Following month-long rifts, the Wolesi Jirga finally approved the draft national budget for the current fiscal year on Jan 22, only to spark fierce reactions from disgruntled Afghans in different provinces – including Ghor and Wardak among others – due to what they call ‘unfairness and imbalance’ in allocated resources to the said provinces. However, it seems Ghor has taken a more serious blow among them all because the government budget’s approval for the province promptly galvanized its inhabitants into action as they launched a protest campaign. The sit-in protests in Ghor, over demands for justice and increased infrastructural development, continued for their 12th day on Friday in Firoz Koh, the capital of the province, and were also joined by desperate women as well. With all government offices’ doors having been shut, the government had so far taken a tone-deaf approach but a presidential delegation arrived in the province on Friday and is set to meet with the demonstrators.
The enraged Ghor residents who even warned to dislodge the governor from his office are seemingly in the right as they say their only two demands – electricity through construction of hydropower dams and roads – for the past 19 years have been paid no heed just because they have no say in higher decision-making due to a lack of devoted leaders in corridors of power. Angered by what they call discrimination against certain provinces in the national budget, the protesters have demanded that a competent committee be formed to meet their legitimate needs. To one’s surprise, as soon as the budget was endorsed by the parliament, the Integrity Watch Afghanistan (IWA)’s head, Ikram Afzali, claimed that this fiscal year’s budget was unfair because it was approved based on a covert deal between the executive branch of the government and the legislators. If this is truly the case, then the relevant government authorities as well as the legislators are in fact committing treason and utterly disregarding their duty to their constituents. This negligence and deals made over their fate will only intensify the people’s estrangement. Meanwhile, Afghanistan has been recently ranked among the 10 most corrupt countries on the Corruption Perceptions Index 2019 recently released by Transparency International (TI). President Ashraf Ghani constantly pledges to fight and reduce this menace but to no avail. When corruption is prevalent in such high levels where covert deals are made on the provincial level, how can one grumble about it at the lower levels? As things stand, the government should study the flawed record of the previous government and rectify matters. The current setup should address the genuine concerns of the neglected and disaffected Ghoris. Afghans these days aren’t ignorant but rather politically conscious because they know what is happening behind closed doors. The government should strive to meet their demands and clarify the IWA’s claim of a covert deal with regard to the financial resources earmarked for provinces in the national budget.