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President’s reform agenda met with cynicism

27 Jul 2012 - 18:04
27 Jul 2012 - 18:04

KABUL): Political analysts on Friday characterised President Hamid Karzai’s decree for sweeping reforms in his administration as a welcome move, but sounded sceptical about its implementation. 

Late on Thursday, the president listed good governance, an effective anti-corruption campaign, the rule of law and a strong economy as top priorities of his government.

Recalling his address to last month’s joint sitting of parliament, Karzai’s office referred to the wide-ranging reforms in the three branches of the government.

A statement from the Presidential Palace said that government departments would thoroughly discuss the reforms aimed at grappling with the current challenges.

Under the decree, cases against the individuals detained by police or investigated by the Attorney General Office (AGO) have to be disposed of on a fast-track basis.

High-ranking officials were ordered to refrain from nepotism and other extraneous considerations in the recruitment of technocrats and super-skilled experts.

A Political Science teacher at Kabul University viewed the decree as an effort to show the world the president’s political will to fight graft, introduce good governance and stabilise the security situation.

Prof. Mohammad Musa Farewar called the reforms a key condition for continued international assistance to Afghanistan. The global fraternity had mounted enormous pressure on the president for reforms at Chicago and Tokyo conferences, he claimed.

He thought Karzai did not have the will to ensure the rule of law. Instead of issuing recommendations, he should have recruited technocrats and super-skilled experts to key government slots, the professor said.

Mostly senior government figures, with links to foreigners, were involved in pervasive corruption, noted the teacher, who alleged the present administration was heavily reliant on expediency and support from mafia.

“How can the ruling clique, tainted by graft, file a case against itself? Since those at the helm will never publicly acknowledge their guilt, a new team has to step in to investigate corruption cases against them,” Farewar suggested.

A teacher at the Faulty of Journalism, Ahmad Zia Rifat, also considered the orders as an attempt to convince the international community that the president was serious about enforcing much-needed reforms.

Given the 10-year track record of the government, he said the reforms were unlikely to be implemented in months. The sitting administration would be nearing the completion of its constitutional tenure by the time the decree was debated by relevant departments, he continued.

Rifat accused Karzai of seeking to fire some individuals and replace them with his blue-eyed boys, who could be used to influence election results. The decree could be a justification for “efficiency-driven changes”, he remarked. 

Karzai is the best informed person about the corrupt individuals around him, according to the teacher, who said: “The president wants the corrupt to combat corruption.” What reforms could be expected of such a dispensation, he asked.

Najib Mahmud, a teacher at the Faculty of Political Science, termed the directive as an attempt at pleasing the outside world. The agenda could not be translated into action, because the president had failed over the past decade to hold graft-tainted individuals accountable, he believed.

If Karzai was really determined to clean up his administration, he should drop political expediency and start appointing experts to top positions, the teacher suggested. He was of the opinion that it was too late for the president to set things right. 

Political analyst Hassan Haqyar also appeared pessimistic about the enforcement of the orders. Some corrupt people had foreign props, he alleged, explaining that Karzai would not be able to rein them in without international support.

Continued insecurity and conflict is a major impediment to reforms in Afghanistan, according to Haqyar. “The government, already faced with an unrelenting insurgency, fears it will become even weaker if it moves against allies.”


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