Monday, August 27, 2007

Convicted drug dealer is Afghanistan's anti-corruption czar

Via Cernig, we get a glimpse of who's who in the anti-corruption offices of the Afghan government.
Twenty years ago US police arrested a young Afghan emigrant at his hotel room in Caesars Palace, Las Vegas. The Afghan, who introduced himself as Mr E, tried to sell a bag of heroin to an undercover detective. At his trial, prosecutors said it was worth $2m.

The man spent three years and eight months in a Nevada state prison before being released on parole. His wife, who had stood lookout in the hotel corridor, received a probationary sentence.

Now Mr E - or Mr Wasifi - is the director general of the Afghan government's main anti-corruption agency.

Oh. Well that's just delicious. Wasifi played it down when confronted with the information.

The official insisted it was far in the past - "I have paid the price" - and compared himself to more famous politicians who have fallen foul of the law. "Even George Bush has a record," he said, referring to the US president's 1976 conviction for drink driving. "He was arrested, same shit as me. There's no difference between him and me."
Ummm. OK. Same as Bush. So, is Wasifi doing a heckofa job?

Several foreign diplomats said they were unhappy that although reports of Mr Wasifi's conviction surfaced five months ago, he has kept his job. "It is outrageous," said a senior western diplomat. "We've made it quite clear that we want him removed."

Other critics say the controversy is symptomatic of a wider malaise - the failure of President Hamid Karzai to tackle the culture of greed that is eroding his authority and the legitimacy of his government.

"There is a very serious problem that affects all efforts to win hearts and minds and build their confidence in the state," said Ahmad Nader Nadery of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission.

The nexus between drugs and corruption is most powerful at the interior ministry, according to a recent report by the UN and the World Bank. It found that drug gangs have bought the loyalty of police chiefs and government officials across the country. One senior officer said that any police chief who refused to get involved in the trade would be "threatened to be killed and replaced".

Apparently not. And, oh look at this! Afghanistan's opium output has reached record levels. The country produces 93 percent of all the world's opium.


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