My op-ed on Outlook published on Feb 02
Kabul Bank is once again on headlines in Afghanistan and American media. This Sunday there were four reports on the same day in New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and the New Yorker with much more revealing than before. The best report detailed with specifics was from the veteran journalist Dexter Filkins, former correspondent of the New York Times, now writing for the New Yorker. It’s one of the most extraordinary investigative reports by Filkins. It should be translated in Dari and Pashtu and published in papers, so that people know the great robbers of this country and the scale of corruption. And I am sure the translation will appear soon on major Dari papers.
The report had shaken the officials in Kabul, and yesterday (Feb 01) a press conference was called by Abdul Qadir Fitrat, President of the Central Bank (Da Afghanistan Bank). Very blatantly, he called it all “politically motivated”. This guy might have been told only about the New York Times report, while the more exposing one was in the New Yorker. Fitrat said, “The New York Times report has political motives. They want to harm the newly founded banking and financial system of Afghanistan, and harm the Government of Afghanistan.” That’s very naïve and ridiculous of Fitrat. Officials are trying to cover up the great story of robbers with a good tactic by focusing all on Kabul Bank as a corrupt and bankrupt institution, while this whole story is all about the high officials of the Government who accept bribes in millions of dollars. Mr. Fitrat is covering all those officials. I don’t understand his reason why would New York Times conspire against the financial system of Afghanistan, though it was reported by four prestigious newspapers of the world. And if the reports are all lies, as Fitrat wants us to believe, the Government should sue the newspaper with false reporting. Their reporters and Dexter Filkins himself are in Kabul. The Government is fooling the nation to cover the huge scale corruption of officials. The New Yorker report also for the first time reveals that former intelligence chief Amrullah Saleh had warned President Karzai that Kabul Bank was at brink of collapse. President had summoned Abdul Qadir Fitrat who had assured him that the Bank was working fine. Shouldn’t Fitrat be held responsible for part of his carelessness about the crisis?
These all reports have been quoting US and Afghan officials involved with investigation of the Kabul Bank story. And the report by Filkins is a work of great investigation and interviews with the corrupt officials. Below I am quoting some important excerpts.
According to the report, Finance Minister Zakhilwal has told the reporter about two hundred million dollars “gift” by Kabul Bank for campaign of President Karzai during the presidential elections. The report quoting American officials say
“Zakhilwal was one of dozens of Afghan leaders and businessmen who, collectively, accepted tens of millions of dollars in gifts and bribes—some sources say as much as a hundred million dollars—from executives at Kabul Bank.”
Some Afghan officials have been quoted saying Kabul Bank had become “an unofficial arm of the Karzai government, bribing parliamentarians in order to secure votes for its legislative agenda.” Some even claim Kabul Bank’s “contributions” to President Karzai’s election campaign was between eight to fourteen million dollars.
Filkins has talked to American and Afghan officials from FBI, Drug Enforcement Agency, Treasury Department and the Afghan Government’s Sensitive Investigation Unit all investigating the crisis.
“Evidence implicate dozens of Afghan officials and businessmen, many of them, like Zakhilwal, among Karzai’s closest advisers, with regulatory responsibilities over the Afghan financial system. Among the others are Afghans regarded by American officials as among the most capable in Karzai’s government: Farouk Wardak, the Minister of Education; Yunus Qanooni, the speaker of the Afghan parliament; and Haneef Atmar, the former Minister of the Interior. An Afghan official with knowledge of the investigation said that Atmar appeared at one point to be receiving three million dollars a month. As Minister of the Interior, Atmar presided over the pay of thousands of policemen, whose salaries were deposited into Kabul Bank each month. Noor Delawari, a former president of the Central Bank, was said by the same Afghan official to have received a hundred and eighty thousand dollars. The Central Bank is charged with insuring that Afghan banks adhere to financial regulations.”
The Central Bank officials, when they took over control of Kabul Bank last year, had said losses of the bank are about three hundred million dollars, which they have found. But the investigations reveal the amount of money missing from Kabul Bank is between seven to nine hundred million dollars, which include all these bribes to the Government officials. And, as one American official has been quoted by Filkins, “the money is gone. They can’t find it.” It has mostly gone to the luxurious villas abroad in Dubai owned by the robbers who control the state. Since his second term, President Karzai has been promising to clean up his administration but not a single step is taken. When some honest people stand against these robbers, they are fired from their job, that’s what happened to Fazal Ahmad Faqiryar, when he tried to pursue the cases of corruption by officials close to Karzai. The guy—Zia Salehi—he was trying to punish did not remain in jail for even one day. President Karzai sent a car from Palace to pick him up from prison. How should the people believe the President that greater corruption comes from contracts of foreign countries to foreign companies? You must read the full report by Dexter Filkins on New Yorker to know how much on big scale the corruption is a daily routine of the great looters of Kabul and Afghan state. The report is available on New Yorker website. It has a beautiful conclusion that Americans, despite knowing all of the corrupt in the tiny group who control the state in Kabul, are not going to take any action. How should they? If the people ruling us are all corrupt from top to bottom and don’t give it a damn.
If this was a country like Tunisia, the latest report about corruption details should have caused a revolt against the great looters and robbers of Kabul and kick them out of the country to their villas in Dubai, like Tunisians did with Ben Ali.
If President Karzai means a little of his own words, he must take direct action against all these officials found in the investigation of Kabul Bank crisis. He must clean up his administration and bring honest and capable people, besides bringing back people like Fazal Faqiryar and Amrullah Saleh back to their positions.
The US needs to go for an Operation Clean-up in Kabul to fix Afghanistan. Their success in Afghanistan is at stake, if these looters continue robbing and ruling. The people are unaware of most of these scandals, and they easily become victims of the propaganda by officials like Fitrat giving it an emotional picture by accusing “politically motivated” to cover these ruling robbers. But its naïve to expect the US take action on the scandals of corruption. They won’t even push little pressure on President Karzai to send these people home, a trial is beyond imagination. They have their political problems. But I am more worried of the fact that Afghanistan will remain the most corrupt state of the world for the decades to come. The foundation of a state of corruption has been laid by the ruling robbers, which will get worst when the international community eventually leaves Afghanistan after some years. There is no hope and future for a developing peaceful Afghanistan in this and next decade with such huge scale corruption that has taken roots in all the state machinery.