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Afghan Parliament Votes To Dismiss Defense, Interior Ministers

The parliamentary vote leave Afghan President Hamid Karzai in a tough position.
Afghanistan's parliament has voted to dismiss the country's two top security ministers for failing to stop cross-border shelling blamed on Pakistan.

Afghanistan's fractious parliament passed a vote of no confidence in Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak and Interior Minister Bismullah Mohammadi on August 4. Lawmakers said the pair were responsible for security lapses and a failure to address cross-border shelling that has forced hundreds of Afghan villagers to flee their homes.

Afghan lawmakers, who also raised questions about alleged corruption in the defense and interior ministries, demanded President Hamid Karzai appoint replacements for the two.

But it was not immediately clear whether Karzai would accept the vote by parliamentary deputies.

In a brief statement after the vote, Karzai's office acknowledged that parliament had the right to disqualify ministers and said he would react after a national security council meeting on August 5.

The men are expected to continue serving in an acting capacity until the president introduces replacements.

Many on the streets of the Afghan capital welcomed the parliament's action.

"I am very happy that these two ministers have been disqualified by parliament, because none of them had worked effectively to do something about the bitter plight of the country," said Kabul resident, Rahim Khan. "People continue to suffer from insecurity and ongoing misery in the country."

Earlier on August 4, the two ministers were summoned to appear before the Wolesi Jirga, or lower house of parliament, to defend their handling of the cross-border shelling and the country's overall security situation.

Families Displaced

Speaking ahead of the vote, Mohammadi indicated that he regretted not being able to stop the attacks.

"We are sorry that the people of Konar province are under rocket shelling," he said. "Hundreds of families have been displaced from their homes. Also, it is unfortunate that we could not supply the necessary help. This morning before I came to parliament, I received a report that two rockets had been fired and the government is taking this issue very seriously."

Earlier this week, an Afghan soldier and a female civilian were killed when hundreds of suspected Taliban militants launched simultaneous attacks on the eastern province of Konar, along the border with Pakistan.

Afghan officials said Pakistani fighters, who had crossed the border, joined Taliban militants as they attempted to seize control of eight districts.

The incident was preceded by another in late July, when more than 300 heavy artillery shells and rockets were fired from Pakistan into Konar, killing at least four people.

The incident, just the latest in a string of attacks, led Karzai to warn Pakistan that any further cross-border shelling could significantly harm relations between the two neighbors.

Pakistan denied the accusation, saying its troops respond to and engage with militants from where they are attacked and fired upon.

Afghanistan and Pakistan have blamed each other on numerous occasions for violence by Taliban militants active on both sides of their porous border.

NATO's military force in Afghanistan has also condemned the cross-border shelling from Pakistan.

NATO has previously said it will work with the Afghan Ministry of Defense and the Pakistani government to ensure an end to the attacks.

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, and dpa
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