Every Thursday, RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan broadcasts a two-hour call-in show, "On The Waves Of Freedom." Hosted by Zarif Nazar and Jan Alekozai, the show focuses on current events, politics, and social issues, with high-ranking officials and leading experts taking direct questions from listeners in Afghanistan via SMS, e-mail, and telephone.
On this week’s show we discussed the achievements and shortfalls of the outgoing Afghan parliament and corruption in Afghanistan with two parliamentarians and another who was recently voted out of office.
In our Kabul studios, we hosted lawmaker and former presidential candidate Dr. Ramzan Bashardost, deputy Sayed Hussain Aalimi Balkhi, and former deputy Daud Sultanzoy. We started the show by asking the always-outspoken Bashardost to assess the outgoing parliament.
“This government can be assessed both on the basis of theory and practice,” he told us. “We claim that we have passed hundreds of laws and also called ministers for questioning. But in practical terms, since the formation of the Afghan parliament, security has deteriorated, corruption and drugs have increased, and the life of poor people has not seen any change.”
Balkhi agreed with Bashardost’s grim assessment, but noted that expectations were so high -- and the list of problems so long -- that it would have been impossible for the Afghan parliament to achieve everything on its docket. But, he said, “The parliament also couldn’t pass the election law, even after we have seen the problems with the old one.”
Sultanzoy is of the view that, while there were “many honest, patriotic and real MPs” in parliament, the body “wasted most of its energy on solving differences between Yunis Qanooni, chairman of the lower house (Wolisy Jirga), and President [Hamid] Karzai.”
He added, “Many of the MPs could not separate themselves from their past criminal, tribal and jihadi backgrounds and did not work for the unity of our country.”
A caller from Ghazni Province queried our guests about national unity and September’s controversial elections. He pointed out that the polls there had been rife with fraud -- and resulted in victories only for members of the Hazara minority.
“How can the new parliament be a representative one?” he asked.
“Unfortunately, a Hazara MP cannot represent Pashtuns -- and vice versa,” replied Sultanzoy. “This lack of trust is still dominant in our country. We must work harder so that people feel ownership.”
Balkhi agreed with Sultanzoy. “Our constitution says that the parliament is the reflection of people’s will,” he said. “But the will of the people did not come through in our actions.”
Nearly every listener who called in expressed resentment at both elected officials and bureaucrats -- with corruption topping the list of complaints.
Bashardost, a longtime campaigner against corruption in Afghanistan, offered two solutions to the two kinds of corruption he sees in Afghanistan: low-level graft and extortion by bureaucrats who make roughly $100 per month, and high-level corruption involving government ministers and contractors who deal in amounts in the millions and tens of millions of dollars.
“To eliminate corruption, the government must increase the salary for low-income employees to a livable wage,” he said. And prosecutors must have the power to take strong action against high-ranking corrupt officials and contractors.”
Sultanzoy took it a step further, deriding the Bonn Conference -- which set up the current system of government in Afghanistan -- as one of the main reasons for corruption in the country.
“After the Bonn Conference, the economic mafia was created and became stronger that ever. And when the international community pressured Afghanistan to fight corruption, the government created a commission.”
“This was not right,” Sultanzoy added. “The worst corruption in Afghanistan is political corruption, which feeds warlordism, the ‘economic mafia,’ and the weakness of rule of law in the country.”
-- Jan Alekozai and Zarif Nazar