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Land-Grabbing by top Officials Rocks the Afghan Government

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Recently, once again discussion on the endemic corruption, particularly, over the issue of land-grabbing by powerful figures, is escalated among the afghan elites. A parliamentary commission of supervising the government activities, after conducting a survey for over six months, on last Monday revealed that around 1,290,000 acres of lands have been grabbed by 15,000 people across Afghanistan. Most of the grabbed lands have been used for residential towns. According to the commission, 94 residential towns out of 350 towns have been illegally constructed in the country. According to the commission, land grabbing has continued since the establishment of the new regime in Kabul and mostly the land grabbing is done by powerful figures and officials from within the government and top government figures have also supported those involved in land grabbing.

Apart from the chorionic insecurity and economic problems, the life in Afghanistan is acutely affected by the ever growing corruption begins in the public bureaus around the country. Unambiguously, in Afghanistan almost all the adults have been victims of corruption once or more times in the public offices. With no doubts, the corrupt people include all the public servants from top to bottom who work in the public offices. But the scales of their corrupt deals are different. Top officials are involved mostly in big deals of corruption and the ordinary servants usually agree to small ones as well.

Following the collapse of Taliban intransigent regime, illegal land-grabbing has been one of the worst manifestations of growing graft during the past years of the new regime’s control over Afghanistan. During ten to twelve years of the new regime’s control over the country, the public lands have unprecedentedly been grabbed by powerful figures across the country. Lots of residential towns across the country are constructed on the lands recognized as the government property. One of the sincere factors for growing land grabbing in the country, definitely, is high government officials’ involvement in illegal deals such as land grabbing.

Aside from the recent claims by the parliamentary commission, in most other incidents of land grabbing, the government officials have been identified as the main land grabbers and also top officials from within the government have repeatedly been accused of supporting the elements who are involved in land grabbing. Several times there have been made public that powerful figures and officials from within the Government are involved in illegal land grabbing or they are covertly supporting the grabbers and receive shares from the benefits come from the grabbed land when dealt. Over the past decade, among the land grabbers, warlords and relatives of the president, also relatives of the vice presidents and some of the ministers have played a lead role in corruption, particularly, in illegal land grabbing in Afghanistan. Perceiving property deals much lucrative and available, the powerful figures in the government including both the warlords and the relatives of technocrats over the past decade have resorted in grabbing and selling the government lands  anywhere the lands have seemed lucrative.

The absence of a political demand in the government for easing corruption is another basic factor for the growing illegal land-grabbing. During the past years, several times, voices of efforts aimed at eradicating the growing impostures and illegalities have been heard publically. But a tangible step to eradicate or to reduce the growing corruption still has not been seen from the government. There seems, the deep involvement of high officials in corruption and in self benefiting deals, has sincerely removed the grounds in the government for a fair and honest demand to encounter corruption in the public institutions. Most of the officials to the extent they can, are involved in corruption. At present, Involvement in corrupt activities is surely a covert culture in the afghan society, especially, in the government bureaus. Therefore, due to intense involvement of high government officials in illegalities, over the past ten to twelve years of the new regime control over the country neither a real counter-corruption effort nor an acceptable result is seen from the afghan statesmen to prove a sincere will in the government aimed at easing corruption.

However, a high office of oversight and anti-corruption is built, but its independency is highly questionable due to its proper obedience to the presidential palace. The body is highly influenced by the president and his inner circle. Over the recent years the office has properly been used as a tool of pressure at the hand of ruling team against the government’s oppositions. Unambiguously, the powerful figures both in the government and in the opposition are involved in corruption. But the high office of oversight and anti-corruption on different occasions has revealed only names of opposition figures just when the government has been in tense relations with those opposition figures. On the other hand, the high office of oversight and anti-corruption has repeatedly left behind its claims of corruption against the top government officials when pressurized by the presidential palace. A very primary example is silence of the high office of oversight and anti-corruption against the finance minister.

Aside from the obedience of the high office of oversight and anti-corruption to the presidential palace, the chairman of the office himself is widely known for widespread fraud in the last general presidential elections. He as president, along with his colleagues in the independent commission of election notoriously rigged the vote in favor of the incumbent president, Hamid Karzai. Because of the vote fraud, he was fired. And due to that vote rigging for Hamid Karzai now he is appointed by the afghan president as the chairman of high office of oversight and anti-corruption.

With a precisely look into the incidents during the few last years and also with a glance at the ongoing situation in the country, there seems the government, particularly the president’s inner circle, has lacked and still lacks a sincere commitment for a real effort against the overgrowing corruption in Afghanistan. The government does not only lack a commitment for efforts to ease corruption but also government top officials themselves are largely involved in corruption which has doubled the concerns among the people.

Mohammad Yasin Sultani is a permanent writer of the Afghanistan Express daily. He can be reached through yaasin.sultani@gmail.com

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