Change of guard inspires hope and optimism in Afghanistan


Syed Zafar Mehdi

The power-sharing deal between the two rivals is the best outcome for the country that was at the brink of political crisis and civil war a few weeks ago

In the televised presidential debates prior to elections, one man always spoke with a sense of purpose. Unlike his rivals who fumbled and slithered, he had out-of-box ideas and compelling arguments, which was complemented by his awe-inspiring knowledge and sharp political acumen. He wooed voters with many promises and they responded in kind. On September 29, he took over as the new President of Afghanistan, marking the first peaceful, democratic political transition in this country.

Ashraf Ghani, a 64-year old anthropologist and former World Bank official, succeeded Hamid Karzai, who spent 13 eventful years at the helm. President Ghani had served his predecessor as finance minister, many years before he made an unsuccessful bid at presidency in 2009. Mr. Karzai was constitutionally barred from contesting elections again.

The road to presidential palace has been bumpy for Dr. Ghani though. Since the second round of the presidential election on June 14, the country has been locked in a simmering political crisis. The damning allegations of “industrial-scale fraud” by his rival Dr. Abdullah Abdullah took all the focus away from elections and the events that followed almost dented the trust of people in democratic exercises.

It took the whirlwind visit of U.S Secretary of State John Kerry to break the stalemate and set the ball rolling. The marathon, closed-door meeting between Secretary Kerry and the two warring candidates ended with a joint press conference where both the candidates agreed to hundred percent audit of votes. Quite surprisingly, they also agreed to form a national unity government. Secretary Kerry had done his home work well.

As per the power-sharing deal proposed and brokered by the U.S. government, winner becomes the president and loser becomes the chief executive officer, a new post created to accommodate both camps in the new government. Dr. Abdullah took over as the chief executive officer, which looks more like the job of prime minister.

Dr. Abdullah, who served as the foreign minister under Mr. Karzai, has been second time unlucky. In 2009, he lost to Mr. Karzai in an election that he said was rigged. Thereafter, he assumed the role of a de-facto opposition leader. He was a strong contender for presidency this time and was leading the race after the first round of election. In the runoff, he lost the plot and trailed behind his rival by a massive margin. Shocked and flabbergasted, he refused to accept the people’s verdict, claiming large scale fraud.

Both the leaders now seem to have buried the hatchet. At the swearing-in ceremony, Dr. Abdullah looked a completely different person. He spoke of national unity, cooperation and brotherhood barely a few months after he had threatened to announce a parallel government. Both the leaders shook hands, embraced each other and pledged to work together for Afghanistan of their dreams.

President Ghani, however, stole the show with his mellifluous oratory. After taking the oath, in which he pledged to safeguard country’s independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and national interest, it was his turn to speak. Invoking first Caliph of Muslims, Abu Bakr Seddiq, he asked people to hold him accountable. “I am your leader but if I commit mistakes, you have to hold me accountable.” The audience erupted and greeted him with a thunderous applause.

The four page power-sharing agreement Dr. Ghani and Dr. Abdullah have signed describes how the national unity government is supposed to function. Dr. Ghani will retain his powers under the constitution and the chief executive officer will report to him. Dr. Abdullah, as the chief executive officer, will chair the council of ministers and essentially run the government. There might be differences between the president and CEO over the allocation of most important portfolios.

As promised during his election campaigning, Dr. Ghani signed the contentious bilateral security agreement between Kabul and Washington on day one of his presidency. Secretary Kerry, while brokering the political deal between Dr. Ghani and Dr. Abdullah, had stipulated it as a condition. The agreement, which his predecessor so capriciously refused to sign, allows the U.S. soldiers to stay back in Afghanistan beyond this year. It paves the way for 9,800 U.S. forces and 4000 NATO forces to stay in Afghanistan beyond December to train, advice and assist Afghan forces. Mr. Karzai had concerns over some clauses in the agreement, but Dr. Ghani feels the agreement is in the best interest of Afghanistan.

The delay in signing the security agreement had affected the flow of funds and many development projects had been prematurely suspended. Mr. Karzai’s angry outbursts against the western powers, especially the U.S. government, strained the relations between Kabul and Washington. Even in his farewell speech, he blamed the west for all the wrongs. The U.S. Ambassador to Kabul, however, praised him for his smart leadership and for taking over at a difficult time.

Now, with Mr. Karzai out of picture, all eyes are on Dr. Ghani and his team to shape the future of this country. Among the biggest challenges for him would be ensuring good governance and rule of law. Mr. Karzai often came under scathing criticism for allowing powerful people to make mockery of the law. Pursuing the peace process and engaging armed opposition groups is another big challenge. In his campaigns, he said he would talk to those Taliban who have legitimate grievances and are not allied to foreign countries. It is time to walk the talk now.

Combating corruption, introducing accountability and transparency in government institutions are the biggest test for this government. For the second year in row, Afghanistan earned a dubious distinction as the most corrupt country. The former president blamed the western contractors for creating a culture of corruption in Afghanistan, while his own brother and some close aides were allegedly involved in the biggest banking scandal.

At his swearing-in ceremony, Dr. Ghani made it a point to praise his better half and her contribution in his life. He said his wife will be working closely with women and children in Afghanistan. A strong advocate of women’s rights and social justice, he is well aware of the issues related to violence against women in Afghanistan and he has expressed his wish to engage religious scholars and clerics in spreading awareness about women’s rights.

Dr. Ghani has done remarkable work in crisis and conflict resolution, empowering people in tribal societies, promoting and preserving the Afghan literature. That experience should come handy now as the president. He has also authored a book Fixing Failed States: A Frame for Rebuilding a Fractured World, published in 2009, which talks about why past efforts have not worked to save failed states and offers a groundbreaking solution to the most pressing global issues.

For a fledgling economy like Afghanistan, he seems to be the right man for the right job. However, the game is far from over.

(First published in Afghan Zariza)


An uphill task, but not a lost cause

Syed Zafar Mehdi

With the much awaited change of guard in Kabul, all eyes are on the new President and the strategy he adopts in tackling the biggest problem facing Afghanistan today 

A September 2013 report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) said the lack of potential will was largely responsible for the rampant corruption in country. The government, it said, has taken little action to address the problem in letter and spirit. It also blamed the lack of comprehensive U.S. strategy to strengthen Afghan government’s ability to combat corruption and ensure accountability in the country that has for the third year in row earned a dubious distinction of being the most corrupt country in the world.

Ghulam Hussain Fakhri, the newly appointed Head of High Office for Oversight and Anti-corruption (HOOAC), the anti-corruption body of government, also launched a scathing attack at government for lack of political will in fighting corruption. HOOAC, he said, does not enjoy a free hand in taking action against influence-yielding corrupt public officials.

The total cost of corruption in Afghanistan has alarmingly increased over the years. While all fingers are pointed at government for failing to combat corruption, outgoing President Hamid Karzai insists that the problem came with foreigners. In an interview with noted author William Dalrymple, he conveniently passed the buck to United States. “Our own petty corruption in the delivery of services was there before, is here today and will continue for some time. The big corruption was designed by the Americans. The contracts were used by the US government to buy influence in Afghanistan. It was designed to corrupt the Afghan political leadership so as to be usable by them.”

The previous government initiated many measures to weed out corruption but failed on all fronts; the new government has an uphill task ahead

With the much awaited change of guard in Kabul, and a new government taking over, all the focus is on new President and the strategy he adopts in tackling the biggest problem facing Afghanistan today. Almost all the Presidential candidates in their election campaigns underscored the importance of fighting corruption, so it will be the litmus test for the new President.

Nasirullah Khalid, Senior Manager at Afghanistan Justice Organisation (AJO), underlines weak leadership, lack of capacity, weak rule of law, culture of immunity and lack of political will as the major impediments in fight against corruption in Afghanistan. “The new President must make justice and accountability his top priority. He should reform the judiciary system and ostracize corrupt people from decision making process,” says Mr. Khalid.

Independent Joint Anti-Corruption Monitoring and Evaluation Committee (MEC), a body that monitors and evaluates national and international efforts to fight corruption in Afghanistan, in its recent report concluded that Afghan government has not effectively implemented asset registration and verification procedures for high-ranking Afghan officials. In another report, it said the weak processes for appointing and training prosecutors in Afghanistan lead to rampant corruption and general impunity. The discrepancies in land distribution to repatriates, pension payments, and appointments to the civil service also contribute to the problem, according to MEC.

Mohammad Ahrar Ahrar, Senior Advisor in the High Office for Oversight and Anti-corruption (HOOAC), believes there is need for drastic reforms and an end to culture of nepotism and favoritism. “Public administration here is intricately tied to politics, which is a source of many complex problems. There are powerful people sitting in the higher echelons of power who have placed their blue eyes boys in the administration, who are more loyal to their benefactors than their supervising managers.” He believes the new government must prioritize this issue and appoint only qualified persons for important positions in administration. “Appointments must be based on merit rather than favor, there must be reward and punishment system for government officials, everyone should be equal before the law, and national interest should be the priority,” says Mr. Ahrar.

Syed Jalal Jalal, Head of Communication at Attorney General’s Office, says corruption has alienated people from government and created trust deficit. “The efforts of previous government to fight corruption were not enough, there is a need to have pragmatic approach to nip evil in the bud,” says Mr. Jalal. The official apathy, he says, should end. “The new government must have a clear and unambiguous strategy to address the issue of rampant corruption, and proper execution of the strategy is equally important.”

The international community can perform important role in fight against corruption by clarifying their plans and strategy and spending money based on those plans, which are approved by the Afghan government

According to Chloe Mackenzie, Second Secretary of Justice at Commonwealth Office of British Embassy in Kabul, the problem of corruption in Afghanistan is complex and multifaceted. “The fight against corruption must be collective, and strong political will is important.” Azizullah Ladin, the former Head of the Anti-Corruption Unit of Afghan government, believes accountability and transparency are essential to create an efficient system. However, he remains a pessimist. “The new government, he believes, is very unlikely to combat corruption in letter and spirit. “I do not see any ray of hope after elections because the new government will come with its own agenda to shield the corrupt officials,” he said at a conference organized by Afghanistan Justice Organization (AJO) in Kabul recently.

Nasrullah Stanikzai, political commentator and Professor at Kabul University, believes the ‘culture’ of corruption needs to be uprooted from society. “The new government must take concrete steps to defeat this hydra-headed monster, before it turns dangerous for the future of this country,” he says. Mohammad Noori, anti-corruption activist, seconds that. “The previous government initiated many measures to weed out corruption but failed on all fronts. The new government has an uphill task ahead,” says Mr. Noori. He believes the fight against corruption must start at the grassroots level.

While corruption is seen by most Afghans as a big challenge facing their country, it has become embedded in social practices, something that does not invoke outrage anymore. Dr. Wadir Safi, Professor of Law at Kabul University, believes both the political system and society needs to tackle the problem. “The mindset must change, the people giving bribe are as culpable as the corrupt officials accepting the bribe, so it is a two-way process,” says Dr. Safi. “As responsible citizens, it is our duty to discourage the practice of giving and taking bribe.”

The role of international community is also critical in this fight against corruption. The money is being spent through three channels: Afghan government, international embassies and United Nations. “The money spent by foreigners directly has been largely misused. The international community can perform important role in fight against corruption by clarifying their plans and strategy and spending money based on those plans, which are approved by the Afghan government,” says Mr. Ahrar. The coordination between the Afghan government and its international partners is important in this fight against corruption, he adds.

According to Drago Kos, Head of Independent Joint Anti-Corruption Monitoring and Evaluation Committee (MEC), which oversees the national and international efforts to combat corruption in Afghanistan, the youth of Afghanistan, who comprise almost 70 percent of country’s population, have an important role to play in this fight. Equally important is the role of NGOs, local community organizations and religious priests.

With the new President taking over, there is hope and there are expectations. The fight against corruption needs a concerted push and a new direction.

(First published in Afghan Zariza)

Why Kabul Bank is the biggest test for President Ghani

Syed Zafar Mehdi

In a post-conflict country, where the democratic institutions are still evolving and rule of law is scandalously absent, the chances of political manipulations and financial frauds are always colossal. While Afghanistan continues to occupy the top slot on Transparency International’s corruption index, no efforts are being made, either by the government or its international partners, to rid the country of this hydra-headed monster.

A large chunk of foreign aid meant for development projects inside Afghanistan has been embezzled by powerful people. This scandalous truth, however, does not invoke outrage anymore, since corruption has become an ill-omened culture in this country. The banking sector has been the worst victim in terms of monumental financial frauds. Powerful politicians and their cohorts have taken full advantage of weak laws to embezzle money that actually belongs to public.

The story of Kabul Bank’s catastrophic debacle in 2010 is still shrouded in mystery. More than 900 million USD were embezzled and shipped out of the country by some unscrupulous elements with blessings from people in higher echelons of power. It was the biggest banking scandal in the history of this country.

Afghan Zariza dedicated two back-to-back cover stories, in September and October issues, to Kabul Bank debacle in an attempt to unravel the mystery surrounding the crisis of bank. Our findings revealed shocking details of how powerful people took law into their hands and destroyed the bank, which was the central financial institution in the lives of millions of Afghans and represented for many their first experience with formal banking system. Million of hopes dashed as the bank almost collapsed in 2010. The story of what actually happened at Kabul Bank was never told, despite the overwhelming public interest. We decided to ride against the tide and tell the story of the biggest banking debacle.

Afghan Zariza dedicated two back-to-back cover stories, in September and October issues, to Kabul Bank debacle in an attempt to unravel the mystery surrounding the crisis of bank

In the run up to elections, many politicians sparred in public, in a bid to score brownie points over each other. One such public showdown, just before the elections, happened between Minister of Finance Omar Zakhelwal and Mahmood Karzai, the famously infamous brother of former president Hamid Karzai. Both made damning allegations against each other. While Mr. Zakhelwal accused Mr. Karzai of orchestrating the biggest banking scandal in the history of Afghanistan, Mr. Karzai hit back saying the fraud was engineered by the Finance Minister with the help of some western diplomats.

We decided to interview both of them to understand the source of acrimony between them. They did what they had been doing all the time: blame-games, mud-slinging, accusations, counter-accusations. It became amply clear that the Kabul Bank crisis was not a co-incidence. It was an engineered banking scandal, which was pushed under the carpet to save big fishes.

Mr. Zakhilwal admitted that government failed to bring culprits to book. “We failed to pursue the Kabul Bank case which cost us immensely in financial terms,” he told Afghan Zariza. According to him, at least 900 million USD were stolen from Kabul Bank but the losses suffered by the bank were more than that. “It cost us six to seven billion USD and we are still recovering from that shock.”

For the people of Afghanistan, the Kabul Bank crisis was a tragedy beyond monetary terms. It was a blatant breach of trust in financial institutions that dented the confidence of ordinary people. They deserved to know the story of what happened at Kabul Bank and what role various government institutions played in its decline and fall. The investigations proved to be a sham and no efforts were made to bring reforms and prevent the repeat of such disasters.

Many high-profile people in government and share holders of the bank were found directly and indirectly responsible for the crisis, still no legal action was taken against them. Investigators said the bank – founded in 2004 by Sher Khan Farnood, a leading international poker player – made hundreds of millions of dollars of inappropriate loans. Abdul Qadir Fitrat, former Governor of Central Bank of Afghanistan (CBA), resigned from his position and fled the country.

The bank was bailed out in September 2010, when the CBA took control of its finances. Mr Fitrat, as Head of CBA, was in charge of investigation. He said the government put roadblocks before him to save the culprits. Mr Fitrat had publicly named some high-profile figures in Parliament who he said were allegedly involved in it. The names included Sher Khan Farnood, Chairman of Kabul Bank; Khalilullah Ferozi, Chief Executive Officer; Husain Fahim, brother of the then Vice President Marshal Mohammad Qasim Fahim; Mahmood Karzai, brother of President Hamid Karzai; Abdul Ghafar Dawi, Chief of Dawi Oil Company; Gulbahar Habibi, Chief of Gulbahar Center; Tahir Zahir and Sofi Nisar.

Mr. Farnood and Mr. Ferozi were considered the key culprits and were sentenced to 5 years jail term. In addition, Mr. Ferozi was asked to pay 531 million USD and Mr. Farnood 278 million USD. Mahmood Karzai and Husain Fahim, who were shareholders of the bank, dismissed the charges against them.

Many high-profile people in government and share holders of the bank were found directly and indirectly responsible for the crisis, yet no action was taken against them 

According to a report by Independent Joint Anti-Corruption Monitoring and Evaluation Committee (IJACMEC), “Kabul Bank was nothing but a fraud perpetrated against depositors, and ultimately all Afghans; and weak institutions and political realities in Afghanistan offered the perfect environment to operate.”  Drago Kos, Chairman of IJACMEC, said many powerful people behind the fraud were let off. “The brothers of Afghan President and brother of his first Vice-President were using the assets of Kabul Bank but they have never been investigated,” said Mr. Kos.

Four years after the scandal, an elixir of hope has emerged in the form of the new government led by former banker Dr. Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai. Barely two days after assuming office, President Ghani ordered reinvestigations into the Kabul Bank case, giving clear instructions to the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) to arrest the 19 individuals found guilty in the case. He also ordered the Ministry of Finance (MoF) to finalize documents for the privatization of the New Kabul Bank. It won’t be exaggeration to call it Afghan Zarizaimpact, since we are the only media house in Afghanistan that vigorously pursued this case.

Integrity Watch Afghanistan (IWA), a national corruption watchdog body, has welcomed the intervention of the new president. IWA believes it an important move that will send a strong signal to criminals and crooks in power. However, it remains to be seen if AGO or MoF are able to execute the task they have been entrusted with, since the deadlines are already over.

Now, let us drop another bombshell. Bank Millie Afghan, one of the leading banking service providers in Afghanistan with an extensive network across the country, seems to be going Kabul Bank way. As per investigations carried out by Afghan Zariza, millions of dollars the bank had given as loan have not been recovered. So, is it another banking disaster in the making?


Refused Money to Buy Drugs, Husband Chops off Wife’s Nose, Lips

Syed Zafar Mehdi

In a horrifying incident from Herat province that bears eloquent testimony to rampant crimes against women in male-dominated Afghan society, a drug-addict husband chops off nose and lips of his wife after she refuses to give him money to buy drugs.

Sitara, 30, was never a happy wife. Her alcoholic husband would often beat her to pulp in front of their four children. She would never confront the abuse. Like it happens in most patriarchal societies, she would suffer silently. On the intervening night of December 12 and 13, she suffered abuse again, and this time the word spread out, like wild fire.

Her husband Azeem, from Enjeel district in Herat province, chopped off Sitara’s nose and lips after she refused to give him her jewellery to buy drugs. “He asked her for money but she had no money with her, so he asked her to sell her jewellery, which she refused,” says Sitara’s mother, as tears yell from her sunken eyes. Sitara was rushed to a local hospital in an unconscious state where doctors performed multiple surgeries on her. “Her nose and lips were cut off and she was bleeding profusely when they brought her to hospital,” says a doctor on duty.

After leaving his wife in pool of blood, the accused fled from the spot. He is still at large, five days after committing the crime. According to police sources, he might have joined the armed opposition group to escape the clutches of law.

Taking strong exception to the horrendous incident that has sent shockwaves across the country; the Ministry of Interiors has asked the local police to bring perpetrator to book. According to police sources, the husband of the victim was a drug addict who used to beat her regularly.

Sitara, who was undergoing treatment at a local hospital in Herat, has now been taken to Turkey. The doctors felt she needed advanced treatment, which was not possible in Afghanistan. “The injuries are too grave and plastic surgery is the only option now,” says a doctor who treated her. Many resident and non-resident Afghans have come forward to help her financially. “Some NGOs promised to take her overseas for plastic surgery and even the Ministry of Women Affairs (MoWA) offered us help,” says a relative.

Her mother and brother, attending her, are crestfallen. “It is agonizing to see her in this painful condition. It breaks my heart that her husband stooped to such a level. He deserves stringent punishment,” says her mother. Her 12-year-old daughter Farishta sits by her side, staring at the flock of birds going past the open window. “I want my mother to recover fast; she is in lot of pain,” says the young girl, struggling to hold back her tears.

The incident has drawn widespread condemnation. The social media has also been abuzz. “It is disappointing. After Chaman Gul’s perpetrators are set free by the court, you find about Sitara’s lips and nose cut by her addicted husband,” tweeted Samira Hamidi, Kabul-based women activist. Chaman Gul, 17, from Jawazgan was raped and tortured by some Afghan Police personnel who were set free by courts on December 13.

Sitara’s is not an isolated case of violence against women in Afghanistan. It has brought back the haunting memories of Aisha Mohammadi whose nose was cut off in early 2010.

At the tender age of 12, Aisha and her sister were given to a Taliban guerilla in Oruzgan province as part of the tribal custom for settling disputes, locally called baad. Aisha’s uncle had killed a relative of the groom-to-be, and to pay the blood debt, as per local custom, her father gave away two of his daughters to victim’s family. Aisha was married to a Taliban guerilla and kept as a slave. Her husband caught her after she attempted to flee the house of her brutal in-laws. He took her to an isolated place in Oruzgan and chopped off her nose.

“I have no idea how I managed to run away and how I survived that nightmare,” says Aisha. She caught the world’s attention after her face with chopped nose made it to the cover of TIME magazine in 2010.

It also reminds of another such horrifying incident that took place in Zabul province, Southern Afghanistan in December 2007. A 16-year-old girl Nazia, married to a 40 year old man, had her ears and nose cut off, teeth broken and head shaven, barely three months after their marriage.

The violence against women continues in many forms and manifestations, says Mariam Safi, Director, Department of Strategic Studies at Afghanistan Justice Organisation. “Violence and abuse against women takes on physical, verbal and emotional forms in Afghanistan and is a widespread and increasing problem in the country,” says Ms. Safi. “Despite all the progress made in the last 12 years, the Afghan government and its international partners have not been able to address this issue.” Tackling the problem, she says, requires the implementation of the rule of law, awareness, and most importantly, education.

Last week, a woman from Northern Province of Konduz was saved by local police after she was condemned to death by Taliban for allegedly cheating on her husband. According to the Konduz police, they raided the village after being tipped off by intelligence sources and found the woman locked in a dark compound. The Taliban guerillas had fled from the spot.

On November 27, the dead bodies of two women were found hanging naked from a tree in Logar province. One of them was in her 40s and the other was in 20s. The identity of the victims and the motive behind their killing was unclear, said police.

In May last year, 31-year-old Najiba was brutally killed with her three sons (2, 7, 13 years) by her brother-in-law in Chardara district of Kunduz province. She had apparently refused to marry him after her husband died.

Around the same time, a 21-year-old woman Lal Bibi was abducted, raped and tortured for five consecutive days by sleuths of Afghan Local Police (ALP). “She was punished for the animosity her cousin had with the armed men of the Afghan Local Police. In Afghanistan, a family’s ‘honour’ is tied with women of the family, who can be punished to account for someone else’s deeds,” says Wazhma Frogh, women’s rights activist.

The free rein of ALP coupled with the rapid proliferation of private militias, locally called arbakai, has given fillip to incidents of crime and violence. “Comprising warlords and power brokers, the arbakai are shady group largely responsible for extortion, robbery, killings and rapes,” says Mujeeb ur Rehman (name changed), a human rights activist. “In some places, you will find it hard to distinguish between ALP and arbakai.”

United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan’s (UNAMA) December 2013 report A Way to Go: An Update on Implementation of the Law on Elimination of Violence against Women in Afghanistan punctures holes in the implementation of the Elimination of Violence against Women (EVAM) law between October 2012 and September 2013 by the Afghan judicial and law enforcement authorities. “In UNAMA’s sample from 16 provinces, police and prosecutors registered 650 incidents of violence against women. In the previous UNAMA report, covering the same 16 provinces, 470 reported incidents of violence against women were registered,” said Georgette Gagnon, Director of Human Rights at UNAMA.

Recently, Human Rights Watch made a startling revelation that the Afghan government was reconsidering stoning, a medieval punishment that was once the most hideous symbol of the erstwhile Taliban regime. However, stung by the criticism from various quarters, Afghan government did a volte-face. “It is not correct. The Minister of Justice has rejected it,” President Karzai told Radio Free Europe, soon after the HRW report came out.

Meanwhile, as Sitara battles with her injuries, her family has demanded most exemplary punishment to the accused. “The Article 22 of the Elimination of Violence Against Woman (EVAW) law talks about the penalty for laceration; it refers to article 407, 408 and 410 of the Afghan Penal Code that prescribes punishment for beating and laceration,” says Mohammad Akbar Zahid, Professor, Kabul University. According to Article 407, a person who intentionally beats or lacerates another person such that some bodily part is cut, injured or defected, or that person is rendered handicapped or his senses are damaged; in addition to adequate compensation, shall be sentenced to imprisonment of not less than three years.

The Islamic Shariah laws also call for strict punishment in such crimes. “Holy Quran has directed us to pay diyat, both in case of intentional and unintentional laceration. By this Quranic directive, under Hanifi School of jurisprudence followed in Afghanistan, diyat is not given solely in cases of murder, but also in case of loss of a human organ or limb like nose, ear, eye and tooth,” says Mr. Zahid. Diyat for murder and loss of human organ like nose, sexual organ is 100 camels or an amount equal, while diyat for one ear or one eye is 50 camels or an equal amount, says Mr. Zahid.

It remains to be seen if Sitara gets justice or the accused gets away with the crime, as it often happens in this male-dominated Afghan society. “We are hopeful,” says her brother, with moist eyes.

(First published in Afghan Zariza)