Monday, September 20, 2010

Election, Islam, Women Participation

By: Zabihullah Noori

While the Afghan government and international community was encouraging all Afghans—the women as one potential group of voters in particular—to exercise their rights to vote and have their elected representative in the Afghan Lower House, the Taliban tried to disrupt the process in as many possible ways as they could.

The Taliban issued night letters, threatened people to death and warned them not to participate in the elections or their fingers will be cut off.

The Taliban targeted women groups and spread messages calling women participation in the process un-Islamic. To combat these wrong and misinterpreted messages of the Taliban, the Afghan Independent Election Commission tried every method they could. The commission did not step back from any possible way of encouraging women voters to participate in the election and cast their votes, from airing dramas and promotional programs via media to organizing round tables and group discussions in the village level.

Some of the methods were repetition of stuff that had been aired in previous elections. The only new stuff in this election that worked really well was the use of mosques as a place for discussion and the use of religious elders and local women associations as carriers of the election messages.

Trying to be innovative in spreading the awareness about citizens’ political rights, a local NGO in Afghanistan used Islamic teachings and women to women connection to raise women participation in the parliamentary elections, which took place on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2010. Unlike most production companies who create western looking backgrounds and use 3D and graphics for their promotional and commercial advertising, the Development and Public Awareness (DPA) used media and mosques to run this campaign. The organization’s another positive method was the distribution of posters that carried election related Islamic messages. The DPA campaign also included TV clips and group discussion in broadcast media.

Since all Afghans have very deep belief in Islamic faith, they can be persuaded to do any action as long as it is in line with Islamic teaching.

The series produced and aired by DPA talked about the time of prophet Mohammad (PBUH) and how prophet’s wife was running business and taking part in social affairs.

I decided to do a quick sample survey; therefore, I asked some twenty women who had seen the promotional stuff and said they were doubtful about their rights in Islam.

According to these women, if such quick promotional stuff continues to air in TV it will not only help them learn a lot more about their Islamic rights, but will also encourage young girls to pay more attention to their social lives in line with Islamic rules.

Among all election awareness campaign, the DPA initiative was outstanding because it connected the dots among religion, social ties, women and election.

All twenty women said they are going to vote in the upcoming elections, because it was their social and Islamic right.

Photo credit:

Corruption: One Game, Various Layers & Different Players

Corruption in the Afghan administration is the number one problem for the Afghan government itself and for the international community; the involvement of high ranking Afghan government officials have put all the anti corruption efforts in jeopardy.

By: Zabihullah Noori

Afghan Ambassador to Canada illegally verifies his younger brother’s educational documents to get him appointed in high position in the government.

By acknowledging his brother’s educational certificates of Peshawar schools in Pakistan and by illegally verifying his documents, Jawid Ludin, the Afghan Ambassador to Canada commits an obvious act of corruption.

Qaseem Ludin, the younger brother of the ambassador had studied in Abasyn Institute of Management Sciences—a private education center in Peshawar city of Pakistan—between June 14.2000 and September 17.2000 and got a completion certificate for this short term course. Ignoring the existence of the Afghan Ministry of Higher Education’s Academic Solidarity Affairs Department in Afghanistan, the ambassador officially, but illegally recognized and certified his brother’s short term course certificate in place of a proper BA or BSc diploma in the Afghan Embassy in Canada on April 2010, one decade later.

According to Mohammad Hassan Rashiq, head of Academic Solidarity Affairs Department in the Afghan Ministry of Higher Education, “The Afghan embassy can only certify the stamp and certification of the Office of Foreign Affairs of a country where the embassy is located”. Strongly expressing concerns over the issue of certifying educational documents, Mr. Rashiq said that the Afghan Embassy’s act in this matter is against the rule and regulations of the Afghan Ministry of Higher Education. According to Mr. Rashiq, “The embassy is a political entity, not an academic institution”.

Mr. Yaseen Osmani proposes someone with no basic information of planning or policy as his Planning and Policy Deputy in the High Office of Oversight and Anti Corruption (HOO).

Mr. Osmani the head of HOO requested Mr. Qaseem Ludin as his planning and policy deputy ignoring the fact that Mr. Ludin has no study or work background in this field.

Mr. Qaseem Ludin’s only documents are his certificate from his three-month long course at the Abasyn Institute of Management Sciences in Peshawar, Pakistan; and his master’s degree in Environmental Studies Geography from Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario, Canada. None of these two degrees are remotely related to his previous post as senior advisor to the HOO and his current post as the Deputy of Planning and Policy for the HOO. Turning a blank eye to Mr. Ludin’s professional field and his incapacity to serve as professional deputy of planning and policy in HOO, Mr. Osmani nominated Mr. Qaseem Ludin for this post just to keep Ambassador Ludin and President Karzai happy.

Mr. Osmani’s favor to ambassador Ludin’s efforts and President Karzai’s biased decision paid off handsomely to younger Ludin’s employment attempts.
A young gentleman with a background on geography drafts plans and policies in HOO. No surprise! This is how most other high ranking officials have been hired in Karzai’s administration.

The Afghan Labor law states it clearly that no one should be hired in any governmental posts unless his documents are verified by the Afghan Ministry of Higher Education. But Mr. Osmani, the head of HOO says that when need rises he can recruit staff to fill the gap without verifying their documents first—the way he hired Mr. Qaseem Ludin.

Mr. Osmani told me on his phone interview that he hired Mr. Qaseem Ludin on direct order of the Afghan President. Now, about six months after Mr. Ludin has served as the planning and policy deputy, Mr. Osmani—coming under pressure from various media organizations—had no choice but to send Mr. Ludin’s illegally verified documents to the Ministry of Higher Education for probation.

Agreeing with the theory of Mr. Osmani, Mr. Abdul Razaq Zulali, HOO Administration and Finance Deputy says that nothing is wrong with the way Mr. Ludin was hired and nothing is wrong with his educational documents either.
Zulali claims that for an ordinary employee, it is crucial that his documents must be verified and his work background must be checked; however, according to Mr. Zulali, “such rules don’t apply to political posts like ministers and deputy ministers.” Mr. Ludin’s current post is similar to that of a deputy minister.

Currently, Mr. Ludin is drafting plans and policies for HOO to fight corruption in such a situation that his own educational documents have not been officially verified for the past six months, meaning that Mr. Qaseem Ludin has been serving as the planning and policy deputy in the HOO for the past nearly seven months with no official document in place. Mr. Zulali added that HOO has no time limit or deadline for Mr. Ludin to complete the verification process of his documents. According to Mr. Zulali, it may take up to one year to verify his documents.

The HOO was set up as an independent organization to oversee the corruption and make policies to fight it. The authorities of HOO are equivalent to that of a ministry.
President’s Office of Administration Affairs(OAA) whose sole responsibility in recruiting and employing high ranking government officials is to make sure the documents are genuine and authentic bypasses Qaseem Ludin’s three-month long certificate and accepting that as a proper BA degree equivalent.

Not only that, the OAA also ignored the fact that Qaseem Ludin had been charged with bad debt payment in his previous job at the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development (MRRD). Needless to say, Mr. Ludin hasn’t paid his debt to date this article being written.

Finally, President Karzai signs off Mr. Osmani’s request letter and appoints Qaseem Ludin as the Planning and Policy Deputy at the HOO, because he knows Ludin’s older brother.

Despite the international community’s hard push for brining corruption to an end within the Afghan administration, the Afghan government, particularly President Hamid Karzai and his close allies like Mr. Jawid Ludin and Mr. Osmani have no intention to fight this bad phenomenon.

To respond to president Obama’s call for fight against corruption, President Karzai established the HOO to oversee the anti corruption efforts, but ironically the President appointed corrupt people like Mr. Osmani as the head and Mr. Qaseem Ludin as the Planning and Policy Deputy for this organization.

When convey is led by such men, no doubt it will never reach the final target destination.

How can the people of Afghanistan expect the HOO to oversee the anti corruption effort, when they commit corruption within the organization?

How can the lower level Afghan government employees be stopped from bribery and corruption, when high ranking government diplomat like Mr. Jawid Ludin does it so apparently?

How can the international community and the Afghan civil society stop corruption or fight against it, when the Afghan president commits it so visibly?