Kabul Mayor Mir Abdul Ahad Sahebi is the first high-profile figure convicted in Afghanistan’s new corruption crackdown. But he has denied the charges against him and that corruption even exists in his city.
KHAN NESHIN AND KABUL, AFGHANISTAN – What corruption?
Yesterday, the white-haired mayor who lived as a student in Washington, became the first major official in Afghanistan to be convicted for corruption since President Hamid Karzai pledged to crack down on crooked government employees.
When I sat down with him in mid-November, he had a novel take on the corruption that’s widely perceived as endemic. “I am searching around to find one person [working for the city] who is taking a bribe, but I don't see it,” he said then. “This latest propaganda about corruption, I personally believe not 2 percent of it is actual facts or figures.”
Sahebi argued that city amenities cost money and sometimes fees for services get misunderstood as corruption. He also said that international contracts for development here are the worst offenders.
Anything, for a price
When asking around Kabul about corruption, I found that everyone had a story of being shaken-down. I was even asked in a low voice if I wanted to cut the airport lines for a fee as I left the country.