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20 days in

Afghanistan’s new president Ashraf Ghani is earning a reputation as a no-nonsense boss after his first 20 days in office.
20.10.2014  |  Kabul
Ashraf Ghani faces corruption and bureaucratic adversity as he tackles issues such as prison reform. Nevertheless, he has become the protagonist of various rumors that tell of his no-nonsense attitude. (Cartoon: Uzra Shamal)
Ashraf Ghani faces corruption and bureaucratic adversity as he tackles issues such as prison reform. Nevertheless, he has become the protagonist of various rumors that tell of his no-nonsense attitude. (Cartoon: Uzra Shamal)

Visit to Pul-e-Charkhi prison

Ghani visited one of Afghanistan’s largest prisons Oct. 8, urging the Attorney General to review the cases of the over 7,000 inmates incarcerated there, many of whose cases have not been duly resolved after thirteen years of imprisonment. Some of the inmates are as much as 97 years old. President Ghani also appointed a special advisor to address the rights of inmates and prisoners and dismantled the position of Monitoring Deputy for this institution.

Interviews with generals

President Ghani met with military officials posted at the Ministry of Defense, Minister of Interior and the National Directorate of Security Oct. 14, after announcing that any general who wishes to be promoted must have a half-hour interview with him. “From now on, meritocracy will be implemented in recruiting our security forces,” a statement from Ghani’s office read.

In his first ten days in office, Ghani merged the Directorate of Affairs Management and the Secretariat of the Council of Ministers with the Presidential Office. He fired all the directors of these institutions and appointed sixteen new directors.

Land for teachers

Ghani met with members of the media, business community and civil society during his third week in office.  Ghani also ordered the Afghan security forces Oct. 15 to oversee the return of government land to the Ministry of Education to be distributed as residential plots to public school teachers under a pre-existing but poorly implemented program. While the government has allocated land for some 80,000 teachers so far, another 150,000 applicants have not yet received it, according to ministry figures.

“Master plan” for Kabul

In an Oct. 17 meeting with Kabul officials and civil society groups, Ghani emphasized the need to address Kabul’s growing infrastructural problems and suggested international tenders be issued to develop a zoning plan for the capital. He also urged the mayor to address a luxury housing scandal in the Sheerpur area, where high-ranking government officials seized property during the previous administration. The previous owners, mostly poor workers who lived on plots outside of the existing city zoning structure, were forcibly removed from Sheerpur and never compensated.

Eye toward Ankara

On his twentieth day in office, President Ahmadzai signed a long-term assistance agreement with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey. Erdogan visited to Kabul on Oct. 18, pledging a greater role for his country in mediating between Afghanistan and Pakistan on terrorism issues.

From the rumor mill

President Ghani’s performance has made the bazaar of rumors more marketable. According to one of the rumors, President Ghani visited Sardar Muhammad Daud Hospital twice in one night and fired the director and 40 doctors. The hospital appeared to be operating smoothly during the first in the evening, but a surprise second visit later in the night revealed poor conditions and a lack of on-duty doctors. Authorities at the hospital were aware of President’s Ghani’s first visit, but once the president left the hospital, the director and all the doctors had also gone home.

According to another rumor, Ghani was crossing a square in Kabul one night where he saw a traffic police officer. He asked him why he was still working. The traffic police replied that he was ordered to do so by the local police chief. Ghani then went to visit the police chief at work and learned that the chief had gone home. Ghani fired the chief on the spot and appointed the traffic officer in his stead.

 

Government Watch: 10 days in