Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s firing of the second deputy to the chief executive drives a sharp wedge between coalition partners in Afghanistan’s national unity government months ahead of the presidential election.
While Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah were both in Davos attending the World Economic Forum, a dispute broke out within their administration in Kabul.
“In accordance with Article 64, Clause 13 of the Afghan Constitution, the dismissal of Mohammad Mohaqiq, the second deputy chief executive in the national unity government, is approved,” read a short presidential order issued on January 24.
Almost immediately, the chief executive’s office disputed the sacking by terming it a violation of the September 2014 agreement that brought together election rivals Ghani and Abdullah in a coalition government they termed the national unity administration.
“The dismissal of Mohammad Mohaqiq, second deputy chief executive, completely contradicts the political agreement [that provided the basis] for the formation of a national unity government,” read a statement by Abdullah’s office. “Any unilateral decision contrary to the spirit of the national unity government at this critical historical stage will weaken the spirit of national unity and co-operation and provoke instability.”
Since its formation, the national unity government has been united in name only. The two rival teams and factions within their camps have often engaged in public disagreements and bickered over appointments and policies.
Mohaqiq, the leader of Hazara Hizbi Wahdat-e Islami, has already abandoned Ghani and Abdullah by joining the ticket of former National Security Adviser Hanif Atmar for the presidential poll scheduled for July.
The crowded field in the run-up to the July vote means the Afghan political elites have a lot of room for jockeying. The election comes in a crucial year as the United States attempts to negotiate peace with the Taliban and mulls a possible troop withdrawal to end the longest war in its history.