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    KANDAHAR, July 02 2009: A view of the Wali Baba Shrine in Arghandab district on Thursday. Renovation work of the shrine - a well-known picnic spot - was stopped soon after Gul Agha Sherzai resigned as Kandahar governor. PAJHWOK/Bashir NadimGovernance

    Death threats, low salaries leave Kandahar government understaffed

    KANDAHAR CITY (PAN): The rising number of assassinations in southern Kandahar province is scaring people away from taking jobs in the administration.
    There are at least 600 local government vacancies in Kandahar City, the provincial capital, and various districts and not one person has applied, said Hajji Mohammed Anis, the provincial chief executive.
    Kandahar, the spiritual home of the Taliban, is one of most dangerous provinces in the country. Over the past nine years more than 600 tribal elders, government and foreign non-government workers have been killed in the province, according to government figures.  
    Anis said the risks associated with working for the government and the low salary meant many people were choosing jobs elsewhere.
    "Although every day we announce the vacancies in newspapers and on radio stations, no candidates have come forward for interviews," he said.
    This leads to another problem – lack of professional staff in the administration, he said.  
    If they do have applicants, it is usually only one, and often they do not have the skills to carry out the job.
    “But we are forced to hire the candidate even if he is unqualified and therefore much of our staff is unqualified.”
    To solve the problem, he suggested better security and higher salaries.
    "In most provinces, super skills salaries are given to staff, but unfortunately this has not been implemented in the south," he said.
     The central government offers bonuses to civil servants in some provinces, but Kandahar has missed out.
    Many graduates in Kandahar cite increasing insecurity as one of the reasons they are still unemployed.
    Nasratullah, who has a degree in agriculture, has been unable to get a job in his field since he graduated a year ago.
    "I finished my education in a very difficult situation. I wanted to serve my county but unfortunately due to the insecurity, I cannot serve.
    “The Taliban target people who work in government institutions, so my mother and wife won’t let me work there,” he said.
    Instead, Nasratullah works in the city as a money changer.
    Taj Mohammad lives in Kandahar province but works in neighbouring Uruzgan province.
    He received many threats warning him against working for the government in Kandahar. So he prefers to work in Uruzgan.
    He said security is worse in Kandahar than in any other province.
    A former worker of the Information and Culture Department, who did not want to be named, said he was constantly receiving anonymous death threats by phone, so he quit. Now he is unemployed.
    Many other government employees say they work in constant fear.
    The problem of recruiting qualified staff is compounded by the fact that many educated people have fled Kandahar for other relatively safer provinces.
    And the shortage of government officials means that residents are finding it harder to get the services they require.
    In most districts, there is only the district chief and chief of police. All other departments, even those of education, health and agriculture, are closed.
    Asadullah Kaka, 43, said that in his district of Khakrez, there are no government employees except the district chief and police chief.
    "The district chief and police chief alone cannot solve all of our problems, as we have many needs. But who do we contact?
    “We have no court, no judges and no district-level attorney, so if someone has a dispute, they have to go to the Taliban.”
    Mohammad Hassan, who lives in Hawz Madad in Jherai district, said they had the same problem and that they often had to go to the provincial capital just to carry out small administrative tasks.
    He said if the government really wanted to be close to the people, it should open offices in all areas and make sure they were well staffed.
    This would ensure there is security and people would believe the government cares about their health and social welfare, he said.
    Kandahargovernor Toryalai Weesa acknowledged there were problems with staffing but said he had a new plan to address the issues.
    The new strategy, titled “Cooperation”, would provide government control in all districts and help the people.
    “To gain the trust of Kandahar residents, we need to provide services to them in the justice, health, agriculture and education departments,” he said.
    Local government administration chief, Ghulam Gelani Popal, who took up his post on September 26, said the new plan would empower districts and municipalities. The first four districts where the plan will be rolled out are Dand, Panjwaee, Jherai and Arghandab, as well as in Kandahar City.
    The first stage is ensuring security. The next is to employ educated staff and pay them good salaries, offer bonuses and further professional training.
    Finding educated employees would be a challenge, but they were prepared for the struggle, he said.
    There will also be a  nationwide recruitment drive for projects in the health, education and agriculture sectors, he said.
    Brig. Gen Sardar Mohammad Zazi, provincial police chief, said they do their best to provide security for government employees. Police are out on patrol every day in the province, he said.

    hm/cas