Kabul Passport Manager Stamps Out Corruption Kabul Passport Manager Stamps Out Corruption WITHOUT VOICEOVER
Independent Films, Documentaries, Politics
Colonel Abdul Fatah runs Kabul's busiest passport office. And he has earned a reputation—and many certificates from leaders and organizations—because he was overheard declaring to his employees that he would not tolerate corruption. But for him, it's not about awards, it's about properly getting the job done. He couldn't run his office efficiently with corruption, and his office is quite efficient-- turning out 250-300 passports a day. Although there are limitations-- no computers-- and some security weaknesses in the passport system, Col Fatah is happy to facilitate the travel of Afghans
Transcripts / Production notes / Scripts
Colonel Abdul Fatah, the man in charge of Zone 101 Passport Dept in southwest Kabul, has gotten a lot of attention for not tolerating corruption in his office, but upon seeing the efficiency with which his office handles such a high volume of passport requests, one gets the impression that it is less about a moral crusade and more about being practical—bribe-taking and giving is just one more irregularity that would slow down his otherwise well-standardized system:
SOT (DARI) Col. Abdul Fatah, Passport Manager Zone 101:
“We are working overtime, to 6-7 in the evening- because we have a lot of work and if we don't finish our work today it will be a burden tomorrow.”
But along with being a highly efficient office manager, the Colonel does indeed have strong opinions about corruption for which he has earned all kinds of recognition…
NAT SOUND (ENGLISH) “Who is this one from?”, “Karzai”
He was thrust into the limelight after a high ranking official in one of Afghanistan’s respected anti-corruption agencies was waiting in line for a passport and overheard the Colonel lecturing his workers that corruption would not be tolerated.
And even though the Colonel is tough on corruption—with applicants confirming this…
NAT SOUND (English) Reporter: “Did you pay money?”, “No”
…he doesn’t place undue blame on the individual offender, but rather focuses more on the social realities that all but necessitate it, like poverty.
SOT (DARI) Col Fatah:
“We have to make jobs and industries so that the people can work. If there is work then corruption will stop. Corruption starts when there is nothing else for people to do.”
Similarly, Colonel Fatah believes that an individual can’t be expected to “do the right thing” in a vacuum—the proper supportive and corrective environment is necessary:
SOT (DARI) Col. Fatah:
“Society is like a family, if a family member is corrupt the people that surround him should try make him a good person.”
A system has been set up so that applicants make a payment—of a standard fee--to a government bank, rather than directly to the passport office, supposedly to prevent clerks and applicants from exchanging money and making illegal transactions.
NAT SOUND (DARI) Col. Fatah:
“These papers show that this person’s passport money has been given to the government bank.”
But the Colonel, who boasts of having a “corruption-free” office, nevertheless says there are larger, graver problems facing the passport system, like the lack of a computer database. While there is a computerized criminal and insurgent database that all passport applicants must go through there is no passport database. And this makes it easy for Afghans to get multiple passports under the same name because cross-checking is difficult. You’d have to go through all these stacks of paper, nevermind if an applicant got an original one at a different station.
NAT SOUND (DARI) Applicant: “It is my third time getting a passport.”
And why do Afghans get multiple passports?
Once again, the Colonel, doesn’t accuse individual Afghan offenders, but instead points to the larger reason, which is nothing less than international politics.
NAT SOUND: “If they have a Pakistan visa India won't let them get a visa.
India and Pakistan, although rival nations, are both common destinations for Afghans doing business, getting health care and visiting family, but a visa from one country might prohibit entry into the other. So, to visit both places, Afghans carry two passports.
NAT SOUND (DARI) Col Fatah : “When our system is computerized it will prevent this”
Duplicate passports obviously pose a security risk but it is worth noting there are background checks at airports for Afghan nationals involving retina scans, fingerprints and photo ids to provide a net against traveling criminals and insurgents.
NAT SOUND- busy office sounds
Colonel Fatah says that there are plans in the works for a passport database to be created by a UK-based company, but he is unsure of when this will take place. In the meantime, he and his staff do what they can----WHICH IS CONSIDERABLE.
NAT SOUND (DARI) “We distribute between 250-300 passports a day.”
SOT (DARI) Colonel Fatah:
“Every Afghan should travel to foreign countries. There has been a lot of war here and they should go and see other cultures. See the way that others work and live.”
On our way out of the dept a businessman-- in charge of importing the very popular Samsung cellular phones into Afghanistan--grabbed us and nearly demanded we let him put in good word for the Col and his staff:
SOT (English) Businessman:
“…If you fulfill the requirements you can get easily the passport without any hesitation.”
Clearly, for the Colonel the job means more than just punching in every day to get a government paycheck, it means using the government’s authority to set a standard and to change the culture:
SOT (English) Businessman:
“Sometimes the local people become a dictator, you know? And act in an impolite way. But the team o this director, I can say, they are very polite people, they are giving, I can say, in a mood that you can be more attracted to.”
Jeff Holden, in Kabul, for the NATOChannel.
Year of Production: 2012
Kabul Passport Manager Stamps Out Corruption Kabul Passport Manager Stamps Out Corruption WITHOUT VOICEOVER by NATOChannel is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution No Derivatives 3.0 License.