Afghanistan: Elections are a fraud

Soldiers direct customers outside Kabul Bank. The government froze the assets of some of the bank’s owners when large numbers

US-NATO command and their puppets in Kabul are pushing ahead with lower house elections in Afghanistan on September 18. This is despite civilian casualties rising by 31% this year, a surge of occupying troop numbers and new evidence of widespread corruption emerging.

A scandal surrounding the country’s largest commercial bank, Kabul Bank, has implicated one of Afghan President Hamid Kazai’s brothers. Mahmoud Karzai, when head of Kabul Bank, is said to have made millions from risky investments in the collapsing Dubai property market.

The September 1 New York Times said Kabul Bank had ordered Mahmoud Karzai to return US$160 million he had used to invest in Dubai.

On September 7, the government froze the assets of some of the bank’s owners when Afghan investors tried to retrieve their savings. Zaburzay, a surgeon who works at a government hospital, said he gave up trying to withdraw his money because the branch was too crowded and tellers were only giving out $20 notes.

“All these people are thieves, and we don’t trust them”, he told The Islamic Standard: “Whether or not it collapses, I want to take my money out!”

The Kabul Bank handles the wages for soldiers, police and teachers, and holds the accounts of key Afghan government agencies.

Mahmoud Kazai, who holds 7% of the bank’s shares and is its third-largest shareholder, called on the US Treasury Department to shore up the bank. The US has denied reports that it is preparing a bailout.

These latest corruption scandals, and the millions of dollars in Western “aid” being channeled to Afghan elites, explain why Transparency International ranks Afghanistan as the second-most corrupt country in the world — one up from Somalia.

This election for the wolesi jirga (parliament) will be no more free and fair than the last presidential election in August 2009. Then, no candidate won a majority and Hamid Karzai was eventually re-appointed after his rival Abdullah Abdullah, a former foreign minister, pulled out of a runoff poll.

However, those pushing for the election may have miscalculated.

The Independent Election Commission (IEC) has already announced that, because of security concerns, around 15% of 6900 polling centres — mainly in the south and east — will not open.

The IEC also said the elections could be postponed. A September 7 report by Hamid Shalizi, posted on the RAWA website, quoted United Nations and government officials saying four parliamentary candidates had been killed.

Well-known MP Malalai Joya, who has escaped many death threats and has been banned since 2007 from sitting in the Jirga due to her anti-corruption campaigning, has decided not to re-contest her seat.

In August 2009, Joya said Afghans should not to be “fooled by the democratic facade of elections”. She said: “We Afghans know that this election will change nothing and it is only part of a show of democracy put on by, and for, the West, to legitimise its future puppet in Afghanistan.”

On August 28, Karzai fired his deputy attorney general Fazel Ahmad Faqiryar who had been trying to prosecute senior government officials for corruption.

“The law in this country is only for the poor”, Faqiryar said in the September 7 New York Times. The NYT posed the question — now increasingly being asked — whether government corruption was more dangerous for the war effort than the Taliban.

The NYT quoted an unnamed government official who discountied fears of fraud in the elections. He said: “What is acceptable to the Afghans is different to what is acceptable to you or me or our people.”

Others, including Joya, have disputed this as nonsense. “The people of Afghanistan are fed up with the rampant corruption of Karzai’s ‘narco-state’ — his own brother, Wali Karzai, has been linked to drug trafficking in Kandahar province — and the escalating war waged by NATO”, she said in August 2009.

The Karzai government’s decision to form a “High Peace Council” in the hope of persuading sections of the Taliban to make a deal looks dead in the water because the Taliban have refused to join until foreign forces leave.

Supporters of the war say President Barack Obama’s elastic promise to conditionally begin a phased withdrawal of the 150,000 NATO-US troops from July 2011 has emboldened the Taliban.

But this ignores the growing anti-occupation and anti-fundamentalist mood across Afghanistan. A September 7 Al Jazeera report said: “Thousands have taken to the streets in recent months, protesting against rising civilian deaths by US-led forces in the war-torn country.”

UN and International Security Assistance Force statistics this year blame the 31% rise in civilian causalities on the Taliban, but Afghans caught up in suicide blasts mostly blame the occupying forces because it is only when they enter the neighbourhood that violence occurs.

Most of the casualties are women and children. There has been a 155% rise in the number of young people dying in bomb blasts, a report prepared for the UN on August 10 said.

On September 7, US commander in Afghanistan General David Petraeus warned that a call by a fundamentalist Christian sect in the US, to burn copies of the Koran on September 11 — the anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks — would endanger US troops in Afghanistan and Americans worldwide.

But it is the deaths of uncounted thousands of civilians killed by US and allied forces in Afghanistan that drive attacks against US forces.

More than 2000 US-NATO soldiers have already been killed in a war that has nothing to do with “stopping terrorism” but instead creates the conditions for more people to respond with desperate acts of retribution.

Meanwhile, people like Joya continue to campaign for the occupying troops to leave. She told The National on September 5: “Democracy never comes with occupation and it never comes from sworn enemies of democracy, women’s rights and human rights.”

She told AlterNet on May 3: “Afghans are on the verge of uprising but poverty, destitution, and the non-existence of powerful democratic-minded forces in our country stops them from a very serious uprising.

“I'm sure in the next few years such forces will emerge and these protests will turn more powerful to shake the Afghan puppet government and the occupation forces.”