The Rest of Us are Equally Capable!

Malali Bashir

When I was invited to speak on women's rights violations in Afghanistan at an international conference in Europe, I wanted to say the below to everyone who is involved in anything of such nature.

Even thought I have no problem with speaking on women's issues and the violations of their rights, on behalf of all Afghan women, I want to be clear that we can speak on other topics as well such as economy, the country's social structure, governance, peace and security, defense, foreign policy and international relations, etc.

Afghan women can understand and speak on other issues concerning Afghanistan as well except our own rights that men should also be speaking of and be able to understand and defend. "Women's and children's rights" should not be made a gender-specific topic only suitable for females to talk about.

Women should not be used as a symbolic representation of their gender in conferences, workshops and seminars by allotting them only specific topics and reinforcing the idea that women are not capable of speaking on other issues. This everything does not only happen in Afghanistan but also in the "heart of Europe".

Unless people change their attitude towards women in general and accept them as equals and capable of understanding and solving various issues faced by all humans and unless the women leaders refuse to be constrained and limited to a certain discourse, their rights will be violated no matter how many times they count figures and facts of violations of the rights of their kind through speeches and debates.

Fighting the Hydra: The Battle to End Corruption in Afghanistan

Malali Bashir

Twelve years after the fall of the Taliban, Afghanistan has made visible progress on many fronts. Millions of children go to school, a network of roads now connects east to west and north to south, household income has increased, and, generally speaking, Afghans have given themselves hope and the opportunity to ensure a stable economic future utilizing vast reserves of minerals.
However, rampant corruption remains a daunting threat to the West-backed government of Hamid Karzai, and to the country. A recent survey by Afghanistan’s High Office for Oversight and Anti-Corruption (HOOAC) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) concluded that between 2009 and 2012, the cost of corruption in Afghanistan rose to US$3.9 billion. According to this report, “In 2012, half of Afghan citizens paid a bribe while requesting a public service” and 30 percent paid a bribe for other reasons; in total, the cost of bribery in Afghanistan amounted to twice the country’s domestic revenue.
A lot has been written about these alarming numbers and about the severity of the problem in the war-torn Afghanistan — and in most analyses, the blame for every penny of baksheesh paid has been laid at the door of the Afghan government. Far less has been written about the international community’s share of responsibility for tackling corruption and monitoring the billions of Western dollars paid to individuals, companies, and organization in grants and funds; just as little has been said about solutions to this pressing issue. Almost everybody agrees, however, that after four decades of war and conflict, Afghanistan now has a culture of corruption.
Corruption got a stranglehold on the country in 2001 when American-led coalition forces, after toppling Taliban rule, allowed warlords to become a crucial part of the Afghan government. The warlords rapidly amassed the political force to become an unofficial network of criminals who operated above the law and protected each other’s interests. Ever since, Afghanistan has ranged at the top of every list of corrupt countries in the world.
Despite the warlords’ power, Afghanistan has taken some steps to curb corruption in the public sector. Afghanistan has penned an anti-corruption law and strategy and established the HOOAC in 2008. Although it still has a long and hard way to go, the struggles to eliminate corruption are paying off. According to the UNODC/HOOAC survey, the 50 percent of Afghan citizens who paid a bribe in 2012 represented an improvement — their number was down from 59 percent in 2009.
Corruption in Afghanistan ranges from petty bribes students pay teachers for passing grades to millions of dollars paid outright to ministers, companies, and non-government agencies and wasted on inefficient contracting and procurement mechanisms. Since corruption has become a part of the social fabric, most Afghans have come to accept it as a rational means by which small functionaries supplement below-subsistence salaries, and rationalize that it is better to pay money for quick service, and even court decisions and police protection, than go without. In addition, many Afghan officials believe that Afghanistan is going to fall apart once foreign troops withdraw, so they are rushing to make as much money as possible by any means before then.
The enormous opium economy is one of the biggest sources of corruption in Afghanistan. Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzi told the National Journal that most of the money generated by the illicit trade is taken by International dealers, and a UNODC report found that opium sales generated US$18 billion for the Afghan mafia between 2002 and 2009 — a fraction of the total US$420 billion to US$460 billion it generated. Weak government organizations and widespread illiteracy are among other sources of concern. But while the international community has been very vocal in criticizing Karzai for letting his country slip into corruption, global donors must take responsibility for taking few measures to halt it. Afghans fairly charge that the international community lacks effective policing and monitoring of its distribution and contracting mechanisms.
One example of the U.S. government’s poor regulation and monitoring of its contracts was revealed in the recent report of Special Inspector General for Afghanistan. “Millions of contracting dollars could be diverted to forces seeking to harm U.S. military and civilian personnel in Afghanistan and derail the multi-billion dollar reconstruction effort,” the report, “Contracting With the Enemy,” concluded.
Karzai has also accused foreigners of sabotaging his efforts to eradicate corruption. According to a Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty report, Karzai said in a televised speech in December 2012 that foreigners were responsible for a huge part of corruption in the country.
“The existence of corruption in Afghanistan is a reality; indeed, it is a bitter reality,” the president said. “[But] the corruption in our governments’ institutes, such as bribery, is a small part of the corruption. The biggest part of the corruption in our country, and that involves hundreds Aof millions dollars, does not belong to us. A huge part of the corruption is imposed on us in order to weaken our government. We are not to be blamed for that. That is not our fault.”
Talking to a gathering on Anti-Corruption Day, Karzai said that foreigners paved the way to corruption by giving lucrative contracts of millions of dollars to high-ranking Afghan officials.
According to the Corruption Perception Index of 2012 issues by Transparency International, Afghanistan is among the most corrupt countries in the world. This does not mean that the problem of corruption in Afghanistan is too big to be tackled, but so far, for whatever reason, Afghanistan has had little success in tackling graft or implementing institutional reform. Administrative system reforms should be made as soon as possible, while paying attention to the capacity building of Afghan government employees to do their work more efficiently by learning to use advanced technology and work more transparently with the new systems.
But Afghanistan cannot do it alone. It must come together with the international community to strengthen its institutions, especially its judicial system and security forces, and combat corruption — or it will haunt Afghans for generations to come.

آيا روژو کې مو د خپلو ميرمنو د زړه ګټلو ثواب ګټلی؟

Malali Bashir     

د روژې مبارکه مياشت تر نيمايي اوښتي خو د ښځو کار لا هم پوره شوی نه دی. د نورو مياشتو په پرتله روژه کې د ميرمنو کار لا زيات شي. له پېشلمي څو ساعته مخکې راپورته شي او په پخلي پيل کړي. په ډيرو کورونو کې خو د پخلي پوره اسانتياوي هم نه وي. د ګيس يا برقي نغري په نه شتون کې وچ او لامده سره يو ځای کړي خو کوشش يې دا وي چې خپل خاوند ته داسې ډوډۍ پخه کړي چې نه سوي وي او نه بې خونده.
په سره ګرمۍ کې پر سره تناره ولاړه وي او په نيمه شپه د څراغ په رڼا کې پخلی وکړي. بيا په خاوند او د کور په نورو غړو پسې خونه په خونه ګرځي چې پورته شئ پيشلمی دی. زياتره ځوانانو بچو پسې خو مور څو څو واره ورځي او په جار او قربان يې ويښوي.
که په دسترخوان کې د نارينوو کوم خوراک خوښ نه شو د خراب پخلي تور د کټوې پر ميرمن پورې وي. که غوړي يا مالګه لږ کمه يا زياته وه نو بيا خو د دنيا تر ټولو لويه ګناه شوي وي. د سړو دا هېره وي چې خوارکۍ په نيمه شپه، ټپه تياره کې راپورته شوې ده. خير دی که پخلي يې له سلو څخه دوې نومرې کمې ګټلي.
په ډيرو کورونو کې اوس هم ميرمنې له سړو وروسته ډوډۍ ته کښيني. په پشلمي يې هم همدا حال وي. هلته په ماجيتونو کې ملايان شيبه په شيبه اعلانونه کوي چې: ايماندارو! روژې مو بندې کړئ. وخت کم پاتې دی. د کور سړي او په ځانګړي ډول د کور مشر حاجي صيب ورته بدبد ګوري او ګرموي يې چې تاسي ښځې په خوراک کې ډيرې سستې ياست. ميرمنې نيمه نيمخوره ډوډۍ تر ستونې ښکته کړي او بيا يې ورځ د سهار د اذانونو سره د لوښو پر مينځلو شروع شي.
سهار په توره خړه بيا مور وړو کوچنيانو ته چايي او خوراکونه برابروي. کار هغه وخت لا زيات شي چې ځينې نازولي کوچنيان پښې ټکوي چې ولې يې پېشلمي ته نه دي راپورته کړي.
په روژه کې د سړو کارونه کم وي. ځينو د روژې سپيڅلتيا بانه کړي وي، له دفتر يا د لاس له مزدورۍ يې رخصت اخيستي وي. دا چې اوزګار وي نو کله په کور کې د يو ديوال سيوري ته غځيدلی وي او کله بل ته.ځيني چې له کوره دباندي ووځي نو ايله د خلکو سره د ځان درنه او د بل سپکه وايي.
‌ښځې که د ورځې هرڅومره ستړي شي بايد خوب ونه کړي ځکه چې بيا لټانې پيژندل کيږي. کوچنيانو ته د غرمي ډوډۍ ورکولووروسته بايد د کور سړو ته ژر ژر د اودسونو تړمې اوبه برابرې کړي. دا کار بايد ترماخستنه د هر اذان نه مخکې وکړي چې خاوند يې د ثواب له ګټلو پاتې نه شي. که لټي او کوتاهي يې وکړه نو د خاوند د بدو ردو عذاب يې پخپله غاړه دی.
که ښځه مياشتنۍ ناروغي ولري هم بايد خوراک ښکاره ونه کړي. آن په خپل کور کې هم. کنه نو بې شرمه بلل کيږي. د جومات د ملاصيب له خولې هم په امان کې نه وي.
ناقص العقل ټاپه خو پرې لګيږي چې لګيږي. د دين په کار کې يې هم لټې او سستې مشهورې کړي. په دې حقيقت سترګې پټيږي چې اول خو ډيرو ځايونو کې د کلتور او مذهب په نامه له مکتبه ليري پاتې شوي وي. بيا ټوله ورځ د ګڼو ماشومانو او د کور د نارينه وو په خدمت کې تېره کړي نو هغه کوم وخت دی چې ښځه دې پکې د سړو سره د ښې ديندارۍ په سيالۍکې د لومړي مقام حاصلولو منډه ووهي؟
د روژې په مياشت کې د خوراک څښاک سلسله د روژه ماتې سره يو ځل بيا شروع شي. بيا هم ښځې تر سړو وروسته په دسترخوان کښيني او بيا هم نيمه نيم خوره ډوډۍ خوړو وروسته سړو ته د ماخستن د چايو په برابرولو بوختې شي.
ډير لوستونکي به وايي چې دا خو د پيړيوو پيړيوو راهيسې راروان کلتور دی چې ښځې دې يې پخوي او سړي دي يې خوري. په دې کې نوي خبره څه ده او ستونزه څه ده؟ ستونزه دا ده چې موږ دغه ستونزه د کلتور برخه ګڼلي او بدلون يې نه غواړو.
سړو به روژه کې د عبادتونو په کولو سره ډير ثوابونه ګټلي وي خو آيا ورسره ورسره يې د کور د ميرمنو بوج هم ورکم کړی؟ آيا کله يې دا ويلي چې نن به کوچنيان دی ماړه کړي. نن به د اودسونو د اوبو لپاره پر ميرمن سور او شين نه کيږي. پخپله به ځانته بدنۍ ډکه کړي. آيا کله يې ويلي چې ميرمنې ته په نيمه شپه د خپل پخلي د هنر خواږه وروښئ؟ دا کارونه واړه ښکاري خو اثر يې تلپاتي وي. د کورنيو اړيکو د قوي کولو او آخرت کې د ثواب ګټلو اسانه لار ده.
ځينو به په دې کې يا دې ته ورته نور کارونه کړي وي خو په يقين سره ويلی شم چې دغه کسان په ګوتو شميرل کيږي.

Pakistan: pal for pay or frenemy in the way! —

Malali Bashir
Iamge source:

Pakistan receives billions of dollars from the US. The recent freeze is only a small share of this large sum of foreign aid but this would definitely serve as a warning to Islamabad.

After withholding $ 800 million in military aid in July last year, a Congressional panel in the US further cut down $ 700 million of assistance to Pakistan at the end of 2011. The US Congress argues that the aid will remain pending until Pakistan implements a strategy against the spread of locally made explosives. According to reports, these homemade bombs are most commonly used in attacks against the coalition forces in Afghanistan.

Almost $ 20 billion in civil and military aid has been paid by the US since 2001, most of which is a reimbursement for cooperation in counterinsurgency to Pakistan, which is believed to have shown reluctance in positive cooperation in the war on terror. BBC reported that some of the Congressmen believe Pakistan has not only 'failed to stop terrorists' from planning attacks on Afghan and coalition forces in Afghanistan but they have in some instances 'helped terrorists'.

The Pak-US ties noticeably strained earlier last year after the arrest of a CIA contractor in January. And following a request for the diversion of most of US's aid to the civilian sector, Pakistan asked for a significant 'cut back' of US military trainers and impeded the process for US personnel to get visas. Pakistani officials chose to remain in a state of denial about having any knowledge of Osama bin Laden's presence in Pakistan. The al Qaeda chief was killed by US Navy SEALs on May 2 in Abbottabad, a garrison town just a couple of hours drive away from the capital, Islamabad.

With all these billions of dollars pledged to Pakistan, the US is understandably upset over Pakistan's obstreperous behaviour in countering insurgency in the region. Many of the terror groups including Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) and the Haqqani network are up and running. The latter is claimed to be based in North Waziristan and Pakistan has continuously dodged US demands of carrying out a military operation against the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani network. Alternatively, the Obama administration has increased drone attacks on the Haqqani group and other militants in that region. Pakistan has publicly shown grievances about drones. CIA's drone programme could face a bit of a hurdle as the US had to evacuate the Shamsi Airbase in Balochistan, which is believed to be used for drones. Pakistan asked for the evacuation of the base after NATO bombarded a Pakistani military checkpost on the border with Afghanistan killing 24 of its soldiers. Showing its anger over NATO's attack, Pakistan has blocked the supply route to the coalition forces in Afghanistan. However, Reuters recently reported: "Pakistan expects to re-open supply routes to NATO forces in Afghanistan, but will impose tariffs. Fees were designed to both express continued anger over the November 26 attack and raise funds for the state to fight homegrown Taliban militants."

Charging NATO could prove fruitful for Pakistan, which is already under scrutiny from American lawmakers and there are less chances of getting continuous financial support from its international allies in the war on terror. Many US politicians have already shown disbelief about Pakistan's role as a US trustworthy ally despite Islamabad's claims of losing thousands of soldiers and over 30,000 civilians in the war on terror. However, Islamabad has been calling its current pro-insurgency policy as its strategic depth and an element of national interest. The latest episode shows that the US should fully stop funding Pakistan that has enough economic problems and could change its policies if it comes under extreme financial pressure.

Pakistan receives billions of dollars from the US. The recent freeze is only a small share of this large sum of foreign aid but this would definitely serve as a warning to Islamabad, which has to decide to continue its pro-insurgents policy or be a genuine and productive US ally in the war on terror.

This article was published in The DailyTimes before.