KABUL -- The Attorney General's Office (AGO) of Afghanistan is taking a crack at corrupt officials, investigating thousands of cases leading to the arrest and conviction of many high-ranking officials.
"In 2017 and 2018, the Attorney General's Office has investigated 6,174 cases of administrative corruption throughout Afghanistan," AGO spokesperson Jamshid Rasooli told Salaam Times. "As a result, 16 high-ranking generals and 7 deputy ministers have been prosecuted and sentenced for committing administrative corruption."
"Of these corruption cases, 678 of them have been tried at the Anti-Corruption Justice Centre, where cases of high-ranking government officials are adjudicated," he said.
The AGO has completed investigations of another five former cabinet ministers accused of corruption and has handed over their cases to a special court, he said.
The AG has brought in the necessary reforms to effectively fight corruption, Rasooli said.
"In the past two years, the office has tried and prosecuted 34 prosecutors, as well as a number of administrative staff within this office, on charges related to corruption," he said.
"The attorney general is determined to fight corruption and has declared fighting corruption and enforcing the rule of law among his highest priorities," Rasooli said. "The culture of exemption from the law has ended, and the laws are applied equally to all citizens."
In addition to handing down prison sentences, courts have ordered a number of convicted officials pay a total of 1.2 billion AFN ($15.8 million) to the state's treasury, according to the AGO.
Tried and convicted
The following are the seven convicted senior civilian officials, according to a source at the AGO who spoke to Salaam Times on condition of anonymity.
- Abdur Razaq Zalali, a former deputy at the High Office for Combating Corruption (sentenced to 5 years and 7 months in prison);
- Raz Mohammad Elmi, former deputy minister for technical affairs at the Ministry of Transportation;
- Murtaza Rahimi, former deputy minister for logistics at the Interior Ministry (sentenced to 3 years in prison);
- Daiulhaq Abed, former deputy minister of Hajj and Religious Affairs (sentenced to 5 years and 2 months in prison);
- Ghulam Ali Wahdat, former deputy minister for logistics at the Interior Ministry (sentenced to 3 years in prison);
- Mohammad Azim Karbelai, former deputy minister for literacy at the Ministry of Education; and
- Abdulbaqi Popal, a member of the Independent Directorate of Local Governance.
The same source also confirmed the names of some of the generals who have been sentenced:
- Maj. Gen. Abdul Hai Jurat, senior prosecutor in the AGO (sentenced to 2 years and 6 months for bribery-related charges);
- Gen. Abdul Wasay Raufi, chairman of the contract evaluation committee at the Interior Ministry (sentenced to 14 years in prison and fined $150,000 [11.4 million AFN] for bribery and abuse of power);
- Brig. Gen. Fazlullah, a former director at the Defence Ministry (sentenced to 7 years and 7 months in prison for abuse of power and embezzlement);
- Col. Abdul Rahman Sarjang, a former police chief of Helmand Province (sentenced to 3 years in prison);
- Lt. Gen. Mohammad Moin Faqir, former commander of the 215th Maiwand Corps of the Afghan National Army (sentenced to 5 years and 3 months in prison);
- Col. Mohammad Anwar Kohistani, former director-general at the Interior Ministry (sentenced to 11 years and 3 months);
- Maj. Gen. Abdul Razaq Amiri, former chief of operations and acting deputy minister at the Interior Ministry (sentenced to 8 years in prison);
- Maj. Gen. Sardar Mohammad Zazai, former warden of Pul-e-Charkhi prison (sentenced to 3 years in prison); and
- Gen. Zamarai Paikan, director-general of public safety and order at the Interior Ministry (sentenced to 8 years and 6 months in prison).
Determined to stamp out corruption
The Afghan government has shown determination to root out corruption in its offices, observers say.
"In order to ... eradicate corruption, the National Unity Government has created a national anti-corruption strategy," Shah Hussain Murtazawi, deputy spokesman for President Ashraf Ghani, told Salaam Times.
"The president's anti-corruption efforts are being implemented according to this plan," he said.
"Fortunately, our judicial bodies have been able to ... punish senior officials, including high ranking generals, cabinet ministers and deputy ministers, as well as all others who have been involved in corruption," he said.
"The ... punishment of senior civilian and military officials accused of corruption shows serious political determination by the National Unity Government to ... eradicate corruption and punish the perpetrators," Gen. (ret.) Aziz Ahmad Wardak, a military affairs analyst, told Salaam Times.
"This is the first time in the past 17 years that senior government officials are being prosecuted for corruption-related charges," he said. "This is a praiseworthy action by the government and is welcomed."
A welcome move
"Since the formation of the National Unity Government, the authorities have launched practical measures to fight administrative corruption," said Jan Agha Hakimi, a 25-year-old Kabul resident.
"Administrative corruption began to decrease after reforms took effect in the country's judicial institutions," he told Salaam Times.
"The prosecution and imprisonment of generals, ministers and deputies have increased the public's hope that corruption will be rooted out, and we support ... these efforts," Hakimi said.
The Afghan government has taken "serious measures ... to fight administrative corruption", said Zia Danesh, a Kabul University professor who lectures on administrative reform.
These measures include "eliminating legal barriers and formulating comprehensive policies" such as "developing and enforcing the Anti-Corruption Law across all government bodies, introducing a national anti-corruption strategy, establishing the Anti-Corruption Justice Centre ... [and] enacting and publishing the Access to Information Law", Danesh said.
"These efforts have been well received by the international community," he said. "As a result, Afghanistan's ranking in [global] anti-corruption efforts has improved."