The man leading Afghanistan's anti-corruption fight
Afghanistan announced Monday the launch of a new anticorruption unit. The head of the current effort, Mohammad Yusin Osmani, says Afghanistan needs more prosecutions and inter-agency cooperation.
There's a joke making the rounds among Afghans: A group of officials go to meet President Hamid Karzai and ask him, "What's your plan for fighting corruption?" Mr. Karzai says, "I will tell you, but first you must give me some money."Skip to next paragraph
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Against that cynical backdrop and enormous international pressure, Afghan officials Monday announced the launch of a new anticorruption unit with the help of Interpol and the US. This is the third formal effort to launch a new body aimed at tackling the problem.
In his reelection victory speech, Karzai mentioned by name his current anticorruption czar Mohammad Yusin Osmani. Nearly a year into his job, Mr. Osmani and his Office of Oversight for Anti-Corruption has installed public hotlines and complaints boxes, drafted anticorruption plans with various ministries, and instigated one high-profile takedown of customs agents at the airport. But so far his group has only sent 15 cases to law enforcement agencies, resulting in just a handful of arrests.
The absence of punishment for corrupt officials raises questions about whether the new office will have real teeth either. The problem with the current effort, says Osmani, is that his office lacks the staff and mandate to investigate and prosecute cases. Instead, he must forward what his group finds to the attorney general's office, which is taking months on some cases.
"If this office had the responsibility to gather information, do investigation, and do prosecutions, probably we would be in a much better position in terms of fighting corruption," says Osmani.
Details of the latest anticorruption effort are sketchy, but it appears to be a move to marshal the resources of law enforcement agencies to work together.
"[This] was a reiteration of a joint commitment of all the administrations and institutions that are somehow linked to the chain of justice [to] do whatever possible to fight corruption," says Zamary Bashari, spokesman for the Ministry of Interior. He wasn't sure yet of the structure of the new grouping, but suspected it would not have a new leader and would be complementary to Osmani's efforts.
US demands Karzai fight corruption
Since the election, US officials have hammered Karzai over corruption. The American ambassador in Kabul reportedly warned US President Barack Obama against sending more troops because of corruption. And Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Sunday that the Afghan government must "demonstrate there's no impunity for those who are corrupt" by implementing new US demands.
One such measure, announced Saturday by Attorney General Ishaq Alako, is the establishment of a special court to try senior officials who, under the constitution, cannot be tried by the regular judicial system.
"Everyone knows that in Afghanistan, corruption is at a peak," Mr. Alako told reporters. He promised to stop corruption within six months. He has claimed in the past that he has a list of top officials suspected of taking bribes, and that the country already has put 16,000 people behind bars for corruption.
Examples of Afghan bribes
Yet Afghanistan consistently sits at the bottom of the barrel for corruption, last year ranking 176 out of 180 nations on Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index. Everyone here has personal stories of shakedowns. Even this reporter, when catching a flight leaving Kabul airport, was asked if he would like to cut the long line for a fee.
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