has hitherto been ignored. Rule of law is generally defined as the system that renders governments, institutions and individuals accountable to and governed by laws and regulations and prevents arbitrary action. It has to be applied equally and without favouritism to any individual, group or power holder. Afghanistan’s political and social culture was deeply rooted in the concept of justice. In fact, the concept of “just ruler” is a cornerstone of Islamic theories of governance and arguably the most important legitimising factor of the state. In the new political culture, living above the law has become one of the distinguishing privileges of the influential elite. One must not underestimate the depth and breadth of the damage that three decades of conflict and lawlessness have inflicted on Afghanistan. Added to that was the irresponsible behaviour of the international community and the Afghan political leadership since 2001, which squandered the opportunity to establish good governance and rule of law in the country.

Stability at all cost

The US and its coalition partners went into Afghanistan in 2001, hand-picking some of the most unsavoury characters from the former mujahideen leaders and commanders as their allies. The international community’s Afghan policy was founded on maintenance of stability at all cost. Good governance, rule of law and justice were peripheral topics that only decorated official documents and speeches. As foreign aid began to pour in, most contracts for infrastructure construction, military supplies, fuel, logistics and security were awarded to the same dubious personalities who, thanks to US patronage, had become the new political elite. The US largesse to its Afghan allies also entailed turning a blind eye to illegal trade, monopoly of markets, land grabbing, million-dollar commissions on large contracts and even percentages from the lucrative narcotics business.
READ MORE:  Afghanistan: It’s the economy, stupid
Political influence, along with millions of dollars into their bank accounts, empowered the new Afghan elite to command placement of their kin and cronies in key positions in all state institutions, including the parliament and the judiciary. In other words, foreign assistance gave Afghanistan all the right structures and legal instruments required in a democratic system, but establishing and monitoring processes were mostly ignored. The absence of political will, both on the part of former president Hamid Karzai’s government and donor countries to curb corruption, not only prevented the establishment of lawful conduct in the public sector, but also impaired the flourishing of a genuine domestic economy.

US taxpayer money

Lack of oversight and accountability in the Afghan security sector, intentional or otherwise, has caused an utter waste of US taxpayer money. The US has been contributing billions of dollars to build and maintain Afghan National Security and Defense Forces (ANSDF). Yet, the staggering scale of ghost personnel, fuel cost and disappearing ammunitions have gone entirely unchecked. Along with the decision to end the US war in Afghanistan, Washington opted to create local militia forces to fill the gaps in the developing ANSDF. Similar to the lucrative contracts of the earlier stages of war, allocation of funding for militia forces (under the sobriquet of Afghan Local Police) went to the same influential people, giving them further impetus to behave above the law. President Ashraf Ghani and CEO Abdullah Abdullah took the reins of power over a year ago, assuring Afghans and international donors that they had the will to establish rule of law and good governance. Ghani further asserted that he has specific plans for accomplishing these colossal goals. Among Ghani’s first efforts are the creation of the National Procurements Commission to review big government contracts, the reopening of the messy Kabul Bank case, the firing of a number of central as well as provincial high officials suspected of corruption or incompetence, and improved communications with provincial officials. Recently, the Afghan president elevated the role of governors in decision-making and monitoring of provincial affairs and started a process of budgetary devolution. In turn, he has placed more responsibility on his governors to curb local corruption. In the past year, some progress has been made towards establishing effective processes, but earnest action against major instigators of corruption remains to be taken. To establish rule of law requires tackling the political elite and their well-entrenched patronage networks. This task, in turn, requires a full, honest and sustained partnership between the Afghan government and its international supporters.  Helena Malikyar is an Afghan political analyst and historian. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

Charsadda attack- Pakistan conveys concerns to Afghanistan

Charsadda attack - Pakistan conveys concerns to Afghanistan Charsadda attack - Pakistan has communicated its issue to Afghanistan regarding the use of Afghan ground by certain enemy components in the latest enemy strike on Bacha Khan School in Charsada on Jan 20. 

International Roaming of Afghan SIMs Not Allowed in Pakistan: PTA

International Roaming of Afghan SIMs Not Allowed in Pakistan: PTA

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International Roaming of Afghan SIMs Not Allowed in Pakistan: PTA   International roaming facility for Afghanistan based operators in Pakistan is disabled by default and there’s no roaming service available for any Afghan SIM with-in Pakistan’s borders, said Pakistan Telecommunication Authority. Mobile phone companies also confirmed ProPakistani that they aren’t offering roaming services to any…

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Taliban make demands before joining Afghan peace talks

Representatives close to the Afghan government, including former Afghan interior minister Umar Daudzai and President Ashraf Ghani’s uncle, attended the Doha talks, but actual government representatives were absent, the Afghan foreign ministry said.
DOHA, Qatar, Jan. 24 (UPI) – The Taliban has released a list of conditions that must be met before the militant group will consider joining formal peace talks aimed at ending the conflict in Afghanistan.
A Taliban representative laid down the demands during the second and final day of unofficial talks with Afghan government mediators, lawmakers and civil-society activists in Doha, Qatar, on Sunday.
The Ghani administration said it opposed the Doha talks, seeing them as a distraction from the official four-way discussions, which are being hosted in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad.
The unofficial talks come as Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the United States engage in formal discussions aimed at finding a path toward direct talks with the Taliban.

Australia halts transfers to Afghan jail

Australia has again halted transfers of battlefield detainees to the Afghan-run detention facility in Tarin Kowt following allegations of prisoner abuse.

Australian officials were informed of two allegations of mistreatment of detainees at the Afghan National Directorate of Security (NDS) facility in Tarin Kowt in March.

The allegations do not involve detainees apprehended by Australian soldiers.

“We received what we regarded as significant complaints of mistreatment, ill-treatment, treatment below the standard that should be afforded,” Defence Minister Stephen Smith told reporters in Canberra on Thursday.

Earlier, in an update to parliament on detainee management, Mr Smith said Australian officials had raised concerns about conduct at the NDS facility with Afghan authorities, Afghan and international human rights bodies and with the International Security Assistance Force.

He personally raised the matter with Afghan foreign minister Zalmai Rassoul during his visit to Canberra in March.

“Afghan authorities advise they are taking these allegations seriously and are conducting a thorough investigation which is ongoing,” he told parliament.

Mr Smith said Australian troops captured 1898 suspected insurgents between August 1, 2010, and May 15, 2013.

Under current practices, detainees are initially screened at an Australian-run facility at the main base in Tarin Kowt.

If there’s insufficient evidence for prosecution, the person is released. Those assessed as posing a serious threat are transferred to the major detention facility in Parwan Province, initially run by the US but now by Afghan authorities.

Those posing a lesser risk were formerly sent to the NDS facility in Tarin Kowt.

In July 2011, Australia first ceased prisoner transfers to the NDS facility.

A subsequent United Nations investigation found no evidence of torture or mistreatment of inmates in Tarin Kowt but did find compelling evidence of torture at other Afghan-run detention centres.

Mr Smith said he was aware of reports citing complaints by detainees captured by Australian soldiers and held in the US facility at Bagram.

The complaints included humiliating public searches of groin and buttocks areas, as well as poor food and cold cells.

Mr Smith said the complaints did not fall within the type of accusations which prompted Australia to suspend transfers to the NDS facility.

There was a qualitative difference between complaints about conditions and actual ill-treatment.

“You would find comparable searches occurring in police lockups in every jurisdiction in Australia,” the minister said.

International Roaming of Afghan SIMs Not Allowed in Pakistan: PTA

International Roaming of Afghan SIMs Not Allowed in Pakistan: PTA

External image

International Roaming of Afghan SIMs Not Allowed in Pakistan: PTA

International roaming facility for Afghanistan based operators in Pakistan is disabled by default and there’s no roaming service available for any Afghan SIM with-in Pakistan’s borders, said Pakistan Telecommunication Authority.

Mobile phone companies also confirmed ProPakistani that they aren’t offering roaming services to any…

View On WordPress

Military Chief to Step Down When His Term Ends in November 2016; India and France Sign Fighter Jet Deal; Afghan Taliban Attend International Conference in Qatar


Bonus read: “Pakistan’s Monster,” by Dexter Filkins (The New Yorker)

Military chief to step down when his term ends in November 2016

Chief of Army Staff Gen. Raheel Sharif, seen as Pakistan’s most powerful man, announced Monday through the military’s public relations office that he will step down from his position when his term expires in November 2016 (ReutersDawn). In the three years of Gen. Sharif’s tenure, the Pakistani military has dramatically increased their aerial and ground assaults on militant groups in the western part of the country. Believing an extension of his term may undermine these efforts, Gen. Sharif is quoted through Director-General Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Lt.-Gen. Asim Bajwa’s Twitter saying, “Pakistan Army is a great institution. I don’t believe in extension and will retire on the due date.” This decision contrasts with both of Gen. Sharif’s predecessors, Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and Pervez Musharraf, who sought and obtained extensions to their original three-year terms.

Pakistani military says attack on university directed by Taliban in Afghanistan

On Saturday, a Pakistani military spokesman announced that the four attackers at Bacha Khan University were trained and based in Afghanistan (Reuters). “The attackers were prepared in Afghanistan,” army spokesman Lt.-Gen. Asim Bajwa said. “We have come to the conclusion that terrorism cannot be fought when there are accomplices and facilitators.” The attackers used public transportation from the Afghan border to Mardan, and were assisted by other Pakistani Taliban militants once in Pakistan.

On Monday, Bacha Khan University in Charsadda, near Peshawar – the site of last Wednesday’s shooting that killed 22 people – reopened. Prayers, vigils, and other events continue to be held this week (BBC). On Saturday, the Pakistani military apprehended five suspects accused of facilitating the attacks by providing shelter, transport, and arms to the four dead attackers (AP). LT.-Gen. Asim Bajwa, the military spokesman, said the military is still looking for three others: a man, his wife, and his niece.

–Albert Ford


Bonus Read: “Desperate for Slumber in Delhi, Homeless Encounter a ‘Sleep Mafia,‘” by Ellen Barry (NYT)

India and France sign fighter jet deal

India and France announced a deal over the sale of 36 French Rafale fighter jets to India on Monday (BBCThe Hindu). “We have completed an inter-governmental agreement for the purchase of 36 Rafales, with the exception of the financial aspects,” said Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi after a meeting with French President Francois Hollande. India has plans to purchase a total of 126 fighter jets for an estimated cost of $12 billion to upgrade its ageing military air fleet. Hollande is in India for a three-day visit, and he will be the the chief guest at India’s Republic Day celebrations on Tuesday. On Sunday, the two leaders focused on business-to-business issues, while on Monday the focus of their talks was intergovernmental issues. The two countries signed an additional 13 agreements on Monday covering a variety of areas of cooperation, including space, science and technology, and railways.

India to build satellite tracking station in Vietnam

India will set up a satellite tracking and imaging center in Vietnam, Indian officials announced on Monday (Indian Express). In exchange for allowing India to build the center, Vietnam will gain real-time access to imaging and data from India’s earth observation satellites. By locating the tracking station in Vietnam, India will be able to extend its range of coverage. India’s satellites are expected to cover a region including parts of China and the South China Sea, where Vietnam and China are engaged in a maritime territorial dispute. While the agreement has been billed as civilian in nature, security experts say that it has clear military and intelligence applications. “In military terms, this move could be quite significant. It looks like a win-win for both sides, filling significant holes for the Vietnamese and expanding the range for the Indians,” said Collin Koh, a marine security expert at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.

Three medical students commit suicide

Three students of S. V. S. Yoga Medical College in the southern state of Tamil Nadu committed suicide on Saturday by jumping into a well (BBCIndian Express). In a suicide note, the three students blamed college administrators for charging excessive fees for poor facilities and accommodations. An investigation by the Indian Express revealed unhygienic living conditions, a lack of proper medical training facilities, and severe irregularities in teaching practices. Students and parents have held protests at the college demanding action against the administration. Police have arrested the principal of the college and the son of the owner, and they are still searching for the owner.

–Udit Banerjea


Afghan Taliban attend international conference in Qatar

Representatives of the Afghan Taliban’s political office attended a conference in Qatar on Saturday organized by Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, an international crisis group focused on ending conflicts (NYT). The conference was “aimed at finding a solution to the conflict in Afghanistan,” but was not a part of the official peace process which was restarted on Jan. 11.  Referring to itself as the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan,” the Taliban said the group sought to take “healthy advantage” of the Pugwash initiative to “relay the legal demands of our nation and our just policy to the world directly.”

On Sunday, the group released a summary — emailed by spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid — of statements made during the conference in Qatar (NYT). While asserting that its “political office” in Qatar is the only entity authorized to carry out negotiations on its behalf, the Taliban’s statement listed “preliminary steps needed for peace,” demanding the release of unnamed prisoners, the removal of the Taliban from the U.N. blacklist, and the formal recognition of their political office (RFE/RL, Reuters). “Without them,” the statement said, “progress towards peace is not feasible.” The next round of official talks on Afghan peace involving Afghanistan, Pakistan, China, and the United States are scheduled for Feb. 6 in Islamabad.

US General: Afghan Army facing structural shift

U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Wilson Shoffner, the head of public affairs for the U.S.-NATO mission, told The Associated Press on Monday that the Afghan army’s 215 Maiwand Corps in Helmand is currently being “rebuilt,” with several key commanders being replaced (NYT). The reasons for the changes “are a combination of incompetence, corruption and ineffectiveness,” according to Shoffner. The corps’ commander has been replaced, along with “some brigade commanders and some key corps staff up to full colonel level,” Shoffner said. Helmand has been a battleground since last fall, with fighting taking place in 10 districts.

Suicide attack kills three border policemen in Afghanistan

Three border policemen were killed and three others wounded on Monday in a suicide attack near an important border crossing in southern Afghanistan, according to an Afghan official (NYT). Zia Durrani, the police spokesman for Kandahar province, says five suicide bombers stormed the border police headquarters at Spin Boldak, which is on Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan. Durrani said that after the attackers entered the building, a firefight followed for approximately half an hour before the attackers detonated explosive vests. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack.

–Alyssa Sims

Edited by Peter Bergen


Pakistan Mourns New Taliban School Massacre in Latest Blowback from Internal Conflict, Afghan War

Pakistan is once again mourning mass casualties from an armed assault on one of its schools. At least 20 people were killed and dozens injured on Wednesday when gunmen stormed the northwest Bacha Khan University under the cover of morning fog.