Afghan parliament sacks 3 ministers New anti-corruption court hears its first cases
The Afghan parliament sacked the minister of foreign affairs and two of his cabinet colleagues yesterday citing poor performance, in a sweeping move that underlined the fragility of President Ashraf Ghani’s struggling government.
Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani, Public Works Minister Mahmood Baligh and Social Services Minister Nasreen Oryakhel all failed to win confidence votes in parliament and were declared to have been dismissed by the speaker. All three were dismissed for their performance and failure to spend all allocated budgetary funds on time, in accordance with provisions in the Afghan constitution which gives parliament the power to sack ministers. Fourteen other ministers are due to face similar confidence votes.
At a time when the Taleban insurgency is threatening security across Afghanistan, the move creates further confusion for the national unity government which has been mired in infighting ever since it was set up following the disputed election of 2014.
A suicide attack by Taleban militants on the German consulate in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif this week killed four people and wounded more than 100 others. Former rivals Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah have presided over an uneasy alliance that also includes the volatile vice President General Rashid Dostum and has featured regular rows between the main leaders.
Patched together with US backing after accusations of electoral fraud on both sides, the government was supposed to have overseen fresh parliamentary elections and a constitutional grand council to re-establish political legitimacy. However, a two-year deadline has passed with none of the promised steps taken, leaving question marks over the future of the government at a time when political uncertainty is already being stoked by rising ethnic tensions.
Afghanistan’s new anti-corruption court heard its first cases yes- terday, a small step forward in President Ashraf Ghani’s efforts to combat graft at the highest levels of government.
The Anti-Corruption Criminal Justice Centre was created by Ghani’s administration in June to bolster the legal system’s ability to tackle corrupt ministers, judges and governors, who have largely been immune from prosecution. The first two cases heard by the court, which included a female judge, did not involve top government officials but a Supreme Court prosecutor and a private bank official - a fact highlighted by defence lawyers.
“I wish the start of this court was by a million dollar corruption case, not by a 50,000 afghani ($761.04) corruption case,” Farid Arabzai, a lawyer representing the prosecutor, told the three-judge panel at the Kabul court hearing.
The government has said it would pursue dozens of cases of corruption involving senior government officials, but has not provided any names. “There are more cases under investigation at this centre and as soon as the investigation of those cases is over the ACJC will announce its decision,” said Jamshid Rasouli, spokesman for the attorney general’s office, on the sidelines of the small courtroom packed with media, civil society organizations and diplomats.
Ghani is under pressure to step up the fight against endemic corruption as international donors demand more results in return for billions of dollars in foreign aid. Michael Hartmann, chief of the rule of law unit at the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, welcomed the start of the court hearings, saying it showed that Kabul’s antigraft fight was a top priority. Afghanistan is one of the most corrupt countries in the world, ranked 166th out of 168 nations by watchdog group Transparency International. US officials say the problem undermines its fight against the Taleban. US senators in September warned that failure to address corruption could lead Washington to rethink its annual spending of around $5 billion per year in Afghanistan. Ghani has taken steps including addressing financial wrongdoing, cancelling suspicious fuel contracts and firing corrupt civil servants. — Reuters
KABUL: Afghan villagers wait for customers to sell their agriculture products on the outskirts of Bagram city, north of Kabul yesterday. —AP
KABUL: Afghanistan’s National Army soldiers guard, blocking the main road to the Bagram Airfield’s main gate in Bagram, north of Kabul, Afghanistan yesterday. —AP