KABUL: Afghanistan's parliament voted to dismiss the interior minister on Monday in a potential blow to stability as NATO-led international forces speed up their withdrawal.
The fractious parliament said that Ghulam Mujtaba Patang, as head of a 157,000-strong police force, had presided over worsening security, including that of a major highway running from the capital Kabul to Kandahar that was a crucial economic lifeline targeted by Taliban insurgents.
"Afghanistan's interior minister, with 136 votes against him, is disqualified from the ministry and I ask the president of the Islamic republic of Afghanistan to announce another person for this position," said speaker of the parliament Abdul Rauf Ibrahimi.
It was unclear whether President Hamid Karzai would accept the vote as his administration tries to strengthen stability ahead of presidential elections and a pullout of NATO troops next year.
Karzai has previously opted to keep ministers in their roles in acting capacity after similar votes.
Lawmakers said Patang, a former provincial police chief liked by Karzai's Western backers, had also failed to fight corruption in the force and refused a summons to the parliament, which has increasingly flexed its muscle against Karzai's power.
But Patang, in a startling revelation, said 2,748 police officers, or almost two percent of the force, had been killed by insurgent gunmen in the four months since March 21, and argued it was the job of the more heavily-armed military to protect remote areas and highways.
"I'm on the threshold of NATO's withdrawal," he said.
"There will be lots of problems; there will be lots of challenges. From March 21st up to now, I swear to god, 2,748 police have been martyred. Imagine what effect it has on my mind."
The parliament last August voted to remove former Defence Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak and then Interior Minister Bismillah Mohammadi over a series of insurgent assassinations of top officials and incidents of cross-border fire with Pakistan.
Foreign troops are increasingly handing security responsibility to the 350,000-strong Afghan security forces as NATO-led forces look to withdraw from the unpopular war by the end of 2014.
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