By Shadi Khan Saif
KABUL, Afghanistan (AA) - In the latest sign of a growing rift in the coalition Afghan government, a provincial governor on Sunday declined to step down in clear defiance to the authority of President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani.
In a seemingly routine move, the government issued a list of replacements for five out of 34 provincial governors.
Abdul Karim Khudam, the ousted governor of northern Namangan province, announced he would not be stepping down.
“The government does not have the authority to remove me, the decision has been one-sided," the ousted governor said at a press conference in the province, adding he was appointed as governor based on an agreement between his Jamiat-e-Islami Party of Afghanistan and the government.
The U.S.-brokered National Unity Government was created after the 2014 presidential elections, but it is beset with disagreements.
Khudam's move is identical to his party chief executive Atta Mohammad Noor who is holding on to his position as governor of Balkh province even after his controversial resignation was accepted by the president last December.
Since 2004, Noor had been the governor of the Balkh province bordering Uzbekistan. Noor’s Jamiat party has been in power since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001.
While warning the government against using the international community and foreign forces present in Afghanistan to put pressure on him, Noor had also lashed out at his own party mate and President Ghani’s power-sharing Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah for conspiring for his removal.
Last year, Noor bypassed Abdullah Abdullah -- who is also associated with Jamiat party -- to enter formal negotiations over power-sharing matters with the president, but the negotiations ended without any results. He then formed a new anti-government coalition together with Vice President Abdul Rasheed Dostum and Deputy CEO Mohammad Mohaqiq.