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Opinion: Corruption Has Become Widespread In Afghanistan. But Why?

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There is some corruption in every society, but in some of them, there is more. Afghanistan is one of those countries where corruption is widespread and comprehensive. Today, the high rate of official bribery has become a severe concern for the government and residents of this country. Administrative corruption became a physical phenomenon, where it is felt not only by the high ranked officials but by an ordinary resident of this country too.

All levels of society work together towards making it a universal spot. Corruption became a reality of our life, and we face it all the time. But what is the reason for this expansion? And, more importantly, whose are those hidden second hands behind this sudden spurt? In this article, I am going to argue and evaluate through reasons, evidence, and by observing some literature to find answers to these questions.


Afghan Presidential Palace: Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, center, speaks to U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, third left, at the presidential palace in Kabul. Afghanistan.

Corruption comes in many shapes and forms, like that of supply and demand, grand, insignificant, conventional and unconventional, public and private, systemic versus the individual. Mostly, political corruption is considered a grand or magnificent form of fraud. In this kind of crime, the government and the laws which they impose themselves are corrupt.

Classically, corruption returns to political stability. The person who coherently addressed this issue was Plato. In particular, when Plato pointed out about corruption in the states of Greece, his primary attention was to compare the corrupted government with a non-corrupted one. He mentions four kinds of government in the book, ‘President’. They include Thimoxas, Oligarchic, Democratic, and Despotism. As we see in Plato and other philosophers after him, the attitude for a stable and a corrupted government was related to the personality and display of the rulers in the society. The only criterion for a government’s goodness and badness is made relevant to the rulers by the philosophers of that age. 

Through this evaluation, we cannot judge the complex discourse of corruption in contemporary modern and semi-modern countries. This is because nowadays, human life and the political system have become more complicated. Their dimensions have spread widely, and now, the rulers are only one small part of the bureaucratic process in the democratic system.

Modern experts like John Locke Rousseau, who introduced the theory of social contract, and Montesquieu, who believed in the separation of power, trusted the performance and inefficiency of the governments. The scientist suggests three approaches for observation of the corruption on macro and micro levels.

  1. Political approach: This theory analyses the role of large-scale community structures and the quality of their functions in the emergence of political corruption. In this sense, corruption is the result of the underdevelopment of political and economic systems, that provide the perfect platform for the exploitation of public resources for personal considerations or specific general purposes. In this case, corruption is fundamentally political rather than social and economic.
  2. The approach of an individual’s rationality: This theory has been put forward at the micro-level, which focuses on the behavioural and normative characteristics of government and non-government agents associated with them. In this model, decision-makers are creatures trying to realise their interests in a world of scarce resources.
  3. Economic approach: At the same time, a summary of government monopolies and excessive government interference in the economy is seen as causing corruption.
  4. An approach to crises: Lucien W. Pie, a political scientist, underlined the underdeveloped science of third world countries, and widespread corruption while undergoing significant crises in the Third World Political System. The disasters that Pie and his colleagues are studying are the identity crisis, the legitimacy crisis, and the capacity crisis of government.
  5. The concurrent Development and Corruption Approach: This approach is one of the newest strategies of the last decade of the 20th century. Huntington, an American political scientist, who had undergone a transformation in his book “Political Order in Transforming Societies”, is known to give birth to it.

The research hypothesis: Since Afghanistan is one of the most evolving countries in terms of political development, it seems that the root of the administrative and political corruption in this country, as well as the political instability, and accelerated modernisation goes back to a single model of modernity.

The Lexical Meaning Of Corruption

Corruption or deterioration is not a comprehensive definition of impediment. Concepts are always fluid and vary from one time to another, from one place to another, and from one culture to another. Corruption is such a concept. In the Persian language, the word corruption means decay, invalidity, ruin, absurdity, and also literally defines taking of someone’s property by force and oppression.

It is clear, that whatever the lexical meaning of corruption is, it has its definition across various humanity professions. Therefore, I will examine the concept of corruption in two sciences, namely that of politics and law.

Legal Concept

An essential concept of corruption in jurisprudence and law is an attribute for contracts and transactions that do not originate from the work. The primary effect of corruption in a purchase or legal action is the necessity to terminate and restore the status quo. Therefore, the corruptly declared doctrine should be discontinued as soon as possible, and the situation should return to its former state.

Although all jurists and scholars of the Islamic faith find it immoral, only the Hanafi jurists say that corruption is harmed in character, and not in practice of a contract. That is to say, with a corrupted deal, all the necessary conditions for an authentic transaction and legal transaction have been provided. Since those conditions have been compromised, legal action is corrected, then the contract is no longer needed. 

There is another definition of corruption that corruption is the character of any legal effect for non-compliance. This definition of corruption is precisely for the sake of correctness. In this case, non-compliance is when a government official or anyone else violates their legal jurisdiction. When one exceeds their legal authority, they break it and are legally corrupt and ineffective, so such an action must be reversed. That is if a ruling is made or financially taken from someone unjustly and contrary to the law, the sentence is also revoked.

At a glance, it can be said, that corruption in the legal sense, is the same as bribery, embezzlement, dismissal, and procrastination in arbitrariness, which is perpetrated by government agents. Since this topic is about administrative corruption and the abuse of competencies of government employees, we need to consider how they abuse their powers and how this abuse is handled.  

The Concept Of Administrative/Political Corruption

Unlike the concept of corruption in law, political corruption has widely varying meanings in political science, and so, no one has been able to come up with a clear consensus. In the past, the concept of administrative corruption was the same as its moral and value concept. But, it gradually became a scientific concept, especially in political science and management. Here, it is defined in various dimensions. 

  1. Perhaps the best approach is to define corruption as an abuse of the public’s role and resources for private benefit. But, it must be added immediately that the words ‘public’, ‘private’, and most importantly, ‘abuse’, all have detailed meanings. This is not a comprehensive definition, but it emphasizes the political, conscience, and moral dimensions of the case as it does in practice. Corruption always raises the question of how influential people want to be held accountable.
  2. Corruption is the attempt to gain wealth and power through illicit, private gain and at the expense of the public interest. It is considered to be providing anti-social benefits. 
  3. In the dictionaries of the socialist republic, which were published in 1987, corruption is explained through monotheism, embezzlement of government officials, politicians, and civil servants in the capitalist world.
  4. In other words, what people consider corruption in a government is corruption.
  5. Corruption refers to the behaviour of those public servants who violate accepted principles for their private interests. In a country like Afghanistan, it may not be easy to define corruption, because there is a variety of administrative and political bribery, ranging from a neighbourhood guard to senior officials. 

Since administrative corruption is legally a violation of the law and abuse of authority for personal gain, therefore it can be counted as such,

  1. Violation of jurisdiction due to non-compliance with territory terms.
  2. Bureaucratic intervention in judicial and legislative affairs such as legal ordinance and intervention of the law.
  3. Intervention of an administrative officer in the work of another officer; abuse and corruption due to non-compliance with administrative forms; corruption due to lack of legal reasons and administrative decisions; bribery as matter of administrative disagreement with the law, such as not hiring someone who meets the country’s employment requirements; corruption due to lack of administrative competence or personal prejudices, such as hatred and vengeance; political and religious considerations like making decisions against competitors, political or religious opponents or denying and weakening them ensuring the benefit of your own or a third party; misuse or misappropriation of public and state-owned property by government officials; illegal money laundering through abuse of authority; and use of classified or confidential information for personal revenge purposes.

The Difference Between Corruption And Infringement

Here, the critical point is that we must know the difference between corruption and infringement because the motives and reasons for both of them are very different. But it is mention-able that every act of corruption is counted as infringement, but not all infringement is corruption. There are so many cross-sectional and minor offences that are not labelled as corruption. For example, there may be a violation of administrative law and regulation, so there are some criteria that distinguish between infringement and corruption. 

  1. The first element is to act out the norms. That is to say when a governmental official violates acceptable administrative rules and goes beyond his power.
  2. The second criterion of corruption is the mental and spiritual criteria, which means that when a government official can determine which act complies with the norm and which does not. But at the same time, it violates the rules and regulations because their mind has no legal and regulatory body.
  3. The third element and criterion of corrupt practice is the repetition of the act. So, a minor offence can be regarded as corruption if it becomes a habit.
  4. The fourth criterion for a corrupt practise is that it should be done in a corporate and organizational network.

The Story Of Corruption In Afghanistan

Senior Afghan politicians, including former President Hamid Karzai, and a Taliban delegation held ‘fruitful’ talks about the adoption of a new constitution, interim government and women rights at a meeting in Moscow.

Afghanistan has had a history of traditional and monarchical governments ever since its establishment. Until the year 1352, when Mohammad Daud, during a coup, declared the political system of the government as a republic, the monarchical system was still in power. For thirty years, from the republic of Daoud Khani to the communist regime, the Mujahideen Islamic system, and the Talibani system, each brings to mind stories of discipline and administration. Ahmad Shah established a government in 1747, by the name of Afghanistan, where the only criterion for this government were the demands of the tribes and the people. In the process, the ruling clan viewed the government as a set that only preserves those resources because the rulers were all puppets of the tribe and had no will. 

In all the previous royal systems, the rule of the nephew, the cousins, and the princes were closest to the court. Later, when the seemingly republican governments were formed, those structures collapsed. Such arrangements, of course, had their roots in the history of countries like Afghanistan, which cannot be easily eradicated. If we take a brief look at the categories of government and state-building in Afghanistan’s history within the criteria mentioned above, we, unfortunately, will find none of the following criteria in the system. The measures of versatility, complexity, independence, and cohesion, each of which is a compelling concept for the institution of government in its modern sense. 

They are entirely unknown in the governmental system of a country like Afghanistan. Therefore, it can be said that corruption in Afghanistan is a very natural and simple thing, yet a historical phenomenon and a chronic disease. But how to cure this disease will be very important and, of course, challenging. Corruption during transition is a must in the sense that all countries in the world have experienced it. In other words, there is no way out of the grip of corruption. Corruption is unavoidable, for it can offset the low salaries of government professionals and employees. For many years, Afghans have reported that corruption has become a daily deal in their lives. For instance, one massive fraud that had happened in Kabul was the theft of one billion dollars from the Kabul Bank. 

From 2009 to 2012, the bribery rate was 40% among the provincial, district, or municipal officers. It was 38% among land registry officials, 50% among customs officials, and around 40 %to 50% among police officers. Additionally, it was 30% to 40% among tax and revenue officials and an estimated 10% to 50% among teachers and lecturers.

Corruption in Afghanistan has had a historical link with decades of resistance and civil war, which empowered the political actors informally. The anti-corruption programs, like budget and merit-based hiring, which were implemented by the government, have been useful in some ways. 

The national unity government‘s leaders drafted a national anti-corruption strategy, and for its conduct, the UNAMA played an essential role in gathering comments from all ministerial offices, with the support of President Ghani. A presidential proclamation constructed the high council for the rule of law and anti-corruption on 17 August 2016.

In articles 64 and 75, the power and government’s responsibility to control administrative corruption is talked about. Many reform frameworks are published, for example, the civil service reform, which states that all recruitments like hiring, retention, promotion, the retirement of civil servants, must be based on efficiency, transparency, and merit, with consideration of equity.

The civil service commission in 2018 launched an e-recruitment process, advertising on the websites. Now, all the material, including application forms, is available online, and there is also a portal through which all the applicants could submit them. The commission for creating more transparency also began working closely with media and civil societies. 


In conclusion, corruption, as a problem and a burden on the mind and body of our generation today, is a tangible yet inevitable phenomenon. As the political structure of the country has always been a patriarchal one, the only criterion for any social and political decision has been the rulers’ will. Accordingly, the structure has been undergoing drastic changes in various forms. So, in our country, there has never been a crisis-free political system. There have always been crises of identity, legitimacy, participation, and distribution. For this reason, the author of corruption in our society is rooted in past political structures, which today’s political system also inherits. 

That is why corruption in our system is an entirely unavoidable natural thing that you only have to battle for solutions. This does not mean, of course, to condemn the current system and not to be frustrated with the cure. But it means that the disease must be cured in each country simultaneously, with all of them lending a hand to others.

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