Karzai can't shake bribery scandals

Anissa Ford's picture

Hamid Karzai can't convince the West that he is serious about ridding his government and country of dirty politicians and officials.

4 of Karzai’s closest advisors failed a polygraph test administered by the FBI to determine if they were involved in corruption.

The head of the Anti-Corruption Unit, the human resources director, the acting attorney general, and the special advisor to the attorney general who now serves as the legal advisor to the finance minister, all failed the polygraph and say the lie detector tests are unreliable.

When asked if they had taken bribes in their past two years in office, none of the men passed. The human resources director, however, has only been in his position for a couple of months.

Members of the Afghanistan government, even the highest and most intellectual officials, are completely bemused by the polygraph. They do not appear to understand the logic of questions such as, “did you build a snowman,” and “did you accept a bribe?” asked during the test.

One official called the some of the FBI’s questions “stupid.” Another ousted official denied ever having taken a polygraph test. “I won’t let foreigners do that, because I trust myself.” The director of human resources, Sheraqha Shinwari, said he took the polygraph and failed, but Shinwari did not tell why he failed.

“Polygraphs are a new thing in Afghanistan. They can’t recognize a person’s personality,” Shinwari, 54, said. As director of human resources, Shinwari oversees the hiring of 5,000 staff members.

When officials pass the polygraph, they are eligible for a significant raise, paid out by Britain and the United States. As long as Afghan politicians participate in bribery, the Brits, Americans and Belgians fear the NATO counterinsurgency efforts will become a vain failure.

However, Karzai is displeased with NATO for firing on and killing ten civilians in an air strike on north Afghanistan today.

The civilians were election campaign workers. NATO said the other14 dead or wounded are Taliban members and insurgents.

The original purpose of administering the lie detector test was to remove those officials who are involved in corruption. Only senior officials are required to take the polygraph. One top advisor, so fed up with the many failed lie-detector tests, quit his job in Karzai’s administration.

After the corruption scandals, Karzai criticized U.S. war strategy and ordered private security companies out of Afghanistan within four months. He also signed off on the forced retirement of his official in charge of the Anti-Corruption unit.

When Mohammad Zia Salehi, one of Karzai's senior national security advisors, was arrested for taking a car in exchange for making another corruption case disappear, Karzai orderd Salehi’s release. Although the Western officials who arrested Salehi followed Afghan law, Karzai said Salehi’s civil rights were violated and the arrest was “reminiscent of the Soviet Union where people were taken away from their homes by armed people in the name of the state.”

Despite it all, General Petraus has come out in support of Karzai. He said Karzia was very “forthright” about corruption and that Karzai’s chief concern was “Taliban safe havens in Pakistan.”

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