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Parliament no-confidence vote against Defence Minister Wardak, Interior Minister Bismillah

August 4, 2012

Just seen this reporting from BBC and other sources that suggest Parliament has voted to replace the Afghan Defence Minister, Rahim Wardak, (a Pushtun) and the Interior Minister, Bismillah Khan (a Tajik)

Key Afghan ministers sacked after confidence vote

Mr Wardak said he had taken the measures necessary to prevent security lapses

The Afghan parliament has passed a vote of no confidence in two of its most senior ministers and demanded that they be replaced.

The interior and defence ministers were criticised for failing to prevent cross-border shelling from Pakistan and security lapses that resulted in the assassinations of senior officials.

They have also been questioned by MPs over allegations of corruption.

Reuters add:

It was unclear whether President Hamid Karzai would accept the vote by MPs as his administration tries to bolster stability ahead of 2014 presidential elections and NATO’s pullout the same year.

The president’s office released a statement saying the beleaguered president, whose popularity has been hit by corruption problems and deteriorating security, would decide on Sunday whether to keep the pair in place, possibly in an acting role.

Although I think Karzai is obliged to move them and respect the voice of Parliament (we can expect him to officially respond shortly), there is no guarantee that he will – in the past he has dragged out the process of replacing personnel if it does not suit him, simply keeping the ministers on in a “temporary” capacity and essentially ignoring rulings. At the very least, a delay from Karzai is very possible.

Such a move, if it took place, might be a major problem in terms of the smooth transition of security responsibility from ISAF to ANSF – losing two key players simultaneously could be a serious disruption.  Some possible reasons for this vote of no-confidence include:

  • the recent cross-border shelling from Pakistan – with suggestions that Parliament is unhappy at a weak response from the ANSF.  BBC also suggests unhappiness at the number of assassinations against Afghan officials
  • corruption allegations concerning the two
  • poor performance allegations concerning the two
  • Parliament (or particular pressure groups within Parliament) trying to assert itself, snub the President or otherwise pursue a specific agenda.  Karzai has always had a difficult relationship with Parliament

Or, of course, a permutation of the above.  To be fair on the two ministers (not exactly the worst ministers, I would say), I’m not exactly sure what Parliament expects in response to shells coming from Pakistan, other than posturing and shuffling of a few troops.  More of a President and Foreign Ministry issue, surely…?

We need to see what Karzai (and Wardak and Bismillah) decide to do next, before we start speculating on possible replacements (please not Dostum) for both posts.  While this is not quite a “re-arranging the deckchairs on the Titanic” moment, nothing about this is going to be particularly helpful in the coming months.

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