KABUL (AFP) - Probable presidential candidate Omar Daudzai was appointed as Afghanistan's acting interior minister on Sunday, putting him in a high-profile public role seven months before the country's first democratic transfer of power.
Mr Daudzai will move back to Kabul from Islamabad, where he has been ambassador to Pakistan since 2011 during a time of fractious ties between the two rivals and neighbours.
Last month, Mr Daudzai, a former chief of staff to President Hamid Karzai, set up an office in Kabul and announced that he would be a "probable" candidate in the elections due on April 5. Mr Karzai, who is barred from standing for a third term, has said he will not back any runner in the wide-open race, but Mr Daudzai is seen as one of his closest associates and loyalists.
Mr Daudzai, 55, from Afghanistan's biggest ethnic group the Pashtuns, was a member of the Hezb-e-Islami faction during the Soviet occupation and later went on to work for the United Nations.
Presidential spokesman Rafi Ferdous confirmed the appointment, which came after Interior Minister Mujtaba Patang was ousted by Parliament last month over accusations that he failed to thwart the threat from Taleban rebels.
Mr Patang was dismissed soon after the Afghan government formally took responsibility for nationwide security from United States-led Nato troops, but he remained as the "acting" interior minister until Sunday.
Afghanistan's 350,000-strong security forces are suffering a steep rise in attacks as the Nato combat mission winds down, with police and army casualties said to have increased by 15-20 percent since 2011.
Mr Daudzai will be the acting interior minister pending the approval of his appointment by Parliament.
In 2010, Mr Karzai confirmed press reports that Mr Daudzai, a former ambassador to Teheran, received bags packed full of cash from Iran. Mr Karzai said they were transparent payments and the money was used to run the presidential office.