KABUL): Refugee and Repatriation Minister Jamahir Anwary on Saturday came under harsh criticism from some lawmakers, but managed to convince the lower house not to consider a no-confidence motion against him.
The Wolesi Jirga, or lower house of the parliament, expressed its satisfaction with Anwary’s response to allegations of brazen corruption and irregularities in his ministry.
The assembly had summoned Anwary over graft, including embezzlement of funds meant for clearing the ministry’s power bills, official trip expenses and other purposes, anomalies in recruitment and the ministry’s failure to address the plight of refugees.
In line with the relevant constitutional provision, any minister could be summoned to the house based on a proposal from 20 percent of legislators. If the cabinet member fails to offer a convincing explanation, MPs may ponder over bringing a no-confidence vote against him/her.
But the parliamentarians found Anwary’s explanations satisfactory and decided against mulling over a vote of no-confidence against him. Most of legislators raised their green cards when the speaker asked if they were convinced by the ministerial arguments.
A total of 57 MPs had called for Anwary to be summoned. One of them was from western Herat province, Naheed Farid, who accused the minister of having no strategic plan to facilitate returning refugee families.
She alleged the ministry received $3,500 in bribe from each refugee family in return for a plot in 62 residential townships the ministry had been given for rehabilitation of returning families in various parts of the country.
“I have evidence about what I am saying,” she insisted, alleging Anwary received money from the Ministry of Finance for undertaking foreign trips and as well from host countries. She claimed UNHCR had suspended contacts with the minister due to widespread corruption.
Outspoken female lawmaker Shukria Barakzai said Afghan refugees were being forcibly driven from foreign countries, despite memorandums of understanding (MoUs) that Afghanistan had signed with a number of them.
“Afghans are forcibly returned because these agreements have been signed for a mere personal benefit, not for the betterment of refugees,” she claimed.
She said Afghans living in Pakistan, Iran and other countries had been facing numerous hardships, but the ministry concerned had done nothing for them, dodging its prime responsibility for facilitating refugees and expatriates.
“Afghans are denied access to education in Iran, but they are forced into giving heavy taxes for running businesses there,” the public representative from Kabul said.
Her colleague from southern Kandahar province, Mohammad Naeem Hameedzai Lalai, said the refugee ministry was rife with graft.
Anwary undertook 91 foreign trips over the past three years, bud did nothing to bring relief to refugees, he claimed. “The minister has signed agreements on his foreign trips and it is the outcome of these accords that Afghans are forcibly expelled,” he alleged.
In response, Anwary said the ministry had a strategic plan for refugees under the national strategic programme. He had made efforts for resolving problems facing Afghan refugees in Pakistan, Iran and other countries and the efforts had yielded positive results.
“We should not point an accusing finger at each other and instead we should jointly work for resolving the problems facing Afghan refugees,” the minister said.
His efforts had led to the extension of Afghan refugees’ stay in Pakistan until 2015, otherwise their residency cards had expired, Anwary claimed. He said the ground had been paved for extending the visas of Afghans living in Iran, where 300,000 refugees were engaged in various literacy courses.
The minister said agreements on the problems being faced by Afghan refugees had been signed with several countries over the past three years. “I have not signed any agreement under which Afghans can be expelled. I have always stressed the return of Afghans should be gradual and dignified.”
His remarks came the day a large number of people staged a protest in front of the parliament house against the forcible expulsion of Afghans from Australia, Denmark and other countries. However, Anwary said no Afghan had been deported from Australia over the past year.
He also said his ministry had constructed houses for 22,000 families with financial support from other organisations and had provided another 600 families with shelters.
About corruption, Anwary said his ministry had a total of 1,000 staffers and 90 percent of them had been appointed through the administrative reforms commission.