Threat to security as Afghan parliament votes to oust two key ministers
THE Afghan parliament voted yesterday to dismiss the country’s defence and interior ministers in a move that threatens to throw its security service into confusion as foreign forces withdraw.
The vote demanded the dismissal of two of president Hamid Karzai’s key security lieutenants: defence minister Abdul Rahim Wardak, one of the top Afghan officials most trusted by Washington, and interior minister Bismullah Khan Mohammadi. MPs blamed the two for what they view as the government’s weak response to cross-border attacks that Afghans blame on the Pakistani military, with politicians asking why Afghanistan has not launched a military response.
The MPs also asked the ministers about allegations of corruption within their ministries and alleged security lapses that led to recent assassinations of top officials.
The parliament then passed a measure to remove Wardak by 146 to 72 votes. A separate vote of no confidence on Mohammadi was passed with a vote of 126 to 90. Both measures needed 124 votes to pass.
“Both ministers are disqualified from their positions and we request His Excellency president Karzai to introduce new ministers for these positions as soon as possible,” Abdul Raouf Abrahimi, speaker of the lower house of parliament, said later.
Parliament occasionally flexes its muscle to thwart Karzai’s policies or appointments, but the constitution places most power in the president’s hands. Karzai’s office issued a three-sentence statement acknowledging that Article 92 of the Afghan constitution gave the parliament the authority to disqualify ministers. Karzai’s statement did not express any support or regret for the no confidence votes, saying only that the president would “make decisions about the disqualified ministers” after he meets with his national security team today.
In past no-confidence votes, Karzai has simply kept other ministers in their jobs in an acting capacity and dragged out the process of nominating replacements. The US embassy in Kabul declined to comment on the parliament’s action.
Among the criticisms of the two ministers was the government’s tepid response to allegations that the Pakistani military launched hundreds of shells and rockets into the eastern Afghan provinces of Nuristan and Kunar last month, sometimes hitting homes and killing civilians along frontier areas where insurgents have staged cross-border attacks.
Karzai has been careful not to openly blame the Pakistani military for the artillery barrage. Interior minister Mohammedi and other top-ranking administration officials, however, have explicitly blamed Pakistan for the shelling.
Afghan military analyst Abdul Hadi Khalid, a former deputy interior minister in Kabul, said he thought the disqualification vote was less about the controversy over the cross-border attacks than a show of force by parliament.
He said he suspected that MPs were reacting to allegations that they were a “useless parliament”.
“So suddenly, the parliament made a decision to gain dignity from the nation and show that they can oust top security ministers,” Khalid said. “These two ministers became the victims of the weakness of this government.”
However, the parliament’s action drew praise from Noor ul-Haq Holomi, a former general in the Afghan army and onetime MP from Kandahar in southern Afghanistan, who said parliament had acted where Karzai failed to do so.
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