President Hamid Karzai
Afghanistan's parliament voted on Saturday to dismiss both the interior and defense ministers over continued cross-border shelling which the Afghan government has blamed on neighboring Pakistan's army, as well as other issues.
The fractious parliament voted to remove the pair despite their promises to reinforce the border, although President Hamid Karzai has previously opted to keep ministers in their roles in acting capacity after similar votes, reports Reuters.
"Both ministers failed to receive votes of confidence and we ask President (Hamid) Karzai to introduce new ministers," said Abdul Rahoof Ibrahimi, speaker of the house, after a bitter debate that underscores the problems in store for Karzai's administration ahead of 2014 presidential elections.
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 and angering the parliament.
"The defense ministry has reinforced army corps 201 and 203 and has specially created another division from which two battalions have already been sent there," Afghan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak told lawmakers before the vote to remove him.
"We have also sent long-range artillery and ammunition for use by all army corps," Wardak 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.