| ||Senior members of AISA resign|
By Weda Baraki
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KABUL - Seven senior members of the Afghanistan Investment Support Agency (AISA) on Thursday tendered their resignations, branding their chief as incompetent.
"The first step in the fight against corruption has been initiated at AISA," the officers told a press conference after sending their resignation letters to President Hamid Karzai.
Asking the president to look into the agency affairs to prevent fund embezzlement, they accused AISA head Wafiullah Mukhtar of knowing little about how to lure investments and making appointments to key positions in disregard of merit.
Misappropriation of funds and discouraging official gatherings was another reason for their decision, said the individuals, including Baryalai Malyar, the department head for industrial parks, Omar Joya, research and policy department chief, Dr. Roohullah Ahmadzai, investment development head.
Ghulam Rabbani Mansoor, licence director, Suleiman Akbari, deputy head for investment support, Mir Taufiq Ansari, deputy head of research and policy, and Abdul Ghafar Rasin, industrial affairs expert, also resigned their positions.
Taufiq Ansari alleged professional employees were insulted and fired by Mukhtar, who was also blamed for mounting pressure on staff to spend lavishly on his guests, friends and relatives.
He said the AISA chief, drawing $11,000 in monthly salary, had spent 440,000 afghanis on the decoration of his office. "The agency has been converted into a private guesthouse and its offices have been shifted arbitrarily to the Shahr-i-Naw area.''
Efforts were underway to merge AISA into the Ministry of Commerce, the officials revealed, claiming some people were out to steal $17 million funds of the organisation. Without naming anyone, they said $25,000 being paid in rent but a building was not being constructed on AISA land
Ahmadzai requested Karzai to ensure the recruitment of professional individuals into agency, which had been setting great store by merit since its establishment and had significant progress in luring investments.
But Mukhtar, speaking to reporters at his office, scorned the allegations, calling them propaganda aimed at his removal. He insisted he had been appointed on merit, saying the seven people would be referred to the Attorney Generalís Office if they failed to produce evidence.
The AISA chief said he was unaware of the resignations, and that he was surprised by hearing the news. "Having obtained a Masters from Pakistan, I have worked in various positions, including in finance and commerce ministries. You will find no evidence of my involvement in embezzlement.''
He went on to explain: ďI havenít fixed my salary at $11,000. The AISA headís package had been that since the time of Noorullah Dilawari (now governor of Da Afghanistan Bank). Since my appointment, I have yet to draw any pay."