KABUL (Pajhwok): Aimed at election victory or striking a lucrative deal with other election teams, presidential runner Faramarz Tamanna has got his relatives key posts in the Independent Election Commission (IEC) with the support of his mother-in-law, who heads the poll panel, Pajhwok Afghan News has reliably learnt.
Born on February 14, 1977, Tamanna has two doctorates to his credit in international relations from an Iranian university and international studies from the JawaharLal Nehru University in New Delhi.
He headed the Centre of Strategic Studies and served as deputy spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA).
Tamanna also served as a lecturer at different universities for almost 10 years. He has also headed a private university.
Tamanna tied the knot with Humaria Qaderi in September 1999, but divorced his spouse in August 2016, after he decided to marry his student Arzo Nuristani — the daughter of Hawa Alam Nuristani, incumbent head of the Independent Election Commission (IEC).
Tamanna jumped into the presidential race on January 17, 2019 — with Syed Qayas Saeedi and Mohammad Amin Reshadat his first and second deputies.
Pajhwok Afghan News’ findings show Tamanna influenced his mother-in-law Hawa Alam Nuristani through his second wife and appointed tens of his students and friends to key posts in IEC.
Besides enjoying strong control over key posts in the IEC, Tamanna has created a formidable group of advisors to the panel who formulate all programmes and activities for the commission head. The practice has further strengthened Tamanna’s influence.
Tamanna’s friends and relatives have been appointed through IEC head Nuristani to powerful positions such as senior advisors on administrative and foreign affairs, human resource and executive director. His kin and well-wishers also control the directorate of documents, besides serving as advisors to IEC on finance and administration. Some of his supporters man the procurement department and hold advisory positions and other posts.
Senior admin and foreign affairs advisor:
Mohammad Shafiq Basharyar, senior advisor on administrative and foreign affairs, has obtained his master’s degree from the Afghanistan Higher Education Institute. He is widely regarded as a aide to Tamanna.
According to one document available to Pajhwok Afghan News, Basharyar was introduced to the IEC on December 24, 2018 as his Tamanna’s representative and contact person.
After his introduction, Hawa Alam Nuristani appointed Basharyar as senior administrative and foreign affairs advisor with the approval of the president. His monthly salary is 180,000 afghanis. A knowledgeable source disclosed Basharyar had huge stakes in the appointment and dismissal of IEC employees.
IEC’s Executive Directorate:
Shakiba Mehryar graduated from the Afghanistan Institute of Higher Education at a time when Tamanna was heading it. Documents suggest Mehryar and Abdul Wali Jamshedi were simultaneously appointed to the executive directorate post in February 2019 with monthly pay of 24,500 afghanis.
Document show Mehryar was appointed as executive director in 2019, but was replaced by Abdullah, brother in-law of Tamanna. Mehryar was then put in charge of media affairs at the department of public awareness.
Director of equipment availability:
Abdul Wali Jamshedi is another person appointed as director equipment availability at the IEC on July 2, 2019. Before obtaining his degree, Jamshedi was appointed as executive director at IEC head office.
A letter, without any serial number or date and signed by the IEC chief, says: “Jamshedi who has enough experience in administration and has got higher education in law and political science is appointed as deputy spokesman for the commission.”
Another source claimed Jamshedi’s appointment to the post was rejected because the deputy spokesperson’s post was reserved for a female candidate.
Jamshedi did not appear after his appointment as deputy spokesperson was rejected. He did not give higher-ups any notice before quitting.
But on September 18, Jamshedi returned to the IEC and started serving as advisor to the public awareness department. He told Pajhwok Afghan News he had been busy elsewhere for some time.
Human Resource Department:
Abdul Fatah Azemi, head of the IEC Human Resource Department, has inadequate experience in the human resource area and was conditionally short-listed by the Independent Commission for Administrative Reform and Civil Services (ICARCS) for the post. He served as lecturer at the Afghanistan Institute of Higher Education when Tamanna was heading the institute.
Seen as Tamanna’s reliable friend, he was given the post in a fraudulent manner in support of the IEC head and two ICARCS officials, who were offered the departments of audit and procurement. The two sides were thus enabled to pursue their personal agendas and be able to make inroads in the IEC system.
Azemi was referred to the IEC as human resource department head in line with an official letter No. 736, dated June 3, 2019. He was appointed with the approval of the president.
The source confided to this news agency some letters had earlier been sent to the Human Resource Department regarding corruption. But the issue could not be investigated because the process of appointments to the department was fraudulent and a qualified person was not given the post.
Executive director, Tamanna’s brother-in-law:
In line with letter No. 1138, dated July 13, 2019, Abdullah, son of Mohammad Alam and brother-in-law of Tamanna, has been given the executive director post at the IEC head office which was earlier filled by Shakiba Mehryar. A well-placed source rev ealed Abdullah could not be seen in the IEC office after the publication of Pajhwok’s report.
This appointment runs counter to Clause 5 of Article 7 of the law regarding employees and civil services. The clause says: “First-grade relative — father, mother, children, spouse, brother and sister — cannot be appointed to the director post.”
Independent Election Commission:
Noor Wali Khpalwak, chief of staff to IEC, was appointed based on recommendations from Hawa Alam Nuristani and two other commissioners. He has graduated from a private university in Afghanistan and is a close relative of Faramarz Tamana.
A document obtained by Pajhwok shows the IEC head wrote in a letter to the Human Resource Department: “Noor Wali Khpalwak should be replaced with current acting chief of staff of Aziz Agha Faizi, with a monthly salary of 150,000 afghanis.”
Faizi was replaced by Khpalwak as a member of the media committee, with a monthly salary of 150,000 afghanis, the letter continued. The suggestion was approved by President Ghani as well.
Some sources said the move was against the internal procedures of the Independent Administrative Reforms and Civil Service Commission (IARCSC).
Senior Advisor to IEC:
Ghulam Sakhi Mohammadi, senior advisor to the chief of staff, is also a member of the established network (band) in IEC.
In letter No 171, dated 4/6/2019, the IEC head proposed Ghulam Sakhi Mohammad as senior advisor, with a monthly salary of 250,000. The proposal was approved by the president.
Finance & administrative advisors
Kamal Nasir Hamyar, finance and administrative advisor to IEC, is another member of Tamanna’s network in the commission.
The IEC proposed Hamyar in a letter on April 16 for the post of senior advisor on financial and administrative affairs. In the memo, the IEC chief directed the Secretariat: “Take necessary action in this hiring.”
Pajhwok has also received other documents, which show a number of other officials have been appointed in compliance with Nuristani’s orders and in violation of internal procedures of IARCSC.
Faiz Rahman Hanafi was a former employee of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a colleague of Faramarz Tamana. In a document, the IEC head directed the HR Department to hire Hanafi in line with his previous work experience in the IEC Procurement Department.
Letter No 545, dated March 16, 2018, suggests Sarah Rassouli, who has a bachelor’s degree in political science, is in the last semester of international relations. She wished to serve in a senior management position in the Accreditation Department.
In response to the suggestion, Nuristani said: “Rassouli should temporarily be appointed to a vacant post.”
Hiring of other employees against silence:
Several employees had no links with Faramarz Tamanna, but the IEC head supported their appointments to key posts in return for bribes.
Mohammad Asif Jalalzai, director of the IEC Procurement Department, was appointed after he stepped down as HR Department head. The appointment of Jalalzai was suggested by Nuristani to President Ghani. Jalalzai had no connection with Tamanna.
Yet another document shows Jalalzai was recommended by the IEC chief for a post in the Procurement Department to the Presidential Palace. The proposal was approved by President Ghani.
Sanullah Zazai, who also has no relation to Tamana, was given a post in IEC internal audit department. Nuristani suggested Zazai’s appointment after he left his previous post in the HR Department.
In letter No. 546 sent to the Presidential Palace, the IEC chief wrote: “Sanullah Zazai, currently acting head of the HR Department with a monthly salary of 150,000 afs, is hereby nominated as director of the IEC Audit Department.” Ghani accepted his appointment through decree No. 728 on June 10, 2019.
Letter No. 1,691, dated June 19 2019, concerns the appointment of Ali Shah Misbah. The letter reads: “Misbah, who has passed the exam and interview, is nominated for the first post as deputy director of strategic communication at the IEC Secretariat.
Ghani approved the appointment of Misbah via decree No. 805 on June 27 this year.
But Misba was a leading candidate for the deputy operational head. He was proposed as deputy director of strategic communication in violation of the relevant procedure.
Difference among IEC leaders:
The position of finance and administrative advisor, held by a caretaker, has become a contentious issue. The IEC leaders are divided on its announcement.
Documents show the IEC Secretariat opposed the creation of new posts and appointments by Nuristani. Letter No. 200, dated August 2019, from the Secretariat reads: Under Article 22 of the Election Law, the commission … shall have a secretariat head. But the posts of IEC office head and others were created against this article.
The letter continues: “Before the creation of advisory or other posts in the commission, the process should have been carried out and endorsed by the UEC Secretariat. But this did not happen.”
It says the Secretariat was informed after the hiring of some individuals and their addition to the organisational structure. A large number of advisors were recruited.
IEC Secretariat view:
Habib Rahman Nang, the IEC secretary, also criticised the involvement of commissioners in the hiring process. “Since the beginning of their work, some commissioners have been interested only in appointing individuals. They have no interest in other affairs. The recruitment process is still underway.”
Nang alleged more than 50 percent of appointments had been made on the basis of commissioners’ demands.
The intervention of commission in administrative, executive, especially the Human Resource Department, has increased and some members are brazenly interfering in the department’s affairs, he acknowledged.
Nang added that most of appointments to the IEC Secretariat were in accordance with the procedure but most recommendations dispatched to the Presidential Palace were without the Secretariat’s signature.
Under the law, all suggestions have to be floated by the Secretariat with the approval from the IEC head and then sent to the Presidential Palace. But most of the appointments had been made willfully by the IEC office, Nang confirmed.
An IEC official, who wished to go unnamed, slammed IARCSC interference in the commission’s affairs. He told Pajhwok: “IARCSC had sent a list of five individuals, including one with fake documents, to the Human Resource Department. But the attempt was frustrated by the Secretariat.”
He expressed deep concern over the incident, saying the case was yet to be investigated. He blamed an IARCSC official for continually visiting the IEC office and struggling together with some commissioners to manipulate presidential election results in favour of a certain electoral team.
However, IARCSC spokesman Abdul Farid Ahmad told Pajhwok a joint procedure had been developed for cooperation to facilitate things. The recruitment process was headed by the IEC, he explained.
He rejected allegations that they were meddling in the appointment of IEC employees. He said IARCSC workers were only providing facilities to the commission.
He claimed IEC members had internal differences as IARCSC received conflicting calls from the Secretariat head and commissioners. Most of them made personal demands but independence and transparency were important red lines for them, the official remarked.
Documents show the IEC chief, in a letter to IARCSC, requested a look at the short list and examining candidates for the deputy head of the Finance and Administrative Affairs Department (a first-grade job) and Services Department (a second-grade job).
But Habib Rahman Nang, the IEC secretary, wrote in a separate letter the acting deputy heads of administrative and finance affairs were experienced people and changes in the position should be delayed until the conduct of the presidential election.
An insider, meanwhile, said Tamanna, in collusion with Nuristani, visited IEC workers on a daily basis to win their support. Tamanna has allegedly promised hiring them in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
He said a group led by Mohammad Shafiq Bashiryar and Shakiba Mehryar supported by Nuristani, was recently created. The group has changed some members in order to deceive the people.
Meanwhile, the source said Tamanna was in contact with the IEC chief on bringing changes to key posts in the commission.
The IEC chief and members had introduced a whole new culture of taking and giving bribes in contravention of the Election Law and other rules, he charged.
A number of commissioners, known for their ethnic bias, could push the electoral process into a serious crisis, the source feared.
He said that election commissioners’ meetings with the presidential candidates were against the law. The IEC chief herself has organised several meetings between the commissioners and Tamanna outside the commission within a week.
Under the Code of Conduct for IEC members, no commissioner can meet political parties and candidates in his/her personal capacity
Comments from Tamanna team:
Tamanna did not respond to calls from Pajhwok Afghan News. However, Ahmad Ehsan Sarwaryar, his spokesman, said: “We reject all allegations regarding our links with the IEC. It is just an accusation. Shakiba Mehryar was previously an IEC member. But now she has resigned and joined us.”
About Ahmad Bashiryar, senior IEC advisor on foreign relations and others, he said Bashiryar had previously supported their ticket but had no links with them at present.
IEC chief’s version:
Nuristani, the IEC chief, said Tamanna had taught many people at different universities and his students had jobs in different organisations.
She argued it would be unjust if those passing tests and interviews were denied jobs just because they had been students of Tamanna.
“I think such statements are just accusations that are far from reality. Even if someone is introduced to us and pass the test, he/she is employed,” the IEC chairperson said.
Nuristani rejected claims about her son Abdullah’s appointment as executive manager of the IEC and said there was need for advisors and she had to hire some individuals whose nominations had been approved by the president.
Nuristani added she had recommended three advisors while two others were proposed by other commissioners.
What relevant laws say:
Article 24 of the Election Law says: “Father, mother, grandfather, grandmother, offspring, brother, sister, husband and wife of a candidate cannot work as electoral employees in the relevant electoral constituency.”
Similarly, Article 33 of the Constitution says citizens of the country have the right to elect and be elected. But legal experts and election oversight institutes say close relations of some candidates with election commissioners, particularly the IEC chief, have sparked concerns.
Legal experts’ opinion:
Shahla Farid, a law and political science lecturer at Kabul University, said there was no problem with the appointments made by Nuristani. But after the candidacy of Tamanna, such appointments could possibly facilitate him, she hinted
“The employment of people close to Tamanna by Nuristani amounts to treason and the services she provides to her son-in-law are against the law and pave the ground for fraud in the election,” she commented.
In response to a question if the law allowed the IEC chief to appoint her son, the teacher said: “According to IARCSC, an official cannot hire his or her family members directly as subordinates.”
Election oversight institutes:
Election oversight institutes also called close relations of candidates with commissioners a matter of concern.
Yousuf Rashid, head of Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan (FFEFA), said they were worried about the matter. “We are concerned about the relationship of the IEC chief with Faramarz Tamanna, the presidential candidate. This relationship has caused problems that cannot be ignored,” he said.
He called double standard and candidates’ influence in the employment of IEC officers a serious problem and warned the commission could emerge as a hub of spies if malign influence was not curbed immediately.
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