Afghan cabinet: New setback for President Ghani

Ashraf Ghani's efforts to form a cabinet of unity have hit numerous snags since Afghanistan's 2014 presidential elections Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Ashraf Ghani had to renounce his US citizenship in order to stand for president in 2009

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani's efforts to form a cabinet have run into further trouble after the withdrawal of the man he nominated as finance minister.

Ghulam Jilani Popal stepped aside citing personal reasons, according to a government official.

Many ministerial posts remain unfilled, four months after tense elections.

There are also concerns that as many as 11 of those set to enter the cabinet of 25 may hold dual citizenship, meaning MPs could veto them under Afghan law.

However Ghulam Jilani Popal's decision not to go for the finance portfolio was due to disagreements with the president on a number of unspecified issues, according to an unnamed government official cited by Reuters.

The official said Mr Popal was instead being considered for the Independent Directorate of Local Governance, countering the message from the presidential palace that personal reasons were behind his withdrawal.

The new nominee for the position of finance minister is expected to be Eklil Ahmad Hakimi, Afghanistan's current ambassador to the United States.

Raging controversy

The news follows the revelation that President Ghani's nominee for agriculture minister, Mohammad Yaqub Haidari, is on Interpol's most wanted list over allegations of tax evasion in Estonia which date back to 2003.

Forming a cabinet has proved difficult due to the current balance of power, with Mr Ghani's opponent in last year's elections, Abdullah Abdullah, holding the position of chief executive.

A power vacuum at key ministries has hit the economy and hampered efforts to contain a burgeoning Taliban insurgency, emboldened by the withdrawal of most foreign troops last year.

Another controversy, over the issue of dual citizenship, is currently raging ahead of a crucial parliamentary vote of confidence in the new 25-strong cabinet on Friday.

Eleven potential cabinet ministers, including Mr Popal, hold dual citizenship according to Abdul Qader Zazai, a member of the committee screening nominees.

Afghan law prevents dual citizens from holding cabinet posts without parliamentary approval. Second nationalities held by prospective cabinet ministers include American, British, Turkish, Australian and Canadian.

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