President Karzai of Afghanistan is a pleasant fellow. He is helpful, courteous, kind, cheerful and clean, as the Boy Scout pledge has it. He is a Boy Scout in a furry hat, really, although some of his family and many of his associates and supporters are crooked to the eyeballs. But at the moment, alas, he is behaving erratically, and one must ask what is driving him to indulge in such vehement anti-Pakistan rhetoric. After all, he was a guest of Pakistan for many years after he fled his own country during the Soviet occupation. He didn't want to stay to fight the invaders, so he sought and was granted refuge in the place that he now vilifies at every opportunity. In the 1980s the Indian-educated Karzai was among those known as the Gucci Guerrillas, such was their lifestyle, courtesy of amazing amounts of American money. (Biographies of Karzai, such as that on the Wikipedia website, skate very tactfully over this period.) I met him in Peshawar when he was a liaison official for the failed post-Soviet interim government and still have one of his calling cards, modestly inscribed, as befitted his station. It was beyond the realms of possibility, in those days, that he would become a major figure if ever he could return to his own country. But strange things happen, and he became the American choice to contest the election in 2004, about which Mr George W Bush declared that "The election makes clear that a free Afghanistan is a partner in the War On Terror, a beacon of hope in a troubled region of the world, and an example to other countries working to realise the promise of freedom." How fantastical of anyone to imagine that the election was an indication that Afghanistan was "a partner in the War On Terror." The absurdity of this amazingly ingenuous statement beggars belief, but Karzai was the Chosen Man and could do no wrong. Bush went on to say that "The large turnout by Afghan women....confirms that there is a vital role for women in the politics of a nation proud of its Islamic heritage," which was rubbish also, because women are, and will always be at the bottom rung of the ladder in Afghanistan's male-dominated society. Human Rights Watch records that a year ago the Kabul parliament "voted to suspend Malalai Joya, a female MP....[because she] was accused of insulting the parliament [allegedly calling it a stable] and suspended until the end of her term in 2009....Malalai [said] her remarks were edited out of context....Malalai has since received numerous death threats by phone and "night letters" (posted threats) and now lives in hiding. She receives no security protection from parliament or the government." Of course the government of Mr Karzai won't do anything about protecting her because almost all its members are died-in-the-wool, feudally-minded, male chauvinists of the deepest dye. Over to Mr Karzai for action. That is if he has a moment to spare from blaming Pakistan for the chaos in his country, as indicated in last week's pronouncement by his cabinet to the effect that "The people of Afghanistan, the world, know very well that Pakistan's intelligence agency and military have turned that country into the biggest exporter of terrorism and extremism to the world, particularly Afghanistan." The dolts in Kabul refuse to admit that Pakistan's army and Frontier Corps have suffered more than a thousand soldiers killed in operations against the very people who Karzai claims are being supported by Pakistan's "military." The Taliban (or whatever name one cares to give to the vicious, ignorant murderers who claim that their savagery is in the name of Islam) are conducting a ferocious campaign of attacks within Pakistan. They want to kill as many Pakistani soldiers as they can. So for Karzai to aver that Pakistan is helping militants is insulting and absurd. Of all the fatuously muddle-headed assertions made about Pakistan, this one must be the most bizarre. But it helps deflect world attention from the fact that Mr Karzai's government is terminally ineffective and composed of many figures who are nothing more nor less than common criminals. Even the egregious General Dan McNeill, the US commander in Afghanistan, said he thinks "there is an issue of corruption in this government, accepted by everybody, to include President Karzai," and a survey found that 60 per cent of Afghans consider Karzai's government to be "more corrupt than that of the Taliban, the mujahideen or the Communist regimes." Now wouldn't it be a good thing if Mr Karzai did something about this? His soldiers are ill-trained and largely ineffective, and foreign troops are detested because they kill so many Afghan civilians (US bombing killed about sixty last week, including policemen), and he can't do much about that. But he could do something about corruption, by bringing charges against those who are criminals. It appears that taking action against corruption is too difficult for him, in spite of the fact that names have been named and evidence produced of endemic dishonesty in official circles. The journalist Doug Saunders of Canada's Globe & Mail newspaper pointed an uncompromising finger. He wrote that "On heavily guarded streets on the edge of every Afghan city and in the centre of Kabul are the large, wedding-cake houses, surrounded by walls and guards and filled with luxury goods, built in a style popularly known as "narcotecture." Inside live the senior officials with top roles in Afghanistan's government, some of whom have amassed fortunes of hundreds of millions of dollars. Some are governors of provinces, like Kandahar governor Asadullah Khalid, reported by Canadian diplomats to have committed torture. Some are top cabinet ministers." How did these people accumulate so much wealth in one of the poorest countries in the world? Associated Press reported in 2007 that "Izzatullah Wasifi, the government of Afghanistan's anti-corruption chief had a criminal record in the US and was arrested at Caesar's Palace [in Las Vegas] on July 15, 1987, for selling 650 grams (23 ounces) of heroin. Prosecutors said the drugs were worth $2 million on the street. Wasifi served three years and eight months in prison." Wasifi is an old friend of Mr Karzai and is obviously just the man to appoint as anti-corruption supremo. Set a chief to catch a chief. What a joke. But the appalling consequences of country-wide gangland venality go further than the Karzai-tolerated immunity of criminals who can buy policemen, bureaucrats, generals and politicians. (Many criminals, of course, are themselves corrupt policemen, bureaucrats, generals and politicians.) And of even more significance than the fact that the millions being stolen could contribute massively to social projects in Afghanistan is that ordinary citizens are aware of the dominance of corruption because they have to give bribes to officials and police in order to live their day-to-day lives. The truly terrible result of the misgovernment of Afghanistan is that according to a recent survey over 80 percent of its citizens "Believe the application of sharia law would be an effective deterrent to corruption." From there, it is only a tiny step for Afghans to endorse the brutal Taliban. If Mr Karzai wants to improve the lot of his people, like a good Boy Scout, he should start by bringing criminals to justice. Blaming Pakistan for all his ills is no solution. The writer is a South Asian political and military affairs analyst E-mail: beecluff@aol.com Website: www.briancloughley.com