KABUL — President Hamid Karzai chose his ambassador to Pakistan, Umar Daudzai, as the new Afghan interior minister on Sunday. The move, on the eve of the declaration period for potential presidential candidates, was public confirmation that Daudzai would not be Karzai’s favored successor.
A former chief of staff to Karzai, Daudzai had said on Aug. 17 that he would be a “probable candidate.” He was the only major figure in the Karzai camp to formally declare an interest in running so far, though others have hinted that they might.
Instead, Daudzai is getting the Interior Ministry as a consolation prize, and immediately becomes acting minister. Presidential candidates are barred from serving in government.
The chief of Daudzai’s Afghan office, Mohammad Sangar Amirzada, said, “It is also now clear that with the registration process for candidates beginning in two or three weeks, it is impossible for him to participate in the elections as a candidate.”
“It is team work, and the president, as head of the team, decided Mr. Daudzai would become acting minister and then get the confidence vote of Parliament to become interior minister, and I am sure he welcomes that,” Amirzada added.
The move immediately bolstered speculation about who would receive Karzai’s blessing. Western diplomats and some Afghan officials said Foreign Minister Zalmay Rassoul now appeared to be the front-runner, and some said they expected an announcement from him soon that he was resigning from his position, clearing the way for him to run.
“It definitely looks like things are lining up behind Rassoul,” said one Western diplomat, speaking on the condition of anonymity as a matter of policy.
But other officials cautioned that Karzai may not have made up his mind about whom to support, and that there was just over a month left before the declaration deadline, Oct. 6. Karzai cannot run for a third term.
Also on Sunday, seven Afghan soldiers were found shot to death in an eastern province, the apparent victims of insurgents, authorities said.