Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: PTI and Jamaat-e-Islami Spar; Afghanistan Reportedly Freezing Indian Military Aid Request

Topline

  • In his speech to supporters on Thursday Imran Khan hit back at criticism from the Jamaat-e-Islami, the PTI’s provincial coalition partners, suggesting that the JI was “playing on both sides of the wicket”. Opposition politicians continue to protest the government’s plans to sell a stake of the Oil and Gas Development Company Ltd; the sale is scheduled to begin November 5. Indian press sources indicate that the Afghan government has frozen a request for military assistance from India, citing delays in delivery and concerns about strained relations with Pakistan. Speaking at the opening of a regional ministerial conference in Beijing on Friday, Pres. Ghani called for dialogue with the Taliban. Kabul police have set a three-day deadline for a halt to the sale of police and military uniforms and equipment within the city.

Pakistan — Security

  • Predator Strike: The reported death toll from Thursday’s drone strike in South Waziristan rose to six, at least four of whom were foreign militants. Khaama Press reports that one of those killed was a senior Haqqani network commander, identified as Abdullah, who was said to be responsible for directing suicide attacks.
  • FATA Operations: Pakistani military officials say that twenty militant suspects were killed in airstrikes in the Khyber Agency on Thursday; these accounts cannot be independently confirmed. At its press briefing on Thursday, the Pakistani foreign ministry said that nearly 30,000 Pakistani nationals are believed to still be in Afghanistan after being displaced by Waziristan fighting.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Political Standoff: Speaking to supporters on Thursday, Imran Khan hit back at the Jamaat-e-Islami, following critical comments by JI leader Sirajul Haq earlier in the day that had suggested there was “no difference” between the PTI and the PML-N. Khan demanded that the JI “stop playing on both sides of the wicket”, and said the party’s “failure to recognise the injustice of the May 2013 elections” raises “serious questions on the commitment of the JI to the implementation of Islamic principles of justice”. JI spokesmen subsequently said that Haq had been misquoted. Anonymous PTI sources tell Dawn that internal divisions remain within the PTI over the party’s stance on resigning from the national and Punjab provincial assembly. In Khyber Paktunkhwa, legislators from the PTI and JUI-F clashed as the latter criticized the ongoing Islamabad sit-ins. [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • OGDCL Privatization: The PPP and JI staged a protest walkout in the national assembly on Friday, and Senate opposition figures continue to criticize the government for its privatization of the Oil and Gas Development Company Ltd, whose workers clashed with Islamabad police on Wednesday. Privatization Commission chairman Muhammad Zubair tells Dawn that the government remains committed to the sale of a 7.5% stake in OGDCL, which is scheduled to take place November 5-7. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development.

  • Energy Policy: At a cabinet session on Friday, Prime Minister Sharif approved a Rs 9.43 per litre cut in petroleum prices. Sharif rejected an audit report that found Rs 2 billion in alleged over-billing by electricity distribution companies for the month of July, calling for a “reassessment”. At a meeting on Thursday, the Economic Coordination Committee of the cabinet extended tax exemptions on investment in power transmission lines for a ten-year period. [Dawn]
  • Textile Policy: The Economic Coordination Committee of the cabinet was due to review the government’s five-year textile policy this week but does not appear to have finalized its passage as of this writing; the plan reportedly proposes Rs 120 billion in government support for the industry, with the goal of doubling annual exports to $26 billion. The head of the All Pakistan Textile Mills Association warned that continued energy shortages and tariff increases would cut exports by $2.2 billion this financial year if more action was not taken to ensure regular power supply. Exports have declined by $1.2 billion during the first six months of the fiscal year. [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Sindh Health Officials Negligent in Providing for Tharparkar, Inquiry Reports [ET]
  • BNP-Mengal Accuses Security Agencies of Abducting Party Leader [Dawn]
  • Bombing Targets Frontier Corps Convoy in Quetta [ET]
  • Jamaat-e-Islami Rewrites Khyber Paktunkhwa Textbooks to Reinsert Religious References [Reuters]
  • Prime Minister Orders More Content on Constitutional Democracy in Higher Education Curriculum [Dawn] [ET]
  • Turkmenistan Seeks Airspace Dues from PIA [Dawn] [ET]
  • Senate Hears Details on Judicial Salaries [Dawn]
  • Supreme Court Defers Indictment of ARY Anchor on Intra-Court Appeal [Dawn]
  • Commentary: Cost of Politics – “What we are left with is a large section of the population all riled up with nowhere to go.” [Khurram Hussain, Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Indian Military Assistance: The Indian Express, citing anonymous Afghan sources, reports that Pres. Ghani has frozen requests for military arms and equipment previously initiated by former Pres. Karzai. Agreements are reported to have been reached in February for the supply of Russian small arms to Afghanistan, but no deliveries have been made; Ghani is said to be concerned that “the outreach to India would poison the country’s relationship with Pakistan, without yielding any dividends in return.”
  • Taliban Talks: Speaking at the opening of the ministerial conference of regional Afghan neighbors in Beijing on Friday, Pres. Ghani made a rare direct reference to the Taliban, saying that “peace is our highest priority” and that  “we invite the political opposition, particularly the Taliban, to join and enter Afghan dialogue, and ask all of our international partners to support an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process”. Ghani has made few public remarks on how his government will approach the insurgency since taking office; he did not offer specifics, and added that “we must not and will not permit groups pursuing grand illusions to use our country as the battleground or launching-pad against the international system.” [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press]
  • Counterfeit Military Equipment: In a statement released Thursday, Kabul police officials ordered a crackdown on the sale of military equipment and uniforms, which are often used by militant and criminal actors; shops have been given a three-day deadline to halt sales.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Delays Expected in Kabul Bank Hearing [TOLO]
  • Afghan Forces Clash with Militants in Nine Provinces [TOLO]
  • Government Lacks Precise Trade Figures with Pakistan [TOLO]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: OGDCL Workers Clash With Police Over Privatization; ANSF Assessments Classified

Topline

  • Islamabad police and Oil and Gas Development Company Ltd workers clashed in Islamabad as the latter sought to march on parliament to protest the government’s privatization plans; opposition senators denounced the government’s response. A Predator drone strike in South Waziristan killed four militant suspects on Thursday. A new SIGAR quarterly report notes that the Pentagon now classifies its assessments of the combat capabilities of Afghan security service units. Pakistani military spokesmen complain that Afghanistan is not taking action against Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan fighters on their territory. Pakistan’s National Assembly speaker said he would refer the question of PTI legislators’ resignations to the Election Commission after a standoff over the legislators’ individual confirmation of their intent to resign on Wednesday. The Pakistani Supreme Court has given the government until November 13 to name a Chief Election Commissioner; an Election Commission request to delay local elections in Sindh and Punjab was rejected. The Afghan Supreme Court has established a special tribunal to re-hear the Kabul Bank case.  Iran-Pakistan talks on their prospective natural gas pipeline focused on the import of Liquified Natural Gas through Oman as an alternative, the Express Tribune reports.

Pakistan — Security

  • Predator Strikes: A Predator drone strike was reported in South Waziristan’s Barmal area on Thursday, killing at least four militant suspects, including one Arab national identified as “Adil”. The Pakistani foreign ministry condemned the strike as a violation of Pakistani solidarity at the ministry’s standing Thursday press briefing. [AFP]
  • FATA Operations: Military officials say that twenty-one militants and eight soldiers were killed in ground operations in Khyber Agency’s Spin Qamar area on Wednesday. At least 18,000 people have been displaced by the current fighting in Khyber. [AP]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Clashes Between Police and OGDCL Workers: Dozens of people were injured in a clash between Islamabad police and workers for the Oil and Gas Development Company Ltd on Wednesday, who rallied near parliament to protest the government’s decisions to privatize a 10% share in the company. At least two dozen workers were arrested. Opposition senators criticized the government response in speeches on Thursday, calling for Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan’s removal and denouncing the privatization policy. [ET]
  • PTI Standoff: National Assembly speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq and 25 PTI legislators faced off on Wednesday, as the party refused to accept Sadiq’s demand that legislators individual confirm their intention to resign from their seats. Afterwards, Sadiq indicated that he had “no option but to involve the Election Commission of Pakistan to resolve the issue”. PTI Vice President Shah Mehmood Qureshi, who led the delegation, reiterated to reporters afterwards that the PTI had resigned from its seats, accusing the government of “continuing to practice the politics of horse trading.” An anonymous ECP official told reporters on Wednesday that the commission has no role to play in determining legislators’ resignation status, and that it could only take action once a vacancy has been confirmed. Opposition mediators have urged the government not to accept the resignations. Separately, Islamabad police registered cases against PTI demonstrators who rallied outside ECP offices on Tuesday. Police have also re-established shipping container barriers around the PTI’s sit-in site, which they say is part of broader Muharram security measures in the capital. [The Nation] [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Elections: Responding to requests for further delays by the government and PPP opposition, the Supreme Court extended its deadline for the appointment of a Chief Election Commissioner until November 13. The court rejected the notion that the parliamentary committee on electoral reforms should be allowed to complete its work first before the appointment is made. At the hearing, the Election Commission of Pakistan also requested a 6-9 month delay in local elections in Sindh and Punjab, to allow for the delimitation of constituencies; this was also rejected. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Polio Crisis: Four new cases of polio were recorded on Wednesday, bringing the nationwide total so far this year to 231. A meeting on Thursday of national and provincial health officials echoed the federal health ministry in rejecting the International Monitoring Board’s recommendation that the National Disaster Management Authority be tasked with leading polio vaccination efforts.
  • Energy Crisis: Pakistani and Iranian officials agreed to “look for a middle ground” that would allow them to resume work on the Iran-Pakistan natural gas pipeline, Pakistani petroleum minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi told the Express Tribune after meetings earlier this week. Anonymous sources indicate that the Pakistani delegation expressed an inability to proceed with the project as long as U.S. sanctions remain in place; an alternate proposal was reportedly raised to convert Iranian gas into Liquified Natural Gas for import via Oman. The cabinet Economic Coordination Committee slashed taxes on LNG imports on Wednesday. [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Pakistan Delivers Formal Protest to India on Latest Border Exchange [Dawn] [ET]
  • Prime Minister Directs Relief Supplies for Ongoing Thar Famine [Dawn] [ET]
  • Balochistan Frontier Corps Seizes Explosives Cache [Dawn]
  • MQM Draws Back Criticism of PPP’s Khurshid Shah [ET] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Maryam Nawaz Appointment to Head Youth Loan Program Challenged in IHC [Dawn]
  • Petroleum Price Reduction Expected [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • ANSF Assessments Classified: TIME notes that a new SIGAR quarterly report to Congress, released Thursday, has criticized the Department of Defense for classifying its capability assessments of Afghan military units, which were previously made public in the Pentagon’s biannual progress reports on Afghan operations. ISAF officials did not respond to requests for comment.
  • Border Tensions: Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, Pakistan’s chief military spokesman accused the Afghan government of failing to take action against Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan militants sheltering on its side of the border, including TTP chief Maulana Fazlullah.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Kabul Bank Trial: On Wednesday, the Afghan Supreme Court overruled a lower court’s rejection of the Attorney General’s reopening of the Kabul Bank case, and announced that it would hold a special trial for the case. No major new arrests have taken place in the case since Pres. Ghani’s inaugural orders to reopen the issue; a spokesman for the attorney general’s office suggested that action would take place within two weeks.
  • Supreme Court Appointments: In a speech at a university in China on Thursday, Pres. Ghani indicated that he would appoint a female judge to the Afghan Supreme Court, who would be the first such appointee. He did not indicate when that appointment might take place.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Ghani Emphasizes Economic Linkages in Beijing Speeches [TOLO]
  • Report: Quarterly Report to Congress, October 2014 [SIGAR (pdf)]
  • Commentary: Provincial Council Results Creaking Under the Weight of Manipulation – “As in previous elections, the outcome as a result has become at best random, at worst heavily manipulated and unreliable – and in reality probably somewhere in between.” [Martine van Bijlert, AAN]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Pakistani Officials Reject Critical Polio Report; China Pledges $327M in Xi-Ghani Talks

Topline

  • Pakistani federal health officials defended the government’s response from a scathing report by the international Independent Monitoring Board on polio, and rejected a proposal to shift responsibility for vaccination to the National Disaster Management Authority. Pres. Ghani held talks in Beijing with Chinese Pres. Xi Jinping, who pledged roughly $327 million in assistance through 2017 for Afghanistan. The Supreme Court of Pakistan rejected three petitions challenging the 2013 general elections, referring complaints to the electoral tribunals. A grenade attack on a Shia worship center in Karachi killed an infant and wounded at least even people. Renewed cross-border fire in Kashmir killed one Pakistani civilian on Tuesday. Pakistani Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif will visit the U.S. in mid-November. Salary supplements for at least 56 district governors have not been paid this year, the Afghan Independent Directorate of Local Governance reports.

Pakistan — Security

  • Indian Border Clashes: A Pakistani civilian was killed in renewed cross-border artillery fire near the Line of Control in Kashmir, Pakistani military officials report. [Dawn]
  • Sectarian Attacks: A grenade thrown into a Shia worship center in Karachi on Tuesday evening injured at least seven people, mostly women and children, and killed an infant. The Majlis Wahdatul Muslimeen party condemned the attack and demanded tightened security through the month of Muharram. No claim of responsibility has been reported. Separately in Islamabad, the capital administration has banned ten clerics noted for their sectarian messaging from entering the city during Muharram. [ET]
  • Karachi Airport Attack Arrests: Karachi police report that they have arrested four suspects, identified as members of Al Qaeda and the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, who provided logistical support to militants taking part in the June attack on the Karachi airport.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • U.S. Relations: As briefly noted on Sunday, Pakistani Army Chief of Staff Raheel Sharif will visit the U.S. beginning November 16, the first such trip since 2010. He is expected to meet with senior Pentagon officials for talks focused on the extension of Coalition Support Fund support, and the ongoing operations in North Waziristan. On Tuesday, Special Representative Daniel Feldman held talks with Gen. Sharif and with Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, who renewed calls for a permanent halt to the use of Predator drone strikes in Pakistan. In a roundtable with local press, Feldman suggested that relations with Pakistan were shifting “from assistance-based to trade”, although he did not provide details on steps in that regard. Feldman urged the Pakistani government to engage with the new Afghan administration, and backed the normalization of Pakistani-India ties.
  • Election Disputes: On Wednesday, the Supreme Court issued a ruling rejecting three pending petitions seeking to void the outcome of the 2013 general elections, concluding that complaints regarding the outcome should be directed to electoral tribunals. Separately, the National Database and Registration Authority has verified the thumb impressions of all but 179 votes cast in NA-154 Lodhran, one of four constituencies that the PTI had originally demanded a recount for. Out of roughly 218,000 votes cast, roughly 20,000 were found to have been cast with invalid Computerized National ID Cards. Speaking in Islamabad on Tuesday, Imran Khan said that the PTI would hold “daily protests” in front of the Election Commission to protest inaction against the party’s fraud complaints.
  • PTI Resignations: PTI legislators refused to meet individually with National Assembly speaker Ayaz Sadiq to confirm their intent to resign from the assembly; Sadiq had set an October 29 deadline for those discussions, but party members insist they will only attend en masse. Jamaat-e-Islami and PPP mediators renewed calls for negotiation between the government and the PTI on Wednesday and urged the government not to accept the PTI resignations.

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Polio Crisis: Seven new polio cases were reported from around the country on Tuesday, bringing Pakistan’s national total to 227 new cases so far this year. Sair Afzal Tarar, the federal health minister, tells the Express Tribune that Pakistan will formally protest a recent harshly critical report by the Independent Monitoring Board on polio, which described Pakistan’s vaccination campaign as a “disaster”. Tarar insisted that “Pakistan is serious about eradicating polio and knows what is doable to achieve the set target”, and rejected the report’s proposal to shift responsibility for vaccination to the National Disaster Management Agency. Prime Minister Sharif sent messages to the four provincial governments on Tuesday urging them to “redouble their efforts” to vaccinate against polio during the upcoming winter low transmission season. [ET] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Finance Minister Presents ‘Economic Roadmap’ [Dawn]
  • Prime Minister Urges Resolution of PPP-MQM Feud [ET] [ET]
  • Coastal Pakistan Braces for Cyclone Nilofar [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Corruption Case Filed Against Former PM Ashraf Over Son-in-Law’s Appointment [Dawn] [ET]
  • National Assembly Fails to Recoup Salaries of Disqualified Legislators [ET]
  • Suicide Rising in Malnutrition-Stricken Tharparkar [ET]
  • EU Urges Moratorium on Capital Punishment [ET]
  • Report: Resetting Pakistan’s Relations with Afghanistan – “By recalibrating relations toward economic ties and seeking solutions to the presence of millions of Afghan refugees on its soil, Pakistan could engage more constructively with its neighbour.” [ICG]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Ghani Seeks Chinese Assistance: Pres. Ghani met with his counterparter Xi Jinping in Beijing on Tuesday, who expressed an interest in a “new era of cooperation” in a welcoming ceremony speech. A joint declaration on Wednesday indicated that China would pledge 2 billion yuan, or roughly $327 million, for Afghanistan through 2017. China has previously committed roughly $250 million in aid to Afghanistan since 2001, and has negotiated major oil and mining projects in Amu Darya and Aynak. The Chinese foreign ministry also indicated that Ghani had “expressed the readiness and staunch support from the Afghan side in China’s fight against East Turkistan Islamic Movement terrorist forces” in his conversations with Xi. [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [AP]
  • Provincial Council Protests: A group of legislators demanded the imposition of travel bans on Independent Election Commission members, calling for their investigation and prosecution in connection to allegations of fraud in this year’s elections. Wakil Samad, a losing provincial council candidate, has reportedly blockaded the Ghorband-Bamiyan road in Parwan to protest the announced results.
  • London Conference: UK PM Cameron spoke with Pakistani PM Sharif on Tuesday by phone and invited him to attend the upcoming London conference on Afghan assistance; a specific date for the meeting has not been announced.

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Fiscal Crisis: The head of the Independent Directorate of Local Governance’s finance department tells TOLO that at least 56 district governors have not received special incentive scaled-up salary payments for the past year, which the Independent Administrative Reform and Civil Service Commission attributes to the government’s ongoing budget shortfalls. [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • SIGAR Audit Finds U.S.-Supported Overhaul of Pul-i-Charki Prison Incomplete [WAPO] [Foreign Policy]
  • Two Killed, 15 Wounded in Herat Attack [TOLO] [AJE]
  • Commentary: On the Road Through Beijing (and Kathmandu): The New Afghan Leadership’s Attempts to Engage with Asia – “This can be seen as part of an emerging diversification of the Afghan foreign relations by the new political leadership in Kabul, trying to slowly move away from the country’s over-dependence on its US-led, mainly Western allies and international organisations such as the UN, towards emerging and dynamic Asian powers.” [S. Reza Kazemi, AAN]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: US and UK Withdraw from Helmand Base; Qadri Departs Pakistan

Topline

  • The last remaining U.S. and U.K. forces withdrew from their joint operating base in Helmand on Monday. Tahirul Qadri has departed Pakistan for a trip to North America; he says he will return mid-November. The PML-N and PPP have sought a three-month extension in the Supreme Court’s deadline for the appointment of a Chief Election Commissioner. Iran and Pakistan held talks focused on border control and coordination on Monday. A team of Taliban suicide bombers attacked government offices in Kunduz on Monday, killing eight, including six court workers and provincial prosecutors. An internal inquiry into last month’s shooting at a Rawalpindi prison of a British national accused of blasphemy laid blame on Mumtaz Qadri, the assassin of former Punjab governor Salman Taseer, for instigating the guard who opened fire. Prime Minister Sharif headline a conference seeking energy infrastructure investment in Islamabad on Monday. A Kabul appellate court has rejected the Afghan attorney general’s office’s filings seeking to reopen the Kabul Bank case.

Pakistan — Security

  • Blasphemy Shooting: An internal inquiry into the shooting last month of Mohammad Asghar, a British national held in Rawalpindi’s Aidyala jail on blasphemy charges despite a diagnosis of mental illness, concluded that Mumtaz Qadri, the former guard and assassin of Punjab governor Salman Taseer, instigated the shooting incident. Mohammad Yousaf, the gunmen, had previously spent several weeks guarding Qadri and had been “taking religious lessons from him”.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Qadri Departs: On Tuesday, Pakistan Awami Tehreek leader Tahirul Qadri departed for the United States and Canada, saying he intended to reorganize the PAT’s overseas party organs and that he would return on November 16. In a Dawn interview, Qadri claimed that his sit-ins had shaken “the very foundations of the Nawaz government but some super powers came to its rescue”, and refuted the suggestion that the end of the protests was the result of an agreement with the government. Speaking at a conference on Monday, Prime Minister Sharif said that the “sit-ins will not waver our commitment to serve the masses”. Speaking to supporters on Monday, Imran Khan said that the PTi would hold demonstrations outside the Election Commission headquarters over alleged rigging in last year’s elections. [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Elections: On Tuesday, PPP parliamentary opposition leader Khurshid Shah filed a response with the Supreme Court seeking an additional three months’ time to choose a Chief Election Commissioner; the court had set a two-week deadline on October 14. The Election Commission is due to meet today to review the Khyber Paktunkhwa provincial government’s formal request to hold local government elections. On Monday, the Punjab assembly passed an amendment to the provincial local government law giving the ECP the authority to delimit constituencies. [The Nation] [ET]
  • Iranian Relations: Pakistan and Iran held bilateral talks in Islamabad on Monday, focused primarily on recently border clashes; the two sides agreed to unspecified border control and cooperation measures. On Tuesday, Iranian and Pakistani officials are due to meet in Tehran to discuss the stalled gas pipeline project proposed for the two countries. [Dawn]
  • MQM Split: On Tuesday, Sindh Governor Ishratul Ibad formally approved three MQM ministers’ resignations from the provincial cabinet, which had been issued after the party split with the PPP coalition and were accepted by Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah over the weekend. The PPP plans to pass a resolution in the Sindh assembly condemning the MQM’s Sunday protest in Karachi. Prime Minister Sharif met with an MQM delegation on Tuesday and called for dialogue between the two parties, offering to serve as a mediator. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Energy Crisis: Prime Minister Sharif inaugurated an investment conference in Islamabad on Monday that is sought $20 billion in financing to support energy infrastructure that would add 17,000 megawatts to Pakistan’s national electricity grid. Minister of Water and Power Khawaja Asif said that the government ultimately intends to privatize all state-owned electricity generation companies and the Islamabad, Lahore, Faisalabad, and Gujranwala electricity distribution companies. On Monday, the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority approved a half-rupee fuel price increase on electricity tariffs, applied retroactively to September bills. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Special Representative Feldman Visits Islamabad [Dawn]
  • Militia Member Killed in Swat [ET]
  • Three Missing Baloch Activists Found Dead in Karachi [Dawn]
  • Senate Endorses High Court Jurisdiction Over FATA [APP] [Dawn]
  • National Assembly Resolution Backs Kashimiri Self-Determination [ET]
  • Musharraf’s Mother Leaves for Karachi from Dubai [GEO] [Dawn]
  • Report: Independent Monitoring Board of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative – ““It is clear that the level of political commitment, the extent of engagement of regional and local leaders, the quality of public health leadership and management, and the involvement of civil society [in Pakistan] are totally inadequate.” [IMB]
  • Commentary: Re-Imagining Pakistan – “Reimagining Pakistan involves changing the nature of the Pakistani state, from an ideological Islamic one to a state that that is pragmatic in defining its national interest and functional in attaining it.” [Husain Haqqani, Friday Times]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Helmand Withdrawal: Remaining British and U.S. forces departed their joint base in Helmand on Monday, following the transfer of Camp Leatherneck / Camp Bastion to Afghan authority over the weekend. Speaking on the occasion, UK Defense Minister Michael Fallon said that “we leave behind a home-grown army, democratically-elected government and the best possible chance of a safer future, largely due to the sacrifice and commitment of British and other NATO troops.” Maj. Gen. Sayed Malook, who will assumed command of the base, pledged to “take good care of it”; outgoing Marine Brig. Gen. Daniel Yoo said that he was “cautiously optimistic that [Afghan national security forces] will be able to sustain themselves.” [Reuters]
  • Kunduz Attack: A team of four Taliban suicide bombers dressed in police uniforms attacked government offices in the Kunduz provincial capital on Monday, killing eight people and wounded ten when at least one bomber detonated at the entrance of the provincial attorney general’s office. At least six of those killed were government prosecutors or court officials. Although attacks in Kunduz city have been rare, the incident follows a spike in violence in outlying districts, under the command of Mullah Abdul Salam, who was freed from detention in Pakistan in a deal brokered by the High Peace Council. Elsewhere, a force of as many as 300 Taliban fighters attacked police checkposts in Badakhshan’s Warduj district, killing and capturing a number of officers. The Guardian also reports a resurgent Taliban presence in Uruzgan’s Gizab district, where local militias had previously expelled them in an ISAF-backed movement in 2010. [AJE] [Reuters]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Kabul Bank Investigations: A Kabul appellate court has reportedly rejected the attorney general’s office’s petition to reopen the Kabul Bank case, as directed by the president, TOLO reports; the rationale for the court’s rejection of the filing has not been explained, but a spokesman for the attorney general said that “we will soon refer the case to the appellate court after completion of the reassessments.”
  • Provincial Council Results: A crowd of protestors and former candidates demonstrated in Kabul on Tuesday against the announced results of the April provincial council elections, accusing members of the Independent Elections Commission and Electoral Complaints Commission of fraud and corruption and calling for their trial.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Ghani Departs for China [Khaama Press]
  • Ahmad Zia Massoud Officially Starts Work as Special Envoy for “Reform and Good Governance” [Khaama Press]
  • Parliamentarians Accuse Government of Negligence in Treatment of Wounded Soldiers [TOLO]
  • Rocket Strikes Hit Kabul [TOLO]
  • Report: Afghanistan in Transition: U.S. Civilian Presence and Assistance Post-2014 – “Our policy and programming objectives moving for- ward should focus on sustaining the measurable developmental gains we have achieved, and ensuring that the new Afghan government effectively continues on a path of self-reliance and democratic development.” [U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Majority Staff (pdf)]
  • Commentary: Security in Kunduz Worsening Further: The Case of Khanabad – “Kunduz province is an exceptionally complex region of Afghanistan where the presence of numerous factions and a diverse population have made it nearly impossible for any one force to control the entire province.” [Christian Bleuer and Obaid Ali, AAN]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Helmand Joint Base Transferred to Afghan Control; Talks Rumored with Sajna TTP Faction

Topline

  • U.S. Marine and UK military forces transferred a joint base in Helmand to Afghan control at a ceremony on Sunday. South Waziristan Mehsud tribal elders are reportedly seeking to mediate between the government and the TTP faction led by Khan Said Sajna, whose spokesman welcomed the U.S. designation of Sajna as a global terrorist last week. Security preparations are beginning around Pakistan as sectarian tensions rise with the advent of the month of Muharram. The Afghan Independent Election Commission has announced the final results of April’s provincial council elections. At Friday’s Gujrat rally, Imran Khan reiterated his intention not to halt protests against the government; the National Assembly speaker has set an October 29 deadline for PTI legislators to confirm their intention to resign from the parliament. The MQM staged a citywide protest in Karachi on Sunday as their dispute with the PPP continues. Pres. Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, accompanied by other senior officials, departed for Saudi Arabia on Saturday, ahead of a visit to Beijing later this week. The Independent Monitoring Board released a report on Saturday criticizing the Pakistani government’s response, and recommending that the National Disaster Management Authority assume responsibility for vaccination efforts. Guards from the Afghan Public Protection Force demonstrated in Kabul on Saturday, complaining of not receiving pay for the past six months. Demonstrations also took place against the small newspaper Afghanistan Express that was charged with blasphemy last week, whose editors have reportedly been arrested and offices shut down.

Pakistan — Security

  • TTP Divisions: In a statement on Saturday, a spokesman for Khan Said Sajna’s  faction of the TTP, Azam Tariq, welcomed the U.S. Statement’s recent designation of Said as a global terrorist, saying it was a “recognition of our jihad against Jews and Christians”. Tariq suggested that his group “had no differences with” the rump TTP led by Maulana Fazlur Rehman but that “they have their own organisation and we have our own.” He reiterated the Sajna group’s loyalty to Mullah Omar of the Afghan Taliban, and condemned Friday’s attack on Maulana Fazlur Rehman in Quetta. Dawn reports that a Mehsud tribal jirga led by the father-in-law of the late TTP commander Baitullah Mehsud will mediate negotiations between the Sajna faction and the government.
  • FATA Operations: Anonymous security sources tell the Express Tribune that TTP forces are regrouping in Afghan territory across the border from North Waziristan and “the lack of action from Afghan authorities has encouraged the terrorists to carve out new sanctuaries.” Jets bombed militant positions in Khyber Agency’s Bara region on Sunday, killing at least twenty; more airtrikes in North Waziristan on Monday killed at least twenty-five. Elsewhere, Karachi police claim to have killed nine TTP militants in a clash on Sunday; Irshadullah Waziri, identified as the head of the TTP Sindh chapter, is reported to have escaped.
  • Quetta Attacks: Security officials in Quetta have detained at least 24 suspects in connection to Thursday’s multiple attacks in the city, which targeted the Hazara community, the Frontier Corps, and the JUI-F. No details on their identities have been released. Balochistan Chief Minister Abdul Malik Baloch met with Hazara community leaders on Saturday, pledging action against those responsible. [ET] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Sectarian Tensions: With the advent of the month of Muharram and the Ashura holiday later this month, security officials have directed at least 80 Sunni and Shia clerics to restrict their movement and public appearances in Islamabad. Security plans have not been finalized there, however, and police have not yet deployed. The Punjab provincial government has ordered the deployment of additional paramilitary Rangers in Lahore, Faisalabad, Jhangi, Sheikhupura, and Rawalapindi, among other districts. The Sindh provincial police have requested the deployment of army personnel. Balochistan security services say they raided an explosives cache in Mastung on Saturday, which was believed to have been prepared for attacks in Quetta over Muharram.
  • Pearl Suspect Re-Arrested: Following his acquittal by an anti-terrorism court on Friday due to lack of evidence proving his involvement in the 2002 murder of WSJ reporter Daniel Pearl, suspect Qari Hashim has been detained again by Sindh police for 90 days under Maintenance of Public Order provisions.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Standoff Continues: Imran Khan headlined a rally in Gujrat on Friday, reiterating his intention to continue protests against the government indefinitely until Prime Minister Sharif resigns. Earlier on Friday, National Assembly Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq set an October 29 deadline for PTI members of parliament to appear in person and confirm their intention to resign from the assembly. At the rally, Khan insisted that his party “will not return to the parliament.” PTI officials say they now plan to hold a “decisive rally” in Islamabad on November 30. Meanwhile, Tahirul Qadri told reporters on Saturday that he was determined to revive the Pakistan Awami Tehreek as an electoral party, and said that he would travel abroad to “restore the party’s overseas offices and complete other important assignments”; no timeframe for this was noted. In the Supreme Court, Chief Justice Nasirul Mulk agreed to hear a petition brought by former judge Mahmood Akhtar Shahid Siddiqui, which challenges the entirety of the 2013 general on the grounds of mismanagement by the Election Commission, and seeks a court-ordered re-election. Hearings will take place October 29. [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [AP]
  • MQM Split: On Sunday, the MQM held a city-wide protest in Karachi, objecting to remarks last week by PPP parliamentary opposition leader Khurshid Shah that had suggested the term “mohajir” was pejorative and that the city’s Urdu-speaking residents should stop referring to themselves as such. Party activists also filed blasphemy charges against Shah in a lower court, which summoned him to appear on October 28. MQM demonstrators called for the creation of new administrative units in Pakistan in their rallies. Also on Sunday, Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah accepted the resignation of three MQM provincial assembly members from the cabinet, following the party’s split with the PPP earlier this month. Tahirul Qadri and the PML-Q are reportedly planning to reach out to the MQM in an attempt to draw it into the current anti-government alliance. [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Local Elections: On Friday, the Khyber Paktunkhwa provincial government formally requested that the Election Commission of Pakistan hold local government elections in the province. No specific date has been set; the law requires that polls take place between 60-90 days from the date of the provinces’ request. ECP officials say that the province must still amend the local election laws before polls can be held, and add that it will take several more months to procure all the necessary ballot materials. Imran Khan accused the ECP of “deliberately not holding elections in Khyber Paktunkhwa”, dismissing the need for any delays. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Polio Crisis: In a report released on Saturday, but not yet publicly available online, the international Independent Monitoring Board on polio reportedly found that “less than a quarter of vaccination campaigns assessed in the last 12 months have met the required standard of 80% coverage”, criticizing the government’s failure to effectively administer vaccines to displaced North Waziristan populations and warning of the virus’ spread in Lahore, Karachi, and Quetta. Reuters separately notes that the government has been slow to pay vaccination workers and only appointed an official responsible for overseeing a polio response after six months. The board recommended that Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority assume responsibility for the polio vaccination effort going forward. In Khyber Paktunkhwa, vaccination drives were delayed in all but two out of 18 districts due to security concerns. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Energy Crisis: At a meeting of the ministries of finance, petroleum and natural resources, and water and power on Friday, Prime Minister Sharif ordered the addition of 2,400-2,500 megawatts of electricity to the national grid by February, directing officials to take action to curtail line losses. Meanwhile, Pakistan State Oil has reportedly requested that it be allowed to discontinue the supply of fuel to Pakistan International Air, which owes the oil supplier more than Rs 11 billion in unpaid arrears. Elsewhere, Finance Minister Dar met with the head of the China Development Bank in Beijing on Sunday, who agreed to sponsor an investment conference to raise financing for the Diamer Bhasha Dam. Separately, the Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company has reportedly run into disputes with Chinese banks, who are unwilling to assume more than 50% of the risk for a prospective 600MW coal power project. [ET] [ET] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Chief of Army Staff to Visit United States in Mid-November [Dawn]
  • No Meeting of Council of Common Interests, Limited Punjab Cabinet Sessions Since PML-N Government’s Start [Dawn]
  • Nearly 58,000 Federal Government Positions Unfilled [ET]
  • Three Injured Afghan Nationals Arrested in Zhob [ET]
  • Sharif Attempts to Bridge Party Divide in Sindh Chapter [ET]
  • PTI Expels Dissident Assembly Member [Dawn] [ET]
  • PPP Divided Over Punjab Party Reorganization [The Nation]
  • No Ruling Yet in Reko Diq Dispute Mediation Case [ET]
  • Provincial Tax Revenues Stagnant Despite Increase in Federal Transfers [Dawn]
  • Karachi Defense Housing Authority Plans Development of 490 Acres of Mangrove Coast [Dawn]
  • Government Misses Quarterly Cash Transfer Target for Benazir Income Support Program [ET]
  • Rs 173.57 Million in Student Loans Approved [Dawn]
  • Current Events Chapter Removed from Khyber Paktunkhwa Textbooks [Dawn] [ET]
  • Pakistan Steel Mill Production Stalls [Dawn]
  • Commentary: Islamic State Defections Fracture Pakistan Taliban – “Jihadist groups in South Asia are in the midst of a major transitional phase that is taking place against a backdrop of a global jihad that itself is in a state of flux.” [Arif Rafiq, The Diplomat]
  • Commentary: A Disaster Foretold – “Without advance warning of a major flood event, along with attendant streamflow forecasts, hydrological infrastructure will only be a silent spectator to any flood, at best, and a liability to be protected by breaching embankments, at worst.” [Khurram Hussain, Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Transfer of Command: On Sunday, U.S. Marines and UK military forces in Helmand formally transferred the joint base of Camp Leatherneck / Camp Bastion to Afghan control. The facility, which at its peak housed as many as 40,000 soldiers, will likely shrink in size to a more defensible perimeter after the complete withdrawal of international forces from the site before the end of the year; all military equipment has been withdrawn, but roughly $226 million in real estate, office supplies, and nonmilitary equipment will remain. Despite intense fighting in the province over the summer, the head of the Afghan Army 215 Corps in Helmand, Maj. Gen. Sayed Malouk, tells the Post that “the ANA has already been conducting operations by themselves, in the battlefield, and no district has been taken over, no checkpoint has been taken over by the Taliban”. [AP] [Guardian]
  • Guards Complain of No Pay: A group of Afghan Public Protection Force officers stationed in eastern Afghanistan demonstrated in Kabul on Saturday, complaining that they have not been paid for six months. The Ministry of Interior did not explain the cause of the delay, but said that “we will pay the salaries and solve the issue shortly.”

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Provincial Council Results Announced: On Saturday, the Independent Election Commission announced results for provincial council elections, which were held in April in conjunction with the first round of presidential elections, but whose results announcement has been delayed since. IEC officials laid blame on the Electoral Complaints Commission for the delay; the IEC said that 747,000 ballots had been discarded out of roughly 6.1 million cast nationwide. Final results have been published on the IEC website. Afghan senators criticized the results, accusing the electoral administration of selling votes during the extended review period, and called for a parliamentary committee to investigate. A TOLO report on Saturday accused IEC commissioners of using organizational funds to support travel, the acquisition of armored vehicles, and family medical care, among other personal charges. [Khaama Press]
  • Foreign Relations: Pres. Ghani, accompanied by Abdullah Abdullah, Abdul Rashid Dostum, Ahmad Zia Massoud, Hanif Atmar, and Umar Daudzai, among other senior officials, traveled to Saudi Arabia on Saturday to perform an Umrah pilgrimage. The delegation is expected to meet the Saudi king and discuss the role of Saudi Arabia in the Afghan peace process. The trip comes before Ghani’s trip to Beijing on October 28 on the sidelines of the fourth ministerial conference of the “Istanbul Process” forum of Afghan regional neighbors, in what had previously been described as Ghani’s first official foreign visit as president.
  • Blasphemy Case: Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty and the Guardian both pick up last week’s reports of government-initiated arrests against the owner and editor in chief of the small daily paper Afghanistan Express, following an opinion column published earlier this month by an Afghan expatriate which accused Muslims of failing to respond to the actions undertaken in the name of the faith by ISIS and the Taliban. Street demonstrations were held in Kabul on Friday, which Khaama Press reports included banners in support of the Taliban and ISIS; the paper’s offices have been shut down.

Afghanista — Economics and Development

  • OPIC Tax Dispute: The U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation, which has provided around $300 million in low-interests loans to Afghanistan, is reportedly considering withdrawing from the country after the Ministry of Finance has pressed for the collection of 11 years in taxes. OPIC maintained a tax exemption agreement with the government that expired last year.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Separate Attacks Kill 8 Policemen in Badakhshan, Five Civilians in Nangarhar, One Police Officer in Kunduz Courthouse [TOLO] [TOLO] [TOLO]
  • State-Owned Business Revenues Drop 90% [TOLO]
  • Kabul Bank Case Remains Inconclusive [TOLO] [TOLO]
  • Kunduz Mullah Sentenced to 20 Years in Child Rape Case [NYT] [AP] [TOLO]
  • Cross-Border Artillery Fire Destroys Houses in Kunar [TOLO]
  • War Amputees in Afghanistan Face Stigma [WAPO]
  • Polio Vaccination Drive Underway [TOLO]
  • Commentary: Delivering on Afghanistan’s Vote Against Terrorism – “The Afghan people hope that their historic turnout for peace and democracy has convinced the international community to stay the course and maintain the steady momentum for collective success in Afghanistan.” [M. Ashraf Haidari, South Asia Channel]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: More Attacks Hit Quetta; U.S. Transferring Russian Prisoner From Bagram to Stand Trial

Topline

  • Two bombings in Quetta followed yesterday’s attack on a bus carrying Hazara residents, targeting a Frontier Corps paramilitary convoy and a JUI-F rally led by Maulana Fazlur Rehman. At least five people were killed; Rehman was unhurt. U.S. officials are reportedly preparing to transfer a Russian national held at Bagram to the U.S. for trial; thirteen foreign nationals are reported to remain at the prison facility. Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri continue to lead rallies around Pakistan. Iran and Pakistan traded mortar fire in the Balochistan border on Friday. Pres. Ghani has reportedly named Judge Abdul Rashid Rashid as the new acting Chief Justice of Afghanistan. In a command transfer ceremony in Kandahar on Thursday, the head of Regional Command-South turned over control to the new Tactical Advise and Assist Command-South.

Pakistan — Security

  • Fazlur Rehman Targeted in Quetta Attack: At least two people were killed and dozens injured in a suicide attack on a JUI-F rally in Quetta on Thursday; Maulana Fazlur Rehman, the party’s leader, narrowly escaped injury. The militant group Jundullah (the Peshawar-based, not Iran-based organization by that name) reportedly claim responsibility for the attack; police officials report that they have arrested multiple suspects on Friday. A separate suicide attack earlier in the day targeted a paramilitary Frontier Corps convoy, killing at least three civilian bystanders; both attacks following an attack on a bus carrying Hazara residents, which killed eight. The Hazara community is conducting a protest strike today to mourn those killed. [ET] [Dawn] [BBC]
  • Iran Border Clashes: Iranian border forces and the Balochistan Frontier Corps exchanged mortar fire near the town of Mashkail on Friday; no casualties were reported. [Dawn]
  • Suspect Acquitted in Pearl Murder Case: On Friday, a Hyderabad anti-terrorism court acquitted Qari Hashim for lack of evidence in connection to the murder of WSJ reporter Daniel Pearl in 2002. Hashim had been arrested in 2005; the lead suspect in the murder, Omar Shaikh, received the death penalty in 2002.
  • Afridi Appeal Adjourned: The FATA Tribunal hearing Dr Shakil Afridi’s appeal of his 33-year conviction on charges of aiding banned militant organizations adjourned for the sixth time on Thursday without taking action. Officials report that the tribunal has yet to receive case records from the Khyber Agency political administration, which convicted Afridi, whose sentenced was upheld by the Frontier Crimes Regulation commissioner and then appealed. Afridi’s family say they have not been allowed to contact him for two years.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Protest Stand-Off: PML-N insiders express concern to Dawn that, despite the government’s apparent success so far in waiting out the PTI and PAT protest movements, “nobody at the top is ready for introspection” and party leadership remains overly concentrated in the Sharif brothers and close associates. Tahirul Qadri visited Abbottabad on Thursday, touting his “journey of revolution” around the country; Imran Khan will lead a rally in Gujrat today. In Supreme Court hearings on a PTI petition seeking Prime Minister Sharif’s disqualification, Judge Jawwad Khawaja indicated that the court would set down an interpretation of Articles 62 and 63 of the constitution, which require candidates for office to be “sadiq” (honest” and ameen “righteous”, without defining those terms. The government argues that Article 66 of the constitution, which sets parliamentary proceedings outside court jurisdictions, should take precedent in the case. [Dawn] [APP]
  • PML-N Wins Special Election: Hassan Riaz, a PML-N candidate for the PP-162 Sheikhpura special elections on Thursday, won the seat with roughly 39,000 votes, against roughly 22,000 votes for the PPP runner-up. The PTI did not contest the seat.

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Polio Crisis: Speaking on Friday in commemoration of World Polio Day, Prime Minister Sharif said that combating the disease was of “utmost priority” to his government, and pledged continued vaccination efforts. At least 220 children have been diagnosed with polio so far this year in Pakistan, breaking a 14-year record. [Dawn] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Bilalwal Bhutto Downplays Need for MQM Coalition [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Prime Minister Sharif to Review Cabinet Ministry Performance [Dawn] [ET]
  • Ex-Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah to Head Governance Reform Committee [ET]
  • Federal Government Breaches Quarterly Expenditure Limits [ET]
  • Punjab Lawmakers Seek Salary Increase [Dawn]
  • Foreign Ministry Rebuffs DC Embassy Request to Hire Lobbyists [Dawn]
  • State Bank of Pakistan Offers Concessional Loans for Flood-Affected Farmers [Dawn]
  • Supreme Court Reiterates Orders to Regularize Service of Women’s Health Workers [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Russian Bagram Detainee to Be Transferred to U.S.: U.S. officials report that Irek Hamidullan, a Russian national who defected to join the anti-Soviet jihad and who has been held at the Bagram detention facility since 2009 after taking part in insurgent attacks, will be flown the U.S. and prosecuted in federal court. He is the first foreign national to be transferred from Bagram. As of last month, there are reported to be thirteen foreign nationals remaining at the prison facility. [NYT] [AP]
  • Kandahar Transfer: On Thursday, the head of Regional Command-South, Maj. Gen. Michael Bills, formally transferred command to Brig. Gen. Douglas Gabram, who will head the new, smaller “Tactical Advise and Assist” command. The U.S. military at the same time assumed command of Kandahar airfield, from NATO.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Chief Justice Named: On Friday, Pres. Ghani reportedly appointed Judge Abdul Rashid Rashid to serve as acting Supreme Court Chief Justice; Rashid previous headed the court’s bureau on military and internal and external security. A formal announcement of Rashid’s appointment has not yet been issued. [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Nawzad District ‘On Verge of Collapse’ [TOLO]
  • New Political Will Pushes Attorney General Into Action [TOLO]
  • Five Killed in Attack on Nangahar Police [AP]
  • Commentary: Did Politics Compromise Afghanistan’s Constitution? – “The country acquiesced to the formation of a government with no basis in the constitution, formed by two candidates who had no legal right to do so, and without the consent of the people who will be governed under their newly invented regime.” [Ghizaal Haress, South Asia Channel]
  • Commentary: The New Gangs of Herat: How Young Afghans Turn Away from Their Community – “Starting with petty anti-social behaviour such as teasing local boys and girls at or around the school and elsewhere in the community and publicly smoking cigarettes, some of these gangs have moved into organised anti-social activities.” [S Reza Kazemi, AAN]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Attack on Quetta Hazaras Kills Eight; Taliban Presence Spreading in Kunduz

Topline

  • At least eight people were killed in an attack on a bus carrying Hazara merchants in Quetta on Thursday. India and Pakistan continue to exchange artillery fire near Sialkot. Taliban forces are spreading in Kunduz and other northern provinces, the NYT reports, setting up parallel governance systems and threatening major cities. The PTI is scrambling to populate the Islamabad sit-in site after Tahirul Qadri called off the PAT’s participation there yesterday. Pres. Obama spoke with Pres. Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah by videoconference on Wednesday, extending an invitation to the White House. Pres. Ghani has accepted the resignation of Supreme Court chief justice Abdul Salam Azimi.

Pakistan — Security

  • Indian Border Tensions: Exchanges of fire between India and Pakistan continued near Sialkot on Thursday; no casualties were reported. Pakistan’s foreign ministry accused Indian forces of constructing bunkers within five hundred meters of the border line, in violation of a 2010 agreement between the two countries. PM Modi visited Siachen and Kashmir on Thursday to meet with Indian soldiers. Pakistani parliamentarians criticized recent statements by Indian defense officials during their session on Thursday, and the government’s response; a resolution was passed condemning India’s “unprovoked and indiscriminate” ceasefire violations. [ET] [Dawn]
  • Quetta Attacks: At least eight people were killed and two wounded on Thursday in an attack on a bus carrying Hazara vegetable merchants on the outskirts of Quetta; the local Hazara community has called for a strike on Friday. No claim of responsibility has been reported, although most press accounts note previous claims by Lashkar-e-Jhangvi for similar attacks in the past. A separate bombing attack targeted a Frontier Corps vehicle, killing two people and injuring as many as a dozen. [WSJ] [Reuters]
  • FATA Attacks and Operations: Rocket attacks on a camp for security forces near Data Khel, North Waziristan killed two personnel and wounded three on Wednesday. In Khyber, two Frontier Corps soldiers were killed in clashes with local militants. [Dawn] [ET]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Islamabad Protests: Speaking to supporters at the Islamabad sit-ins on Wednesday, Imran Khan thanked Tahirul Qadri and the Pakistan Awami Tehreek, reiterating that his protests would continue despite Qadri’s departure for other cities. PAT activists have reportedly constituted the majority of the sit-in presence since it began, and the PTI is now scrambling to populate the Islamabad site with local supporters. Prime Minister Sharif attended Wednesday’s parliament session, and met separately with party leaders, who are reported to have advised him not to accept the PTI’s still-pending resignations from the assembly. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
  • PPP Opposition: Reuters interviews Bilalwal Bhutto Zardari, who describes plans to “expand our vote bank, make gains, gain more seats” and pledged to take actions to alleviate poverty. He, like Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri, indicates that he plans to organize a series of rallies around the country to challenge the government’s performance. Separately, two former aides to the late Benazir Bhutto, former senator Safdar Ali Abbasi and Naheed Khan, have announced the formation of a “PPP Workers” splinter party. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • US Aid Oversight: In a long investigative report, the Post reports that the USAID Inspector General’s office removed some critical findings from a number of audit reports issued since 2011, under the tenure of acting inspector general Michael Carroll, who withdrew his 16-month- pending nomination on Wednesday. Some of those reports include a $44 million program intended to reduce waste and fraud in aid given to Pakistan, the funds for which a 2012 draft report found were largely spent on contractor benefits, salaries, and travel. Those findings were removed from a final report.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • No Celebrations of Malala Yousafzai’s Nobel for Fear of Taliban Attacks [Dawn]
  • Council of Islamic Ideology Condemns Sectarian Divisions Ahead of Muharram [ET] [ET]
  • Former Chief Justice Jillani Received ‘Prohibited Bore’ Weapons License [Dawn]
  • National Accountability Bureau Investigating 2010 Land Transfer Linked to PPP Leaders [ET]
  • Dim Hopes of Meeting $4B Privatization Revenue Targets [ET]
  • Water and Power Ministry Says Delay of Nandipur Power Project Cost Rs 113 Billion [Dawn]
  • Polio Worker Beaten in Lahore [ET]
  • Government Borrowing from Central Bank Falls [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Taliban Offensives in Northern Afghanistan: The NYT, reporting from Kunduz, notes spreading Taliban presence in parts of northern Afghanistan, an area that has not previously represented a major front in the conflict. The Taliban’s shadow governor in Kunduz is Mullah Abdul Salam, who was freed in a prisoner release by Pakistan last year; his forces are reported to have set up parallel courts, allowed schools to remain open, and to have allowed some international aid projects to continue. The Afghan security forces response has been fragmented, with many local police militias operating independently and regular forces relying on artillery to target areas of Taliban control.
  • Arrests for Spreading of Islamic State Propaganda: The Ministry of Interior said Wednesday that it had arrested a “group of individuals” caught on CCTV camera writing slogans in support of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria on the walls of Kabul University.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Foreign Relations: Pres. Ghani and Chief Executive Officer Abdullah spoke by videoconference with Pres. Obama on Wednesday, who invited them to visit the White House at an unspecified future date. Indian National Security Advisor Ajit Doval also met with the two Afghan leaders on Wednesday, reiterating “India’s commitment to assist Afghanistan build a strong, democratic and prosperous country.” Interior Minister Umer Daudzai, speaking at a conference in New Delhi on Wednesday, described India as an “all-weather friend” and reiterated accusations that Pakistan was sheltering Taliban militants. [TOLO] [TOLO]
  • Supreme Court Chief Justice Resigns: On Thursday, Pres. Ghani accepted the resignation of acting Supreme Court Chief Justice Abdul Salam Azimi, and awarded him the Ghazni Amanullah Khan medal for “his active role in maintaining and implementation of justice and law in the country”. Azimi had held the chief justice’s position since August 2006; no successor has been named.
  • Blasphemy Case: Afghan officials say investigations are ongoing but deny reports that arrests have been made in connection to blasphemy charges brought against the Afghanistan Express newspaper for an English-language opinion piece on “The Islam of the Taliban and ISIS,” published October 15. A former staffer with the paper tells the Post that several people have been detained.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Former British Army Chief Acknowledges Errors in Afghanistan Operations [BBC]
  • Parliamentarians Demand Electoral Reforms [TOLO]
  • Bond Set for Afghan Soldiers Who Fled to Canada [AP]
  • Commentary: Afghanistan’s Demographic Drought – “One of the most important lessons to be learned from the recent electoral crisis is to deal with the lack of demographic data in the country.” [Ali Karimi, South Asia Channel]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Qadri Announces End of Islamabad Sit-In; Afghan Security Forces Casualties Up 23%

Topline

  • Tahirul Qadri has announced the conclusion of his party’s sit-ins in Islamabad, but says that the “journey of revolution” will continue with protests scheduled for cities around the country through the end of the year. Imran Khan has vowed to continue the Islamabad protests until Prime Minister Sharif resigns. Afghan security personnel casualties over the past six-month period have risen 23% over the same period in 2013; roughly 4,380 soldiers and police officers have been killed since the start of January, making 2014 the deadliest year so far for Afghan personnel. India and Pakistan exchanged artillery fire again on Wednesday; India’s defense minister warned Pakistan that it would “feel the pain of this adventurism” if clashes persist. The NYT reports on Pres. Ghani’s new management style during his first few weeks in office. Prime Minister Sharif has halted a proposed electricity tariff increase after facing political backlash from the PTI.

Pakistan — Security

  • Indian Border Clashes: Indian and Pakistani border forces traded artillery fire near Sialkot on Wednesday; no casualties were reported. On Tuesday, India’s defense minister Arun Jaitley warned that “our conventional strength is far more than theirs. So if [Pakistan] persist[s] with this, they’ll feel the pain of this adventurism”, adding that the onus was on Pakistan to “create an atmosphere for talks”. [ET]
  • U.S. Sanctions Sajna: On Tuesday, the U.S. Treasury Department formally designated Khan Said Sajna, who leads a breakaway faction of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan in South Waziristan, a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist”, barring U.S. citizens from engaging in transactions with him.
  • Polio Team Attacked: Three people were injured in an bombing attack on a polio vaccination team in Bajaur on Wednesday, following threats issued the previous day of “severe consequences” for those taking part in the vaccination campaign. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Qadri Ends Islamabad Sit-In: On Tuesday evening, Pakistan Awami Tehreek leader Tahirul Qadri announced that his two-month sit-in in Islamabad “has achieved its purpose” and would be closed down. Participation has waned in recent days as Qadri began conducting rallies outside of the capital; he said that the “journey of revolution” would continue, announcing plans for protests in Abbottabad, Bhakkar, Sargodha, Sialkot, and Karachi through the end of the year. Prime Minister Sharif has ordered PML-N officials not to comment on Qadri’s move. Qadri told reporters that his move was not made in consultation with the PTI, but that “they knew that our plan to wind up the sit-in was in the making.” Imran Khan reiterated his commitment to continue the PTI’s Islamabad sit-in, telling supporters on Tuesday that “I will not leave this container until Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif resigns and an independent investigation into rigging in the 2013 elections is held.” Meanwhile, the Qaumi Watan Party announced that it was withdrawing its no-confidence motion against the PTI provincial government in Khyber Paktunkhwa; opposition sources say that Prime Minister Sharif rejected a proposal by JUI-F leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman in meetings on Tuesday to oust the PTI government. [AJE]
  • MQM Split: Anonymous PPP leaders report that former Pres. Zardari has directed party officials to reach out to the MQM in an effort to bring the party back into the Sindh provincial government coalition; the party’s application to join the opposition benches has yet to be approved by the Sindh assembly speaker. Party leader Altaf Hussain has rejected the appeal, saying that the MQM “will not be a part of the Sindh government at any cost.” On Wednesday, the MQM announced its intention to quit the PPP-led coalition in Azad Jammu and Kashmir. Meanwhile in London, UK police freed Iftikhar Hussain, a relative of Altaf Hussain who had been detained in June in connection to the 2010 murder of former MQM leader Imran Farooq; he was released for lack of evidence. [ET] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Electricity Tariff Hike Halted: Faced with political blowback from the PTI and other opposition groups, on Wednesday Prime Minister Sharif ordered the government to maintain electricity prices at their current levels rather than impose a hike in tariffs recommended by the NEPRA regulatory authority.
  • Energy Infrastructure: Indian officials have reportedly urged the U.S. not to support the construction of Pakistan’s Diamer Bhasha Dam, which was endorsed at a donors’ conference in Washington last week, which India says is being built on disputed territory. The Asian Development Bank is reportedly preparing to offer a $2.1 billion loan for the energy sector over the next three years. Pakistan and Russia held talks on Tuesday and agreed to take steps towards greater energy cooperation, but offered no specific details of an agreement.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Pakistan and Iran Agree to Border Cooperation [Dawn]
  • Airstrikes in North Waziristan Kill Thirty [Dawn] [ET]
  • Chinese Delegation to Consider $3.5 Billion in Rail Infrastructure Investments [ET]
  • PPP and ANP Conduct Senate Walkout to Protest Party Worker’s Death [ET]
  • Report: Twenty-Five Million Broken Promises: The Crisis of Pakistan’s Out-of-School Children – “Pakistan faces an education crisis of unprecedented proportions, with nearly half of all children of school-going age out of school.” [Alif Ailaan]

Afghanistan — Security

  • ANSF Casualties: The WSJ reports that 950 soldiers and around 2,200 police and local militia members have been killed in the six months since the start of the Afghan calendar year on March 21, a 23% increase over the same period the year prior. The release of casualty figures by the Afghan defense ministry represents a reversal from last year, when the ministry refused to release the data out of concern for unit morale. In total, roughly 4,380 soldiers and police have been killed since January 1, 2014, making it the deadliest year for Afghan security forces since 2001.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • First 100 Days: The NYT reports on Pres. Ghani’s first weeks in office, in which he has made a break from his predecessor’s practices, starting meetings promptly on time, cutting back on large dinners, conducting surprise inspections, and consolidating offices and firing presidential staff. An anonymous former Afghan official cautions that Ghani is “focusing 95 percent of his time on institutions and 5 percent of his time on politics… there needs to be more of a balance.” Despite the critique, Ghani has also been active at reaching out to armed services commanders, and conducts regular videoconferences with provincial officials. The Interior Ministry issued a statement denying any strains between Ghani and Interior Minister Umar Daudzai, as was reported in the NYT piece. Separately, the Attorney General’s office held a press conference on Tuesday, referring corruption cases against five former ministers connected to the Kabul Bank scandal to the Supreme Court of Afghanistan. [TOLO]
  • Regional Relations: Interior Minister Daudzai visited a New Delhi security conference on Wednesday, where he indicated that Afghanistan would renew requests made during the previous administration for arms and military hardware. Pres. Ghani will make his first official foreign trip next week, visiting Beijing for meetings with his counterpart Xi Jinping.
  • Blasphemy Charge: On Tuesday, the Council of Ministers, chaired by Abdullah Abdullah, directed the Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Information and Culture to initiate blasphemy charges against the staff of the Afghanistan Express newspaper, following the publication of an article allegedly “desecrating the religion of Islam”. The paper issued a statement of apology for the article, which has been removed from the site.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Three Injured in Attack on Helmand Border Police Chief [Khaama Press]
  • IED in Kabul; No Casualties [Khaama Press]
  • Counternarcotics Minister Calls for ‘Political Will’ to Curb Drug Trade [TOLO]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: MQM Challenges PPP Opposition Leader’s Position; Afghan Parliament to Vote on BSA Next Week

Topline

  • The MQM has challenged National Assembly opposition leader Khurshid Shah’s position following the party’s break with the PPP in the Sindh Assembly. Tahirul Qadri met with partners in Lahore on Monday and agreed that the PAT would not hold public demonstrations during Muharram. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan disowned their former spokesman after he split with the group and pledged support to ISIS. Afghanistan’s parliament will vote on the U.S. Bilateral Security Agreement next week. The Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction released a critical report on U.S. counternarcotics efforts in Afghanistan over the past decade; opium cultivation reached record highs in 2013. Four ANA soldiers were killed in a bus stop bombing in Kabul on Tuesday. The Supreme Court of Pakistan has issued an interim order allowing the government to proceed with the privatization of a 10% stake of the Oil and Gas Development Company Ltd.

Pakistan — Security

  • FATA Operations: Local militants have reportedly warned Bara residents in Khyber not to flee the area ahead of military operations, and have destroyed the homes of at least thirty fighters who have surrendered to authorities. A Lashkar-e-Islam commander and 80 fighters reportedly surrendered on Monday. On Tuesday, a civilian was killed and two injured in cross-border mortar fire into Bajaur; three Pakistani Frontier Corps soldiers in Bajaur were injured in firing from Afghanistan’s Kunar province on Monday.
  • Former TTP Spokesman Dismissed: Following the announcement by former Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan spokesman Shahidullah Shahid (a nom de guerre) that he and five other commanders had split from the group and endorsed the leadership of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the TTP announced on Tuesday that Shahid — whose real name is Abu Omar Sheikh Maqbool — would no longer be allowed to speak on the group’s behalf. Another, unidentified militant has been appointed to take over the spokesman position; the TTP reiterated a pledge of allegiance to Mullah Omar in their statement. [BBC]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • MQM Split: Following the MQM’s resignation from the Sindh provincial government coalition in the wake of critical comments by PPP leader Bilalwal Bhutto Zardari, leaders from the PPP and MQM continued to trade accusations during assembly proceedings on Monday. In the national assembly, the party filed a motion challenging PPP opposition leader Khurshid Shah’s position; should the PTI join the MQM in opposition, the two would have 57 seats against the PPP’s 46, allowing for a selection of opposition leader. Sindh Assembly Speaker Agha Siraj Durrani offered to serve as a “neutral mediator” between the MQM and PPP on Tuesday. [ET]
  • Protests Continue: Speaking to supporters in Islamabad on Monday, Imran Khan suggested that he would call off the sit-ins if Prime Minister Sharif were willing to declare his “real assets” to the public. Imran also criticized rising electricity prices, and claimed that the party would hold protests in all district headquarters around the country on Wednesday in opposition to recent reports of a tariff increase. Tahirul Qadri met with the PML-Q and other PAT allies in Lahore on Monday, agreeing that the party would not hold any “public meetings and processions” during the month of Muharram. On Monday, the Supreme Court rejected a PTI plea for Judge Jawwad Khawaja to recuse himself form a case brought by the party seeking Prime Minister Sharif’s disqualification from office. [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • ARY News Suspended: On Monday, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority imposed a 15-day suspension and Rs 10 million fine on ARY News for alleged defamatory remarks against the judiciary by anchor Mubasher Lucman, a vocal opponent of the Sharif government. The Lahore High Court is also hearing a case against Lucman and ARY producers, who have not appeared at proceedings; arrest warrants were issued Friday. [BBC] [ET]
  • Elections: The Supreme Court gave Punjab and Sindh until the end of the month to finalize legislation regarding the process for delimiting local government constituencies; the Sindh Assembly passed legislation in that regard on Monday in the absence of the MQM. The Election Commission has said that it needs five months to make preparations for biometric polling in Khyber Paktunkhwa; Chief Minister Pervaiz Khattak insisted that the government was ready for polling. Separately, the national assembly committee on electoral reforms has amassed a total of 1,283 recommendations from a variety of electoral organizations, and is now in the process of vetting them. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Supreme Court Oks OGDCL Privatization: In an interim order on Monday, the Supreme Court approved the government’s plan to privatize a 10% stake of the Oil and Gas Development Company Ltd, but barred it from using funds garnered from the sale until a final verdict was announced on the Khyber Paktunkhwa provincial government’s challenge. Hearings will resume November 10. [Dawn]
  • Electricity Tariff Increase: Water and Power Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif defended the government’s planned electricity tariff increase in senate testimony on Monday, suggesting that the government had reduced other surcharges for a “net zero” impact on consumers. [APP] [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Sartaj Aziz Downplays Rift with Iran [Dawn]
  • Islamabad High Court Reiterates Order to Police to File Charges Against Former CIA Station Chief [ET]
  • Suspects Identified in Edhi Robbery [NYT] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Current Account Deficit During First Quarter Widens to $1.33 Billion [ET]
  • Chinese Solar MOU Cancelled [ET]
  • No Settlement on Reko Diq Dispute, Balochistan Chief Minister Says [Dawn]
  • New Gwadar Airport Construction Re-Approved at Rs 26.6 Billion Cost [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Kabul Bombing: Four Afghan National Army soldiers were killed in a bus stop bombing in Kabul on Tuesday; twelve other people, including six civilians, were injured. Officials indicate the bomb was triggered remotely; the Taliban claimed responsibility.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Parliament to Vote on Bilateral Security Agreement: The Wolesi Jirga will review and vote on the U.S.-Afghan Bilateral Security Agreement and Afghan-NATO Status of Forces Agreement beginning next week; transcripts of the two agreements are currently under review by parliamentary committees. [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Opium Cultivation: The Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction released a report on Tuesday criticizing U.S. efforts to contain opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan, which have cost $7.6 billion over the past decade but which have made no effective dent in supply; cultivation reached a record high in 2013, according to the UN Office of Drugs and Crime surveys. [LAT] [SIGAR Report (pdf)]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Attorney General’s Office Seeks to Detain Kabul Bank Accused [TOLO]
  • Cabinet Appointments Still Under Review [TOLO]
  • Ministry of Interior Seeks to Recruit Additional 10,000 Female ANP Officers By Next Year [Khaama Press]
  • Afghani Decreases Against the Dollar as Central Bank Market Supply Dries Up [TOLO]
  • Commentary: Is the Afghan Unity Government a Roadmap for Negotiations with the Taliban? – “Negotiating a constitutional amendment to establish a mixed system risks combining the institutions of president and prime minister in such a way as to leave no authoritative mechanism to resolve conflicts between them.” [Barnett Rubin, South Asia Channel]
  • Commentary: A Fighting Season to Remember in Afghanistan – “While the ANSF appears capable of beating back most, though not all, Taliban offensives, there are cracks in the facade that bear watching.” [Jason Lyall, Monkey Cage]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Clashes on Indian and Iran Borders with Pakistan; Afghan and Pakistani Leaders Hold Talks

Topline

  • Pakistan exchanged border fire with India on Sunday and clashed with Iran over the weekend; one Pakistani Frontier Corps officer was killed in Balochistan on Friday, prompting an exchange of protests between Iran and Pakistan. Pakistani foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz visited Kabul for talks with Pres. Ghani and other senior Afghan leaders over the weekend; Ghani accepted an invitation to visit Islamabad at a later date. Bilalwal Bhutto Zardari led a large rally in Karachi on Saturday, marking the anniversary of his mother’s return to the country in 2007. Criticism of party leader Altaf Hussain during Bhutto’s speech prompted the MQM to quit its provincial government coalition with the PPP the following day. There are reports of renewed negotiations between the government and the PAT, but Tahirul Qadri denied that he was holding talks; he traveled to Lahore to lead a rally there on Sunday. Turkish Pres. Erdogan visited Kabul and signed a strategic partnership agreement. The Afghan parliament is taking up the U.S.-Afghan bilateral security agreement for review this week. Despite concerns of political backlash the government has reportedly decided to impose a surcharge on electricity tariffs in an effort to show signs of progress ahead of IMF talks scheduled for the end of the month. Foreign investment in Pakistan fell 26.5% during the first quarter of the fiscal year. Qamaruddin Shinwari has been appointed Attorney General of Afghanistan.

Pakistan — Security

  • India Border Clashes: Indian and Pakistani border forces exchanged fire on Sunday at the border near Sialkot; one Pakistani civilian was reportedly injured. Speaking at a military parade on Satuday, Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif reiterated that “any aggression against Pakistan will get a befitting response” and that “lasting peace in the region will only come about with the fair and just resolution of the Kashmir issue”. Foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz spoke with UN Secretary Gen. Ban Ki-Moon on Sunday, calling for UN meditation and arguing that UN monitors along the Line of Control should take a more active role and “should not be inhibited by non-cooperation of one side”. [APP]
  • Iranian Border Clashes: Iran said that two of its border guards had been killed by militants infiltrating from the Pakistani side on Thursday, warning that it would conduct hot pursuit operations against militants based across the Balochistan border. Pakistan’s foreign ministry responded that “it is not helpful to externalise problems” and said that Iran should share evidence of the whereabouts of such groups. Later on Friday, Pakistani Frontier Corps spokes officials reported that Iranian border forces had attacked a Frontier Corps convoy, killing one officer and injuring three others; the Iranian force is also alleged to have raided a village in the Nokundi area, reportedly targeting the house of a relative of an Iranian Basij commander. Cross-border artillery fire from Iran was reported on Saturday; a formal protest was delivered to Iran’s ambassador late Friday evening. Iran in turned summoned Pakistan’s ambassador, demanding “serious steps to prevent any recurrence” of militant attacks into Iran. [NYT] [Dawn]
  • FATA Operations: Military officials said Sunday that they had killed thirty-seven militants in Khyber’s Tirah Valley over the past three days of “Operation Khyber One”, and claim that fifty militants have surrendered to security forces. No independent confirmation of the account is currently possible. Pamphlets distributed in the area on Sunday gave militants three days to surrender their arms or face a full-scale offensive; a tribal jirga’s request to open negotiations with militants was rejected by the Khyber political agent. Senior officials at the Pakistani embassy told members of the Pakistani community on Sunday that the Shawal Valley region of North Waziristan would be the next major target for ground operations. Elsewhere, two Frontier Corps personnel were killed in a roadside bombing in Bajaur on Saturday. [Reuters] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Edhi Foundation Robbed: A group of eight robbers attacked the head office of the Edhi Foundation, a leading philanthropic organization that provides ambulance and health services in Karachi. Abdul Sattar Edhi, the organization’s founder, was briefly detained but unhurt; Rs 20 million in gold and foreign currency was reported stolen. [Dawn] [BBC]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Bilalwal Leads Karachi Rally: Bilalwal Bhutto Zardari, the son of former Pres. Zardari and the late prime minister Benazir Bhutto, spoke before a large rally of PPP supporters — crowds were estimated at around 150,000 people — in Karachi on Saturday, the anniversary of his mother’s return to Pakistan from exile in 2007. In a wide-ranging speech, Bhutto criticized the PPP’s opponents, including the protest movements in Islamabad, the PML-N government, and the MQM, and highlighted the sacrifices of his mother and grandfather, calling for the adoption of “Bhuttoism and [the] practice [of] good governance in order to strengthen democracy and save the country.” Meanwhile, tensions are reported between the PPP and the People’s Amn Committee in Lyari; a PPP office was attacked in Baldia Town on Friday, and PAC leader Uzair Baloch reportedly called on supporters not to attend the Saturday rally. Dawn also notes tensions within the party in Punjab. [NYT] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET]
  • MQM Quits Sindh Government: Rebuffing Bilalwal’s criticism, on Saturday the MQM accused the PPP of “destroying Karachi” over the course of its tenure, stating that leader Altaf Hussain “truly represents the voice of the poor people of Sindh”. On Sunday, the MQM announced that it would quit the Sindh provincial government coalition, which it joined six months prior, saying that “every MQM worker is furious over the remarks made by Bilawal… There will be no compromise on our leader Altaf Hussain.” The MQM staged a walkout from the Sindh Assembly on Monday as they submitted their request to join the opposition bench. [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET]
  • Islamabad Standoff: The Express Tribune reported Saturday that the government plans to renew negotiation efforts with the Pakistan Awami Tehreek, but not the PTI; speaking at a rally in Lahore on Sunday, Tahirul Qadri denied that he was holding talks, saying he would not accept anything short of vengeance for those killed in clashes between PAT activists and Lahore police in June. Attendance at the Islamabad protest rally was waned considerably; many PAT activists are reported to have returned home from the sit-in over the past week as Qadri has begun traveling protests. On Friday, Imran Khan headlined a PTI rally in Sargodha, touting the electoral loss of former PTI president Javed Hashmi in Multan to PTI-backed candidate Amir Dogar. Speaking to PML-N supporters on Saturday, Prime Minister Sharif again ruled out resignation. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Blasphemy Charge Against ASWJ Leader: Islamabad police have registered blasphemy charges against the leadership of the Sunni sectarian party Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat, including its leader Maulana Ahmed Ludhianvi, charging them with “spreading sectarian hatred” during speeches on Friday. The party’s Punjab information minister obliquely warned of a backlash ahead of Muharram if the case continues.

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Energy Crisis: Dawn reports that the government has agreed to impose a small surcharge on electricity tariffs, beginning at the end of the month but retroactively effective October 16, in an effort to show signs of progress in its quarterly review talks with the IMF, scheduled for October 29. The Express Tribune meanwhile reports that the cabinet has rejected a Chinese request to establish a special reserve fund to pay Chinese power sector investors within 30 days of purchase, which had been requested to avoid circular debt problems.
  • Polio Crisis: Another new polio case was reported in Khyber Paktunkhwa on Saturday, and two in FATA on Friday, bringing the national total to 210 so far this year. The International Monitoring Board on polio is expected to release a report at the end of the month which officials expect may lead to further travel restrictions on Pakistani nationals. In Karachi, more than half of the local neighborhood union councils have suspended a polio vaccination drive that was scheduled to begin Monday, citing a lack of security. [Dawn]
  • Foreign Investment Falls: Foreign direct investment fell 26.5% during the first quarter of the fiscal year compared to the same period a year prior, accord to State Bank of Pakistan data released Friday, as Pakistan received just $169 million in investments. Foreign portfolio investment rose from $38 million to $178 million. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Pakistan Ulema Council Condemns IS Militants [AFP]
  • Eight Laborers Found Dead in Balochistan’s Lasbela District [Dawn] [AFP]
  • Family of Blasphemy Convict Appeals to UK PM Cameron for Aid [AFP]
  • Cabinet Expansion Considered [ET]
  • Government to Spend Rs220 Million from Development Budget on Offices and Vehicles [ET]
  • New PIA Chairman Appointed [Dawn]
  • Water and Power Secretary Sethi Replaced [Dawn]
  • PTI Files Charges Alleging Overbilling by Electricity Distributors [Dawn]
  • Major Reshuffles Reported at National Accountability Bureau [ET] [Dawn]
  • Tax Reform Commission Will Only Consider Unanimously-Backed Proposals [ET]
  • PEMRA Bans ARY News Program Anchored by Mubashir Lucman [APP] [Dawn]
  • PM Sharif to Attend Beijing APEC Summit in November [Dawn] [ET]
  • 24 Lawmakers Reinstated After Asset Declarations [ET]
  • Pakistani Christians Struggle to Attain Cemetary Space [WAPO]
  • Commentary: Is Pakistan in ISIS’ Crosshairs? – “Despite recent media reports, there is no solid evidence that ISIS has made significant inroads into Pakistan.” [Christine Fair, Boston Review]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Haqqani Arrests: Two senior Haqqani network commanders were detained by the National Directorate of Security last week, which anonymous U.S. sources subsequently told the NYT had in fact been conducted in an unspecified Gulf country, before being transferred to Afghanistan. The WSJ, citing an unidentified Taliban source, reported Sunday that Anas Haqqani and Hafiz Rashid were detained in Bahrain by U.S. forces, transferred to Qatar and then the UAE before being transferred to Afghanistan. That source’s account, whose report of U.S. involvement has not been confirmed, suggested that the pair had traveled to Qatar to meet with Mohammad Nabi Umari, one of five Taliban detainees at Guantanmo who had been freed in exchange for the release of Bowe Bergdahl earlier this year and placed in Qatari custody. Umari is brother to Rashid, and the Taliban source accused the U.S. of violating the terms of the exchange agreement, which he said had allowed meetings between the former detainees and their family members.
  • Taliban Talks: In a statement to the Express Tribune, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid rejected negotiations with the Afghan government, saying that “Ghani is even weaker than Karzai and dialogue with his administration would be a waste of time… our longstanding stance about talks had been that we wanted dialogue with those who have power and are effective.”
  • Attacks and Operations: On Friday, local Helmand officials announced that they would initiate a “substantial military action in efforts to provide a stable life for the people of Sangin”. An Afghan army and police convoy was attacked by a suicide bomber in the Gereshk district of Helmand on Saturday, killing as many as seven security personnel and one civilian. Elsewhere, National Directorate of Security officials reported that Abu Bara Al Kuwaiti, identified as a senior Al Qaeda member, was killed in an operation in Nangarhar on Saturday; no further details were released. [Khaama Press] [TOLO] [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Pakistani Foreign Advisor Visits Kabul: Pakistani foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz visited Kabul on Sunday for talks with Pres. Ghani and chief executive Abdullah Abdullah, among other senior Afghan leaders. Following their meeting, Ghani said that a “new chapter has been opened” in the bilateral relationship, and that “we should stop trading accusations and bring about an atmosphere of trust”; he accepted an offer to visit Islamabad to meet with Prime Minister Sharif at an unspecified later date. Tensions continue along the border in Kunar, where provincial police officials report a woman was killed in cross-border artillery fire from Pakistan on Sunday. [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press]
  • Turkish President Visits: Turkish President Erdogan visited Kabul on Saturday, holding talks with senior Afghan officials; during his visit Turkey and Afghanistan signed a strategic partnership agreement  focusing on economic development, and establishing an annual meeting between the two presidents. Pres. Ghani said that talks focused on “Turkey’s constructive role in promoting peace in the region and especially we welcome Pakistan’s role in that”, and on the need to “define a new concept of the Islamic World” given security concerns in Iraq and Syria.
  • US Bilateral Security Agreement Under Parliamentary Review: On Saturday, the Wolesi Jirga committee on global affairs received the texts of the U.S.-Afghan Bilateral Security Agreement and the NATO-Afghanistan Status of Forces Agreement, which will be reviewed by parliament and ratified. Speaking at a trilateral Pakistan-Afghanistan-China dialogue in Islamabad on Sunday, Afghan ambassador to Pakistan Janan Mosazai said that the agreements “do not pose any threat or danger to our neighbours… Afghanistan will never allow our soil to be used against peace, security and stability of our neighbours.” [Khaama Press] [Dawn]
  • Appointments: Khaama Press reports that Qamaruddin Shinwari, a leading Ghani supporter, has been appointed Attorney General of Afghanistan, replacing Mohammad Ishaq Aloko.

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Kabul Bank Privatization: Afghanistan’s ministry of finance has delivered documents to the presidency and recommended the privatization of New Kabul Bank, the portion of the bank rescued by government intervention in the wake of the scandal in 2010. Finance ministry officials report that the bank has lost $50 million since the government purchased it, and owes $60 million in other debts.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Pres. Ghani Criticizes Kabul Administration, Calls for Elected Mayor Within Two Years [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • Provincial Council Results Still to Be Announced [TOLO]
  • India Plans to Begin Work on Iranian Charbahar Port [TOLO]
  • Commentary: The Taliban’s Transformation from Ideology to Franchise – “After 13 years of conflict in Afghanistan, money has replaced ideology and vengeance as a reason for Taliban ties.” [James Weir and Hekmatullah Azamy, South Asia Channel]
  • Commentary: A New Start for Afghanistan: Five Massive Challenges that Will Decide its Future – “The formation of a unity government is only the first step in a broader political process—one that requires the Afghans to deliver on reforms, and the United States to sustain its engagement.” [Zalmay Khalilzad, The National Interest]