KABUL: Afghanistan’s parliament voted on Saturday to dismiss the country’s two top security ministers for failing to stop cross-border shelling blamed on Pakistan, in what could be a blow to Nato plans to reinforce stability and handover to Afghan forces.
The fractious parliament voted to remove Defence Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak and Interior Minister Bismillah Mohammadi over a series of recent insurgent assassinations of top officials, as well as the cross-border fire incidents infuriating many ordinary Afghans as well as politicians.
It was unclear whether President Hamid Karzai would accept the vote by MPs as his administration tries to bolster stability ahead of 2014 presidential elections and Nato’s pullout the same year. The president’s office released a statement saying the beleaguered president, whose popularity has been hit by corruption problems and deteriorating security, would decide today (Sunday) whether to keep the pair in place, possibly in an acting role.
Karzai’s powerful finance minister, Hazarat Omar Zakhilwal, is also under a cloud over accusations aired on Afghan television that he stashed away more than $1 million in overseas banks, with an investigation launched on Saturday by the country’s top anti-corruption chief.
Afghanistan has rushed additional troops and long-range artillery to the mountainous Pakistan border as tensions continue to rise over cross-border shelling which Afghan officials blame on Pakistan’s military.
Afghanistan has for months accused the Pakistan Army of firing hundreds of rockets into the two eastern provinces of Kunar and Nuristan, targeting insurgent havens, but also forcing Afghan villagers to flee their homes.
“The defence ministry has reinforced army corps 201 and 203 and has specially created another division from which two battalions have already been sent there,” Defence Minister Wardak told lawmakers before the vote to remove him.
“We have also sent long-range artillery and ammunition for use by all army corps,” he said, adding that some artillery was being specially refurbished for the eastern border.Interior Minister Mohammadi showed several pictures of exploded 155mm rocket casings to MPs and told them they should have “no doubt” that they were fired by Pakistani soldiers. “It’s impossible to say that Taliban are involved because these rockets are only in possession of the Pakistan Army,” Mohammadi said.