Politics and Corruption
The lawmakers accused by Finance Minister Omar Zakhilwal of smuggling and making illegal demands from government agencies denied the accusations, saying if the charges are proved they would resign from their posts in the parliament. The lawmakers called for an extensive probe about the accusations by independent agencies. In the meantime, the Senate hailed Zakhilwal and gave him an appreciation for exposing those lawmakers who are involved in corruption and smuggling. Earlier, the minister revealed the names of five lawmakers in the Wolesi Jirga, accusing them of smuggling and seeking illegal demands from the government. In the Senate, Zakhilwal said there also some other MPs involved in illegal activities, warning them to stop their wrongdoings.
Though the allegations raised by the Finance Minister was welcomed by many in Afghanistan, but there is still much ambiguity in the allegations he made against the lawmakers. Many hope the move would be the beginning of a wider anti-corruption campaign in the country and reveal the officials and lawmakers that are involved in corruption. But it may not be realistic to think a single event of the revelation in the house would turn into a real anti-corruption campaign. However, any such move would help creating a culture of accountability among the Afghan government officials and other public servants.
Regarding the motives that led the minister to boldly expose the names of the lawmakers accused of corruption and smuggling, there may be some other motives too, rather than only the Minister’s will to confront corrupt lawmakers. According to some rumors, as President Karzai is due to leave office next year, Omar Zakhilwal is one of the potential contenders being mentioned as a potential candidate who could be supported by Karzai next year. Perhaps, Zakhilwal’s revelations were a sort of attempt to build a reputation in the country before the election. But, however the motives, the move proved him of being a tough and capable politician for the future of Afghanistan’s politics.
In the meantime, Zakhilwal himself has been accused by the lawmakers of being involved in corruption like other Afghan officials. He has repeatedly denied allegations of corruption and embezzlement and was cleared by the attorney general’s office of allegations of illegal cash transfers to abroad. The fact is that both government officials and the lawmakers have been involved in corruption and both the executive and the parliament are plagued with corruption and secret dealings between the legislators and the government officials. If any, corruption cases of not only Finance Minister but also other governments should be disclosed to the public so that they could be pursued by the anti-corruption agencies.
The lawmakers are constitutionally bound to oversee the cabinet ministers and the government in general and take them responsible. Any move towards disclosing names of corrupt public servants, both the lawmakers serving in the houses of the parliament and other government officials should be welcomed. As the heated confrontation between the lawmakers and Finance Minister continue, the Afghan judiciary should act quickly to establish facts and pursue those who are involved in corruption, whether in the house or the cabinet, through legal procedures.