Afghan par­lia­ment sacks 3 min­is­ters New anti-cor­rup­tion court hears its first cases

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

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

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