Resignation of Afghan central banker puts Western governments on the spot

The resignation and flight to the US of Abdul Qadeer Fitrat, chairman of Afghanistan’s Central Bank, has been accompanied by a wide-ranging set of allegations from him about corruption being behind the near collapse of Kabul Bank. That it itself is not a surprise, as corruption was already widely suspected, but he has also claimed that corruption investigations had been deliberately blocked and that he feared for his own personal safety.

It is credible that he would have detailed knowledge of such matters, though Abdul Qadeer Fitrat has not provided evidence to substantiate them. Nonetheless, his credibility and high profile – not to mention the large sums of money involved (several hundred million dollars of loans are in the suspected fraud category) – means such allegations would normally prompt the international community to put the pressure on for a proper investigation.

However, the allegations swirl very close to President Hamid Karzai so there will be the temptation to turn a blind eye in order to preserve relations with him and the stability of the current government.

Turning a blind eye to corruption has in other countries consistently provided the political space for extremists to prosper by allowing them to claim that only they have clean hands. Let’s hope the same mistake is not made on this occasion.

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