Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Protestors Enter Red Zone as Army Calls for Dialogue; NYT Kabul Bureau Chief Expelled

Topline

  • Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri have led their supporters into the Islamabad ‘red zone’, reiterating demands that Prime Minister Sharif resign. The Pakistani army has taken charge of security in the area, and has called for “meaningful dialogue” to resolve the standoff. Qadri supporters attempted to surround parliament on Wednesday, where Prime Minister Sharif attended a session of the national assembly, but were unable to block legislators from leaving. On Wednesday, PTI Vice President Shah Mehmood Qureshi suggested that the party would be willing to negotiate with the government. The Afghan attorney general’s office questioned NYT Kabul bureau chief Matthew Rosenberg over a story yesterday that suggested members of the government were considering imposing an interim government as the election dispute drags on; on Wednesday, Rosenberg was reportedly ordered to leave the country. More than half of all ballot boxes have now been audited by observers at the Afghan Independent Election Commission, but a fight between Abdullah agents and IEC staff on Tuesday led to the injury of at least four people.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Imran and Qadri Lead March Into ‘Red Zone’: Beginning Tuesday night, supporters of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf and Pakistan Awami Tehreek converged into a crowd — estimated at around 30-50,000 people — that marched on the Islamabad “red zone”, which houses the parliament and the city’s diplomatic quarter. In speeches rallying supporters, both Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri reiterated demands for Prime Minister Sharif to resign within the day, which PML-N officials continue to rule out; Dawn reports unconfirmed rumors that the party might accept a Sharif resignation in order to maintain its hold on government, however. Despite an authorization to use nonlethal force against protestors, police do not appear to have directly confronted the largely peaceful crowds. On Tuesday evening, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan announced that the Pakistani Army had been called on to take over security in the red zone area, and 111 Brigade soldiers have reportedly been deployed to that effect. An army statement given Tuesday evening warned protestors not to attempt to breach government buildings, saying that “buildings in the red zone are symbols of the state, and being protected by the army, therefore, the sanctity of these national symbols must be respected.” On Wednesday, Prime Minister Sharif attended a session of parliament, which Qadri supporters attempted to blockade, but failed to prevent parliamentarians from exiting through a back entrance. The Pakistan Ex-Servicemen Association endorsed the call for a caretaker government and new elections on Tuesday. [AJE] [Guardian] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Court and Army Intervene: Tuesday evening’s statement by the army’s chief spokesman, Maj. Gen. Asim Bajwa, said that the current situation “requires patience, wisdom and sagacity from all stakeholders to resolve prevailing impasse through meaningful dialogue in larger national and public interest”. Prime Minister Sharif and Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif are reported to have met earlier in the day. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court summoned both Imran Khan and Qadri to appear at hearings the following day regarding a petition challenging their protests brought by the Lahore High Court Bar Association, one of several that have been filed in the high courts. Efforts by opposition party leaders to open negotiations between the PTI and the government have been unsuccessful, but on Wednesday PTI Vice President Shah Mehmood Qureshi suggested that the party was willing to hold talks “to come out of this deadlock.” Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique tells the Express Tribune that the government is “ready to talk with both the PTI and PAT but their unconstitutional demands cannot be accepted”. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Polio Crisis: A case of polio was confirmed in Karachi on Tuesday, the eleventh in Sindh so far this year. Punjab health officials have approved the establishment of a emergency operations center for polio eradication efforts in the province.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Protests Outside Pakistan’s Delhi Embassy as Ambassador Meets Hurriyat Leaders Again [ET] [Dawn]
  • Sri Lankan President Cancels Pakistan Visit Amid Political Turmoil [Dawn]
  • Critics Side with Government as IMF Talks Deadlock [ET]
  • Commentary: The Trouble Convicting LeJ’s Malik Ishaq – “For nearly two decades, Malik Ishaq, the leader of the banned Lashkar-e-Jhangvi sectarian group, has shuffled between jail stays and probation.” [Benazir Shah, South Asia Channel]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Detainee Releases: In a TOLO news article, anonymous senior Afghan security officials criticize Pres. Karzai’s policy of releasing Taliban detainees, saying that the release of roughly 3,000 prisoners in the past three years has “energized the ranks of insurgent groups”. A Karzai spokesman insists that there is no evidence that freed detainees have rejoined fighting.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • NYT Bureau Chief Questioned, Ousted Over Report: The Afghan attorney general’s office questioned NYT reporter Matthew Rosenberg, the Kabul bureau chief, over a Tuesday story was published which suggested that some members of the Karzai administration were considering establishing a new interim government as the election dispute process continues on. A travel ban was ordered for Rosenberg, who declined to identify his sources for the article under questioning; the State Department said that it “reject any attempts by any party to take power in Afghanistan by extra-constitutional means” and also said it was “deeply disturbed by the actions of the Afghan attorney general”. On Wednesday, the attorney general’s office issued a statement that Rosenberg would be given 24 hours to leave the country for not cooperating with the investigation, but Rosenberg indicated he had not yet been contact directly. [WSJ] [WAPO]
  • Election Audit: Election officials report that more than a thousand boxes were audited on Monday, the highest daily count so far, meaning that more than half of all ballot boxes have now been audited or recounted. Around 600 boxes have been entered into the Independent Election Commission’s database for eventual review. An Abdullah spokesman, Fazel Rhaman Horia, reiterates warnings to the Post that “if the outcome [of the audit] is not legitimate and does not represent the voters, we will guard the people’s vote and we will not let any illegitimate president enter the palace or any illegitimate ministers enter the ministries.” Four people were injured in a brawl between Abdullah agents and IEC staff on Tuesday, which involved scissors and knives; the impetus for the fight is unclear. Another Abdullah spokesman, Syed Fazel Aqa Hussain Sancharaki, acknowledges continued deadlock between the rival campaigns over the role of the chief executive officer, despite agreement on other points. [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Obama Holds to Afghanistan Withdrawal Deadline [NYT]
  • Report of ‘Foreign Citizen’ Stabbed Near Kabul Airport Road [TOLO]
  • Commentary: Solving Audit Problems By Creating New Ones – “The audit has finally started speeding up, but only after a new, ‘special’ audit of the most problematic ballot boxes was set up, which has so far been excruciatingly slow.” [Martine van Bijlert, AAN]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: PTI Resigns from Assemblies; Nearly Half of Afghan Ballot Boxes Audited

Topline

  • The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf has announced that its legislators will resign from all assemblies save Khyber Paktunkhwa, where it leads the government; on Monday, Imran Khan said that he would lead supporters in a march on the diplomatic “Red Zone” in Islamabad. The PML-N government has established a committee to conduct negotiations with the PTI and Pakistan Awami Tehreek, working through opposition party mediators, but outreach efforts were rebuffed by both protest groups on Tuesday. Afghan Independent Election Commission officials say they have audited nearly half of all ballot boxes; the joint committee between the Abdullah and Ghani campaign has reached agreement on a number of points regarding the formation of a national unity government, but continues to argue over the role of the new chief executive office. Karzai administration officials are meanwhile reportedly considering the creation of an interim government authority as the election dispute drags on. India has cancelled foreign secretary-level talks with Pakistan, citing a recent meeting with Kashmiri separatist leaders. Afghan security forces are increasingly opting to kill rather than capture Taliban fighters, citing the Karzai administration’s releases of past detainees.

Pakistan — Security

  • Waziristan Operations: Pakistani military spokesmen said that as many as 48 militant suspects were killed in renewed airstrikes in North Waziristan and the Khyber Agency on Tuesday; there is no independent confirmation of those reports. Displaced Waziristan residents have reportedly refused to vacate school buildings in the nearby Bannu district, where they have taken refuge; the overwhelming majority of IDPs have yet to move into government-run relief camps.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • PTI To Resign from Assemblies, March on ‘Red Zone’: PTI Vice President Shah Mehmood Qureshi announced on Monday that PTI legislators would resign from all provincial and national assemblies with the exception of Khyber Paktunkhwa, where the party leads the government. An anonymous PTI national assembly legislator from Khyber Paktunkhwa complains that they were not consulted in the move, and Chief Minister Pervaiz Khattak is reported to have opposed it. On Tuesday, the opposition leader in the KP Assembly, Maulana Lutfur Rehman, submitted a no-confidence motion against the provincial government. In a speech on Monday, Imran Khan announced that he would lead his supporters on a march into the “Red Zone”, Islamabad’s high-security diplomatic quarter, saying that “the world will witness the power of the Pakistani nation tomorrow”. Khan insisted that the march would be peaceful, while also vowing to “take the first bullet” himself. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [WAPO] [Guardian] [AP] [Reuters]
  • Qadri Claims Expanded Protests: Tahirul Qadri gave a separate speech on Monday, claiming that there would be a “grand expansion” of protests around the country against the PML-N government. Qadri announced the formation of a “street parliament”, to be convened Tuesday evening; a previous deadline to the government to resign lapsed on Monday with no further action. [Dawn]
  • Government Mediation Efforts: Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif met with Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan on Monday, with talks reportedly focused on an agreement to open negotiations with the protestors. Troops in Islamabad have been placed on “high alert” following Imran Khan’s threat to march on the Red Zone. On Monday, Prime Minister Sharif established a five-member cabinet committee tasked to hold dialogue with the PTI and PAT. Minister Abdul Qadir Baloch, one of the committee members, told reporters that the government would work indirectly through other opposition party intermediaries; PPP parliamentary oppositon leader Khurshid Shah will lead a group to negotiate with the PTI, and Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao of the Quami Watan Party will lead talks with the PAT. Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain of the PML-Q, a PAT partner, said that no negotiations would be held so long as Sharif remains prime minister, and PTI leaders refused to meet with negotiators on Tuesday. The Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry issued a statement criticizing the PTI’s civil disobedience calls. [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn]
  • India Cancels Secretary-Level Talks: In an announcement on Monday, India’s foreign ministry said that it would not go ahead with a planned August 25 meeting between the two countries’ foreign secretaries, after Pakistan’s foreign secretary Abdul Basit held a meeting with the Kashmiri separatist Hurriyat Conference leaders earlier in the day. The Pakistani foreign ministry described the decision as a setback that “undermines the constructive engagement initiated” by the Modi government, noting that it was “longstanding practice” for Pakistani officials to meet with the group prior to official-level talks. [WSJ] [AP] [Dawn] [ET]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • IMF Talks: The Express Tribune reports that the IMF will require the Pakistani government to announce a 4% power tariff increase as a condition of receiving the next $550M Extended Fund Facility loan tranche, a move the government is reluctant to embrace given the current political tensions in Islamabad. Talks between the IMF and Pakistan’s finance team concluded without agreement on Monday, but will reportedly continue by videoconference. In a statement, the IMF was broadly positive on the country’s economic indicators, and said that the government reform program “was broadly on track through end-June”. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Judicial Commission Investigating Khuzdar Mass Graves Rules Out Security Services’ Involvement [Dawn]
  • Six Killed in Bajaur Bombing [Dawn]
  • Exports and Imports Contract in First Month of Fiscal Year [ET]
  • Foreign Direct Investment Drops in First Month of Fiscal Year [ET]
  • Report: ETIM’s Presence in Pakistan and China’s Growing Pressure – “Chinese authorities are said to be concerned about the presence of ETIM militants in Pakistani territory, where they say that fighters are being trained before they cross into Xinjiang to carry out attacks, as well as harming Chinese interests in Pakistan.” [Zia Ur Rehman, NOREF]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Afghan Security Services Killing Rather Than Capturing: Reuters notes that, as the Taliban ground offensive swells and international military air support is withdrawn, Afghan security forces are increasingly choosing to kill rather than capture their opponents, forestalling moves by Pres. Karzai to release Taliban detainees as he has done in the past.
  • Tensions with Pakistan: In his remarks at Afghanistan’s 95th Independence Day celebrations on Tuesday, Pres. Karzai called on Pakistan to “stop its destructive role in Afghanistan”; the Afghan Ministry of Defense briefed the National Security Council on Monday on what it said was a renewed Pakistani effort to support Taliban operations in the country. Kunar provincial officials report continued cross-border artillery fire by Pakistani military forces, and say that more than 2,500 families have been displaced by the firing in the past year. [TOLO] [TOLO]
  • Kabul Attacks: On Monday, the National Directorate of Security announced that it had arrested five would-be suicide bombers planning attacks in Kabul in connection to Afghanistan’s Independence Day. Separately, the governor of nearby Logar province tells Reuters that a force of as many as 700 Taliban fighters were attempting to seize territorial control near the capital.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Election Audit: Independent Election Commission officials announced that they had audited 902 ballot boxes on Sunday, and would soon be auditing as many as a thousand per day; over 11,000 boxes have been audited to date, making up roughly 48% of the total. Two of the three working groups negotiating the formation of a national unity government between the Abdullah and Ghani campaigns have reportedly reached consensus, but the question of appointments and authorities for the new “chief executive” position remain under dispute. Meanwhile, Karzai administration officials tell the NYT they are considering the creation of an interim government if the election impasse is not resolved soon.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Outgoing ISAF Commander Meets with Pakistani Chief of Army Staff [Dawn]
  • Indian SAIL Consortium Bid for Hajigak Iron Mine Not Complaint, Rival Alleges [Khaama Press]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Khan and Qadri Rally in Islamabad; Election Audit Begins Review of Special Scrutiny Boxes

Topline

  • The PTI and Pakistan Awami Tehreek launched parallel protest convoys traveling from Lahore to Islamabad on August 14, leading to mid-size rallies and sit-ins at separate areas of the capital. Irman Khan’s convoy came under brief attack by pro-government groups in the town of Gujranwala while en route. In two addresses to crowds in Islamabad, Khan said that his supporters would not disperse until the government meets his demands for Prime Minister Sharif’s resignation, and called for “civil disobedience” measures, such as not paying taxes or electricity bills. The government is reportedly preparing to establish two separate commissions to negotiate with Khan and Tahirul Qadri. A group of as many as a dozen militants, most of whom the Pakistani military describes as being ethnic Uzbeks, attacked two separate airbases near Quetta on August 14; all were killed. The Afghan presidential runoff audit began a review of 6,000 ballot boxes selected for special scrutiny by the two campaigns on August 16; it is unclear whether the process will meet an end-of-the-month deadline for completion, however. The joint commission to negotiate the formation of a national unity government has held daily talks, with spokesmen on both sides suggesting that progress was being made on resolving key points of disagreement. The Afghan government is facing a $500-600 million revenue shortfall and is seeking additional external donor assistance to pay its salary bill in the next month, Finance Ministry officials tell Reuters. Five Afghan Red Cross staff were kidnapped in Herat on August 14; on August 16, the Afghan National Directorate of Security announced that it had freed three Indian engineers captured in Logar earlier last week.

Pakistan — Security

  • Quetta Airport Attack: A group of as many as a dozen militants attacked two Pakistan Air Force bases in Quetta on August 14, leaving at least thirteen Pakistani soldiers wounded before the attackers were repelled. Ghalib Mehsud, identified as a spokesman for the Fidayeen Islam, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan’s suicide bomber training wing, claimed responsibility for the attack, and warned that further attackers were planned in revenge against the Pakistani military operations in North Waziristan. At least three militants, described as being ethnic Uzbeks, were reportedly captured. Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif visited the Samungli and Khalid airbases on August 16, praising the security services’ response. [Dawn] [ET] [AJE]
  • Taliban Leadership Divisions: The Nation, citing anonymous militant sources, claims that there is “severe indiscipline” with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and that as many as 70% of the group’s fighters are prepared to defect from the leadership of Maulana Fazlullah. The report identifies the Ahrar-ul-Hind, Jamaat-ul-Ihraar, Khan Sajna Said group, and Mohmand Taliban faction as the principal splinter groups within the organization. Separately, the Express Tribune reports that North Waziristan commander Hafiz Gul Bahadur has been removed from the leadership of his organization and replaced by Maulvi Halim Khan, who is described as being close to the government.
  • Waziristan Operations: Finance Ministry officials report that an additional Rs 15 billion has been appropriated to finance Operation Zarb-e-Azb in North Waziristan, of which Rs 8 billion is due to be released at the start of this week and the remainder by the end of the month. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Government Withdraws Blocks on Protest Marches: Speaking at independence day ceremonies in Ziarat on August 14, Prime Minister Sharif called for an end to “negative, combative politics”. Speaking to reporters the same day, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said that the PTI and Pakistan Awami Tehreek would be allowed to conduct their protest marches, provided that they did so peacefully and did not attempt to breach the “red zone” around Islamabad’s diplomatic enclave. Despite this, more than 2,500 PTI and PAT activists were reportedly still being detained by police around Punjab as of August 17. Nisar has warned that suicide bombers had entered the city and were seeking to target the opposition rallies; the government has provided eight teams of Elite Force commandos as additional security for Imran Khan. Several flights into Islamabad and Rawalpindi were cancelled or delayed due to road closures. With tensions high, the Supreme Court issued an order on August 15 warning “all state authorities and functionaries” to act “only with the accordance with the constitution and the law”, noting the court’s July 2009 order overturning the provisional constitutional order imposed by former Pres. Musharraf during his emergency rule period in November 2007. The Supreme Court declined to take up a government petition blocking protesters from moving near the “red zone” during hearings on Monday. [Dawn]
  • PTI Launches ‘Azadi’ March: The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf protest convoy departed Lahore on Thursday afternoon, eventually arriving in Islamabad late Friday evening to camp out near the edge of the city. Pro-government crowds clashed with the PTI on Friday as the convoy passed through Gujranwala, with shots reportedly fired and at least one PTI activist suffering a head wound from thrown rocks. PTI leaders vowed not leave the capital until their demands were met, and warned the government against any action to disperse or arrest them. Heavy rains in Islamabad on Friday and Saturday are reported to have depressed turnout; police on Saturday told the AP that there were around 25,000 people present at the PTI rally and 35,000 at Tahirul Qadri’s separate venue nearby. After drawing criticism for not camping out overnight with his supporters, Khan rallied crowds with a late Saturday night speech, saying that “we will not move from here until we give this country genuine freedom” and reiterating demands that Nawaz Sharif resign. Speaking again on Sunday, Khan called for “civil disobedience,” saying that supporters should “not pay taxes or utility bills till the time Nawaz Sharif resigns”. He also claimed that he would “not be able hold the people back” if the government failed to meet his demands within two days. On Monday, Khyber Paktunkhwa Information Minister Mushtaq Ghani said that the province would no longer pay federal taxes, electricity, and gas bills. [ET] [NYT] [WSJ] [AJE] [Guardian] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Qadri Leads Parallel Rally: Pakistan Awami Tehreek Tahirul Qadri led off his own march from Lahore to Islamabad in parallel to the PTI, after the government withdrew barriers from around Qadri’s residence in Lahore. Several PAT officials complain of a lack of coordination or support from the PTI, which departed ahead of Qadri rather than marching together, and say their party activists are still being arrested by government. Qadri addressed supporters on Saturday, also demanding the resignation and arrest of Prime Minister Sharif and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, and calling for the creation of a new technocratic government. Separately, a Lahore lower court has reportedly ordered a police investigation against the Sharif brothers and other senior police officials in connection to the death of 14 PAT activists in clashes with police in Lahore in mid-June. The judicial commission inquiry into that incident has not been released. On Monday, the Lahore High Court suspended a government tax notice to Qadri’s Minhajul Quran organization, which had sought Rs 770 million in unpaid taxes. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Negotiations to Defuse Standoff: Following meetings of the senior leadership PML-N sources on Saturday told Dawn that Prime Minister Sharif “has decided to watch the sit-ins till Monday morning before taking a decision on forming a government committee to hold talks with them”. Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar told reporters on Sunday that the government would establish two separate negotiating committees to meet with the PTI and PAT. Speaking to PML-N legislators after Saturday’s meeting, Shahbaz Sharif reiterated that his brother would not resign, saying that “the collusion of Imran and Qadri is a conspiracy against the democratic system which will never succeed”. The Supreme Court has yet to respond to the government’s proposal to create a commission to investigate election rigging. Anonymous PTI sources suggest that they would be willing to forgo Nawaz’s resignation in exchange for other concessions; the same report suggests that an agreement by the government to allow former Pres. Musharraf to leave the country and avoid a treason trial would reduce military support for the opposition protests. Another Dawn account reports division within the PTI over whether or not to push forward with legislator resignations from the assemblies and other pressure tactics; Khyber Paktunkhwa Chief Minister Pervaiz Khattak has refused to dissolve the provincial government there. Sirajul Haq, the Jamaat-e-Islami leader who has served as an intermediary between the government and the PTI and PAT, endorsed the latter’s electoral reform demands on Saturday, calling for continued dialogue. [The Nation] [ET] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Peshawar Fortunes Fall Amidst U.S. Afghan Exit [WSJ]
  • Tehreek-e-Taliban Affiliate Linked to Murder of Orangi Pilot Project Director [ET]
  • Supreme Court Rejects Election Commission Proposal for Judicial Officers to Serve as Election Staff in Karachi and Nawabshah By-Elections [Dawn]
  • Punjab, Sindh, and WAPDA Accused of Misreporting River Flow Data [Dawn]
  • Government Expedites Process for Removing Auditor General [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Transmission Line Linking Kashmir and Punjab Approved [ET]
  • Commentary: A Household Quarrel – “The difference between the [PTI and PML-N]— despite their best efforts at distinguishing themselves from the other — boils down to a choice between two groups of urban Punjabi politicians, led by two personalities, each struggling for control of an oversized province.” [Umair Javed, Dawn]
  • Commentary: Why Street Protests Work in Pakistan – “Nawaz Sharif’s main failing — the one that makes him most vulnerable to street protest today — is his lack of investment in the institutionalization of democratic politics.” [Daniel Markey, South Asia Channel]
  • Commentary: Pakistan’s March Madness: The Opposition Attempts to Topple the Government – “At this point the government’s best hope for surviving the marches with its political clout intact is for the marches to continue peacefully and hopefully wilt in Islamabad’s summer heat.” [Reza Jan, AEI]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Border Tensions with Pakistan: Afghanistan’s National Security Council reviewed the alleged efforts of Pakistani intelligence services to arm militia forces along the Durand Line border on Sunday, directing Afghan security services to counter such efforts. Kunar provincial authorities continue to report daily cross-border artillery fire by Pakistani military forces, but no casualties in the past three days. Separately, in a Friday TOLO interview India’s ambassador to Afghanistan, Amar Sinha, accused Pakistan of supporting terrorism in Afghanistan, a charge that Pakistan’s embassy subsequently rejected as “baseless and unfounded”.
  • Kidnappings: The International Committee of the Red Cross reported on Saturday that five Afghan staff were kidnapped by a local armed group on August 14 while traveling Herat province; the ICRC said efforts were underway “at multiple levels” to secure their release. Separately, the Afghan National Directorate of Security announced Saturday that it had freed three Indian engineers who had been kidnapped on August 13 while traveling to Kabul from Logar, allegedly kidnapped by Taliban seeking to transport them to Quetta. [Indian Express]
  • Helmand Talks: General Asadullah Shirzad, the commander of Afghan special forces in Helmand, told reporters on August 14 that he had started peace talks with the Taliban commanders behind a recent ongoing offensive against the Afghan security forces in the province. Shirzad offered no details on the negotiations, which the Taliban’s spokesman denied had taken place.
  • Spin Boldak Police Chief Killed: An argument between Spin Boldak district police chief Shayesta Khan and police commander Mohammad Reza led to a shooting incident, leaving Khan and Reza’s brother, also a policeman, dead. A provincial government spokesman indicated that the fight was not politically motivated; Reza is reported to have fled.
  • Friendly Fire: At least three Afghan Local Policemen were killed in an errant NATO airstrike on their checkpost in Parwan on August 15, government officials report; ISAF said that it was investigating the incident.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Election Audit and Unity Government Talks Continue: In a Radio Azadi interview, Ashraf Ghani dismissed earlier comments by Balkh governor Mohammad Atta Noor suggesting that he and other Abdullah supporters would not accept the results of the ongoing presidential runoff audit, saying that he had received assurances from Abdullah and that “the people of Afghanistan do not want an uprising.” The joint committee between the two campaigns on the formation of a national unity government has been holding daily talks, and representatives from both campaigns were publicly optimistic about their ability to reach a deal in statements on Friday. An Abdullah spokesman said Saturday that agreement had been reached to hold a constitutional Loya Jirga within the next two years and introduce amendments to shift Afghanistan to a parliamentary system, but that debates were continuing on appointment procedures for the new ‘chief executive’ position and other senior government appointees. On August 16, the Independent Election Commission began reviewing 6,000 ballot boxes selected by the two campaigns for special scrutiny and full recount, in an effort to identify and process the most contentious ballots and speed up the audit process. The following day, Ghani campaign officials complained that the process had in fact slowed; both Ghani and Pres. Karzai have, in the past week, called for the completion of the audit process and inauguration of the next president before the end of the month. As of Sunday, slightly over 10,000 ballot boxes, or around 45% of the total, had been audited. [TOLO] [TOLO] [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Revenue Crisis: Anonymous Afghan finance ministry officials tell Reuters that the government is seeking additional donor aid to help pay salaries for the next month, and is facing a $500-600 million budget shortfall for the fiscal year. Finance ministry spokesmen attribute the shortfall to the ongoing election deadlock, and publicly maintain that salaries are not at risk, but acknowledge major development project spending has been stalled for lack of funds.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Bergdahl Investigation in ‘Final Stage’ [WAPO]
  • Marine Sniper Found Guilty in Taliban Desecration Video Found Dead [WAPO] [NYT]
  • Taliban Hang Five Accused of Kidnappings in Kajaki, Helmand [Reuters]
  • Kabul Café a Front Line in Generational Conflict Over Cultural Mores in Afghanistan [WAPO]
  • Commentary: Footsloggers, Turncoats and Enforcers: The Fight Along the Eastern Border – “An act of violence once seen as playing a decisive role in ending a dispute has nowadays become a tool in the hands of rival armed groups for terrorising each other’s supporters, contributing significantly to the continuation of the crisis.” [Fabrizio Foschini, AAN]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: PML-N Govt Prepares for Protest Showdown; Ghani and Abdullah Teams Dispute Power-Sharing Terms

Note: There will again be an interruption in news updates, tomorrow, August 15. Regular daily service should resume on Monday, August 18. Apologies again for the irregular pace of update, and thank you for reading.

Topline

  • Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has proposed a three-judge Supreme Court commission to investigate PTI allegations of vote-rigging in last year’s elections, but the PTI has rejected the measure as insufficient so long as Sharif remains prime minister. Islamabad, Rawalpindi, and Lahore are under heavy security lockdown as the PTI and the Pakistan Awami Tehreek plan to hold protest marches today; Sharif visited Quetta on Indepence Day, deferring a trip to visit IDPs in Bannu. The Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani campaigns have started work on their joint commission to discuss a national unity government, but in interviews this week Ghani suggested that the proposed chief executive position would be held at the discretion of the president, and Abdullah supporter Atta Mohammad Noor reiterated that he would not accept a Ghani victory as legitimate. Final results from April’s provincial council elections will be announced this Saturday, the Afghan Electoral Complaints Commission announced; the presidential runoff audit continues to progress slowly. There are unconfirmed rumors that Kandahar police chief Abdul Razi will resign from his position this week.

Pakistan — Security

  • FATA Attacks: An attack on two security checkposts in the Mohmand Agency on Thursday was repelled by Pakistani military forces, killing two attackers. In a separate attack in Swat, two security personnel were injured. Rockets were fired at an army camp in Miram Shah on Thursday morning; no casualties were reported.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Sharif Proposes Judicial Commission, Marks Independence Day: In his address to the nation on Tuesday, Prime Minister Sharif stated that “no one will be allowed to spread anarchy and toy with the constitutional setup”. He professed a willingness to dialogue with opposition leaders, and proposed the establishment of a three-member Supreme Court commission to investigate allegations of rigging during the May 2013 general elections, which Sharif defended as free and fair. The federal law secretary formally forwarded that proposal to the Supreme Court on Wednesday. PTI leader Imran Khan responded that he would accept any decision given by Chief Justice Nasirul Mulk, but said that a transparent investigation would only be possible after Sharif’s resignation. The PTI skipped a meeting of the joint parliamentary committee on election reform on Tuesday, after previously challenging the appointment of Senator Ishaq Dar as committee chairman. On Wednesday night, Sharif opened independence day celebrations with a speech calling on “every Pakistani to stand firm and united, and work diligently for a progressive, prosperous and peaceful Pakistan”. He was due to visit displaced Waziristan residents in Bannu later in the day, but this was postponed without explanation; instead, Prime Minister Sharif and Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif visited the former residence of Muhammad Ali Jinnah in Ziarat, Balochistan, which has been restored after an attack last June. [WSJ] [Reuters] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Security Tightened Around Capital: Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan reiterated demands that the PTI and Pakistan Awami Tehreek apply to the Islamabad district administration for permission to conduct their rallies; at a meeting the previous day with city officials, Nisar said that the government would not allow violent crowds. On Wednesday, the Lahore High Court issued an order barring both the PTI and PAT from holding marches “in an unconstitutional way keeping in view the sanctity of independence day and the chaotic and uncertain situation prevailing in the country.” The court’s order appears to allow for peaceful protest, however. The court proposed the establishment of a “special venue” for the PTI to conduct an extended sit-in, although it is unclear that this has been accepted; a separate petition calling for Tahirul Qadri’s arrest was rejected. Mobile phone service was suspended around Islamabad on Thursday, and several roads blocked in both Lahore and Islamabad with shipping container barricades. The army has assumed responsibility for security at parliament, near where the PTI plans to stage its rally. [Reuters] [AJE] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn]
  • PTI and PAT Launch Protest Marches: PTI and Pakistan Awami Tehreek leaders met on Tuesday and reached a four-point agreement on their parallel protest marches, with both committing to nonviolence and working to “bring in true participatory democracy”. PTI senior vice president Makhdoom Javed Hashmi will lead off the party’s march, which was due to begin this morning near Imran Khan’s residence in Lahore. Up to 10,000 police have been deployed in Lahore to control and block the PAT, towards whom the government has reportedly decided to take a “zero-tolerance” approach; in meetings with other political party leaders on Wednesday, Prime Minister Sharif indicated that he would not block the PAT’s march provided that Tahirul Qadri offered a guarantee that he would not incite violence. Qadri, for his part, maintains that his march will be peaceful. A separate account suggests that the government is considering imposing a ban on the PAT. Rawalpindi police sources report receiving contradictory orders as to whether or not they should round up PTI activists for arrest. The JUI-F has criticized the PTI’s march plans; the MQM and PPP have called on the government to allow the marches to proceed. On Tuesday, the National Assembly passed a unanimous resolution endorsing the constitution and democratic governance, before recessing. [BBC] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Pakistani Foreign Ministry Rebuffs Modi Criticism [NYT] [BBC] [Dawn] [NYT] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET]
  • Frontier Corps Soldier Killed in Quetta Bombing [Dawn]
  • Pakistan Air Force Drone Crashes Near Thatta [Dawn]
  • Sindhi Nationalist Activists Arrested Following Rail Bombing [Dawn]
  • Power Subsidy to Be Cut by Rs 60 Billion [Dawn]
  • Low Response to Tax Notices [ET]
  • Remittances Rise 17.45% During First Month of Fiscal Year [ET]
  • Prime Minister Sharif Overturns Removal of OGRA Member [ET]
  • Commentary: How Protests and the Military are Curbing Pakistan’s Democracy – “It is most probable that the present crisis will end, not with military rule, but with a tamed Sharif government remaining in office and Pakistan left with a diminished democracy.” [Marvin Weinbaum, South Asia Channel]
  • Commentary: Prepare for the Long Haul with Operation Zarb-e-Azb – “In spite of the information gap, a limited debate is underway in Pakistan on the contours and implications of the operation.” [ Ziad Haider, South Asia Channel]
  • Commentary: Beyond Dharnas: Twelve Proposals for Electoral Reform in Pakistan – “If we are to improve our electoral system, the narrative must be directed towards drawing upon our previous experience and building for the future.” [Furkan Ali, Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Raziq Resignation Rumor: Unidentified sources tell Khaama Press that Kandahar police chief General Abdul Raziq is preparing to offer his resignation, after alleged comments to his forces to execute Taliban detainees rather than take them captive. The account is unconfirmed.
  • Sherzai Campaign Manager Killed: The presidential campaign manager of former Kandahar and Nangarhar governor Gul Agha Sherzai, identified only as Malik in a Khaama Press account, was killed by unidentified gunmen in a shooting in Lashkargah, Helmand, on Wednesday evening.
  • Border Tensions with Pakistan: Kunar provincial officials report continued daily cross-border artillery fire by Pakistan; no casualties were reported. On Wednesday, National Security Advisor Rangin Dadfar Spanta accused Pakistani forces of crossing into Kunar, and had been “repulsed” by Afghan forces; Pakistani foreign ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam said that the report was “baseless”.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Unity Government Talks Begin: The joint thirty-person commission between the Abdullah and Ghani campaigns officially began work on Wednesday, and is expected to focus on issues surrounding the creation of a new chief executive position and the question of when the audit process will be concluded and a new president inaugurated. In an interview on Tuesday, Ashraf Ghani stated that the winner of the election would appoint the chief executive “by decree” and that the appointee would serve “at the discretion of the president”. Ghani also suggested that if the audit process could not be concluded by the end of the month, both he and Abdullah would attend the September 5 NATO summit in Wales. Abdullah spokesmen criticized Ghani’s remarks, saying that the two leaders had committed to “some parity and balance of power”. In a Post interview on Wednesday, Abdullah supporter Atta Mohammad Noor — who has maintained a low public profile since threatening to form a “parallel government” in the wake of Abdullah’s apparent loss after the announcement of preliminary results last month — warned that “if the vote recount is one-sided or fraudulent, we will not bow down and accept the results … we do not want a crisis, but we will defend the rights of our people. We will have a big civil uprising. . . . We will occupy government buildings and institutions. . . . We will boycott the process, and we will not recognize the next government because it will have no legitimacy.” The election audit process halted twice on Wednesday due to fights between rival campaign agents and a dispute between the campaign over a new UN and IEC proposal to allow for the selection by each campaign of 3,000 ballot boxes that will be placed into immediate recount. Separately, the Electoral Complaints Commission announced that it would issue final results for the April provincial council elections on Saturday, following a “reinvestigation” of results from Kabul and Nangarhar; a 24-hour window to file complaints will follow. [Reuters] [Guardian] [Khaama Press] [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Bombings Kill Three Policemen, One NATO Soldier, Four Civilians [AP] [TOLO] [AP]
  • Gunman Who Killed U.S. General Praised as Martyr [WSJ]
  • Badakshan Intelligence Chief Resigns After Attack [Pajhwok]
  • Ministry of Interior Acknowledges Value of Foreign Air Support [TOLO]
  • Two in Five Afghan Youths Suffer from Mental Illness, Officials Say [TOLO]
  • Afghan Ambassador Reports Tenfold Increase in Iran Trade Over Past Five Years [Khaama Press]
  • New Saudi Regulations Could Limit Afghan Airlines Flights [TOLO]
  • Commentary: Key Documents Underwriting the Electoral Agreement – “These include, first and foremost, the joint declaration agreed and signed by both candidates on 8 August 2014, as well as a series of UNAMA and IEC press statements in the period preceding the 8 August press conference, which document the rocky road of the electoral audit.” [Martine van Bijlert, AAN]
  • Commentary: Why the Afghan Election Still Isn’t Over – “With a couple assumptions, that Abdullah can reasonably believe that he can still win. As such, the parties will continue to fight over every vote and escalate when necessary, further threatening the stability of Afghanistan.” [Thomas Scherer, Monkey Cage]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Prime Minister Sharif to Address Country; Amnesty Accuse U.S. Forces of Afghan War Crimes

Note: There will again be an interruption in service tomorrow, August 13. The next update will return Thursday, August 14. Apologies, and thank you for your understanding.

Topline

  • Prime Minister Sharif is expected to address the country Tuesday evening, as his government prepares to confront parallel protest rallies led by Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri from Lahore to Islamabad this Thursday. Khan reiterated allegations of judicially-backed election rigging during last year’s general elections; Qadri, who set the date for his own march to match the PTI’s, continues to call for a revolutionary overthrow of the current political system. Pakistani corps commanders met in Rawalpindi on Monday ahead of the showdown. A new Amnesty International report was released Monday, accusing U.S. military of failing to take effective action to investigate or prosecute those responsible, and alleges that some instances may have been war crimes. NATO officials reiterated the importance of a conclusion to Afghanistan’s drawn-out presidential election and the signature of a security agreement that will allow the international military alliance to remain in the country after the end of this year. The IEC is beginning data entry on audited ballot boxes this week, and will begin disqualifications “soon”. Afghan imports and exports have fallen by nearly a quarter so far this year, cutting into government customs revenues. India and Pakistani border forces traded fire on Monday, leaving two Pakistanis dead and three wounded, and four Indians; Indian Prime Minister Modi visited Kargil on Tuesday, accusing Pakistan of carrying out a proxy war in the region and announcing his intent to boost development assistance to the area. Afghanistan’s National Security Council has ordered Afghan security forces to “suppress all incursions” by Pakistan into Afghan territory.

Pakistan — Security

  • Border Clashes with India: Two Pakistanis were killed and three wounded in Monday in cross-border firing along the Line of Control in Kashmir on Monday; Indian border police in turn accuse Pakistani forces of wounding four people. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Kargil on Tuesday, the first Indian prime minister to visit the region since the 1999 conflict there, stressing a commitment to development in order to gradually shift the power equation in favour of India over Pakistan as people in the region become more integrated (with India) with development and progress.” [ET]
  • Corps Commanders Meet: Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif held a meeting of senior army corps commanders on Monday, the official agenda of which focused on reviewing Operation Zarb-e-Azb in North Waziristan.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Government Prepares for Standoff: Prime Minister Sharif will address the nation on Tuesday evening, following meetings with senior PML-N leaders in Raiwind on Monday as the government plans a response to the PTI and Pakistan Awami Tehreek protests demonstrations scheduled for August 14. Speaking on Monday at the launch of the government’s ‘Vision 2025’ planning agenda, Sharif dismissed both Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri, suggesting that their agendas had been “given to them”. Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid and Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal were more explicit, with the former alleging that former ISI Director Ahmad Shuja Pasha was advising Khan and the PTI, and the latter suggesting that “the whole drama is being staged only because of the government’s decision to try the former president [ Musharraf]”. Press accounts currently indicate that the government will not attempt to arrest opposition leaders; in a meeting with Imran Khan on Monday, Jamaat-e-Islami leader Sirajul Haq is reported to have conveyed a government offer to allow the PTI march to proceed, on the condition that they would disperse after a day. The Lahore High Court, hearing a petititon seeking to block the PTI’s march, called on the government to negotiate to avoid a clash. As many as 3,000 Frontier Constabulary soldiers have been called up to provide additional security in Islamabad, and police officials tell Dawn that they are preparing to seal road entry into the city beginning Tuesday evening. The Islamabad district administration has reiterated a ban on public gatherings, saying it had not received an application from the PTI or PAT for their rallies; PTI spokeswoman Shireen Mazari said that the party would not request permission to hold its march. Meanwhile, PPP leaders expressed concerns over the country’s political situation, while also criticizing the government’s response. [WSJ] [Guardian] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET]
  • PTI Prepares to Rally: Imran Khan chaired a meeting of senior party leaders on Sunday, emphasizing his commitment to proceeding with the August 14 “Azadi March” and ruling out negotiations with the government. The party called on activists to “make it to Islamabad at all costs” in order to participate in the rally. Speaking on Monday, Khan reiterated his intentions that his protest remain peaceful, and dismissed the idea that it would precipitate martial law. At the same press conference, Khan accused former Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, former judge Khalidur Rehman Ramday, and former caretaker chief minister Najam Sethi of facilitating election rigging during the 2013 elections in Punjab, claiming that ballot-stuffing inflated the PML-N’s vote count from 6.8 million to 15 million. Khan claimed to have eyewitness accounts, but offered no concrete proof; the Election Commission of Pakistan rejected Khan’s  accounts. Meanwhile, the special parliamentary committee on electoral reforms held its inaugural session on Monday. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Tahirul Qadri Announces Parallel March: On Sunday, Tahirul Qadri announced that he would lead his “revolutionary march” from Lahore to Islamabad in parallel with the PTI’s on August 14, adding that “if anything happens to me, avenge my death, blood must be repaid with blood”. Qadri, unlike Khan, has ruled out new elections under the current political system, without offering details on his proposed revolutionary changes. Imran Khan welcomed Qadri’s decision, saying that “we may have a different agenda and difference of opinion but we have invited different parties and welcome those who wish to join us.” The Express Tribune reports that the government is considering letting both Qadri and Khan lead their rally from the Grand Trunk Road in Lahore, on the presumption that both will spar over leadership of the movement. Punjab police have opened multiple criminal cases against Qadri and at least 372 supporters, including a murder case following the death of a police officer on Sunday; Dawn, however, reports that the officer in question had succumbed to injuries from a traffic accident, and not PAT rioters as reported by the police. As many as 2,000 PAT activists have reportedly been detained as of Monday, and police checkpoints and roadblocks have proliferated in Lahore, particularly around Qadri’s residence. [Reuters] [ET] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Killings Rise in Karachi as Taliban Target Police [NYT]
  • Shortage of Funds Hampering Polio Campaign [Dawn] [ET]
  • Over 100 Arrested in Quetta [Dawn]
  • Supreme Court Reinstates Acting PEMRA Chairman [Dawn]
  • National Assembly Censures Auditor General, Demanding His Removal [Dawn]
  • Fazlur Rehman Reelected Unpposed as JUI-F Leader [Dawn]
  • Divisions Within Khyber Paktunkhwa Government Over New Islamic Textbooks [Dawn]
  • Federal Minister Ghulam Murtaza Jatoi Disqualified by Karachi Election Tribunal [Dawn]
  • Commentary: Divided They Rule – “Opposition parties have hindered democracy in Pakistan by engaging in adversarial politics, instead of offering a credible alternative and holding the ruling party accountable.” [Mariam Mufti, Dawn]
  • Commentary: Revolutionary Expediency? – “[The PTI has gained] reason to rally and reorganise the party in Punjab merely a year after performing modestly in the province, staking a claim as key challenger to the ruling party, and bolstered personal standing of Imran as PM-to-be.” [Babar Sattar, Dawn]
  • Commentary: Is Pakistan’s Democracy Under Threat? – “At the present moment in particular, there is an enormous degree of polarization that can lead the country in very different directions.” [Ahmed Humayun, South Asia Channel]
  • Commentary: The Pakistan Army’s Facebook War – “A striking characteristic of military communication is its lack of detail about which groups the military is fighting.” [Paul Staniland, Political Violence at a Glance]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Amnesty Report Accuses US and NATO of Human Rights Abuses: A new Amnesty International report released Monday accused the U.S. and NATO military forces in Afghanistan of failing to take “prompt, thorough and impartial investigations” into instances of civilian casualties, “fall[ing] far short of what is needed to ensure accountability for alleged crimes against civilians”. The report, which evaluates ten incidents that occurred between 2009-2013, resulting in more than 140 deaths, focuses primarily on covert night raids and U.S. airstrikes. In two cases, in Paktia in 2010 and Wardak in 2012, Amnesty investigators concluded that there was “abundant and compelling evidence of war crimes”, including allegations of abuse and torture by Afghans detained by U.S. special forces units. Pres. Karzai, who has frequently criticized the NATO coalition for the use of tactics resulting in civilian deaths, welcomed Amnesty investigators to the presidential palace, saying that he was “very happy that you have focused on something that is the main point of disagreement between Afghanistan and the US… civilian casualties should never happen. Together with you, we should stop them.” ISAF officials responded that they were reviewing the report and were “committed to protecting the Afghan people”, noting a “significant reduction in ISAF-related civilian casualties” over the past year. [AP] [BBC] [Reuters] [Amnesty Report]
  • Border Clashes with Pakistan: At a meeting of the Afghan National Security Council on Sunday, officials ordered Afghan security forces to “suppress all incursions by Pakistan and its security forces inside Afghan soil”, following allegations by Afghan intelligence services that recent attacks in Nangarhar had been facilitated by Pakistani forces. Kunar officials reported continued cross-border artillery fire on Monday and Tuesday, injuring two civilians. [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Pressure on to Elect President: Both Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani are reportedly nearly finished finalizing representatives to a joint commission on the formation of a national unity government. U.S. Ambassador to Kabul James Cunningham met with both men separately on Monday, reiterating afterwards that the presence of a new president at the NATO summit in September would be crucial;. NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen echoed that message in a Reuters interview, saying that “time is now of the essence and that is why we urge the Afghans to find a rapid conclusion of the presidential election process and we urge the new president to sign the legal arrangements as soon as possible after inauguration” to allow for a continued U.S. and NATO military presence in Afghanistan. Otherwise, Rasmussen said, that NATO would soon “have to take tough decisions because if there isn’t a legal basis for our continued presence in Afghanistan, we will have to withdraw everything by the end of this year and to do that we will have to start planning”. Meanwhile, the Independent Election Commission’s spokesman said Monday that data entry of audited ballot boxes would begin this week, with decisions on vote invalidations to follow soon. Representatives of the Abdullah and Ghani campaigns have criticized the IEC for the slow-moving process, calling on them to increase the number of audit stations; the IEC in turn has laid blame on the campaigns for creating obstructions. Ghani campaign observers beat two local journalists at the IEC center on Sunday, accusing them of harassing a female observer.

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Trade and Revenue Drop: Afghan exports have fallen 20% so far this year, which export promotion officials attribute to uncertainty surrounding the presidential elections, and predict will be reversed once results are finalized. Imports have also reportedly declined by as much as 26%, from $3 billion in 2013. Separately, Ministry of Finance officials acknowledge cash flow and revenue shortages, curtailing agricultural development programs and other spending.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Senior Badakshan Officials Ambushed, Escape [Khaama Press] [TOLO]
  • Roadside Bombings in Ghazni Kill Six Police and Three Civilians [TOLO]
  • 20 Civilians Killed in Kunduz Clashes [Khaama Press]
  • Salang Tunnel Deteriorating Despite Repeated Repairs [TOLO]
  • Report: Despair or Hope? Opium Poppy Cultivation in Post-2014 Afghanistan – “With a contracting economy, increasing insecurity in rural areas, reduced international spending (and leverage) and a search for alternative sources of patronage among local power-holders, there are no obvious factors that would discourage expansion even beyond the current “unprecedented” levels.” [Paul Fishtein and David Mansfield, AREU]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Qadri Supporters and Police Clash Again; Candidates Reaffirm Agreement with Kerry

Note: There will be no news update Monday, August 11. The update will return Tuesday, August 12 with coverage of the intervening period. Apologies for the interruption, and thank you for reading.

Topline

  • Supporters of Tahirul Qadri clashed with police in Lahore and other parts of Punjab on Friday and Saturday, leading to at least 500 arrests around the province and the death of as many as eight people, including one police officer. At a national conference on internal security on Saturday, Prime Minister Sharif said that Pakistan “cannot afford any more confrontation” and called on the PTI, which boycotted the meeting, to negotiate with the government. Imran Khan dismissed the possibility of further talks, and PTI leaders insist they will only accept new elections. As reported Friday, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani reiterated their commitment to a unity government following the conclusion of the election audit, which they and Sec. Kerry say they wish to see concluded by the end of the month; Independent Election Commission officials say they cannot offer a specific timeline for the audit’s conclusion, however. Multiple separate bombings in Kabul on Friday and Saturday targeting Afghan soldiers and police and NATO military forces killed at least five civilians and wounded dozens more.

Pakistan — Security

  • Security Conference: Saturday’s conference of national political leaders on internal security issues affirmed a “rejection of terrorists and their ideology” and endorsed the military’s continued operations in North Waziristan. Details of the military briefing are limited, although officials expressed confidence that militant command and control had been “crippled”. Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif did not attend the conference, with The Nation citing bad weather in Lahore preventing their plane from departing as the reason. The PTI boycotted the conference, accusing the government of “behaving like monarchs”. Meanwhile, residents of the village of Eidak, near Miram Shah, have refused military orders to evacuate ahead of impending ground operations in the area. Displaced Waziristan residents taking shelter in Bannu are divided on how to soon to attempt a return. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Violent Clashes at Qadri Supporters Rally: Supporters of Pakistan Awami Tehreek leader Tahirul Qadri clashed with police in Lahore and other towns around Punjab, beginning with efforts to break police cordons around Qadri’s headquarters on Friday. Clashes also took place in Gunranwala on Saturday, as police attempt to halt caravans of PAT activists, and in Sargodha, where a police officer was killed. The Punjab government announced Rs 10 million in compensation for the officer’s family, and has reported that more than 135 officers have been wounded. Qadri, in turn, claimed that eight of his supporters had been killed, nearly 2,000 injured, and as many as 20,000 arrested, figures which Punjab police refute, saying that around 500 activists have been arrested. On Saturday, Qadri called on supporters to carry out smaller rallies around the country if they were unable to join him in Lahore, saying that they should “protest peacefully” and accusing the government of carrying out a “massacre in the name of a crackdown.” Qadri met with allies in the PML-Q on Sunday, strategizing as to whether to remain in place or lead off his planned “revolution march”. PTI Punjab president Ejaz Chaudhry called on the government to withdraw its legal cases against Qadri. [BBC] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • PTI Protests: Speaking in a live broadcast at the start of Saturday’s national security conference in Islamabad, Prime Minister Sharif said that Pakistan “cannot afford any more confrontation”, and suggested that he would agree to a recount in ten disputed constituencies as a means of compromising with the PTI. Speaking separately, Imran Khan dismissed government efforts to negotiate a halt to the PTI’s planned march on August 14, saying that “the time has come for political parties to make a final decision” between supporting the government or the PTI. PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi also rebuffed the idea that the party would accept a recount in ten constituencies, saying that “we only want fresh elections”. Khan confirmed on Sunday that he would not meet with Jamaat-e-Islami leader Sirajul Haq, who had been serving as an intermediary with the government.  An anonymous Express Tribune account claims that former Election Commission secretary Kanwar Dilshad has shared “documentary evidence” with Khan supporting allegations of judicially-backed election rigging in last May’s vote. Security measures and police checkpoints have been tightened in Islamabad and Rawalpindi ahead of the march; petroleum shortages have been reported across Punjab due a consumer run. Dawn, citing unidentified police sources, reports that a raid in Dera Ismail Khan disrupted a planned attack on the PTI gathering. [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Islamabad High Court to Hear Case Challenging Article 245 Order in Islamabad [Dawn]
  • No Progress on Local Government Election Preparations [ET]
  • Speaking to Supporters After 3-Month Silence, Musharraf Insists He is ‘Not Running Away’ [Dawn]
  • Two Members Removed from MQM Leadership Committee [ET]
  • Polio Vaccination Drive Suspended in Balochistan Due to Security Concerns [ET]
  • Three Killed in Balochistan’s Kharan District [Dawn]
  • Oil and Gas Development Company Ltd Union Seeks to Block Privatization Plans [Dawn]
  • Government Plans to Allocate 600M Cubic Feet/Day of Imported LNG to Power Producers [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Candidates Reiterate Support for Election Resolution: As reported Friday, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani joined John Kerry in a joint press conference reiterating their support for a negotiation process to form a government of national unity, and for the continuation of the audit of disputed ballots in the June run-off election. Few details were offered on the substance of the Kerry-brokered talks, although both candidates did agree to sign the communiqué agreement. Reuters reports that that agreement calls for commissions to establish the structure of the new joint unity government, but likewise does not specify its shape. The BBC notes that the two candidates remain divided on whether the agreement will require “power-sharing” and what would entail. Both sides agreed that the next president should be inaugurated before the end of the month, before the NATO summit in Wales on September 5, but it is unclear if the ongoing audit process will be concluded by that time. In a Washington Post interview, Abdullah suggested that “we see problems every day with the audit, but we also can’t put the country at a standstill forever,” and that “we must correct what we can and move on.”  Independent Election Commission officials said Saturday that no specific date for the audit’s end could be forecast; roughly 5,000 ballot boxes out of more than 22,000 have been audited so far. IEC officials said that the process of invalidating audited ballots would be formally launched on Sunday. [AP] [AJE] [TOLO] [TOLO] [WAPO] [Press Conference Transcript]

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Steel Plant: The Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL) consortium is reportedly preparing to resume negotiations on the establishment of a $1.14 billion steel plant in Afghanistan, once the Afghan government gives final approval to the Afghan mining and minerals law.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • In Afghanistan, a Two-Generation War [WSJ]
  • Assassination Attempt Against Logar Intelligence Chief Thwarted [Khaama Press]
  • CASA Regional Electricity Project to Be Signed August 18 [TOLO]
  • Commentary: The Second Installment of a Kerry-Brokered Agreement – “The process is becoming dishearteningly repetitious and it is unlikely that the current atmosphere of goodwill and cooperation will be sufficient to last until the audit has been finalised and the details of the new government agreed.” [Martine van Bijlert, AAN]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Kerry Returns to Kabul for Election Talks; Tensions Rise Ahead of PTI Protests

Topline

  • Islamabad and Rawalpindi police have begun tightening security measures around the twin cities ahead of the PTI’s planned demonstration next week, as the PML-N government continues talks with other political party leaders. Police and supporters of Tahirul Qadri clashed near his residence in Lahore on Friday. Prime Minister Sharif has called a meeting of senior military and political leaders for tomorrow to discuss the country’s internal security situation. Sec. Kerry traveled to Afghanistan on Thursday and Friday for further talks with Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani, securing fresh commitments from both candidates to form a government of national unity after the conclusion of the current election audit.

Pakistan — Security

  • Sharif Calls Security Conference: Prime Minister Sharif has called a meeting of parliamentary and provincial political leaders for August 9 to discuss internal security issues; Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif and ISI Director Zaheerul Islam will attend. Although official readouts indicate that the meeting will focus on the ongoing military operations in North Waziristan, Dawn suggests that the current political tensions in Islamabad ahead of the PTI’s planned protest rallies will be a main focus. The Nation and Dawn have apparently contradictory stories on the future of Operation Zarb-e-Azb, with the Nation reporting that military officials intend to conclude the operation within a month and begin the repatriation of IDPs, and Dawn reporting that further ground movements are planned into the Razmak and Shawal areas, prompting more displacement.
  • Five Killed in Karachi: Five people, including two PTI party activists, one of them a former district president, were killed in separate shootings in Karachi on Thursday. Imran Khan condemned the killings; no claims of responsibility have been reported.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • PTI Protests: Islamabad and Rawalpindi police have begun security preparations for the PTI protest rally scheduled for next week; Section 144 of the criminal code, which bans public gatherings, was imposed on Friday. Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique laid the onus on Imran Khan to maintain security and refrain from violence or property damage. PTI officials accuse the government of preparing to arrest party leaders to forestall the march; the party’s FATA chapter claims that as many as 100,000 supporters will join in the march. While both the PTI is publicly sticking to its plan to rally, anonymous PTI sources tell Dawn that they are willing to hold talks with the government, “provided there was some reasonable response [by the government] to the demands”. Government sources say they are near agreement on accepting the PTI’s earlier call for voter thumbprint verification in four disputed constituencies from last May’s general elections. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Sharif continued a busy schedule of consultations with other political leaders on Thursday, attending a session of parliament (without speaking) and meeting with delegations from the PPP, MQM, ANP, and National Party. the MQM said that it had urged Sharif to call an all-parties conference to mediate the dispute. As political tensions mount, an anonymous U.S. official quoted in the Express Tribune warns that “any indication of a coup will immediately suspend all assistance programs” to Pakistan. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Clashes with Qadri Supporters: Pakistan Awami Tehreek party supporters of Tahirul Qadri clashed with police in Lahore again near Qadri’s residence on Friday, injuring at least three officers as they sought to tear down barriers placed in the area. A large police presence has reportedly been deployed in the area; in remarks to reporters on Thursday, Qadri claimed that the PML-N government had been “psychologically defeated” and alleged that Prime Minister Sharif and his family were preparing to flee the country. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • China Approves Power Project: Prime Minister Sharif announced Thursday that agreements had been signed with the Chinese government to begin work on 14 new power plants, generating a total of 10,400 megawatts. Financing and time frames on the new projects have not been disclosed.
  • Polio Crisis: Four new polio cases were reported around the country on Thursday, including one case in Punjab, the first so far this year. 108 children have suffered polio thus far this year.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Prime Minister Sharif Orders Evacuation of Pakistani Nationals in Libya [ET]
  • Clashes in Turbat Kill Two Security Personnel, Seven Militants [Dawn]
  • Detained Indian Border Security Force Soldier to Be Repatriated [ET]
  • Election Tribunal Nullifies PTI Sindh Assembly Victory [Dawn] [ET]
  • Pakistan International Airlines Violating Saudi Medical Insurance Law, Risking Fines [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Kerry Returns to Continue Negotiations: Sec. Kerry made an unannounced trip to Afghanistan on Thursday, meeting with Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani to urge them to accept the results of the slow-moving election audit and move swiftly to form a national unity government that could inaugurate a president in time for a NATO summit in early September. Pres. Karzai met separately with UN Special Representative Jan Kubis on Thursday, issuing a statement afterwards that called for the results of the election to be announced by the end of August. On Friday, Kerry, Kubis, Ghani, and Abdullah held a joint press conference, ongoing as of this writing, announcing that agreement had been reached on the next steps towards negotiating the formation of a national unity government. Meanwhile, the European Union’s election assessment team has reportedly accredited an additional 100 observers to take part in the audit process. [WAPO] [BBC] [AP]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Four Police Killed in Helmand Checkpoint Attack [AP]
  • Commentary: From Point Zero to ‘New Warmth’: Russian-Afghan Relations Since 1989 “With the withdrawal of most US-led NATO forces by the end of 2014, the complete withdrawal now scheduled for 2016 and the Western interest in Afghanistan waning, Russia’s role – like that of China, India, Iran and Pakistan – automatically grows.” [Thomas Ruttig, AAN]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Tahirul Qadri Supporters Arrested; Republicans Call for Afghan Drawdown Review

Note: Due to ongoing travel obligations, there will be no news update tomorrow; the summary will return at the next earliest opportunity. Apologies, and thank you for reading.

Topline

  • Supporters of Tahirul Qadri have been arrested in Punjab, and roads around his offices sealed. Negotiation efforts continue amongst Pakistani political parties as the date of the PTI’s Islamabad protest approaches. Congressional Republicans have called for a review of the White House’s force drawdown plans in the wake of this week’s insider attack, which killed a two-star general and wounded several others; Sec. Hagel rebuffed those calls, saying that decisions on force levels have already been made. A bombing on Thursday in the border town of Chaman has injured as many as a dozen people. A brawl between rival campaign observers temporarily halted the election audit process in Kabul on Wednesday.

Pakistan — Security

  • Chaman Bombing: As many as a dozen people were injured when a bomb exploded outside a government official’s residence in Chaman, Balochistan, on Thursday. No claim of responsibility has been reported. [Dawn]
  • Pakistani Taliban Threaten Journalists: The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan’s Mohmand Agency chapter has issued a statement warning journalists that they will be attacked if they do not halt critical coverage of the TTP. [Committee to Protect Journalists]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • PTI Protests: Speaking to the press on Wednesday, Finance Minister Dar ruled out any early resignation by Prime Minister Sharif. The Punjab law minister, Rana Mashood Ahmad, confirmed to Reuters that 32 supporters of Pakistan Awami Tehreek leader Tahirul Qadri have been arrested, citing “intelligence reports that Qadri’s activists are collecting weapons and preparing barbed sticks to attack law enforcers” at an upcoming Lahore rally planned for August 10. A spokesman for Qadri claimed that nearly 540 activists were detained. Roads have been sealed around the Minhajul Quran secretariat, and the Punjab assembly opposition leader, Mian Mehmoodur Rehman of the PTI, was barred from visiting Qadri at his residence on Thursday. Former Pres. Zardari is reported to have spoken by phone with Qadri, stressing the need for continued democracy. Meanwhile Jamaat-e-Islami leader Sirajul Haq met separately with Prime Minister Sharif and Imran Khan on Wednesday; a statement from the prime minister’s office indicated that Sharif had stressed “respect [for] others’ mandate and they should respect ours”. Haq said that the JI would decide whether or not to join its PTI coalition partner in Islamabad protests after August 10.  PTI Punjab chapter president Ejaz Chaudhry accused the government of harassing and detaining party workers, and warned that “the government will see massive protest demonstrations across the province if police tried to stop protesters from using their democratic right”. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Three Senior Peshawar Police Officers Suspended on Unspecified Charges [Dawn]
  • Supreme Court Reinstates Disqualified PML-N Lawmaker, Cancelling Re-polling [Dawn] [ET]
  • Musharraf Treason Court Seeks Record of Emergency Declaration Speech [ET]
  • Increasing Reports of Dengue Larvae in Rawalpindi [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Insider Attacks: Anonymous Afghan security officials confirm to Reuters that the gunman in Tuesday’s shooting at the Marshal Fahim National Defense University in Kabul had served in the army for three years, and was not an infiltrator from outside the base. Although Pentagon officials acknowledged that insider attacks remain a “pernicious threat,” ISAF issued a statement on Wednesday that the attack was not “representative of the positive relationship which we have nurtured” with Afghan security forces. Congressional Republican leaders called for a review of the administration’s drawdown policies in response to the attack, saying that it “only underscores the importance of leaving Afghanistan when the job is finished — rather than stubbornly adhering to arbitrary political deadlines”.  Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Sec. Hagel rebuffed those calls, saying that “the episode that happened yesterday in Afghanistan is not going to affect our decision or resolve to continue moving forward on an enduring presence post-2014” and that decision on force levels “have been made… we’re proceeding on that basis.” [WAPO] [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Election Audit: Rival candidate observers from the Ghani and Abdullah campaigns engaged in a brief dispute and fistfight at the Independent Election Commission during the audit process on Wednesday. The IEC condemned the fighting as “completely unacceptable”. Separately, Vice President Karim Khalili called on the UN to investigate the authenticity of an audiotape released by the Abdullah campaign last week that purported to show him encouraging fraud on behalf of Ghani. [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Large Taliban Offensive Reported in Khas Uruzgan District [Khaama Press]
  • Norway Deports Former Taliban Minister Living as Refugee [Norwegian Broadcasting Company]
  • Bowe Bergdahl Meets with Army Officials Investigating His Disappearance [WSJ] [WAPO]
  • Rocket Attack Lands Near Iranian Embassy in Kabul [Khaama Press]
  • Balkh Governor Dismisses Rumors of Resignation [Khaama Press]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: U.S. General Killed in Training Center Shooting; PML-N Seeks Support Ahead of Rallies

Topline

  • The PML-N government continues to seek support from other parties as the PTI prepares for its protest movement on Islamabad next week. The government served legal notices against Tahirul Qadri of the Pakistan Awami Tehreek on Wednesday, charging him with inciting violence and tax evasion. A U.S. two-star general, the deputy commander in charge of the training mission for Afghan national security forces, was killed when an Afghan soldier opened fire at a training facility in Kabul on Tuesday. The Afghan election audit proceeds slowly, but IEC officials maintain that the process will be completed within twenty days. A Predator drone strike killed at least five suspected militants in North Waziristan on Wednesday.

Pakistan — Security

  • Predator Strike: At least five militants, several of whom were reported to be foreigners, were killed in a Predator drone strike in the Datta Khel area on Wednesday. No further details on the targets have been reported. [Dawn]
  • Indian Border Security Force Soldier Detained: On Wednesday, Pakistani security forces detained an Indian Border Security Force soldier who is alleged to have crossed the Line of Control into the Bajwat sector near Sialkot. The soldier, who has not been publicly identified, is now said to be under interrogation. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • PTI Protests: At a Tuesday press conference, Imran Khan pledged to “reveal exactly how the elections were rigged and by whom” at next week’s planned demonstrations. Khan demanded new elections, and the resignation of current election commission members. The same day, Prime Minister Sharif held meetings with opposition leaders from the PPP, JUI-F, Quami Watan Party, and others, as the government seeks to shore up support. In parliamentary sessions the same day, top government ministers urged the PTI “to postpone the march and not to adopt the mind-set of Dr Tahirul Qadri”. Following separate phone discussions with Prime Minister Sharif, former Pres. Zardari spoke by phone with Imran Khan and Jamaat-e-Islami leader Sirajul Haq; on Wednesday, PPP opposition leader Khurshid Shah and Jamaat-e-Islami chief Sirajul Haq met, pledging afterwards to work to “alleviate the situation” and mediate between the government and the PTI. Sharif is also reportedly reaching out to the MQM for meetings on Thursday. Meanwhile, Dawn reports that Rawalpindi police are preparing lists of senior PTI activists to arrest in order to forestall the party’s march on Islamabad. [ET] [Dawn]
  • Charges Brought Against Qadri: Meanwhile, the government has taken a harder line against Tahirul Qadri; on Wednesday, the Punjab government filed a police complaint against Qadri on charges of inciting violence in Lahore. Also on Wednesday, the Federal Board of Revenue has sent notice to Qadri of Rs 350 million in unpaid income taxes, warning that his accounts and those of his Minhajul Quran International organization would be frozen if he failed to pay the dues. Speaking to supporters on Tuesday, Qadri alleged that the government was harassing drivers and the public transportation sector in order to deter participation in his August 10 “Martyr’s Day” rally. Qadri is reportedly meeting with Imran Khan on Wednesday. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Power Tariff Increase Frozen [ET]
  • Three Killed in Clashes Between Rival Militant Groups in Tirah Valley [Dawn]
  • Finance Minister Dar Nominated to Head Electoral Reform Committee [Dawn] [ET]
  • Prime Minister Sharif Meets with Visiting Secretary General of the OIC [Dawn]
  • Auditor General Boycotts Public Accounts Committee [ET]
  • Sindh Government Divides Karachi Into Three ‘Zones’ [ET]
  • Treason Court Declines Musharraf Appeal to Shift Trial to Karachi [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Two-Star General Killed in Insider Attack: An Afghan soldier opened fire on ISAF and Afghan army personnel at the Afghan army officer’s training school on Tuesday, killing Maj. Gen. Harold Greene, who served as the deputy commander for ISAF’s Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan. He is the highest-ranking U.S. officer to die in Afghanistan since the U.S. intervention began in 2001. A visiting German general and Gen. Ghulam Sakhi, the Afghan commander in charge of the facility, were also wounded along with as many as fifteen others. Preliminary investigations suggest that the shooting was not premeditated; the gunman, identified as Rafiqullah, a Paktika native who had served two to three years in the army, was killed. Pres. Karzai issued a statement condemning the incident. [Reuters] [BBC] [Guardian] [AJE] [TOLO]
  • Uruzgan Insider Attack: In a separate incident on Tuesday evening, an Afghan policeman killed seven colleagues at a checkpost in the capital of Tirin Kot. The gunman fled the area. [TOLO]
  • Border Tensions with Pakistan: Kunar provincial officials report continued cross-border artillery fire by Pakistani forces into the province, although no casualties were reported. Speaking to the press on Monday, Pakistani foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz demanded that Afghanistan take action to capture and hand over Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan leader Maulana Fazlullah.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Concerns Over Declining National Revenue [TOLO]
  • Karzai Condemns Reported Civilian Casualties in NATO Airstrike in Herat [TOLO]
  • Commentary: Stabilizing Provincial Afghanistan: How to Get it Right – “As the local-level foreign official presence phases out of more volatile and remote areas, how should donor assistance strategies adjust?” [Frances Brown, South Asia Channel]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Government and Opposition Gear Up for PTI Protests; Afghan Audit Moves Forward Fitfully

Note: A summary of the past several days’ events in Pakistan and Afghanistan follows bellow; apologies again for the recent interruption in service and resulting length of this brief. Due to upcoming international travel obligations and the possibility of irregular internet access during that time, updates may be more sporadic or delayed through mid-August; however, whenever possible the goal will be to continue daily updates as usual. Thank you for reading.

Topline

  • With the conclusion of Eid, Pakistani political leaders are gearing up for the planned protest rallies to be led by the PTI and the Pakistan Awami Tehreek; PTI legislators say they have prepared resignations from the national assembly, to be delivered on August 13 before their march begin. Some PTI leaders suggest that the party plans an extended sit-in; PML-Q efforts to broker an agreement between Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri have yet to reach a deal. After multiple previous delays, the Afghan presidential run-off election audit resumed, belatedly, on August 3; Abdullah Abdullah campaign officials boycotted the process to seek additional criteria for ballot disqualification, which they are reported to have reached agreement on with the UN yesterday. Information from North Waziristan continues to be limited, with military officials claiming to have cleared both Miram Shah and Mir Ali of militants. Afghan and Pakistani military officials continue to trade accusations that the other party has failed to secure the border from militant attacks.

Pakistan — Security

  • Waziristan Operations: On August 4, Pakistani military spokesmen claim to have cleared the towns of Miram Shah, Mir Ali, Boya and Degan, although continued pockets of resistance were reported in several villages located between the two major towns of Miram Shah and Mir Ali. Two soldiers and seven militants, identified as Uzbeks, were reported to have been killed in clearance operations along the Miram Shah-Datta Khel road. Further airstrikes reported on August 5 are said to have killed another thirty militants. On July 31, Germany announced one million euros in aid for Waziristan residents displaced in the operation. [Dawn]
  • Islamabad Security: Five army companies were reportedly deployed around Islamabad beginning August 1, after the government called on the military to provide additional security assistance in the capital. Military spokesmen denied that additional troops were being deployed, saying that army personnel had been in position since the start of Operation Zarb-e-Azb in mid-June. Government officials continue to maintain that the deployment order is unrelated to the PTI’s planned march on Islamabad scheduled for August 14; opposition leaders criticized the orders in parliamentary sessions today. [Dawn] [ET]
  • New Defense Secretary Appointed: Retired Lt. Gen. Yasin Malik, the defense secretary, retired on July 31, completing a two-year contract. On August 4, retired Lt. Gen. Alam Khattak, a former Quetta Corps Commander, was appointed to the position. [Dawn]
  • Religious Leader Killed in Dera Ismail Khan: Faqir Jamshed, a local Sufi religious leader and former PTI Khyber Paktunkhwa provincial assembly candidate, was killed in a roadside bombing in Dera Ismail Khan on August 4, along with two guards. No claim of responsibility has been reported. [Reuters]
  • Arrests Near MQM Leader’s Residence: On August 4, the paramilitary Rangers briefly detained security guards working for MQM leader Farooq Sattar and cordoned off an area near his residence, afterwards announcing the arrest of three individuals nearby. One of the men detained subsequently confessed to carrying out 12 murders, according to a Rangers statement, which linked him indirectly to the MQM. Sattar subsequently led a protest walkout by his party in parliament. [ET]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Government Plans Response to Protests: Prime Minister Sharif returned from his trip to Saudi Arabia on July 30, holding meetings with Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif to strategize on the upcoming protest rallies being planned by the PTI and the Pakistan Awami Tehreek. A larger strategy meeting of PML-N leaders was held the following day, and again on August 4. The government’s planned 30-day long independence day celebrations officially began on August 1. In a Radio Pakistan interview on August 3, PM Sharif downplayed any threat to his government from the rallies, and suggested that he was “ready to listen to the opposition”. Press accounts that Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan had been tasked to reach out to Imran Khan in order to forestall the PTI march  were subsequently refuted by the interior ministry and the PTI. Although government officials have indicated they do not plan to use force to halt the rally, on August 3, Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid warned that Khan and the PTI would be responsible for any violence that occurred. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
  • PTI Leaders Maintain Hard Line: Imran Khan continues to reiterate that “there will be no negotiation or a deal with the government”, vowing on August 3 that the rally would “end the Sharif monarchy”. Khan reportedly warned senior party officials to prepare for arrests, and threatened to “shut down the whole country” if the government attempted to detain him. On August 4, the PTI national assembly delegation submitted their resignations to Khan, who has announced that he will submit them to the speaker of the assembly on August 13, prior to the rally’s kick-off. Information Minister Parvaiz Rashid countered that the resignation will result in by-elections, not a dissolution of parliament, where the PML-N holds a majority. Asad Umar, a PTI legislator from Islamabad, tells Dawn that the party is now considering an extended sit-in at the D-Chowk plaza in front of parliament, rather than a one-day rally; he offered no details on what concessions the PTI would accept in order to disperse, although other party officials say that the part will push for early elections. PTI organizers allege that they have come under harassment from Islamabad police in advance of the rally, which police deny. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Other Parties Position: The PML-Q is reportedly continuing to attempt to broker an agreement for cooperation between the PTI and the Pakistan Awami Tehreek, which plans to hold its own “revolution march” and rally in Lahore, a date for which has not yet been announced. PAT leader Tahirul Qadri has instead set August 10 as a “martyr’s day” to mark the death of party activists killed in June clashes with Lahore police. The MQM has demurred on participating in Qadri’s rally after being invited to do so in meetings on August 2; in a statement on August 3, however, Altaf Hussain called on Prime Minister Sharif to step down “in order to save the country” and defuse the protest movements. The Jamaat-e-Islami has rhetorically backed the PTI’s planned march, but has opposed the any assembly resignations, and does not appear set to join in the actual rally. Several other opposition parties, including the PPP and ANP, also endorsed the PTI’s right to protest but cautioned against moves that might upset the democratic system. Former Pres. Zardari reportedly sought, but failed, to convince former coalition partner Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain of the PML-Q to drop out of the PAT and PTI rallies, but the PPP says it will take part in the PAT’s “martyr’s day” commemoration on the 10th. [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Energy Crisis: On August 4, Finance Minister Dar directed the Ministry of Power and Water to renew its efforts to collect outstanding dues from the provincial governments within the next 60 days. Dawn notes that the Power and Water ministry failed to notify electricity rate cuts approved by the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority in April, resulting in continued higher rates that generated around Rs 15 billion during the intervening period.
  • Foreign Loans: Provisional figures for the previous fiscal year indicate that Pakistan received $6.67 billion in foreign funding, 93% of which was received in the form of loans. Although this was higher than the levels projected by the year’s initial budget, the World Bank and UK were the only countries to meet projected pledges. Pakistani finance officials and IMF representatives will meet for the next quarterly review talks in Dubai from August 6-14.
  • Polio Crisis: Two new cases of polio were reported on August 2 in Peshawar and the Khyber Agency, bringing the total number so far this year to 104. [Dawn] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Chinese President Due to Visit Pakistan this Month [Dawn]
  • Chief of Army Staff Visits Australia [ET]
  • Musharraf Treason Trial to Resume Proceedings August 5 [ET]
  • Balochistan Launches Investigation Into Dumping of Mutilated Bodies [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • New Indian Army Chief Warns Pakistan Over Line of Control Clashes [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Rs 24 Billion in Misused Funds Reported in Sindh [Dawn]
  • Islamabad High Court Order Barring Direct Appointees Goes Un-Implemented [Dawn]
  • PPP Sindh Assembly Member Disqualified for Holding Fake Degree [ET]
  • Money Supply Shrinks in July as Government Borrowing Falls [ET]
  • China Delivers 20 Train Locomotives [Dawn]
  • Saudi Airlines Postpones Resumption of Peshawar Service [Dawn]
  • Last Crown Prince of Swat Dies [Dawn]
  • Commentary: Return of the Gamekeeper – “Sharif, the most powerful and dominant actor six months back, has now been sized up and boxed.” [Babar Sattar, Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Border Tensions with Pakistan: On July 31, Kunar police officials accused the Pakistani military of firing more than 100 artillery shells into the province over the preceding week. Pakistani military officials in turn reported that a Frontier Corps soldier was killed by cross-border sniper fire in Bajuar on August 1, prompting the second formal protest to Afghan foreign ministry officials within the week over its failure to curtail such attacks. Afghan foreign ministry officials refuted the charges, saying they were “in reality an effort to cover up violations from the other side of the Durand line”, and an August 3 meeting of the Afghan National Security Council laid blame for recent Taliban offensives in Helmand and Nangarhar on the Pakistani ISI. [Khaama Press]
  • Insider Attack: An Afghan soldier has reportedly opened fire on ISAF soldiers at the Camp Qargha training facility on August 5; the BBC reports at least three Afghan soldiers were injured, but Khaama Press reports that as many as four international military personnel may have been killed. ISAF has not confirmed any casualty figures and says it is still investigating.
  • Other Attacks: One civilian was killed and nine injured in a roadside bombing in the Charparhar district of Nangarhar province on August 3. Four Afghan army soldiers were killed in a bombing in southern Kabul on August 4; the Taliban have yet to claim responsibility. [TOLO] [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Audit Moves Forward Fitfully: In a TOLO News op-ed published on July 30, Sec. Kerry urged “both teams to work cooperatively on the critical issues facing their country even as the audit continues”. The Independent Election Commission announced on July 30 that it had accepted the UN’s proposed criteria for recounting and invalidating disputed ballots; at a press conference the following day, IEC Chairman Yousaf Ahmad Nuristani said that “the candidates must accept the criteria” and that “this time the process will continue and we will not stop.” UN Special Representative Jan Kubis, who appeared alongside Nuristani, echoed the message that “it’s high time to complete the process of the elections.” The audit recount was due to resume on August 2 after the conclusion of the Eid-ul-Fitr holidays, but was delayed until the following day after Abdullah Abdullah’s campaign team boycotted the proceedings, demanding additional consultations with the UN on ballot disqualification criteria. The audit resumed on August 3, but without Abdullah campaign observers participating. Meanwhile, Abdullah supporters released another audio recording on August 3 that they said showed evidence that Vice President Karim Khalili had encouraged vote-rigging in Ghani’s favor by the electoral administration agencies; Khalili’s chief of staff, and the Ghani campaign, challenged the recording’s veracity, as did Pres. Karzai’s chief spokesman. Despite statements from Abdullah’s campaign manager describing the audit process as “a charade,” a UN statement on August 3 indicated that subsequent meetings with Abdullah representatives reached an agreement on adjudication procedures. TOLO summarizes five additional criteria proposed by his campaign, which Ghani officials are said to object to. Abdullah observers rejoined the process on August 4.  [NYT] [WAPO] [Reuters] [TOLO] [TOLO] [Reuters]

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Banking Transactions: TOLO reports that relations between Afghan banks and a number of international banks in Turkey, China, and elsewhere, remain suspended — despite the earlier passage of new anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing legislation — holding up an unspecified amount of money transfers into the country.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Incoming ISAF Commander Downplays Taliban Activity [Stars and Stripes]
  • Bergdahl to Be Read Rights During Army Questioning [WSJ]
  • Karzai Meets New Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan [TOLO]
  • Presidential Candidates Attend Funeral Service for Hashmat Karzai [TOLO] [Pajhwok]
  • Congress Approves Additional 1,000 Visas for Afghan Interpreters [WAPO]
  • Report: Quarterly Report to Congress, July 2014 [SIGAR (pdf)]
  • Report: Rethinking Afghan Local Governance Aid After Transition – “It is time for donors to rethink their approaches to local governance and development. Three areas are key: delivery of services, links between citizens and the government, and measuring progress.” [Frances Brown, USIP]