Afghan currency under
attack By Abdol Wahed Faramarz
A new wave of counterfeit Afghan banknotes
has arrived in Afghanistan, undermining confidence
in the local currency and disrupting the money
market, officials say.
Karzai wants to reduce the use of foreign
currency, but Afghans interviewed by IWPR say they
are reluctant to use afghani banknotes as long as
convincing forgeries are around. Economists warn
that the volume of extra money in circulation
could lead to inflation.
counterfeit afghanis are nothing new, the most
recent fraudulent notes are of higher
denominations than before, and are so well made
that even experienced currency traders have
trouble spotting them.
tended to be 50 and 100 afghani notes, worth
about US$1 to $2
respectively, but newer counterfeits circulating
for the last four months have face values of 500
and 1,000 afghani. "Although money changers
have machines that can identify forged banknotes,
they are still sometimes deceived. They therefore
have to check each and every banknote, which takes
time," Amin Jan Khosti, head of the Independent
Union of Currency Traders at the Shahzada money
market in Kabul, told IWPR.
Shahzada market, 55-year-old Mohammad Naim was
angry after losing US$600 by exchanging them for
counterfeit afghanis. A friend abroad sent the
cash to the impoverished laborer to help him pay
off his debts. But when he tried to repay the
money in afghanis, the notes proved to be
"The lenders wouldn't take the
money, as they said it was forged. Now I can't
find the person who changed the money for me," he
said. "The government should compensate me for my
loss. The central bank should exchange these
banknotes for me. How am I at fault? Why canít the
government prevent this kind of corruption?"
In a bid to strengthen the afghani, Karzai
issued a decree in late 2011 urging government
agencies and officials to avoid using foreign
currency. Pakistani rupees and Iranian rials have
been in common use since the early 1990s, and the
US dollar has been used for almost all major
transactions since 2001.
said they were wary of local banknotes due to the
proliferation of forgeries.
works for a private company, said she no longer
wanted to use afghanis.
"When there were
no forged afghanis on the market, I used to change
my salary [from foreign currency] into afghanis
and deposit them in my bank account. Now I want to
open a US dollar account because afghanis aren't
reliable," she said.
Officials say the
forgeries are made outside Afghanistan, and some
believe neighboring Pakistan may be deliberately
using them to undermine the economy.
Afghan central bank governor Nurullah
Delawari were coming in from neighboring states,
although he declined to say which ones. "These
banknotes have been made by a very skilled group
using advanced technology," he said.
According to Sayed Masud, an economist who
lectures at Kabul University, "This has been done
to destabilize the economy and decrease people"s
trust in the afghani so that it loses value
against foreign currencies, particularly the
Pakistan's embassy in
Kabul declined IWPR's request for a comment on the
The head of the central bank's
media office, Emal Hashor, said the institution
had written to the interior ministry, provincial
governors and police chief, and border officials
asking them to take action against the influx.
At the Kabul money market, Khosti said
people should use established currency exchanges
rather than people in the street.
say people can avoid the forged notes if they are
alert to the warning signs. Delawari said the key
was the gold-colored foil strip, which on a bogus
note fails to reflect seven colors. Currency
trader Daud said the fakes were also darker in
color and smoother than genuine afghanis,
particularly around the central bank seal.
Restaurant owner Mojahed said the reverse
of the fake 500 afghani note lacked a thin line,
while the fraudulent 1,000 afghani bill is missing
a "1,000" in the left-hand corner,
been presented with such banknotes several times,"
Abdol Wahed Faramarz is
an IWPR-trained reporter in Kabul.