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Shuffling in Afghanistan’s central bank roils Afghans

Among several other scuffles, mismanagement at the top rank government agencies is another factor – wreaking havoc in Afghanistan’s prone public institutions at this critical juncture. The abrupt terminations, hiring and rehiring in the government agencies are the other drive forces thought to be detrimental for the country’s already troubled system. For instance, the recent shuffling in Afghanistan’s central bank (Da Afghanistan Bank – DAB) could lead to the desolation of the country’s financial system, Banking in particular. The mess up in DAB – caused by shuffling, have stemmed from the termination of DAB officials without any formal and prior notice. This has sparked the rage of Afghans – calling for a legal action.

On June 5, 2020, Ajmal Ahmadi – the former acting minister of the Commerce and Industries of Afghanistan, was appointed as the acting governor of DAB. Ahmadi’s appointment as DAB’s acting governor appeared unacceptable for DAB’s several staff members. This unexpected decision has also ignited Afghans’ ire and the backlash of several civil societies, considering the decision merely a political agenda and antipathetic to the constitution of DAB. According to a number of social activists, the governor of DAB should have no political influence and the appointment decision must not be arbitrary, but rather coherent. The executive director of Transparency Watch Afghanistan (TWA) Saed Ikram Afzali went on to social media and reacted to the recent appointment of DAB’s governor – calling the decision a political action. As per the article 26 of the constitution of DAB, the power to appoint and terminate the ministers, attorney general, governor of DAB, and chair of the red crescent is solely confined to the authority of the parliament.  As the chairman of the Human Rights and Civil Societies Network, Khalil Raufi claimed that the governor of DAB should be appointed based on the votes of approval from the parliament. Mr. Raufi furthered, there is no such formal written evidence inscribed in the constitution of Afghanistan, which authorizes the president to directly appoint the governor of DAB. Besides, the decision of the parliament to formally approve Ahmadi’s appointment as the governor of DAB is still pending, which is also a question mark – needed to be answered.

Additionally, The members of several civil societies have raised questions over the identity of Ajmal Ahmadi, which they claim is equivocal. Many of the social activists, on social media, claim that Mr. Ahmadi is a Lebanese citizen holding a forged identity card, and is not familiar with the national languages (Pashto & Dari). The issue of Ahmadi’s obscure identity has turned to be a grave concern for Afghans because the appointment of a foreigner – or someone with vague identity at a high rank in a government agency is considered to be against the Afghan culture and norms. Based on the framed rules, the governor of DAB should be able to fulfill the required criteria and have the qualities outlined by the national constitution. As per the article 10 of DAB constitution, the governor of DAB must be a legal resident of Afghanistan, experienced, and not holding the membership of any other financial institution. On the contrary, Ahmadi’s identity is still arguable and He is said to be holding the membership of the ministry of commerce and industries of Afghanistan and other grand organizations (e.g. TAPI).

Mr. Ahmadi, when appointed, started to terminate the deputy and seven other officials of the bank on alleged corruption charges. Those, accused of corruption, are counterarguing – considering the accusation untrue.  According to the media reports, DAB deputy head Mohammad Qaseem Rahimi reacted on social media claiming that he was illegally fired. ” In the morning when I reached office, armed personnel had barricaded my office and did not allow me to enter,” Mr. Rahimi wrote on his Facebook page. The media reports also reveal the behavior of Mr. Ahmadi with the deputy head – which, the deputy claim is unfair. Ahmadi had invited Rahimi to his private residence and asked him to leave his office by the next 48 hours. To this, the first deputy head of DAB, Mr. Wahidullah Nawsher also reacted, calling the move against the law. Mr. Nawsher expressed his disagreement with the decision and said it was taken in his absence. On the other hand, in a statement issued by the current administration of DAB, the seven officials – accused of corruption charges would soon be introduced to the Attorney General Office – which is still pending.

Now that, the issue of termination of the officials in DAB has turned out to be more debated, people’s mistrust in the Afghan government is rampantly growing. The outright saga arises due to the shuffling in DAB, followed by the meeting led by Mr. Ahmadi that was held inside the Bank sans media coverage and electric lights. This makes the matter more controversial. Such puzzling matters pave the way for several obscure questions that need answers. DAB has also confessed the electricity cut-off and the restriction on media to cover the meeting.

Another issue – perhaps directly or indirectly related to the skirmish of DAB, is the imprisonment of the head of Dawi Oil Group, Abdul Ghafar Dawi, and his deputy, Asghar Ghiyasi.  Mr. Dawi and Ghiyasi were accused and sentenced for the embezzlement and tax evasion in a fuel contract case involved in the state-owned Ariana Airlines. The Anti-Corruption Criminal Justice Center (ACJC) had indicted each to 9 years and 9 months detainment. As per the article 158 of the Criminal Code, along with the imprisonment, The ACJC judge charged both 6,000 Afs as fine. The two were also charged to pay over $38 million to the government as compensation.  Mr. Ahmadi’s appointment, followed by the covert meeting, and all of a sudden the surprising appearance of Mr. Dawi in DAB are the three major arguable topics – making the whole storyline even more mingled. The officials of the Bank have also confirmed Dawi’s visit to DAB. With this Ajmal Ahmadi tweeted saying, however, there is a rigorous security check at DAB, but Mr. Dawi had gone to the Bank in the car of a parliamentarian, which the security guards are not allowed to check. Further, the defense lawyer of Dawi also said that Dawi was authorized to visit the Bank, as he was officially invited by the Kabul Bank Settlement Commission (KBSC). Notwithstanding, a number of legal experts have reacted to Dawi’s unexpected appearance outside the jail – calling this a violation of the law. Moreover,  Naser Taimoori – a researcher of Integrity Watch Afghanistan (IWA) also reacted, saying “The arrival of a criminal in the Central Bank and in the office of the bank’s governor is shocking. The concerned authorities should investigate this issue and share the outcomes with the people.”

The relevant authorities, the ministry of justice, and the parliament are earnestly required to take legal and prompt actions to further scrutinize the issue and chase it off. Holding hidden meetings in DAB, which is one of the significant agencies of Afghanistan, creates cynicism over the reliability of the public institutions – widening the gap between the government and the people. Also, this uncertainty will leave the people distrusted in the newly appointed governor of DAB – which will harm both his and DAB’s images. In some cases, an employee may charge the employer with retaliation against a whistle-blower. They may claim there termination was in retaliation for exercising legal rights such as reporting discriminatory or other unlawful employment practices.

Therefore, the first recommendation is that a qualified person with the required criteria who is a legal citizen of Afghanistan should be appointed as the governor of DAB. Secondly, unlike the recent terminations by the current acting governor of DAB, the officials of any government agency (i.e. DAB) should be fired by following a specific procedure, and a formal and prior notice must be given. Thirdly, an acting head of a public institution cannot terminate an employee involved in criminal matters, but the power is limited to a specific investigative committee (e.g. prosecution office and the court). Unfortunately, the abrupt termination of DAB employees sans any formal notice undermines the enforced law and showcases only the exploitation of authority.

The writer is Hamayun Khan. He is an independent researcher and contributes pieces to Eurasia. Khan holds an MBA in Finance and Marketing from IK Gujral Punjab Technical University, India, and currently works as a program associate at CORE-Community Organized Relief Effort – A USA based none profit organization, Washington DC..

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