KABUL: Among the soldiers, diplomats and aid workers who live in Afghanistan, it is the problem that nobody dares mention. Among ordinary Afghans, it’s a daily presence, the corruption that is rooted deeply in the Western-backed Afghan government and its appointed officials.
When Afghans are forced by uniformed men to pay large sums of cash in order to travel safely on provincial roads, as they are daily, when their colleagues are arrested and beaten in exchange for ransom payments, when they learn that people pay $150,000 for the job of district police chief in parts of Kandahar province, when entire aid shipments or thousands of police salaries are seized for private use, when world-record heroin exports take place under police watch, everyone in Afghanistan knows where to look.
On heavily guarded streets on the edge of every Afghan city and in the centre of Kabul are the large, wedding-cake houses, surrounded by walls and guards and filled with luxury goods, built in a style popularly known as “narcotecture.” Inside live the senior officials with top roles in Afghanistan’s government, some of whom have amassed fortunes of hundreds of millions of dollars. Some are governors of provinces, like Kandahar governor Asadullah Khalid, reported by Canadian diplomats to have committed torture. Some are top cabinet ministers.
Others wield power through family ties to the President. The man considered by many observers to be the most powerful and feared figure in the Afghan south is not the Kandahar governor but rather Ahmed Wali Karzai, appointed by his brother, President Hamid Karzai, to represent Kandahar province in Kabul.
A U.S. government document leaked to ABC News two years ago accused him of being the central figure in the region’s vast opium-export market, which produces the majority of the world’s opium and heroin. This week, senior U.S. and British officials said in interviews that they believe he enables, and likely profits from, opium shipments across southern Afghanistan to Iran, and prevents opium crops of those who support him from being eradicated. He has repeatedly denied such accusations.
Huge fortunes are being earned by many of these officials, Western sources said. It is customary to charge a 20-per-cent commission on imports or exports brought through their provinces, including opium exports valued at more than $800-million. That means hundreds of millions can be earned each year in a country where many families live on less than a dollar a day.-SANA