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Afghans Slam Government Corruption

Calls for institutional reforms to boost public trust in officialdom.
By IWPR staff

The legitimacy of the Afghan state is being severely undermined by wholesale institutional corruption, according to speakers at IWPR-organised debates held across the country. Calls were heard for a complete overhaul of the public appointments system to bring in honest staff.

In Zaranj, the main town in the western Nimroz province, local government head Rohullah Hedayat acknowledged that corruption existed, but said that people underestimated the work officials did and the public services they provided.

“We need time to build trust between the people and the government,” he added.

One speaker at the Nimroz debase criticided the authorities for not enforcing law and order and allowing officials to act with impunity.

“Evasion of the law has damaged public confidence in the government,” said Torpekai Wakili, a women’s rights activist.

Another participant, Ghulam Sediq, accused the elected provincial council in Nimroz of failing to win the trust of those it served.

Nematullah Sediqi, provincial council secretary, replied that as long as there was corruption in central government, there was little that local officials could do.

In a debate held in Badakhshan in northeast Afghanistan, the consensus was that job creation and social justice were the best ways for the government could win public trust.

Addressing the event in the provincial centre Faizabad, Namdar Khalid, a representative of the Badakhshan governor’s office, defended the administration’s record, insisting that that officials took care to address citizens’ needs.

Civil society activist Sayed Omar Baher disputed this claim, going on to express disappointment with the decision to set up a government of national unity under President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, arguing that this did not reflect the public’s wishes.

Zofnun Husam, spokesperson for the department for women’s affairs in Badakhshan, highlighted the difficulties women faced accessing education, particularly in rural areas, and expressed disappointment at the low level of female participation in politics.

In a third debate, held in the capital Kabul, security was the major concern as participants argued that no government plan or project could be effective unless people felt safe. Speakers agreed that peace was an essential prerequisite to building trust in the government as well as to allowing official institutions and NGOs to do their work.

The continuing gender imbalance in government was also raised, with speakers arguing that more women needed to be part of political life and legislation needed to treat both sexes as equals.

“The government must assume an equal responsibility towards men and women,” said Mariam Sharifi, head of the women’s affairs department in Kabul.

This report is based on an ongoing series of debates conducted as part of the IWPR programme Afghan Reconciliation: Promoting Peace and Building Trust by Engaging Civil Society.

 

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