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Zakhilwal Names MPs Involved in Smuggling

Zakhilwal Names MPs Involved in Smuggling

KABUL – Finance Minister Omar Zakhilwal on Monday revealed the names of the lawmakers he had earlier accused of smuggling and making illegal demands on the government. Speaking in the Wolesi Jirga, Zakhilwal said MP from Kandahar Hameedzai Lalai had demanded licence plates for 1,970 right-hand drive vehicles. There is a ban a number plates for such vehicles under a cabinet decision.

The minister read out the letter, in which Lalai had asked him to ignore the cabinet decision. The MP allegedly imported alcoholic beverages through Kabul airport, using his parliamentary passport. Zakhilwal also blamed Lalai for threatening airport officials, who objected to the import of alcohol. “Yesterday, Lalai called a customs officer and threatened him with death,” he said, without elaborating.

However, Lalai told Pajhwok Afghan News the minister had leveled the allegations against because he had not only signed the summons but had also urged his colleagues to do so. “It is a plot against me, if the accusations are proved, I am ready to resign,” the public representative said, adding: “The government wants to silence me because I often raise my voice for people’s rights.”

In his speech that appeared an embarrassing charge-sheet, the minister said another public representative from eastern Nangarhar province, Haji Zahir Qadeer, had been involved in flour smuggling. Over the past two years, Qadeer had imported 4,385 truckloads of flour from Pakistan through Peace Caravan, Jabbar Qadeer and Qahar Qadeer Companies without paying the customs duty, he added.

They had captured a convoy of trucks carrying flour that was smuggled into Afghanistan, but the MP asked him to release the vehicles, Zakhilwal maintained. Qadir also visited the minister’s residence and asked for financial support. For his part, Qadeer refused to comment on the accusations. But he said: “If anyone wants to seek my comment, they should come to the office of the Law Supporting Coalition in the Wolesi Jirga.”

Zakhilwal went on to accuse Samiullah Samim, a legislator from Farah, of smuggling five fuel tankers from Iran into Afghanistan. When the tankers were captured, Samim phoned the minister from Germany to free up the vehicles. “I told Samim it is illegal, but he insisted on seeking my assistance. He replied if it’s legal, my help will not be required,” the minister said. Samim was also accused of importing 50 bottles of banned beverages from Moscow through the Kabul airport.

Around 45 days ago, two custom mangers including a son of Mahmood Khan Sulaimankhel — a member of the Wolesi Jirga — in Paktia and Paktika provinces. The lawmaker not only demanded his son’s reinstatement but also sent money in bribe to the human resource department, the minister divulged. A public representative from northern Baghlan province, Mohammad Azim Mohseni, allegedly sought land plots in the Pul-i-Khumri cotton factory area.

However, Mohseni vowed to lodge a complaint with prosecution office over the charges leveled against him. “If the accusations are substantiated, I will go to jail; otherwise the minister should be sent behind bars.” Zakhilwal said when he was summoned by the Wolesi Jirga last year, MP Mohammad Arif Rahmani demanded a contract with the Supreme Logistic Company in return for support.

During the session, some lawmakers came up with a knee-jerk reaction to the ministerial disclosures, with the Speaker Abdul Rauf Ibrahimi walking a tight rope to control the situation. He told the accused lawmakers to complain to prosecution office, if they have objection on the remarks of Zakhilwal. In the today’s session, of the total 188 present MPs, 184 accepted the remarks of Zakhilwal. (PAN)

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