Karzai ‘accepts’ dismissal of key ministers
Afghan President Hamid Karzai says that he has accepted the parliament’s decision to dismiss the country’s interior and defence ministers over continued cross-border shelling incident with Pakistan, but that the two will continue to work in acting roles until he has appointed replacements.
Karzai made his decision following a meeting with his national security team on Sunday, according to a statement from his office.The parliament voted to remove the pair on Saturday.
Al Jazeera’s Jennifer Glasse, reporting from Kabul, said that Karzai has, in the past, ignored such parliamentary votes.
It was unclear how long the two ministers would continue working in their acting capacity, but the statement said that they would be given jobs elsewhere in the government.
Abdul Rahoof Ibrahimi, parliament speaker, said the body had asked the president to “introduce new ministers” after a bitter debate that underscored the problems in store for Karzai’s administration ahead of 2014 presidential elections.
“The Afghan army has sent additional troops and long-range artillery to its mountainous border with Pakistan, as tensions continue to rise over cross-border shelling incidents.
The Afghan military has for months accused the Pakistani army of firing hundreds of rockets into the two eastern provinces of Kunar and Nuristan.
The Afghan government says that the rockets are targeting havens used by anti-state fighters, but that they also force Afghan civilians 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,” Abdul Rahim Wardak, the defence minister, told lawmakers before the vote to remove him.
“We have also sent long-range artillery and ammunition for use by all army corps,” Wardak said, adding that some artillery was being specially refurbished for the eastern border.
Afghanistan’s foreign ministry summoned the Pakistani ambassador in Kabul last week, warning him that continued shelling would damage already fragile bilateral ties.
Pakistan’s military has rejected the Afghan accusation, saying that it only fires in retaliation to fire received from anti-state fighters.
It says that that members of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan use safe havens in Afghan territory to launch attacks against Pakistani army posts.
Bismillah Mohammadi, the interior minister, was summoned along with Wardak to explain the government’s response to the cross-border shelling.
Mohammadi showed several pictures of exploded 155mm rocket casings to MPs and told them they should have “no doubt in your minds” 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.
After hearing their defence, the parliament voted 146 to 72 on the no-confidence motion against Wardak, and 126 to 90 against Mohammadi. Both measures needed 124 votes to pass.
Earlier this week, Afghanistan’s spy chief Rahmatullah Nabil said the Pakistani military had fired over 2,100 rockets in the last four months into several districts, with most landing in Kunar and some in less-populated Nuristan.
Foreign troops are now transitioning security responsibility to the 350,000-strong Afghan security forces as NATO-led forces look to withdraw from the unpopular war by the end 2014.