The acting ministers of Defense and Interior Affairs, Assadullah Khalid and Maj. Gen. Massoud Andarabi, traveled to Balkh a day after tensions over the appointment of a new police chief for the northern province.
Ministry of Defense said in a Twitter post that the two security heads will visit the new Balkh police chief, Gen. Abdul Raqib Mubariz, and “will talk to Balkh politicians about yesterday’s incident”.
On their arrival in Balkh, the ministry said, the acting minister of Defense and Interior Affairs met Balkh Governor Mohammad Ishaq Rahguzar.
The ministry said the two senior security officials will hold talks with Atta Mohammad Noor, former governor of Balkh, who is opposing the appointment of the new police chief.
TOLOnews reporter Karim Amini said the situation in Mazar-e-Sharif city seemed normal on Friday morning, shops were open, and traffic was also normal.
He said that government forces who were deployed to different parts of the city were not seen there on Friday morning.
What happened in Balkh on Thursday?
Gunfire and widespread shooting were heard in Mazar-e-Sharif city on Thursday afternoon close to police headquarters and the roads nearby were closed to traffic as armed forces loyal to former Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor are resisting the appointment of new police chief for the northern province.
The Ministry of Interior announced early in the day that Gen. Abdul Raqib Mubariz will replace incumbent police commander Gen. Ikramuddin Sami, saying security situation has drastically worsened in Sholgarah, Balkh and Chimtal districts of the province.
“At least 25 illegal armed men were arrested by the police after opening fire on the police headquarters and the security forces, one security force member was wounded in the firing,” said Nusrat Rahimi, acting MoI spokesman.
Balkh police have confirmed that Mubarez arrived in Mazar-e-Sharif on Wednesday who was accompanied by a delegation of the Ministry of Interior.
Meanwhile, Atta Mohammad Noor, the Chief Executive of Jamiat-e-Islami Afghanistan who also served as Balkh governor has said that the new appointment violates the agreement he had reached with President Ashraf Ghani last year.
Noor called on the people in the province not to go to their works and shut their businesses in protest to the controversial appointment.
But residents in Mazar-e-Sharif have expressed concerns over violence.
Reports, meanwhile, indicate that special units of Afghan National Police (ANP) were deployed in key areas of the province to avoid a possible security threat on eve of the appointment of the new commander.
Local officials in Balkh so far have not given further details about the issue.
According to Munir Ahmad Farhad, a spokesman to Balkh governor, discussions are underway between tribal elders, MPs, members of Balkh provincial council and government representative to resolve the issue.
Some residents have said that security situation deteriorated in the province in recent months and that if the reshuffling leads to stability they will welcome such a move.
This comes at a time that the 209 Shaheen Army Corps in a statement said that the army is on red alert to ensure security and safety of the people’s life and property.
Situation Under Control
Hours after the new police chief for Balkh assumed his office, acting ministers of Defense and Interior Affairs said the situation in the province is “completely under control” and that reshuffling is a normal procedure in government institutions.
“Currently, the situation in Mazar-e-Sharif city is completely normal. All security forces, particularly the national police personnel have meetings with other security sectors. Their conclusion is that the situation will return to normal in the next few hours. I want to assure the faithful people there that the situation is normal there,” Acting Minister of Interior Maj. Gen. Massoud Andarabi told TOLOnews.
He said that every commander in the ranks of the Afghan National Police (ANP) works hard after assuming the post, but the Interior Ministry, however, has its own assessment of the issue which is only aimed at improving the affairs on the ground.
Khalid, meanwhile, said that reposting and reshuffling is a normal procedure and the decision by the ministry of interior about Balkh police chief was also a normal procedure.
Some Afghan politicians, including presidential candidate Mohammad Haneef Atmar, called the police chief appointment a political move.