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The Creeping Corruption in the Parliament

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The lower house of the parliament, the Wolesi Jirga, is increasingly getting embroiled in blame games of corruption in the house. The unpleasant fact is that corruption has not remained limited in the executive branch, but is increasingly pervading among the lawmakers. The Wolesi Jirga is going to debate on the allegations that some lawmakers had accepted bribes from the summoned cabinet ministers to vote in favor. Deputy speaker Mirwais Yasini told the house that the names of MPs would be disclosed if proved guilty.

The issue of receiving bribes by the lawmakers was raised after the house summoned eleven ministers for under-spending their budget funds in 2011. Initially, some ministers failed to receive enough votes from the MPs but in a U-turn move on Saturday, a large majority of the MPs voted in favor of the ministers and the ministers garnered enough votes from the lawmakers. This infuriated some lawmakers. They claimed that many of the MPs had been bribed by the summoned cabinet ministers. In one hand, the move proved that the Wolosi Jirga continue failing in taking the ministers accountable for their mismanagements and wrong conducts.

Such failures undermine the efficiency of the parliament as the main national monitoring body and harm the legitimacy and credibility of MPs’ decisions in the eyes of the people who voted for them. On the other hand, the surprising turnover among the lawmakers should have had credible factors that changed the no-votes to yes-votes. In the past, it was said that the lawmakers received huge sums of dollars from the nominees for the top posts. Corruption is threatening the very fabric of the Afghan legislature. If not effectively addressed, the phenomenon would virtually cripple the legislative branch of the Afghan state.

Good governance and a corruption-free administration in Kabul has been considered as the as the only viable way for US-led NATO mission in Afghanistan. But despite billions of aid dollars, the Afghan government agencies remain deeply involved in corruption. The strategies for fighting corruption has not worked in the past twelve years. Many commissions and departments were set up to fight corruption, but the new offices themselves are now deeply corrupt. The question that remains unanswered is that how the lower house of the parliament would be able to fight the creeping corruption in the house.

In Wednesday’s session, some lawmakers suggested setting up a commission for probing the claims of bribes in the house and some insisted that the government must intervene to investigate and take accountable those lawmakers who received bribes from some cabinet ministers. They also argued that the president should ask the ministers about the cash from public budget used for bribing lawmakers. It is not clear whether the suggestions would work but what is clear is that in the absence of political will and resolve in the government leadership, there would be no consider progress in fighting corruption, whether in the government or the parliament.

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