KABUL - Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani Monday announced the resignation of a powerful politician nicknamed “King of the North”, sidelining a rival but angering the politician’s party who said he had been sacked.

Atta Mohammad Noor, 54, had been governor of Balkh province since 2004 but had recently been critical of the National Unity Government led by Ghani.

Noor has previously hinted that he may run for the presidency in an election in 2019. Ghani has not yet confirmed if he will run again.

The president’s office in a statement said Noor, a senior leader of the Tajik-dominated Jamiat-e Islami party, had resigned from his post.

“President Ashraf Ghani has approved the resignation of the governor of Balkh Mr. Atta Mohammad Noor,” the statement said, adding that engineer Mohammad Daud has been appointed to take his place. Noor was not immediately available to comment. But Jamiat-e Islami in a statement strongly condemned what it called a “decision by the presidency”, branding it “hasty, irresponsible, against the security... and in contradiction of the principles of the National Unity Government”.

It said Jamiat would announce its “clear position” on the move once its leader Saluddin Rabbani, who is also foreign minister, returns from an official trip. He is currently in Greece. Noor recently called for the return of Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum, a powerful ethnic Uzbek warlord who fled to Turkey in May after he was accused of arranging the rape and torture of a political rival in 2016.

Earlier this year Noor met Deputy Chief Executive Mohammad Mohaqiq, a senior figure in the mainly Hazara ethnic community, as well as Dostum in Turkey to form the “Coalition for the Salvation of Afghanistan”.