Ahmadzai’s First Move in Confronting Corruption
In his first major move to deal with major corruption cases, President Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai ordered the corruption case of Kabul Bank reopened. According to the presidential decree, the bank case, which was one of the most infamous cases of corruption during former president Hamid Karzai’s era, should once again be reviewed. After the $900 million fraud committed by owners and high-profile managers of Kabul Bank became public, the government took over the bank and tried to privatize it through an open bidding. However, one of the largest cases of corruption in the history of banking has yet to be resolved as key figures involved in the cases are close relatives of former President Hamid Karzai and his vice president Qasim Fahim.
The Kabul Bank corruption case was labelled as the biggest financial scandal in banking history and sparked concerns from the international community over the level of corruption in Afghanistan. Hundreds of millions of dollars in aid was frozen by the International Monetary Fund as a result. The investigation by Afghan authorities showed that more than $800 million of the Bank’s loan book went to 19 individuals and companies, including key stakeholders such as Sherkhan Farnood the former bank chairman, Khalilullah Ferozi the bank’s former chief executive officer and Karzai’s brother, and former vice-president Fahim. Former president Hamid Karzai’s failure to address the Kabul Bank case further harmed the credibility of his government in dealing with corruption.
As the new president will have enormous challenges in dealing with the large-scale corruption cases in which key government officials and powerful figures are involved. During past thirteen years of Hamid Karzai’s tenure in office, corrupt officials, warlords, and close relatives of high-ranking officials benefited from the government’s poor leadership and lenient policies on corruption. The result has been the growth of an extensive network of political influence pandering and wealth which helped format Karzai’s political methodology of patronage. President Ahmadzai will have to face that extensive network of corruption-fed political graft that includes key figures such as Hamid Karzai’s close associates and many who will soon be joining Ghani’s own government.
Although the move is a promising start in fighting corruption, President Ghani needs to extend the fight to other key areas as well. Hundreds of government officials are involved in cases of commandeering prime real estate in high-end areas of towns, in Kabul as well as other provinces. Officials have not been held accountable and have benefited immensely by seizing government lands across the country. The looting of Afghanistan’s mines, non-transparent contracts in mining, corruption and embezzlement in customs revenues, nepotism in employment of government employees, benefiting relatives of ministers and MPs in public bidding and contracts should be effectively and seriously dealt with by the president and his incoming government. The pervasive corruption in the country can be eliminated only through a resolute political will from the president and the leaders of the national unity government.