KABUL: Afghan President Hamid Karzai has contested a move by the parliament to sack his interior minister for failing to stem rising Taliban attacks.
MPs sought to unseat Mujtaba Patang as Afghan forces increasingly replace US-led NATO troops on the frontline of the war and as the government searches for ways to open peace talks with the insurgents.
Patang, who took office less than a year ago, lost a vote of confidence by 136 to 60 in the lower house of parliament, or Wolesi Jirga.
A former deputy interior minister and career police officer, he was dismissed a month after the Afghan government formally took over responsibility for nationwide security from foreign troops due to leave Afghanistan next year.
Kabul MP Farhad Majeedi said that he had been sacked over the corruption in his ministry, insecurity on Afghanistan's highways and a sharp rise in police casualties.
Other lawmakers suggested that Patang had been a victim of politicking. Unlike former warlords who dominate Afghan politics, he lacked a strong personal power base.
Karzai announced in a statement that he was appealing to the Supreme Court before deciding whether or not to accept Patang's dismissal.
"He emphasises that the no confidence vote should be justified and be according to the law," said Karzai's office.
"For clarification, the president has decided to refer the issue to the Supreme Court, and after the Supreme Court rules, he will decide on it," it added.
Patang told reporters that his removal was "unjustified" and "a plot" by mafia groups opposed to his appointment.
He accused unnamed members of parliament of squandering police resources on their protection, interfering with detainees and of being involved in drug smuggling.
Patang defended his record in response to a barrage of accusations from the floor, saying that his police force of 157,000 was on the frontline of the war.
The interior ministry says more than 2,700 Afghan police have been killed and injured since March 21, in what would be an astonishing rate of around 22 a day.
Afghanistan's 350,000-strong security forces have suffered a steep rise in attacks as the NATO combat mission winds down.
Patang likened the ministry he had inherited to "an old car with a broken engine". Afghan and foreign money had been wasted, he said, because there was no system.
"In eight months I have created a system. I have made 122 policies and strategies for the interior ministry," he told parliament. Instead, other people were responsible for insecurity, he said.
MPs held him responsible for worsening security on the main highway heading southwest out of the capital.
He said "people" who had lost private security companies, many of which have been dissolved by the government, pay protection money to the Taliban, which enabled them to buy more weapons and kill more people.
In another example of Afghan officials lashing out at their US backers, Patang said that an American convoy had paid $1 million to the Taliban in bribes to get through a Taliban hotbed in Badghis province when he was a police commander of northern Afghanistan.
"A long convoy of Americans came and said 'We'll go to Badghis'. I said, 'How will you get to Badghis?' He said 'Through Ghormach'. I said Ghormach is dangerous and he said 'Don't worry about that'," Patang told the parliament, apparently quoting an unnamed US military official.
"They took the convoy through and when I checked, they had paid $1 million to the Taliban."
Patang was approved by parliament in September 2012, a month after the lower house sacked his predecessor Bismillah Mohammadi, allegedly for failing to stop a Taliban resurgence and cross-border shelling from Pakistan.
Lawmakers approved Mohammadi's nomination a month later as defence minister.
The cabinet reshuffle at the time was interpreted as an attempt by Karzai to secure his powerbase before anointing a successor to stand in presidential elections next April.
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