Complaints of discrimination in Independent Directorate of Local Governance must be investigated

Serious complaints have been made about how and why dismissals, appointments, changes and transfers of individuals in the Independent Directorate of Local Governance (IDLG) have been conducted. These complaints began at the same time as the appointment of Shamim Khan Katawazi as the head of the directorate, and continue to this day. Katawazi, a former governor of Paktia and adviser to President Ghani, became head of the Independent Directorate of Local Governance in May last year. In the more than eight months of Katawazi’s tenure at this institution, many complaints have been filed against him, especially regarding the dismissal and appointment of the officers and department heads of this institution. So far, these complaints have not been followed up by any authority.

Less than three months after the start of the Katawazi’s tenure at the Independent Directorate of Local Governance, the dismissal of at least ten heads of this directorate was announced. The reason for these dismissals was simply the ethnic and linguistic affiliations of these dismissed department heads. It was reported that instead of those with master’s and postgraduate degrees, Katawazi recruited new, inexperienced people with bachelor’s degrees or school diplomas. However, the Independent Directorate of Local Governance refuted these allegations and emphasized the transparency in the process of removal and appointment as part of the reforms in this directorate.

Now, with the resignation of Yalda Royan, head of the Department of Connection and Provincial Relations of the IDLG, complaints on the manner of dismissing and appointing department heads and officials under the name of reforms in this directorate have risen again. A few days ago, Ms. Royan resigned from her position, citing many reasons, including ethnic and linguistic discrimination, the monopoly over her powers by agents close to her, and mistreatment. She also accused Shamim Khan Katawazi of tribalism and discrimination, saying that there was no room left for citizens other than those from Paktia province in the IDLG.

The Independent Directorate of Local Governance was established thirteen years ago for better and more effective leadership of local governance. As well as being a budget unit, it spends millions of Afghanis a year from the government’s operating funds. While overseeing the implementation of the law and programs, the directorate regulates and coordinates the official affairs and work of the directorates in all provinces, districts and municipalities. Hence, the IDLG is an important and key institution in the field of local governance.

According to the Independent Directorate of Local Governance, it is a governmental organization belonging to all Afghan citizens, regardless of ethnicity, language, religion, political affiliation or geography. The agency is also funded by the Treasury and Global Financial Assistance, which is deposited in the Afghan government treasury on behalf of Afghans. The IDLG is not a company or a private entity whose agents can do anything without considering the Constitution or the public interest. Hence, the exercise of bias, political partisanship, tribalism, xenophobia and discrimination against others has no place in this institution. The constitution recognizes the equal right for all citizens to work, and prohibits discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, religion, language, position, and so on.

Shamim Khan Katawazi was a businessman before entering politics. With the support of Mohammad Ashraf Ghani in the last two presidential elections, he has become closely affiliated to Ghani. Ketawazi was an adviser to President Ghani in the early days of the National Unity Government and later became governor of Paktia due to his political affinity with him. On June 18, 2020, he was appointed head of the IDLG. This directorate is under Ghani in the division of power between him and Abdullah in the current participatory government.

According to complaints, Shamim Khan Katawazi has turned the Independent Directorate of Local Governance into a symbol of “stark discrimination against non-Pashtun tribes” in Afghanistan due to his strong political, tribal, linguistic and religious affiliation with Mohammad Ashraf Ghani. It is said that he has also taken over the authority of the deputies of this directorate and does not allow them the slightest involvement in handling the affairs of this directorate. Turning a national institution into a personal organization and politically abusing it, and worst of all, waging a soft ethno-linguistic war using its facilities, status and authorities, is the literal definition of discrimination and it is a disaster. Given the high volume of complaints against the actions of the head of the Independent Directorate of Local Governance, the Independent Human Rights Commission, Transparency Watch, and constitutional oversight bodies, particularly the parliament, must investigate these complaints responsibly. Ignoring these complaints and not addressing them can further spread the infection of discrimination in all government institutions and prepare the ground for new ethnic and linguistic divisions in the country.