The Afghan parliament on Saturday voted to dismiss two key ministers for failing to act over cross-border shelling blamed on Pakistan, and some other security issues.
The sacked pair – Defence Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak and Interior Minister Bismillah Mohammadi – is expected to serve in an acting capacity till President Hamid Karzai announces replacements.
“Both ministers failed to receive votes of confidence and we asked President Karzai to appoint new ministers,” said Abdul Rahoof Ibrahimi, speaker of the house, after a bitter debate that underscored the problems in store for Karzai’s administration ahead of the 2014 presidential elections.
The two ministers were summoned before Wolesi Jirga, or lower house of parliament, to explain the continued shelling and defend the government’s response.
Kabul has repeatedly accused Islamabad of firing hundreds of rockets in its eastern provinces of Kunar and Nuristan, causing several Afghans to evacuate their homes.
Pakistan’s military reject the accusation and says that it only responds to attacks by militants, including those by Pakistani Taliban operating from ‘havens in Afghan territory’.
At parliament, Mohammadi showed several pictures of exploded 155mm rocket casings to parliament members, and said that they were undoubtedly fired by Pakistani soldiers.
“It’s impossible to say the Taliban are involved because these rockets are only in possession of Pakistan Army,” Mohammadi said.
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.
The sacked defence minister said a strategy had been devised to fortify the sensitive provinces.
“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,” Wardak 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.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 5th, 2012.