The Parliament I Saw Was Disaster

By: Amin Kawa

Jawad Sargar, a prominent member of the Taliban, recently confessed to having orchestrated bombings, prepared suicide vests, and planned suicide terrorist attacks in recent years. He added that a member of parliament released him after receiving a bribe of USD 18,000. When the republic collapsed, the Taliban declared that their spies had infiltrated many high positions in the previous government. In some cases, Taliban members have alleged that members of the parliament would release them from prison after taking bribes for terrorist attacks.

For several years, I have worked in the Afghan parliament and witnessed the government’s interference in the National Assembly’s affairs. I have also seen how representatives of the Afghan people have used politics to remain in power and gain wealth through corruption. As a reporter, I have attended many official meetings and observed how the representatives would gather around a Minister or government high ranking official when they arrived in the parliament. The parliament members would make individual and private offers, ranging from signing the decree for their children, to handing over a government contract to their construction/business.

Under the presidency of Ashraf Ghani, the government attempted to bypass the parliament and make decisions through the executive branch. This included the selection of the administrative board of the National Council and the selection of the administrative board of the commissions, which required approval of laws and political positions. The National Security Council used its legitimate and illegitimate power to weaken the parliament, appoint and select certain individuals to the administrative board of parliaments and commissions, making the election of the administration board of the parliament a source of income.

The representatives in both Parliament and National Council have been feeling immense pressure due to Ghani’s administration. This administration has been attempting to take control of the parliament by creating ethical and lingual discriminations, which has caused the parliament’s political positions to harden and the monitoring of representatives to decline. Corruption has been rampant in the parliament, with representatives making both legitimate and illegitimate promises to the government. As a result, many representatives have entered the parliament with the intention of increasing their wealth and property, rather than being held accountable to the people who elected them and the government.

The government used corruption, political and financial bribery to influence the parliament to approve its political programs. This led to members of the parliament being so overwhelmed by the corruption that they would not turn on their microphones without receiving financial credit from the government. However, there were still some honest representatives who sought to help people rather than anything else.

At a recent parliamentary meeting, a board member’s phone ran out of credit. The official asked his assistant to provide a phone card, but the secretary, who was experienced in providing money and credit to representatives, took out a phone card from his pocket instead. The card was worth 500 AFN, and the representative was left feeling helpless. This example of corruption highlights the need for greater transparency and accountability in the parliament.

Recently, a visit to the National Olympic Committee by a respected official was reported. The official, who wished to remain anonymous, was accompanied by a journalist, Kawa, who was asked to get in the official’s car. Upon arriving at Dehmazang, the official‘s assistant sent a text to one of the representatives, who asked for money. When the text did not work, the representative called himself and asked for 20 thousand AFN. It is believed that the representative was attempting to blackmail the minister, rather than needing the money. This story serves as a reminder of the corruption that exists in the parliament.

I remembered these memories in order to suggest that the Taliban members who have accused Afghan ex-parliamentary members of corruption are correct. The representative who allegedly received 18,000 USD from Jawad Sargar is believed to have been appointed through the presidential office, attended night parties of senior officials, and even dined in the reading room of the National Security Council.

The Taliban are aware of the parliament members who accepted bribes of thousands of dollars. It is alleged that these members used the money to fill their cars’ tanks with fuel and to secure high-level employment. Furthermore, it is claimed that these representatives of the parliament shared their money with drug smugglers and the Mafia. It is remembered that taking bribes and killing women had become a political tradition among some of the former parliamentary members at the time.