Sacked Provincial Chiefs Refusing to Go

President may struggle to enforce his dismissal of allegedly corrupt regional power brokers.

Sacked Provincial Chiefs Refusing to Go

President may struggle to enforce his dismissal of allegedly corrupt regional power brokers.

There are signs that some of the 28 regional officials sacked last week for alleged abuses of power may refuse to go.

President Karzai dismissed the officials following growing complaints of provincial lawlessness, but only two have so far agreed to step down.

As recently as September 12, Karzai offered reassurances at the United Nations General Assembly that Afghanistan had "appointed the right people for the right positions".

But growing levels of provincial anarchy have forced him to admit that he has failed to take control of the country.

The international community has pressured Karzai to exert control over renegade provinces. A report released on November 5 by Human Rights Watch, for example, described torture, arbitrary arrests, and political intimidation in the western province of Herat, where the local warlord Ismail Khan has "created a virtual mini-state".

Karzai’s action was based on reports of special delegations that investigated the ongoing corruption and security problems in the country. The president agreed to go ahead with the dismissals after an emergency meeting of his cabinet on November 2.

The sacked officials included: the chiefs of Kandahar and Balkh intelligence services; the mayor of Jalalabad; the heads of Nengarhar customs and Jalalabad agricultural departments; intelligence, finance and police bosses in Nimroz; the chiefs of intelligence services and frontier forces in Farah; the head of police in Logar; and the chief of the Sar-e-pol military compound.

But, significantly, none of those fired were from Baghlan, Kunduz, Takhar and Badakhshan provinces in the north-east of the country, where Northern Alliance commanders have complete control.

According to Karzai’s spokesman Sayed Fazil Akbar, the officials were dismissed after being implicated in the smuggling of historic monuments and drugs; embezzlement of customs money; beatings; robberies; and ignoring central government directives and being unqualified for their posts.

Karzai also transferred General Abdul Hamid, president of the intelligence services in Balkh, and commanders, governors, customs and finance presidents in Logar, Paktia, Paktika, and Khost.

He has also appointed a delegation to go to Wardak, Ghazni and Zabul to conduct further inquiries and report back to the government.

Many of the complaints in the first round of the investigation focused on illegal checkpoints where local commanders together with their men collect money.

Concerns about Karzai's ability to rule Afghanistan were voiced by delegates at the Loya Jirga in June, many of whom disagreed with his choice of cabinet members and his handling of the return of former king, Zaheer Shah.

Persistent reports of fighting, illegal checkpoints and embezzlement of customs money support the contention that central government has no authority outside Kabul.

On October 24, during a speech to provincial judges in Kabul, Karzai warned all the regional authorities that he would fire those who were breaking the law. He admitted that he had not done enough to prevent crime, and took responsibility for it. “I don’t support those who are being cruel. I appointed them, but I won’t tolerate anyone committing crime,” he said in his speech.

Karzai told the judges that the delegations he sent to investigate the abuses were made up of representatives from the defense, interior, and finance ministries as well as his own office. "All of them said that the people are right and government officials are bothering them," he told the judges.

Along with the firings, Karzai warned governors and other government officials to improve their record, consult with local people on decisions and keep him informed of them.

On a positive note, Karzai also issued appreciative letters to the governor of Paktia; the presidents of the education and public health departments in Farah, Nimroz, and Logar; the chiefs of Herat and Nimroz prisons; and some military officials in Nengarhar, Khost and Paktia. He also announced that a prize is to be given to the president of the public health department in Badghees.

Karzai's actions won praise from leaders and residents in the provinces.

Jalat Khan, a senior official in Logar, said, "Karzai has made a good decision. He has fired robbers and cruel people.” Awal Rehman, a Nengarhar resident, said," We were surprised that such good people were found to investigate the problems in the provinces.” Sayed Gulab Wadan, headmaster of the Arzanqeemat High School in the Ahmad Shah Baba region of Kabul, said, "At last Karzai showed his authority. Now we have reason to be confident that he will bring real changes.”

However, some doubt whether the president will be able to enforce the sackings. Only two of the 28 dismissed officials have agreed to go: Abdul Khaleq, president of the intelligence service department in Farah, and Abdul Razeq, commander of border forces in the province.

One of the sacked officials, Kamaluddin Gulalai, chief of the Kandahar intelligence service department, said, "I will talk and consult with my tribe and the mujahedin. I have done a big service for the Afghan nation, taking part in the war against the Taleban. At the moment, I'm not ready to leave my job."

And dismissed officials in Farah issued a statement saying, "The government should sit with us and should point out our faults." They complained that they hadn't had a chance to give their side and wanted Karzai's delegation to come back and talk to them.

The extent of the rebellion is unclear, but there were at least some encouraging signs for Karzai from Sayed Jamal Badashah, former deputy chief of customs in Jalalabad, who will now be promoted to chief.

"They [the Jalalabad officials who were dismissed] were fired with the consultation of the governor and we don't have any problem with it. I'm hoping that the ones who were fired do not create difficulties," he said.

Rahimullah Samandar is an IWPR reporter.

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