KABUL: Afghan President Hamid Karzai has nominated a cabinet minister to head the country's spy agency who has been accused of involvement in torture, drug-trafficking and corruption.
Asadullah Khalid, the minister for borders and a one-time governor of the Taliban-troubled province of Kandahar, must be approved by a parliamentary vote before taking office as head of the National Directorate of Security.
Ahead of his nomination by Karzai late Sunday, the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) urged the president not to appoint Khalid, accusing him of rights abuses and graft.
"Numerous and credible reports allege that Asadullah Khalid, while governor of Kandahar province and in other posts, commanded forces that committed grave human rights violations," HRW said in a release.
From 2005 to 2008 Khalid served as governor of Kandahar, where the Taliban insurgency against Karzai's government and its Western allies is most intense.
"Credible allegations have been made that forces under his authority operated a private prison in Kandahar from 2005 to 2008 in which detainees were tortured, including with beatings and electric shocks," the rights watchdog wrote.
"Allegations about abuses have also been made to U.N. and local Afghan human rights groups."
"Khalid has also been accused of corruption and high-level involvement in Afghanistan's narcotics trade."
Speaking on Afghan TV station Tolo News, Khalid denied the allegations.
"I reject it. It's all baseless and it's an attempt to undermine Afghan personalities," he said.
Khalid become controversial in 2008 when reports about his brutal handling of Afghan detainees transferred by Canadian troops -- then operating in Kandahar under NATO -- to Afghan custody surfaced in Western media.
"A dark cloud of serious accusations has hung over Asadullah Khalid's head for many years," Brad Adams, Asia director for HRW said.
Appointing him as the head of the NDS "would send a disturbing message that the Afghan government has no intention of ending torture", Adams added.