Cablegate: Above the Law: Corrupt Governor Thwarts Governance
OO RUEHDBU RUEHPW RUEHSL
DE RUEHBUL #4150/01 3611134
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
O 271134Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4315
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 KABUL 004150
DEPARTMENT FOR SRAP, SCA/FO, SCA/A, EUR/RPM, INR/B
STATE PASS USAID FOR ASIA/SCAA
USFOR-A FOR POLAD
EO 12958 DECL: 12/27/2019
TAGS KDEM, PGOV, PINR, KDEMAF, AF
SUBJECT: ABOVE THE LAW: CORRUPT GOVERNOR THWARTS GOVERNANCE
AND DEVELOPMENT IN PAKTYA PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN
REF: KABUL 1345
Classified By: Interagency Provincial Affairs Deputy Director Hoyt Yee for Reasons 1.4(b) and (d)
1. (C) Summary: Paktya Governor Juma Khan Hamdard has the skills and charisma to be a successful politician. However, his Hezb-i-Islami Gulbuddin (HiG) connections, alleged meddling in political affairs in Balkh Province, leadership of a province-wide corruption scheme, and suspected contacts with insurgents make him detrimental to the future of Afghanistan. Through an investigation of corruption involving a local (Afghan) engineer assigned to the U.S.-led Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in the province, Patkya’s National Directorate of Security (NDS) Chief informs that Hamdard is the central point of a vast corruption network involving the provincial chief of police and several Afghan ministry line directors. Alleged skimming of USG development funds occurs at four stages of a project: when contractors bid on a project, at application for building permits, during construction, and at the ribbon-cutting ceremony. These allegations of corruption hamper USG relations with GIRoA officials, as well as contractors, and are being reviewed by U.S. Embassy law enforcement officials. As with other corruption cases, a major challenge to successful prosecution will be the Afghan legal system’s limited institutional capacity -- the Major Crimes Task Force (MCTF) currently has four vetted prosecutors and a limited number of vetted investigators to work this and numerous other pending corruption cases from all over the country. End Summary.
GOVERNOR’S PEDIGREE AS HIG COMMANDER
2. (S) Governor Hamdard was born in 1954 and is an ethnic Pashtun from Balkh Province. He is a member of the Wardak tribe from Mazar-i-Sharif. He supposedly completed high school, but has poor reading and writing skills. During the war with the Soviets, Hamdard fought under Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s leadership and was a HiG commander. In 1994, he fought with General Dostum against the Taliban until he defected to the Taliban’s side and assisted in their victory over Dostum in 1997-98. Following the U.S.-led coalition’s invasion in 2001, Hamdard rejoined Dostum’s forces, although relations were uneasy. Following the war, he served as Number 8 Corps Commander in Balkh. Hamdard was later appointed governor of Baghlan and then Jowzjan provinces. He became governor of Paktya in December 2007. Hamdard also is one of President Karzai’s Tribal Advisors. He is affiliated with Hezb-i-Islami Afghanistan (HiA), a political party, and is its leader in northern Afghanistan. Sensitive reporting indicates that Hamdard is still serving as a HiG commander and leads a faction of HiG fighters in the north. He often signs memos with the military title “Lieutenant General.”
3. (C) In Paktya, Hamdard has shown himself to be a very charismatic leader. Nevertheless, he spends more time outside the province than in it, leaving most governance responsibilities to Deputy Governor Abdul Rahman Mangal. Prior to the August 2009 elections, he stated on several occasions to U.S. representatives that he expected to leave Paktya for a governorship in another province or a national position following the elections. Rumors in Gardez and Jalalabad place him as a top candidate for the governor of Nangarhar. (Comment. As Nangarhar’s governor, he would have access to significant revenues generated at the Torkham Gate border crossing with Pakistan. End comment.)
THREATENING THE USE OF FORCE DURING ELECTION CAMPAIGNING
4. (C) During the pre-election period for both the August 20 elections and the subsequent planned run-off, Hamdard spent a significant amount of time outside of Paktya reportedly campaigning for President Karzai. According to Afghan and international press, his activities in Balkh Province during this period created potential for armed conflict. Abdullah Abdullah supporters claimed that Hamdard abused his government position by campaigning in the northern provinces and distributing weapons to Balkh’s Pashtun districts in order to destabilize the province. Hamdard denied these charges and armed clashes were avoided because the run-off was canceled, but his activities in Balkh demonstrated the strong support base that he continues to maintain in the north.
UNDER INVESTIGATION FOR 2007 DEATHS OF DEMONSTRATORS
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5. (C) Hamdard’s own comments on his governorship in Paktya leave the impression he was “banished” to this southeastern province. In May 2007 he was forced to resign as governor of Jowzjan when thousands demonstrated against him. Forces under his command shot at demonstrators in the Uzbek town of Shibirghan, killing thirteen and injuring more than thirty, reportedly further straining relations with Dostum because many of the demonstrators were Junbesh party members and Dostum supporters. XXXXXXXXXXXX informed us that the Ministry of the Interior Administration Deputy requested his assistance in arresting Governor Hamdard and bringing him to trial for the charges. No action has been taken to carry out this request.
CENTER OF PAKTYA CORRUPTION SCHEME
6. (S) On August 23, the Paktya office of the National Directorate of Security (NDS) arrested PRT Paktya’s local national engineer Jawid Khairudeen, an Afghan citizen, for engaging in corrupt contract practices. Investigations surrounding the Jawid case reveal an extensive network of corruption throughout the province of which Hamdard and his Office Director/Chief of Staff Hashmatullah Yousifi are allegedly at the center. Paktya NDS Chief Ali Ahmad Mubaraz and eyewitnesses have accused Hamdard of soliciting bribes from contractors by having contractors arrested at job sites and held until the bribes are paid. NDS also accuses Hamdard of being an active member of Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin (HiG) in Balkh Province, funneling money he receives from bribes and smuggling (drugs and jewels) to HiG operations in his home province of Balkh. He allegedly has illicit contacts with insurgents in Parwan, Kunar, and Kabul provinces, as well as Pakistani intelligence (ISI) and Iranian (affiliation unknown, possibly IRGC) operatives, through his business in Dubai; he is allegedly a business partner with Gulbaddin Hekmatyr’s son in Dubai. Evidence collected in the case points to corruption involving U.S. funds and actively undermining GIRoA counter-insurgency policy.
7. (C) On October 29 XXXXXXXXXXXX came to Forward Operating Base Gardez to speak with the PRT about corruption in Governor Hamdard’s office. According to XXXXXXXXXXXX, there are four opportunities at the provincial level for illegally skimming USG funds during the life cycle of a PRT development project: the first is during the bidding/selection process. At this stage Afghan ministry line directors, who are part of the contractor selection process, receive payments to rig the scores assigned to contractors so that they will receive the highest scores and qualify for the contract. The second opportunity occurs when the contractor requests a permit to start work. The Governor’s signature is needed for the permit, so payments are made to intermediaries to secure the governor’s signature. The third occasion occurs during the quality assessment/quality control (QA/QC) process. At this stage, workers may be arrested at the construction site and held until the requesting QA/QC government official is paid a bribe; the other possibility is that the contractor must pay off the public works official conducting QA/QC on the project in order to receive a positive report. The final opportunity for graft occurs at the ribbon-cutting ceremony where significant sums of money are sometimes passed during the gift-giving part of the ceremony.
STRONG SENSE OF IMPUNITY
8. (C) Based on evidence collected, Hamdard and his accomplices allegedly act with complete impunity, blatantly placing themselves above the law. Contractors have informed the PRT that Hamdard told them he does not care about possible repercussions of his corrupt practices “because he’s under investigation already;” if contractors “complain to the PRT about him, he will have them chained and dragged to his office.” Adding salt to the wound, on October 19, the Governor called PRT leadership and the maneuver commander to his office to confront them with an e-mail Hamdard obtained in which a PRT officer asked a contractor constructing border police checkpoints questions about corruption involving Paktya’s chief of police and Hamdard. (Note: The e-mail was apparently leaked to Hamdard although he stated he received it from a GIRoA source. End Note.) During the meeting Hamdard waxed indignant and, in a memo dated soon after,
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proscribed ministerial line directors from meeting further with UNAMA or PRT officials, or answering queries from them. Word has consequently spread about the corruption investigations; and interlocutors are reluctant to talk to NDS and Coalition Forces representatives -- many stating that their lives are threatened.
9. (C) Allegations of corruption surrounding Governor Hamdard have come from all quarters including the private sector, public employees, and XXXXXXXXXXXX. Afghans throughout the province generally regard him as corrupt. Hamdard’s ham-fisted approach to intimidate international partners and the PRT, while not an admission of guilt, illustrates his contempt for the international donor community, GIRoA, the lawful processes for development within ministry line directories in particular, and the rule of law. His reported statement that he wants to “declare a jihad against the PRT” is illustrative of the strained relations with the PRT. Somewhat fortunately, Governor Hamdard is often away in Kabul or Balkh Province and Deputy Governor Mangal is a capable administrator and thoughtful intermediary.
10. (C) If Hamdard’s case comes to trial, his political influence and HIG ties make it possible or perhaps likely that corruption among other high-ranking government officials in the Province and beyond will be exposed. The PRT has briefed this case to the embassy via appropriate channels and will share the investigative documentation to date. U.S. law enforcement officers based in Kabul will work with the Afghan Attorney General’s office to develop this case further. As with other corruption cases, a major challenge to successful prosecution will be the Afghan legal system’s limited institutional capacity. The Major Crimes Task Force (MCTF) currently has four vetted prosecutors and a limited number of vetted investigators to work this and numerous other pending corruption cases from all over the country. 11. (U) This message was drafted at the Paktya PRT in Gardez. RICCIARDONE