Breaking gridlock, Afghan lawmakers OK three Karzai Cabinet picks
KABUL, Afghanistan -- Parliament on Saturday endorsed three of four nominees handpicked by President Hamid Karzai to head important government ministries, easing the political gridlock that had developed after a shakeup of senior Cabinet positions in recent weeks.
However, at least one of the newly anointed ministers has been accused by human rights groups of torture, drug-smuggling and corruption, and another was sacked by Parliament from his previous post.
Assadullah Khalid, previously the minister of border and tribal affairs, was voted in as head of the main intelligence agency, the National Directorate for Security, or NDS, despite allegations that he had run a notorious private prison during his tenure as governor of Kandahar province.
Karzai had abruptly removed the previous NDS head last month. Khalid has denied any past wrongdoing.
Lawmakers also approved Bismullah Mohammadi as minister of defense, just weeks after Parliament had effectively forced his removal as minister of interior with a vote of no confidence. And they endorsed the nomination of Ghulam Mujtaba Patang, an ex-police chief, to replace Mohammadi as interior minister. One of Karzai’s choices was rejected by Parliament: Azizullah Din Mohammed, a former mayor of Kabul.
-- Laura King and Hashmat Baktash