Karzai accepts decision to oust ministers
Afghan president Hamid Karzai yesterday accepted a vote by the country’s parliament to dismiss his two top security ministers, but ordered both to remain in their jobs pending replacement, a move aimed at safeguarding fragile stability.
The fractious parliament voted on Saturday to remove defence minister Abdul Rahim Wardak and interior minister Bismillah Mohammadi after recent insurgent assassinations of senior officials, as well as cross-border fire incidents blamed on Pakistan, an inflammatory issue for many Afghans.
While the ministers remain in place for now, the uncertainty could complicate Nato plans to hand security responsibilities to Afghan forces before the end of 2014, as both positions are crucial to the 11-year war against insurgents as Western countries withdraw their military presence.
Mr Karzai, who chaired a meeting of Afghanistan’s national security council yesterday, issuing a statement thanking the pair for “their hard work and dedication”, and saying replacements would be brought in according to the law.
Mr Karzai can keep both ministers in their jobs for months if he chooses, and as he previously has done after parliamentary votes to reject his choices.
Those moves may have alienated lawmakers whose co-operation he needs if he is to crack down on widespread corruption within his unpopular government in order to help guarantee up to £10 billion worth of aid promised by the West.
Mr Karzai’s powerful finance minister, Hazarat Omar Zakhilwal, is also vulnerable as a result of accusations aired on Afghan television that he stashed away more than £600,000 in overseas banks. An investigation was launched on Saturday.
The dismissal of the veteran Mr Wardak, defence minister for close to eight years, did not cause as much uproar within Mr Karzai’s inner circle as that of Mr Mohammadi, an ethnic Tajik and former anti-Soviet mujahideen commander.
Many of the government’s Western supporters believe Mr Mohammadi, who was army chief of staff from 2002 to 2010, has been an effective reformer of the notoriously corrupt police, but after only two years in the job has not had enough time.
Many lawmakers said the pair’s dismissal may have been due to genuine failings, or part of manoeuvring against Mr Karzai.
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