* Pakistan border fire, insurgent assassinations prompt
* Ministers could stay in roles in acting capacity
* Defence minister says sends reinforcements to border
* Interior minister says has evidence of Pakistan rockets
By Hamid Shalizi
KABUL, Aug 4 Afghanistan's parliament voted on
Saturday to dismiss the country's two top security ministers for
failing to stop cross-border shelling blamed on Pakistan, in
what could be a blow to NATO plans to reinforce stability and
handover to Afghan forces.
The fractious parliament voted to remove Defence Minister
Abdul Rahim Wardak and Interior Minister Bismillah Mohammadi
over a series of recent insurgent assassinations of top
officials, as well as the cross border fire incidents
infuriating many ordinary Afghans as well as politicians.
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
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
Karzai's powerful finance minister, Hazarat Omar Zakhilwal,
is also under a cloud over accusations aired on Afghan
television that he stashed away more than $1 million in overseas
banks, with an investighation launched on Saturday by the
country's top anti-corruption chief.
Afghanistan has rushed additional troops and long-range
artillery to the mountainous Pakistan border as tensions
continue to rise over cross-border shelling which Afghan
officials blame on Pakistan's powerful military.
Afghanistan has for months accused Pakistan's army of firing
hundreds of rockets into the two eastern provinces of Kunar and
Nuristan, targeting insurgent havens, but also forcing Afghan
villagers to flee their homes.
"The defence ministry has reinforced army corps 201 and 203
and has specially created another division from which two
battalions have already been sent there," Defence Minister
Wardak told lawmakers before the vote to remove him.
"We have also sent long-range artillery and ammunition for
use by all army corps," he said, adding that some artillery was
being specially refurbished for the eastern border.
While both sides and NATO-led foreign troops have been
holding top-level meetings to improve border security,
Afghanistan's foreign ministry summoned Pakistan's Kabul
ambassador last week and warned that continued shelling would
damage already fragile bilateral ties.
Pakistan's military has rejected the accusation and says it
only responds to attacks by militants, including Pakistan
Taliban operating from what it says are havens in Afghan
SHELL CASE EVIDENCE
The poorly marked border between the two countries is
extremely rugged and remote, running through the foothills of
the Hindu Kush and easily crossed in both directions by Taliban
fighters and other insurgent groups.
Fighting has intensified in Afghanistan over the past few
months, with security forces on Thursday killing five insurgents
during a pre-dawn raid which prevented a mass attack on central
Kabul's shopping district.
As well, militants have assassinated several top officials
at the district and provincial level, including the killing last
month of a provincial women's affairs head, as well as a
prominent politician in a suicide attack on a wedding.
Kabul has regularly accused elements in Islamabad's
government and army of backing militants fighting the
Western-backed Kabul government, while Pakistan accuses
Afghanistan of not doing enough to eliminate militant bases.
Interior Minister Mohammadi showed several pictures of
exploded 155mm rocket casings to MPs and told them they should
have "no doubt" that they were fired by Pakistani soldiers.
"It's impossible to say that Taliban are involved because
these rockets are only in possession of the Pakistan army,"
Earlier this week, Afghanistan's spy chief Rahmatullah Nabil
said the Pakistani military had fired over 2,100 rockets in the
last four months into several districts, with most landing in
Kunar and some in less populated Nuristan.
Foreign troops are now transitioning security responsibility
to the 350,000-strong Afghan security forces as NATO-led forces
look to withdraw from the unpopular war by the end 2014.