The Afghan parliament passed votes of no confidence on Saturday to remove the country’s defense and interior ministers.
The vote demanded the dismissal of two of President Hamid Karzai’s key security lieutenants - Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak and Interior Minister Bismullah Mohammadi.
Legislators faulted the two for what they view as the government’s weak response to cross-border attacks from Pakistan that they blamed on the country’s military. The parliamentarians also asked the ministers about allegations of corruption within their ministries and alleged security lapses that led to recent assassinations of top officials.
“Both ministers are disqualified from their positions and we request His Excellency President Karzai to introduce new ministers for these positions as soon as possible,” Abdul Raouf Abrahimi, speaker of the lower house of parliament, said after the vote.
It is unclear if the two will immediately leave their posts. Karzai’s office issued a three-sentence statement acknowledging that Article 92 of the Afghan constitution gives the parliament the authority to disqualify ministers. Karzai’s statement did not express any support or regret for the no confidence votes, saying only that the president would “make decisions about the disqualified ministers” after he meets with his national security team on Sunday.
In past no-confidence votes, Karzai has simply kept other ministers in their jobs in an acting capacity and dragged out the process of nominating replacements.
Among the criticisms of the two ministers was the government’s tepid response to allegations that the Pakistani military launched hundreds of shells and rockets into Afghanistan last month, sometimes hitting homes along frontier areas where insurgents have staged cross-border attacks.
Karzai has been careful not to openly blame the Pakistani military for the artillery barrage, which reportedly hit districts in the eastern provinces of Nuristan and Kunar. Interior Minister Mohammedi and other top-ranking administration officials, however, have explicitly blamed Pakistan for the shelling.
Wardak, who studied in the U.S. and speaks English fluently, has been long backed by Washington and the NATO military coalition. He has been defense minister since late 2004, and was deputy defense minister before that.
The votes of no confidence come at a critical time in the war when Afghan police and soldiers are increasingly taking responsibility from exiting international troops, who are scheduled to leave Afghanistan or move into support roles by the end of 2014.