Afghan parliament fires minister of the interior

AFP, KABUL

Tue, Jul 23, 2013 - Page 6

Afghanistan’s parliament yesterday fired Afghan Minister of the Interior Mujtaba Patang, one of the country’s most powerful security chiefs, less than a year after he took office.

Patang lost a vote of confidence by 136 to 60 in the lower house of parliament over accusations of corruption and incompetence in the battle against Taliban insurgents.

“He’s lost the vote of confidence and I on behalf of the Wolesi Jirga [parliament’s lower house] request the president of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to introduce another individual to the parliament for a vote of confidence,” speaker Abdul Rauf Ibrahimi said.

Patang, a former deputy interior minister and a career police officer, was dismissed a month after the Afghan government formally took responsibility for nationwide security from US-led NATO troops at a handover ceremony.

Parliament dismissed Patang’s predecessor, Bismillah Mohammadi, in August last year, allegedly for failing to stop a Taliban resurgence and cross-border shelling from Pakistan.

However, lawmakers approved Mohammadi’s nomination a month later as defense minister.

The Cabinet reshuffle at the time was interpreted as an effort by Afghan President Hamid Karzai to secure his power base before anointing a successor to stand in presidential elections in April next year.

In other developments, Karzai yesterday gave a lukewarm response to Pakistan’s invitation to visit Islamabad, setting conditions for any high-level talks designed to mend increasingly frosty relations.

Pakistan on Sunday sent its top diplomat to offer further assistance to Afghanistan’s efforts to reach a deal with Taliban insurgents to end 12 years of war.

Pakistani foreign affairs adviser Sartaj Aziz held talks with Afghan Minister of Foreign Affairs Zalmai Rassoul and met Karzai to deliver the invitation from new Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif — already extended twice by telephone.

Yesterday, the president’s office said Karzai accepted the invitation “in principle.” However, Karzai said a high-ranking delegation could visit Pakistan only when the agenda is specified, initial preparations have been made and a “serious and effective struggle against terrorism and the peace process are on the top of the agenda.”

The West considers Pakistan’s support vital to achieving lasting peace in Afghanistan, but relations between the neighbors are mired in mutual distrust and accusations over Taliban.