Afghan president trying to stamp out corruption by decree

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Afghan president Hamid Karzai has issued an ambitious list of government reforms that orders his ministries, prosecutors and judiciary to fight bribery, nepotism and cronyism.

Mr Karzai’s 23-page decree also instructs officials to clear the attorney general’s office and the courts of languishing corruption-related cases and do more than talk about bringing crooked figures to justice.

Donor nations have long expressed concern about corruption within the Afghan government and £10bn in aid pledged this month at a Tokyo conference is tied to a new monitoring process to ensure the money is not diverted by corrupt officials or mismanaged.

Mr Karzai blamed international contracting procedures for some of the problem.

In the decree, Mr Karzai repeated his request that high-ranking government officials or their relatives do not get rebuilding contracts. He also demanded that ministries and other government departments write up a flurry of progress reports on a myriad of issues – including efforts to resolve traffic problems in the dusty, congested capital, Kabul.

The decree is similar to an executive order, but is ambiguous about what happens to those who do not comply. It also does not spell out who will pay for the government cleansing Mr Karzai proposes.

Political analyst Jawid Kohistani said he does not think the decree will tackle corruption.

“Karzai is acting late on corruption. We have anti-corruption laws, but it is very difficult to remove corruption. It is hard to just remove corruption by a decree. He should start to remove corruption from inside the palace.

“I’m not confident that this decree will bring good results because those people who are involved in corruption are high-ranking officials in the government. They have control of the economy and they also are grabbing the land. The low-ranking employees of the government – they are only getting small bribes.”

Afghanistan, with a history of war and international interference and support, has long been plagued by corruption. It was 180th out of 183 countries on Transparency International’s corruption index, which scored countries based. Only North Korea and Somalia were deemed to be more corrupt.

Mr Karzai, who has about two years left in office, has repeatedly promised to clean up corruption in his administration without much result.