Afghan parliament rejects cabinet nominees over dual citizenship

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Afghanistan's parliament said on Wednesday it will not confirm seven out of 25 nominees to a long-awaited cabinet because they hold dual citizenship, another obstacle to President Ashraf Ghani forming a government after nearly four months in office.

Candidates in jeopardy include Nur al-Haq Ulumi, nominated for the key security post of minister of interior, as well as the nominee for foreign minister, Salahuddin Rabbani.

The delay in naming new ministers has added to uncertainty after Afghanistan's destabilizing election dispute last year that threatened to deepen ethnic and regional rivalries.

Lack of new security leadership also undermines the fight against Taliban insurgents, who have taken advantage of the withdrawal of most foreign troops last year.

Ghani took three months to hammer out a cabinet list with his chief executive, Abdullah Abdullah, who shares control over appointments under a deal following last year's bitterly disputed election.

The cabinet was introduced to parliament this week to begin confirmation proceedings, but on Wednesday the lower house sent a letter to Ghani saying seven of the nominees were ineligible, said Sediq Ahmad Usmani, deputy speaker of the house.

"They have failed to drop their second nationalities," said Usmani, who chaired Wednesday's parliamentary hearings on the cabinet. Afghanistan's constitution stipulates that ministers must hold only Afghan citizenship.

A member of one of the parliamentary committees vetting the cabinet, Abdul Hafiz Mansour, said that all lawmakers on the committees had signed a letter to the presidential palace saying the seven holding dual nationalities could not be put to a vote.

"The palace should decide whether they introduce new faces, or these nominees can drop their second nationalities," Mansour said. A vote on the cabinet is expected in the next week.

The development is a quandary for Ghani and Abdullah, who promised to fill their cabinet with educated technocrats instead of the old establishment that held sway under former president Hamid Karzai.

Many Afghans with higher degrees hold second passports because they lived abroad during Afghanistan's decades of war before and during the Taliban's hard-line Islamist rule that was toppled by the U.S.-led intervention in 2001.

Ulumi, the prospective interior minister, holds Dutch citizenship, and Rabbani has a British passport, according to lawmaker Mansour. Neither nominee could be reached for comment.

Also ineligible because of dual citizenship are the nominees for the ministries of culture and information; urban development; labor and social affairs; justice; and counter-narcotics, the lawmakers said.

SOURCE: Reuters, January 23rd 2015: