(With the results of Monday’s vote on seven ministries) Five more men have become ministers after gaining a majority of votes from the Afghan parliament. Two others failed to gain MPs’ approval. As with the earlier votes, both in January, allegations are circulating that some MPs’ votes were bought. While AAN is not accusing any individual candidate in their bid to gain parliamentary approval in Monday’s ballot or the two earlier ones, whether successful or not, the allegations of bribery are impossible to ignore. They are also difficult to prove – but now, AAN’s senior analyst Kate Clark brings evidence from one MP who has said she was offered – and rejected – a bribe in the January vote.
“My full name is Shakiba Matin Hashemi – mateen means someone who is firm and solid. When I was elected, it was through the integrity of the people and I will never sell myself. Allah forgives those who sin against him, but he will never forgive those who sin against his creatures. I was offered money and I replied with a tooth-breaking answer.”
This is how Shakiba Hashemi, one of the MPs from Kandahar, began her account of how she was offered a bribe by mistake ahead of one of the January votes. She said an aide to one of the candidate ministers called her one night before the vote and offered $5,000 for her approval. “I told him, ‘How dare you try to give me money! I will expose you.’” She said the aide realised immediately he had rung the wrong MP: he had intended to call an MP with an almost identical name and telephone number. “The following night,” said Shukeiba Hashemi, “the [original customer] himself called, ‘We’re so happy that you are such a woman who doesn’t take money and are working so honestly,’ he said, apologising a lot.”
$5,000 a vote would amount to an eye-wateringly total if paid to many of Afghanistan’s parliamentarians and indeed, other MPs, speaking off the record, have estimated that sums of up to one and a half million dollars were paid out by some candidate ministers. Not every candidate in the three rounds of voting this year tried to bribe MPs, they said, and of those who did, the amount varied according to how much ‘natural’ support the individual could also count on.
One MP, General Nur-ul-Haq Ulumi described how he believed the cheating works: those MPs who had taken a bribe would agree to mark the ballot paper in a certain way – with a particularly coloured pen and a distinctive mark – so that the paper could later be checked and they could secure their payment: “In the first [January] ballot,” said Ulumi, “there were cheap MPs – fill up his car’s tank, invite him for lunch, pay him $500 a month and agree to hire his relatives and he votes your way – and expensive MPs – pay $2,000 as a down-payment bribe and $1,800 after he has voted.” (In earlier votes, the MPs took pictures of the ballots with their mobile phones – and some of them then invalidated the ballot afterwards if they did not agree with the candidate.)
MPs have told AAN that some colleagues act to distribute money on behalf of hopeful candidates. There are also allegations that some banks are involved in the fraud, an accusation made publicly by Kabul MP Engineer Abbas Noyan and visible to all those who watched the vote on TV. After votes of a particular candidate were counted on Monday, Noyan was heard saying: “Congratulations to his bank!” (It was not clear whether he did this intentionally or whether his microphone was not switched off accidentally.) He subsequently told AAN that, “Kabul based banks – the economic mafia – have accumulated a huge amount of money to support Wolesi Jirga candidates. Surely, they have supported him as well.”
Officials at parliament also told AAN that ten minutes before the vote, candidates were still distributing money among MPs.
“After five years of the parliament,” says Hashemi, “there are MPs who have become rich. Women who used to wait for their salary to pay their debts now have houses in Dubai and all facilities for a good life style. In the next election, they will not let anyone else get into parliament – they will use these bribes and spend lots of money getting re-elected.”
And where do the corrupt candidate ministers get their money – or from where do they hope to recoup it? Through shoddy deals and dodgy contracts when they get to control a ministry, MPs allege, or through co-operation with the drug cartels or other sectors of the economic mafia who they then protect or support.
“You investigate,” said Hashemi. “We went on a tour of China and Dubai recently and the hotel in Dubai where we had lunch, one of the MPs told me, belonged to one minister and the hotel next door to another. We see lots of money coming into Afghanistan that is taken by ministers: they don’t invest in Afghanistan, they ‘invest’ outside.”
Finally, here is the score-sheet of Monday’s vote (majority needed: 107):
Bismillah Muhammadi (Interior): yes 150; no 55; abstained 3; invalid 4 – passed
Sarwar Danesh (Higher Education): yes 95; no 101; abstained 11; invalid 5 – failed
Anwar-ul-Haq Ahady (Commerce and Industry): yes 147; no 57; abstained 5; invalid 3 – passed
Daud Ali Najafi (Transport and Civil Aviation): yes 87; no 106; abstained 14; invalid 5 – failed
Quddus Hamedi (Public Works): yes 160; no 45; abstained 4; invalid 3 – passed
Jamahir Anwari (Refugees): yes 140; no 62; abstained 8; invalid 2 – passed
Assadullah Khaled (Tribes and Borders): yes 120; no 85; abstained 5; invalid 2 – passed.
UPDATE: According to the government daily Hewad, President Karzai has appointed both the failed candidates – Mr Danesh and Mr Najafi – acting ministers of the respective portfolios.
This article was last updated on 9 Mar 2020