Afghan minerals at high risk of 'political plunder': study
KABUL (Pajhwok): The Integrity Watch Afghanistan (IWA) on Tuesday released its latest study on legal and illegal mining in Afghanistan and found high-ranking government officials, parliamentarians, powerful individuals and Taliban militants benefitting from the riches.
The study focused on five mineral deposits operating under the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum had noted shortcomings in making further transparent the process of granting contracts.
The document claimed until late, high ranking government officials, members of parliament, politicians and powerful individuals had influenced contracts and obtained them for their relatives and blue-eyed persons. The civil society organization said companies won contracts as of now on the back of political interference and nepotism.
IWA head Sayed Akram Afzali told a press conference in Kabul their investigation showed the Afghanistan mines sector was under serious threat of political plundering under the law and against the law.
At least 50 lawmakers, government officials to the level of minister, politicians, powerful individuals, and militants were benefitting from mining contracts and projects, he said, adding that contracts signed in the past also showed the president, his deputies and ministers had used their influence to get contracts for individuals of their choice.
Afzali said the prime reason behind violence in some insecure areas was illegal mining that he said had not only increased rivalry and tensions among people but had paved the way for insurgents to pocket money from the earnings.
“Unfortunately not only the illegal mining takes place on a large scale but the legal extractions are also at danger because the entire contract granting process, their proper implementation and revenue collections lack an effective oversight,” he said.
With poverty and joblessness hitting new heights, Afzali said the Afghans were looking the country’s riches as their last hope because the sector could produce jobs and strengthen the government’s budget. The hope was being shattered by a handful of individuals with connections to politicians, he said.
He said the current bidding mechanism ended up in favour of a particular company and that too owned by a powerful individual or politician and a huge possibility of misusing was found in every contract they read. He said there was no transparency in the revenue collection system and even no official, including the mines minister, knew the exact amount of revenue.
He said the incumbent mining law had shortcomings and could not respond to the existing problems and could pave the way for corruption. He said the law needed a thorough review and should be amended and suggestions from civil society groups should be incorporated in the proposed amendments.
But Mines and Petroleum Ministry’s spokesman Muhiuddin Noori said the ministry had launched investigation into all contracts over the past three months. He said some contracts had been suspended and others being investigated.
He told Pajhwok Afghan News the terms of contracts had been changed and all future contracts would be granted to companies in the presence of Integrity Watch Afghanistan observers.
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