Crisis of Governance
There is a clear failure of governance in Afghanistan which is impacting utilization of funds and continues to create obstacles for the administration.
Any working democracy must tackle key matters.
After a public and civil society expression of displeasure over the poor performance of various Afghan ministries the country’s parliament has also showed its utter dejection over the situation which resulted in the sacking of five ministers. Many other ministers are also facing the legal wrath of members of Afghanistan’s Lower House named Wolesi Jirga (Pashto: People’s Council), which is constitutionally empowered to sack cabinet members for performing poorly. The cabinet members who were sacked included Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani, Labour Minister Nasrin Oryakheil and Public Works Minister Mahmoud Baleegh. Ministers for education and transportation have also been disqualified.
The ministers were dismissed in November as the parliament begun the process to summon as many as 18 of them over their failure to utilize less than 70 percent of the 2015 budget in their respective ministries. Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani, who is the son of former Mujahideen era Afghan president, Ustad Rabbani, argued on the floor of the Wolesi Jirga that his ministry had spent more than 70 percent of the 2015 budget, and instead raised questions on the authenticity of the year’s financial report. Interestingly and intriguingly, finance minister Eklil Hakimi is one of the few cabinet ministers of President Ashraf Ghani who have survived the parliamentary vote over their performance.
During his address to the Wolesi Jirga to answer questions about his ministry’s performance, Rabbani blamed MPs and power transition for non-implementation of a $1.5 million complex for the Afghan embassy in Islamabad. Labour Minister Oryakheil cited 'insecurity' as one of the reasons why the budget could not be adequately used by her ministry. The parliamentary vote on the ministers’ performance took place despite pleas from President Ghani and Chief
Executive Abdullah Abdullah to halt further action against the cabinet.
President Ghani and Dr. Abdullah told MPs that their decision would deal a huge political blow to the government at this critical time and urged them to stop the process. President Ghani and Dr. Abdullah have been part of the Unity Government brokered in 2014 by US Secretary of State, John Kerry. However, both have been at daggers drawn and have had serious issues on the approach to governance.
The dismissal of pleas by President Ghani, in particular by the Afghan parliament, demonstrates the level of confidence which one pillar of the state has on the other and reveals the crisis of governance in the war and insurgency ravaged country. While the parliament does not look at President Ghani with favour, the latter also has seemingly little regard for the former. This is evident from the fact that instead of abiding by the parliamentary decision regarding sacking his ministers, President Ghani asked the ministers to continue working by pleading before the Supreme Court to play its role to end the crisis. Whether the crisis would end or not, it does reveal many things.
The foremost lesson one could learn from the political and governance crisis is that the Afghan constitutionaldemocratic political dispensation is not up to the task of nation-building and the massive reconstruction process going on in the country for a decade. As far as the matter of utilizing the budget for the respective ministries is concerned, this should not have been a big deal in a country where reconstruction is going on at such a massive level. There is no justification for spending less than 70 percent of the allocated budget. If one looks deep into the issue, it is clear that there is far deeper political and administrative mismanagement in Afghanistan under President Ghani. Otherwise, it was expected that his performance in the economic sphere would be far better in comparison to his predecessor Hamid Karzai. Ghani is an economist by training. The sordid situation in the Afghan ministries suggests that while on the one hand there are problems of approach and modus operandi of the governance, on the other there is extensive corruption and nepotism in the ministries.
Where President Ghani’s approach to governance in the war and insurgency ravaged Afghanistan is concerned, he should have come up with full scale policies for every ministry and department with viable and time-bound strategies to make them perform better. However, this ingredient has been largely missing in the style of governance of President Ghani. He should have capitalized matter of being a popularly-elected president with backing of the Afghan nation and should have come up with innovative ideas.
Ghani should have also prevented massive corruption, whose scandals have been coming to the fore from time to time, within the various ministries of Afghan government. There has been little rather no improvement in the situation which prevailed during the rule of President Karzai. Analysts have been pointing at various corruption scandals but there has been little attention from President Ghani’s administration to address the issue. In fact, instead of bringing innovative ideas and an approach based on these ideas to governance President Ghani chose to run Afghanistan as it has been traditionally ruled by different men for decades. This approach required buying loyalties of social and community leaders of different ethnicities and regions. In fact the clobbering of the present so-called Unity Government of Afghanistan was the result of appeasing the major ethnic communities by sharing power among them rather than on any long-term policy to address the multi-dimensional and deep-rooted problems of governance. It may be mentioned here that President Ghani himself belongs to the largest Pashtun community of Afghanistan whereas Abdullah belongs to the second largest Tajik community and Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum, a feared ethnic warlord, is an Uzbek. The situation has led to continuous power wrangling among President Ghani, Abdullah Abdullah and Rashid Dostum. The situation in turn has given rise to a competition among the three to accommodate their loyalists and henchmen in different ministries and departments. The upshot is a failure to have a good governance structure based on the four key principles of accountability, transparency, rule of law and participation. President Ghani’s government has been seriously lagging on all these counts. There has been little, if any, accountability in the government. The element of transparency in the governance structures leave a lot to be desired. The condition of people’s participation in governance at every level, right from
The foremost lesson one could learn from the political and governance crisis is that the Afghan constitutional-democratic political dispensation is not up to the task of nation-building.
policymaking to its evaluation, has been so negligible that most Afghanis have no sense of belonging to their government.
An important factor is obviously the insecurity in the country due to the Taliban insurgency. However, the rampaging Taliban insurgency is itself the upshot of a crisis of governance and maladministration. Security is the topmost priority of the state and if an Afghan minister argues that he or she could not use up the required amount of budget due to insecurity than it is itself raising questions on the very rationale of his or her government. Addressing the problems of insecurity and insurgency requires proactive if not good governance. However, President Ghani and his ministers have failed to be proactive and let the country runs ‘naturally.’ The government of President Ghani is limited to Kabul and certain other cities. This is because there is a heavy presence of US-NATO forces in and around these cities. Historically, Afghan governments have been confined to Kabul and a few other towns, leaving the local governance to rural elite. This was the case during the Hotaki Dynasty and, after the creation of modern Afghanistan by Ahmed Shah Abdali in 1747. But at least in the cities different Afghan regimes ruled through their own ability and were not dependent, especially on foreign powers. The prevailing crisis of governance will not solve the complex governance issues in Afghanistan and the insecurity and Taliban insurgency will continue.