Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Pakistani Army Steps in as Mediator; Afghan Audit Will Not Finish Till Sept 10, UN Says

Topline

  • The Pakistani army has stepped in to play an active mediator role between the government and the PTI and PAT protestors, meeting separately with Prime Minister Sharif, Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri — the sides now differ as to who requested that intervention, however, and there are few signs of breakthrough today. A police investigation report into the June clashes in Lahore between police and Qadri supporters was filed on Thursday that included the prime minister and Punjab chief minister, but Qadri rejected it as insufficient, and none of the senior leaders implicated are subject to immediate arrest. UN Special Representative Jan Kubis met with Pres. Karzai to convey the message that the presidential runoff audit will not be concluded in time for the September 2 inauguration, but may be done by September 10. Abdullah campaign spokesmen suggested that a “new framework” was needed for talks between the two candidates, and indicated that they would not accept the results of the ongoing audit. The vice chancellor of Peshawar’s Islamia University, who was kidnapped by the TTP in 2010, has been freed. The head of the Nuristan provincial peace council was killed by unidentified gunmen in Kabul on Thursday.

Pakistan — Security

  • Vice Chancellor Recovered: Ajmal Khan, the vice chancellor of Islamia University in Peshawar who was kidnapped by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan in September 2010, was freed on Thursday. A military statement indicated he had been released in connection to the ongoing military operation in North Waziristan’s Shawal area, but there have been no details on how his freeing took place. [ET] [AFP]
  • Balochistan Journalists Killed: Unidentified gunmen attacked the offices of the Online News agency in Quetta on Thursday evening, killing bureau chief Irshad Mastoi and reporter Ghullam Rasool, as well as Muhammad Younas, an accountant. No claim of responsibility has been reported. [Dawn]
  • Lashkar-e-Taiba Leader Sanctioned: The U.S. Treasury Department has sanctioned the Asma Money Changers group of Lahore, identifying it as an affiliate of Lashkar-e-Taiba and its owner, Muhammad Iqbal, as a member of the governing board of LeT’s Falah-i-Insaniat Foundation charitable wing.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Army Steps in as Broker Between Government and Protestors: On Thursday, Prime Minister Sharif met with Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif for the second time in three days, for talks on the current political crisis. Afterwards, a spokesman for the prime minister said that the two leaders had “agreed to take necessary measures for resumption of the stalled process of negotiations” between the government and the PTI and PAT protestors. Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri met separately with General Sharif later that evening, with each later indicating that the military had requested they delay ultimatums to the government and resume negotiations for at least another 24 hours. There are no reports of direct or indirect negotiations between the two sides thus far today, however. Khan told supporters that the army had pledged to ensure “a transparent and fair investigation” of election rigging allegations, but reiterated his demands for the prime minister to step down. Qadri suggested that the army would “work out a formula, a total reform package”. A number of political opposition leaders criticized the turn to the military as mediator – among them, PTI president Javed Hashmi, who described it as a “shameful time for all politicians who, despite having the time, could not resolve the crisis on their own”.  Prime Minister Sharif and General Sharif are due to meet again today. Speaking in the National Assembly on Friday, Prime Minister Sharif said that the decision to request army intervention “was taken on a request by the protesting parties,” who had rejected all other mediators. He suggested that Qadri and Khan requested the meeting with the chief of army staff, who “sought my permission and I allowed him” to do so. Both Qadri and Khan later rejected that account. [AJE] [BBC] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn]
  • FIR Registered Over Lahore Clashes: On Thursday, the government relented, and police carried out the registration of a First Information Report against 21 people, including Prime Minister Sharif and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, in connection to the June clash between Lahore police and Pakistan Awami Tehreek activists. None of the senior officials named are currently subject to arrest. Tahirul Qadri rejected the FIR, saying that it should have been filed under the Anti Terrorism Act rather than the basic penal code of Pakistan. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Pervaiz Khattak Dismisses Dissident Threat to KP Government [Dawn] [ET]
  • Three Security Personnel Injured in Attack on Convoy in Balochistan [Dawn]
  • Tax Filing Deadline Extended as Government Struggles to Set Up Online Portal [ET]
  • PIA Cleared to Resume EU Cargo Shipments [ET]
  • Hubco Puts Coal-Conversion Plan on Hold [ET]
  • Commentary: The Pretender to Pakistan’s Throne – “For now, the most Khan is likely to achieve in challenging Sharif is further strengthening the military’s already strong hold on key decisions guiding the country’s future.” [Mosharraf Zaidi, South Asia Channel]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Nuristan High Peace Council Chief Killed: Haji Abdul Halim, the leader of the Nuristan provincial peace council and a former Hezb-e-Islami commander, was killed by unidentified gunmen in Kabul on Thursday evening while returning from evening prayers. One suspect has reportedly been arrested.
  • Detainee Releases: In TOLO interviews, several northern officials, including the Baghlan police chief and Faryab governor Mohammadullah Batash, join the increasing public criticism from security officials over the Karzai government’s push to release Taliban fighters from detention, saying many current commanders are former detainees.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Audit Process Will Not Finish By Sept 2: UN Special Representative Jan Kubis met with Pres. Karzai on Thursday; a statement afterwards indicated that Kubis had conveyed the message that the ongoing presidential runoff audit would not be completed in time for Karzai’s set Sept 2 date for the inauguration of the next president. The UN said that “a rigorous and credible audit required time, but could be completed around 10 September“. Karzai’s reaction to the message has not yet been reported, although a presidential spokesman said earlier that he was “packed up already” and ready to leave. An Abdullah campaign spokesman said Thursday that “continuing the audit is illogical; we will not accept the result as the process does not have any credibility to us,” and that “further political discussions must be on the basis of a new framework”. The Independent Election Commission has entered data from 13,000 audit checklists and are due to meet on Friday for a third round of decisions on ballot box results invalidation. [WAPO] [AFP] [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Over 900 Killed in Continued Helmand Fighting [TOLO]
  • Commentary: Afghanistan’s Troubled Economy – “The new Business Tendency Survey Report, released by the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industries (ACCI) in August, points to a clear worsening of the situation: business conditions have deteriorated rapidly, orders are contracting, firms are closing shop, and layoffs are becoming more widespread.” [Shehzad Qazi and Erika Schaefer, South Asia Channel]
  • Commentary: Will the ‘Heart of Asia’ Start Beating? A Review of the Regional Cooperation Process – “One reason for the sluggish progress is the lack of agreement among participating and supporting states and organisations over how a regional initiative on this scale should be organised and funded.” [S Reza Kazemi, AAN]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Qadri Announces ‘Decisive Day’ of Protests; Afghan Audit Continues Without Candidate Reps

Topline

  • Both Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri have broken off separate talks with the government seeking, with Qadri announcing a “decisive day” of protest today. The government is reportedly proposing the imposition of governor’s rule in Punjab and has agreed to the filing of a FIR police report in connection to June clashes between the Pakistan Awami Tehreek and Lahore police that will name the prime minister and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif. The WSJ reports that Prime Minister Sharif has conceded control over foreign and security policy in talks with the military in a bid to buy support for his government’s continuation. London police briefly detained an MQM party activists in connection to the 2010 murder of former MQM leader Imran Farooq; on Wednesday, leader Altaf Hussain called on the government to “voluntarily step down”, appearing to align himself with Qadri and the PAT. The election audit in Afghanistan is continuing without candidate agents present on Thursday after the Abdullah campaign’s boycott; the IEC issued rulings on another 3,000 ballot boxes on Wednesday evening, invalidating only a small number. The National Directorate of Security reiterated accusations that Pakistani military personnel are directly involved in leading the current Taliban offensive; 27 Pakistani nationals were reportedly detained in Paktika on Tuesday.

Pakistan — Security

  • India Border Tensions: Border commanders in the Sialkot section of the Line of Control between Pakistan and Indian forces in disputed Kashmir met on Wednesday to discuss recent firing incidents. Firing renewed on Thursday, although no casualties were reported.
  • NATO Supply Line Attacks: Three oil tankers were attacked and one destroyed by a group of gunmen on motorcycles in Balochistan’s Mastung district on Thursday; no casualties have been reported.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Sharif Under Pressure: There is more reporting on Prime Minister Sharif’s address to parliament on Wednesday, in which he said his government would “not be diverted” by the ongoing protests. The WSJ reports that Sharif is near an agreement with the military in which he will offer “guarantees” that his government will surrender control of national security and foreign foreign policy to the military, and allow former Pres. Musharraf’s release from the treason trial against him. The government is also reportedly prepared to allow for the resignation of Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif. Protests continue; in his nightly speech to supporters on Wednesday, Imran Khan broke off talks with the government, returning to the position that negotiations could not proceed as long as the prime minister remains in office. Khan said that he would announce a future course of action today. A small rally of PML-N supporters gathered on Wednesday in support of the prime minister near the site of the main opposition sit-in. In Supreme Court hearings on Wednesday, the court reiterated its order to clear access along Constitution Avenue; the Senior Superintendent of the Islamabad police has issued orders on Wednesday barring the use of force against the protestors, however. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Arrest in Connection to MQM Murder: On Wednesday, London police arrested a 30-year old suspect in connection to the 2010 murder of former MQM leader Imran Farooq; he was subsequently released after questioning. Party officials confirm that the man was a MQM party member; in June, Iftikhar Hussain, a nephew of party leader Altaf Hussain, was arrested and then released on bail. Police are still seeking access to two men believed to be in Pakistani custody. Separately, MQM leaders met with Pakistan Awami Tehreek leader Tahirul Qadri, and Hussain called on the government to “voluntarily step down” in the interest of the country, saying that all Qadri’s demands were valid. On Thursday, Hussain spoke with Qadri and urged him to “show patience”. [NYT] [BBC] [Dawn]
  • Qadri Announces “Revolution Day”: On Wednesday, Tahirul Qadri told supporters that he was breaking off talks with the government, which he said had “completely failed,” and that they should prepare for a “decisive day” today. Qadri said that repeated meetings by government ministers failed to reach agreement on his two key demands, the resignation of the Sharif brothers and an initiation of a police First Information Report against them in connection to June’s clash between Pakistan Awami Tehreek supporters and Lahore police. PAT lawyers attempted to file the FIR unsuccessfully on Wednesday, following a Lahore High Court order upholding a lower court order to police to do so. Government negotiators have now reportedly proposed governor’s rule in Punjab for the duration of the Lahore clash investigation; on Thursday Defense Minister Khawaja Asif told parliament that “a process for the FIR has started and the government will not appeal against court orders”. Meanwhile, a new government committee has been formed to investigate the June incident. [Reuters] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Shortage of Funds for Polio Campaign: Ministry of National Health Services officials tell Dawn that the current political deadlock has forestalled the release of funds for national polio vaccination efforts, which may cut short the effort if funds are not provided for within the next two months.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • President to Visit Turkey in Prime Minister’s Stead [Dawn] [AFP]
  • Chinese President Due to Visit Pakistan Next Month [Dawn]
  • Pew Polling From May Suggests Drop in Khan Favorability Ratings [Pew Research]
  • PTI Withdraws Apologetic Letter Towards Former Chief Justice in Defamation Case [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Commentary: Pakistan On the Brink, Again – “While the United States has limited leverage with which to encourage a Pakistani settlement of this conflict, the best solution would be a compromise that allowed the judiciary to play a neutral role in assessing the allegations of election fraud.” [Shuja Nawaz, South Asia Channel]
  • Commentary: Pakistan’s Protests Risk Another Military Coup – “If a few thousand demonstrators are able to force out an elected leader or provoke another coup, no elected civilian government would be able to survive similar intrigue in the future.” [Hussain Haqqani, WSJ]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Tensions with Pakistan: On Wednesday, spokesofficials for the National Directorate of Security said that Pakistani intelligence “has a direct hand” in insecurity within Afghanistan, alleging that “the war in Afghanistan is led by the Pakistani military; Pakistani soldiers are fighting alongside the terrorists.” Ministry of Interior officials say 27 armed Pakistani nationals were arrested in Paktika on Tuesday. Officials in Kunar report continued cross-border artillery shelling.
  • Helmand Security Transfer: Helmand governor Muhammad Naeem reported Wednesday that an agreement had been signed to transfer the largest remaining NATO base in the province, Shorab Airfield in the Greshk district, to Afghan military control, although he did not specify a timeframe for the handover. Meanwhile, fighting in Helmand’s Sangin district has reportedly intensified, although government officials say they have pushed back the most recent Taliban offensive there.
  • Detainee Transfers: In addition to nine Pakistani prisoners repatriated from the U.S. portion of the Parwan detention center at Bagram last week, the U.S. also sent home two Yemeni detainees, U.S. military officials confirmed on Wednesday. One of the Yemeni detainees is reported to have contracted leukemia, although it is unclear if the diagnosis played an impact in his release. 27 detainees are now reported to remain at the facility.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Political Deadlock: Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Dan Feldman visited Afghanistan on Wednesday to follow up on recent visits by Sec. Kerry; in a statement, State Department officials indicated that Feldman “reiterated the need to conclude the electoral process in a timely way that honors the millions of votes cast by the Afghan people”. British Prime Minister Cameron spoke with Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani by phone on Thursday, urging the completion of the audit process and the inauguration of the next president in time for next week’s NATO summit. A Karzai spokesman said Wednesday that while he would not personally attend the summit, “the new president or the current government” will do so. At a press conference on Wednesday following the boycott of the audit process by the Abdullah team, UN officials said that the audit process would continue, without direct candidate agent observation; limited auditing took place on Wednesday afternoon, and continued on Thursday. IEC officials report that 76.2% of all ballot boxes have been audited to date, but that only 1,500 out of the 6,000 boxes selected for special scrutiny have been reviewed. In a second round of adjudication covering 3,000 ballot boxes, the IEC threw out results from 75 polling stations, 11 of which had been subjected to the special scrutiny process. The Ghani campaign has registered 25 appeals with the Electoral Complaints Commission, related to the first round of ballot invalidations earlier this week. [WAPO] [Khaama Press] [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Report: Afghanistan’s Looming Fiscal Crisis: What Can Be Done? – “Afghanistan faces a fiscal crisis that reflects worsening domestic revenue shortfalls since 2011, which could reach $1 billion in 2014 compared with the 2011 outlook.” [William Byrd, USIP]
  • Commentary: A Full List of Foreign Detainees at Bagram? – “Information on who the US military holds at Bagram has emerged over the years at a glacial pace.” [Kate Clark, AAN]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: TTP Splinter Group Jamaatul Ahrar Announced; Abdullah Team Boycotts Audit Process

Topline

  • A group of former TTP commanders, including Mohmand TTP chief Omar Khalid Khurasani, have announced the formation of a new splinter group, Jamaatul Ahrar.  On Tuesday, the Lahore High Court upheld a lower court ruling ordering police to initiate a First Investigation Report against a number of senior government officials, including the prime minister and Punjab Chief Minister, in connection to the deaths of Pakistan Awami Tehreek activists in Lahore in mid-June. Prime Minister Sharif addressed parliament on Wednesday, thanking it for support, and vowing to preserve to democracy. Talks between the government and PTI continued, inconclusively, as protestors persist. Gen. John Campbell formally assumed commander of NATO and U.S. forces in Afghanistan on Tuesday, taking over for outgoing commander Gen. Joseph Dunford. Abdullah campaign observers boycotted the audit process on Wednesday. Pres. Karzai will not attend the NATO summit in Wales on September 4, his spokesman says.

Pakistan — Security

  • TTP Splinter Group Jamaatul Ahrar Announced: On Tuesday, a group of commanders led by Maulana Qasim Khurasani and represented by former Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan announced the formation of the Jamaatul Ahrar militant faction. TTP Mohmand chapter chief Omar Khalid Khurasani, who has previously clashed with the central TTP leadership and took a hard line against negotiations with the government earlier this spring, is among the leading commanders in the group. In announcing the formation of the new group, Qasim Khursani accused the TTP, led by former Swat Taliban commander Maulana Fazlullah, of being “a victim of narrow, personal objectives,” and in a NYT interview, Ehsan described the new group as “the real TTP”. [Dawn] [ET]
  • India and Pakistani Border Forces Seek to Defuse Tensions: The Indian and Pakistani directors general of military operations spoke by phone on Tuesday and “mutually agreed to reduce tension along the Line of Control and working boundary,” according to Pakistani military spokes officials. Some reports suggest that the two officers will meet in person for further talks, although Indian sources say Pakistani officials have not attended previous meetings and Pakistani sources say their request for a meeting went unanswered in the latest talks. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • High Court Orders Police Investigation Over Lahore Violence: On Tuesday, the Lahore High Court reaffirmed a lower court ruling directing police to file a First Information Report against twenty one people, including Prime Minister Sharif and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, in connection to the June 17 clashes between police and Pakistan Awami Tehreek activists in Lahore, which left at least 11 dead. Prime Minister Sharif convened senior aides to discuss the issue on Tuesday evening, which reportedly concluded that the government would likely let the investigation proceed. Copies of the Joint Investigation Team report into the incident leaked to the media on Tuesday; that report does not directly implicate senior officials, although it acknowledges inconsistencies in statements received by investigators. The Pakistan Awami Tehreek’s latest deadline for action by the government expires this evening. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Sharif Addresses Parliament: Prime Minister Sharif gave a rare address to parliament on Wednesday, the first such speech since the beginning of PTI and PAT protests in Islamabad earlier this month. Sharif thanked parliament for its resolutions of support, saying that “governments come and go, prime ministers come and go, but keeping faith in democracy and the constitution is what ensures that democracy survives.” Railways Minister Saad Raafique told parliament that the government had no intention of instituting a crackdown on protestors, who continue to block sections of the Islamabad ‘red zone’ and access to some government buildings. City sanitation staff have stopped collecting waste from the protest site. Talks between the government and the PTI continued on Tuesday and were due to resume again Wednesday, with no reports of a breakthrough. On Wednesday, 29 PTI legislators submitted their resignations from the Punjab Assembly; in the National Assembly, speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq has asked 26 PTI parliamentarians to appear in person to confirm their decision to resign. On Tuesday, former Pres. Musharraf gave a TV interview seeking to align himself with the protestors, who he said were seeking “real democracy”. An MQM delegation met with Prime Minister Sharif on Wednesday. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Electoral Reform Proposals: On Tuesday, the Election Commission of Pakistan submitted proposals to the parliamentary committee on electoral reforms, seeking a longer 120-day period between the end of a government term and the holding of elections, greater ECP control over polling staff deputed from other government branches, more resources for new electronic voting machines and absentee voting by overseas Pakistanis, and a new census and redistricting of constituencies. [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • TTP and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi Commander Killed in Dera Ismail Khan [Dawn]
  • Chief of Army Staff Sharif Visits Karachi [Dawn]
  • Senate Defense Committee Calls for Parliamentary Oversight of Defense Budget [Dawn]
  • Regulator Approves Tariff Rate Hike [ET]
  • Economic Coordination Committee Offers Sovereign Guarantee for Rs1 Billion in PIA Borrowing [ET]
  • Prime Minister Sharif Attends World Bank Dasu Hydropower Financing Ceremony [APP]

Afghanistan — Security

  • ISAF Command Change: Former Army vice chief of staff Gen. John Campbell formally assumed command of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan in a ceremony on Tuesday, telling soldiers that he would aim to “cement the gains made to date and ensure that Afghanistan never again becomes a safe haven for terrorism”. Outgoing commander Gen. Joseph Dunford, scheduled to become the next Marine Corps commandant, tells the AP that the current political stalemate in Afghanistan had given the Taliban space to launch an offensive in southern Afghanistan, but said that “if we have a good political transition, that will propel the Afghan forces into 2015”. [TOLO] [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Abdullah Boycotts Audit: Following yesterday’s ultimatum, Abdullah campaign observers and negotiators boycotted the Independent Election Commission audit process on Wednesday. UN officials describe it as a “temporary pause”; at the request of the UN, Ghani campaign observers also withdrew to allow for parity, leaving only IEC staff and international observers, although reports are unclear as to the pace of auditing today. Abdullah himself has yet to publicly comment on the issue, leaving it to deputies, who have accused the audit, now in the vote adjudication phase, of failing to effectively address fraudulent votes. An Abdullah spokesman said that “talks are ongoing with the UN. If that reaches an agreement, we will come back. If not, that is the end of it.” The deadlock comes despite a meeting brokered by Pres. Karzai between the two candidates on Tuesday. [Reuters] [WAPO] [AJE] [RFE/RL] [TOLO]
  • Karzai to Skip NATO Summit: NATO Supreme Allied Commander Gen. Philip Breedlove tells TOLO that the coalition is still hoping that an elected president will be able to attend the alliance summit in Wales beginning September 4; NATO officials are said to be considering options for the attendance of both presidential candidates, neither, or Pres. Karzai. A spokesman for Pres. Karzai said on Wednesday that he would not be taking part “because of his views and his position on the continuation of U.S. and NATO military presence beyond 2014”.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Afghan Forces Battle for Control of Kunduz [Reuters]
  • Former Miistry of Foreign Affairs Chief of Protocol Appointed Ambassador to Germany [TOLO]
  • Lawmaker Escapes Unhurt from Roadside Bombing in Herat [Khaama Press]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Afghan Finance Ministry Exhausts Reserve Funds; Supreme Court Seeks Relocation of Protestors

Topline

  • The Afghan government has exhausted its reserve funds, with the exception of $6 billion held to maintain its balance of trade, and is now dependent on daily revenue collections to finance its expenditures; Finance Minister Zakhilwal confirms that the government will seek additional funds to support the armed forces at a meeting of donors scheduled for September 1. The Independent Election Commission began invalidated audited ballot boxes on Monday; on Tuesday, Abdullah team officials said the IEC had “no intention of throwing out fraudulent votes” and threatened to boycott the process if its demands, left unspecified, were not met. Pakistan’s Supreme Court ruled Monday that protestors were blocking the freedom of movement around the court, and should be relocated; PTI and PAT protestors refused to do so. Prime Minister Sharif met with Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif on Tuesday; both agreed that the ongoing political deadlock should be resolved “expeditiously”. The government has reportedly agreed to PTI demands for consultative appointments on a number of positions, but continues to reject calls for Prime Minister Sharif’s resignation.

Pakistan — Security

  • New ISI Director: Five senior corps commanders and the director general of the ISI, Lt. General Zaheerul Islam, are due to retire within the next three months; The Nation reviews potential appointees to replace him, with current Quetta Corps Commander Lt Gen Naseer Janjua said to be a top contender.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Supreme Court Rules Protestors are Hindering Movement: In a Supreme Court hearing on Monday, Chief Justice Nasirul Mulk ruled that PTI and PAT protestors in Islamabad are impeding free movement along Constitution Avenue in the capital’s “red zone,” including restricting access to the court itself. Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan met with city administration officials and police after the order to plan for its implementation; the wording of the court directive only calls for talks between protestors and the attorney general of Pakistan to agree on the relocation of the sit-in. Protestors refused to vacate the area after the court order, and the attorney general submitted a report to the court to that effect on Tuesday; interior ministry sources suggest a crackdown could be ordered if the court choose to find the protestors in contempt of its order. [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Protests Continue: Prime Minister Sharif met with Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif at his residence on Tuesday; details are limited, but Dawn reports that “there was a consensus on the need to resolve the ongoing issue expeditiously”. The PTI held talks with the PPP and Jamaat-e-Islami on Monday, pushing its new demand for a temporary resignation of Prime Minister Sharif  during which investigations into alleged vote-rigging would be conducted. Punjab governor Chaudhry Muhammad Sarwar, who has served as a negotiator with the PTI, said that the government had accepted demands for new appointments, in consultation with the PTI, for the heads of the Federal Investigation Agency, National Database and Registration Authority, and Election Commission, but that the prime minister would only resign if rigging allegations were proven after a judicial investigation. In his nightly speech on Monday, Imran Khan focused most of his remarks on the alleged rigging, repeatedly citing the recent interview by former Election Commission secretary Mohammad Afzal Khan. Meanwhile, Tahirul Qadri issued the latest in a series of 48-hour ultimatums to the government to step down, suggesting that he was “ready to be martyred”. In a Monday interview, MQM chief Altaf Hussain warned of the risk of martial law if conflict continued; the PPP, meanwhile, announced the formation of a special committee seeking to mediate between the government and the protestors. [Reuters] [Reuters] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Lahore Clash Inquiry: The joint investigation team investigating mid-June clashes between Lahore police and Pakistan Awami Tehreek activists is still continuing its work and has not reached a conclusion, Punjab police spokes officials say; the PAT continues to boycott the investigation. The Express Tribune reports that the report places blame on low-ranking police officers, but that a dissenting opinion holds Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and other senior government officials responsible for the incident. [Dawn] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Polio Crisis: A four-day polio vaccination drive targeting roughly 700,000 children in the FATA and Khyber Paktunkhwa began on Monday, but will not cover North and South Waziristan, portions of Khyber Agency, or the Bannu Frontier Region due to security threats. Boycotts by health workers whose salaries have not been paid in three months delayed the vaccination campaigns in Lakki Marwat, Charsadda, or Malakand. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Baloch Nationalist Groups Observe Strike Commemorating Akbar Khan Bugti [ET] [Dawn]
  • Rupee Drops Most in Five Years Amid Ongoing Political Deadlock [Bloomberg]
  • India Refuses to Modify Kishanganga Dam Design in Indus Water Treaty Talks [ET]
  • Musharraf Lawyers Seek Two-Week Delay in Trial [Dawn]
  • Sufi Shrine Bombed in Mastung, Wounded One [Dawn]
  • No Request Received to Investigate Pakistani Funds in Swiss Banks, Ambassador Says [ET]
  • Rs 400M Appropriated to Repatriate 5,700 Pakistanis Stranded in Libya [ET]
  • Search for Shale Gas to Begin Next Year [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Possible Extension of NATO Forces: Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Dempsey visited Kabul on Monday to attend the changing of command ceremony between Gen. Joseph Dunford and Gen. John Campbell. Speaking to reporters while en route, Dempsey suggested that U.S. military forces in Afghanistan could remain in country beyond the end of the year even in the absence of a bilateral security agreement signed by the as-yet-undetermined next president. Dempsey indicated that a total pullout would require approximately 120 days, but that U.S. forces could act more quickly if necessary, and “we’ve got our own planning mechanism in place should this thing extend a little further than we hoped it would.” He added that the BSA was needed “not because necessarily we lack the authority to stay beyond the end of the year, but rather as an expression of good faith and good will”.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Vote Invalidation Begins: The Independent Election Commission began reviewing audited ballots on Monday to issue disqualification orders; of 3,645 ballot box audit reports reviewed, 72 were invalidated, and 697 were sent back for recount. Details on the location or contents of the invalidated ballot boxes were not released. IEC officials suggested that the audit of most ballot boxes would be completed by Monday evening, and that the recount of 6,000 boxes selected for special scrutiny by the two campaigns would be accelerated. Around 9,500 audit result reports have been entered into the IEC’s system. [Khaama Press]
  • Abdullah Team Threatens Boycott: On Tuesday, Fazal Ahmad Manawi, the former IEC commissioner and lead representative for the Abdullah team in the ongoing audit process, warned that the campaign was prepared to boycott the process, saying that “the invalidation process is just a joke and there is no intention of throwing out fraudulent votes.” Manawi said that the boycott would occur “if our demands are not accepted by tomorrow morning,” although he did not publicly detail those demands. Pres. Karzai has called a meeting of the two candidates on Tuesday. [AJE] [Khaama Press] [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Fiscal Crisis: Deputy Finance Minister Mustafa Mastoor tells TOLO that the government has emptied its reserve funds and its only able to meet obligations through day-to-day revenue collections. $6 billion in reserves remain to maintain the country’s balance of trade. Finance Minister Omar Zakhilwal tells the WSJ that the Afghan government is on the verge of being unable to pay salaries and that its GDP growth rate is “absolutely in the negative”; he confirms that the government will request $6 billion in annual military assistance at a September 1 conference of donors for the Afghan National Army Trust Fund. At the 2012 NATO conference in Chicago, donors pledged $4.1 billion in annual assistance, with the Afghan government committing to $500 million of its own funds beginning in 2015.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Two Killed in Attack on Jawzjan Militia [Khaama Press]
  • Increasing Number of Illegal Militias Reported in Faryab [TOLO]
  • Report: Afghanistan’s Constitution Ten Years On: What Are the Issues? – “Ambiguities are not unexpected with a new constitution. The question is whether the constitution itself, and the institution it creates, are able to resolve and clarify the ambiguities in the way that fortifies the constitution and the rule of law.” [Mohammad Hashim Kamali, AREU]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Negotiations Continue as Protests Persist; Karzai Sets Presidential Inauguration for Sept 2

Topline

  • Protests continue in Pakistan; the PML-N has begun to stage its own smaller counter-rallies around the country in support of the government. Negotiations resumed with the PTI and the Pakistan Awami Tehreek over the weekend, but the opposition movements’ insistence on the resignation of Prime Minister Sharif and Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has left talks deadlocked. The National Assembly speaker has delayed accepting PTI legislators’ resignation as talks continue. Former Pres. Zardari met with PM Sharif, advising both sides to continue dialogue. Pres. Karzai announced on Saturday that the inauguration of the next president would be held September 2 and could not be extended. Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani met with Karzai and held talks on the formation of a national unity government on Saturday after calls from Pres. Obama the day prior. The Independent Election Commission has begun adjudicating audit results, and says that it aims to conclude the audit process within ten days. At least four civilians and one Indian soldier were killed and six people were injured in renewed cross-border artillery fire along the Kashmir border between India and Pakistan. Afghan officials continue to accuse Pakistan of cross-border artillery fire in Kunar. Heavy fighting is ongoing between the Taliban and Afghan security forces in Helmand’s Sangin district. Pakistan State Oil is again on the verge of defaulting on dues to international suppliers, and is owed Rs 200 billion from power producers.

Pakistan — Security

  • Cross-Border Fire in Kashmir Kills Four: Indian and Pakistani border exchanged fire for several hours on Saturday across the Line of Control in Kashmir, leaving at least two civilians dead on each side of the border; some media sources report that three Pakistani civilians were killed. Both sides allege that the other initiated the exchange, which follows the cancellation of foreign secretary level talks that were due to have been held on Monday. Continued firing on Sunday wounded another Pakistani civilian, and an Indian soldier is reported to have been killed in clashes with militants near the border. Five more people, including two Pakistani border guards, were injured on Monday. Pakistani Foreign Advisor Sartaj Aziz tells Dawn that a meeting should be held of the Directors General of Military Operations from each side. [ET] [NYT] [Reuters] [AJE]
  • FATA Clashes: Clashes on Saturday between a tribal militia and TTP fighters in Orakzai left five militants dead and three injured, local officials report. Separately, a former Lashkar-e-Islam spokesman was killed by unidentified gunmen in Khyber Agency. LeI militants killed a local man  accused of spying in Khyber’s Tirah Valley on Friday.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Islamabad Security Tightened: Citing the threat of terrorist attack on the ongoing sit-in of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and Pakistan Awami Tehreek activists, the Interior Ministry cut off mobile phone services in the ‘red zone’ on Saturday, doubled security personnel deployments, and closed government offices on Sunday; PAT leader Tahirul Qadri accused the government of “planting terrorists to target the marchers”. In Multan, 19 PML-N activists received bail on Saturday after attacking PTI vice president Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s residence; 72 PAT activists held in Lahore were also granted bail separately on Saturday. 400 PTI activists were charged with violating bans on public assembly in Faisalabad; a Gujranwala court judge has reissued arrest warrants against Qadri and 71 supporters in connection to disruptions during the party’s march to Islamabad.
  • Protests Continue: The NYT offers an overview of the ongoing protest movements. The sit-ins in Islamabad continue, with press reports suggesting that PTI crowds swelled over the weekend, in part due to improved weather and the festival atmosphere of the sit-ins. On Friday, PTI and PAT representatives filed responses with the Supreme Court over petitions challenging their protests. On Sunday, the PML-N staged counter-rallies against the PTI and PAT, held in Islamabad, Faisalabad, and Karachi; PML-N supporters also rallied in Lahore on Friday and in Rawalpindi on Saturday. In a TV interview on Sunday, Muhammad Afzal Khan, a former Election Commission secretary, endorsed rigging allegations against the government, implicating former Chief Justices Iftikhar Chaudhry and Tassaduq Jillani as well as the election commission in the matter. Retired Judge Riaz Ahmed Kiyani, a former provincial election commissioner from Punjab and one of those accused of collusion, rebutted Afzal Khan’s allegations on Monday. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Negotiations Resume: Talks between the PTI and government negotiators resumed on Friday, and continued Saturday, but without resolution; the PTI’s Shah Mehmood Qureshi suggested afterwards that Prime Minister Sharif step down for thirty days to allow for an impartial investigation into the party’s election rigging charges. Dawn reports that the PTI remains internally divided over whether to continue to push for Nawaz Sharif’s resignation as prime minister or to accept compromise reforms; Khan is said to be determined to hold out for Sharif’s exit, but other PTI sources suggest that the party is prepared to “show some flexibility”. Opposition party mediators have suggested that an investigation should first be held before any resignation. Talks were also held on Saturday with the Pakistan Awami Tehreek, with the PAT reiterating its demand for a criminal investigation against the prime minister and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif in connection to the deaths of PAT activists in Lahore in June. At a meeting of senior PML-N leaders on Sunday, both Sharif brothers reiterated their resolve not to resign; on Monday, however, Shahbaz Sharif is reported to have agreed to allow the initiation of police investigations into the Lahore clashes. The Lahore High Court rejected the provincial government’s report on the incident on Monday. [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • PTI Parliamentary Resignations Stalled: National Assembly speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq convened a meeting of all political party leaders in the assembly for Monday, to discuss the resignation of PTI legislators from parliament. Sadiq will seek individual confirmation from each legislator of their intent to resign, he tells Dawn, suggesting that processing the resignations could take up to two weeks. An anonymous PTI parliamentarian claims that a dissident group of 13 legislators – nearly half of the 34-member delegation – has resolved not to resign, citing the decision of Khyber Paktunkhwa provincial assembly members not to do so. The News reports that the group is in talks with the JUI-F to form a “forward bloc”. Jamaat-e-Islami leader and mediator Sirajul Haq told reporters on Sunday that “there was still room for talks” and called on the government to delay the acceptance of the PTI parliamentarians’ resignation. [Dawn]
  • Zardari and Sharif Hold Talks: Former Pres. Zardari met with Prime Minister Sharif at the latter’s residence in Raiwind on Saturday; in a press conference afterwards, Finance Minister Dar said that “Zardari has fully supported PM Nawaz … for the supremacy of Constitution and democracy”. Zardari also met with Sirajul Haq of the JI and Chaudhry Shujaat and Chaudhry Parvez Elahi of the PML-Q. Speaking to reporters on Saturday evening, Zardari said that he had urged Prime Minister Sharif to continue dialogue, and cautioned against street demonstrations that could “derail the system”. Meanwhile, the Paktunkhwa Milli Awami Party called for the formation of an alliance to defend the constitution and parliament, with leader Mehmood Khan Achakzai announcing plans to rally in support of the PML-N government in Balochistan. A spokesman for former Pres. Musharraf’s All Pakistan Muslim League issued a statement on Saturday that it was “compulsory for any discussion concerning an end to the current national political crisis to include the immediate withdrawal of the politically-motivated treason trial against Musharraf”.[ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Pakistan State Oil Again Verging on Default: Pakistan State Oil will default on payments to international creditors on Monday if the government fails to immediately release Rs 32 billion, officials warn; in total, the oil importer is owed Rs 200 billion from power producers. Meanwhile, Pakistan has begun low-volume exports of ultra light crude oil from fields in Sindh and Khyber Paktunkhwa, generating $60.7 million in the past two months’ export.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Displaced Waziristan Residence Protest Neglect in Bannu [ET] [ET]
  • Sixteen Killed in Kech District Clashes [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • One Killed, 15 Wounded in Quetta Hand Grenade Attack [Dawn]
  • Government Preparing Loyalist Appointment for Auditor General [ET] [ET]
  • Current Account Deficit Worsens in First Month of Fiscal Year [ET]
  • Deaths from Rainstorms Continue in Peshawar; Power Cut [Dawn]
  • Rawalpindi Teachers Refuse to Take On Polio Vaccination Campaign [ET] [Dawn]
  • OGRA Backs Plan to Divert Some LNG to CNG Stations [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Karzai Pushes for Sept 2 Inauguration: The NYT overviews the ongoing dispute over the levels of fraud in the presidential runoff elections. Pres. Karzai met with UN Special Representative Jan Kubis on Saturday; afterwards, the presidency issued a statement indicating that Karzai had set September 2 as the swearing-in date for the next president, a date that he said could not be further extended. Karzai met with Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani on Sunday to reiterate the message, which places renewed pressure on the ongoing ballot box audit. Pres. Obama also spoke by phone with the two candidates on Friday, urging them to “finalize a deal as soon as possible”. Although Ghani spokesmen echoed the call for an “end to the uncertainty that is going on right now,” an anonymous Abdullah aide tells the WSJ that “we believe it is also important that people of Afghanistan get a legitimate president who can form a strong and legitimate government… timing is not our first concern.” Both Abdullah and Ghani met in person on Saturday to further discuss the formation of a national unity government; on Friday, negotiators were said to have reached agreement on the role and means of appointing the new chief executive position, although the matter does not appear to have been resolved as of Saturday. Independent Election Commission officials reported that they have audited 70% of all ballot boxes as of Sunday. On Saturday, the IEC’s chief spokesman said that they hope to announce final results within ten days; the process of adjudicating audit findings began on Monday. [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Candidates Pledge to Welcome Back Expelled NYT Reporter [NYT]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Parliament Backs Sharif as PTI Resigns; GAO Concludes Bergdahl Transfer Violated Law

Topline

  • The PTI submitted resignations from the National Assembly on Friday; on Thursday, the assembly passed a unanimous resolution backing Prime Minister Sharif’s government, a move echoed by the Senate on Friday. The removal of Islamabad Inspector General of Police Ahmad Cheema has sparked rumors of an impending crackdown on the protestors; Prime Minister Sharif told journalists on Thursday that the government had no intention to use force, however. Imran Khan attacked the U.S. in his speech to the crowds on Thursday, after comments by the U.S. State Department the day prior indicating that the U.S. “supports the constitutional and electoral process in Pakistan”. The GAO has concluded that the transfer of five Taliban detainees from Guantanamo in exchange for the release of Bowe Bergdahl violated Defense Appropriation Act requirements for advance notice to Congress. The State Department has increased its reward offer for five Haqqani network leaders, and the Treasury department sanction a Pakistani hawala network linked to Taliban financing on Thursday. Under criticism, the Afghan government upped its accusations against NYT reporter Matthew Rosenberg on Thursday as he was expelled from the country, accusing him of spying.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Parliament Backs Government; PTI Resigns: On Thursday, the National Assembly passed a unanimous resolution — save for the absent PTI and PML-Q — rejecting “the unconstitutional demands from certain political parties for the resignation of the Prime Minister and the dissolution of the National Assembly and deplor[ing] the extremely derogatory, defamatory and inflammatory language used by leaders and members of these parties in their speeches”. Prime Minister Sharif attended the session but did not speak publicly; he is due to make an address on Friday. All 34 PTI National Assembly legislators submitted their resignations on Friday. On Friday, the Senate passed its own resolution, brought by PPP senator Saeed Ghani, rejecting the calls for Sharif’s resignation and affirming the supremacy of the constitution and parliament. [AP] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Protests Continue: An anonymous police official alleges to the Express Tribune that Islamabad Inspector General of Police Ahmad Cheema, who was reassigned from his post on Wednesday, was removed for his “failure to use force” against the protestors; both Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri cited Cheema’s removal in speeches to supporters on Thursday, with Khan warning the government against any attempt at a crackdown. Meeting with journalists on Thursday, Prime Minister Sharif insisted that the government “is trying to find a political solution to the crisis, and has no plan to use force”. He said that he would not fulfill “unconstitutional demands” and would not be “blackmailed,” noting that “all democratic forces are on the same page regarding this issue”. [Dawn] [ET]
  • Khan Attacks U.S. Statements: In his speech to the crowd on Thursday, Khan directed new anger at the United States, saying that U.S. leaders “like only those governments in Muslim countries that are your slaves”. Khan’s criticism came a day after U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters at a press briefing that the U.S. “support[s] he constitutional and electoral process in Pakistan” and that Prime Minister Sharif did lead “the elected government”. The U.S. embassy released a statement Thursday that the U.S. was “in no way involved in the process or the discussion between the parties. Any suggestion to the contrary is completely false.”
  • Negotiations Efforts Stall: Talks between the protestors and the government have not resumed; in a BBC interview, Imran Khan suggested that he was willing to talk, but called instead for a formation of a caretaker government, as the current government “cannot ensure that justice is done”. The PPP held a meeting in Dubai on Wednesday to review the political situation in the country; opposition leader Khurshid Shah, said Thursday that he would support the PTI’s call for Prime Minister Sharif’s resignation only after first conducting investigations into charges of election rigging. Imran Khan rejected Shah’s position as a mediator on Thursday, suggesting that he would be “unable to stand against” the prime minister. Sharif and former Pres. Zardari are reported to have conferred by phone on Thursday. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • State Bank Holding Back As Rupee Depreciates by Nearly 2% [ET]
  • FATA Tribunal Seeks Record of Shakeel Afridi’s Trial [Dawn]
  • Eight Killed in Rainstorms in Khyber Paktunkhwa and FATA [Dawn]
  • Government Seeks Explanation from Provinces on New Spike in Polio Cases [Dawn]
  • US Energy Information Agency to Assess Pakistan’s Shale Gas Prospects [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • New Rewards for Haqqani Leaders: On Wednesday, the U.S. State Department updated its reward offers for five leaders of the Haqqani network, doubling the bounty on Sirajuddin Haqqani to $10 million and offering $5 million rewards for information leading to the location of Aziz Haqqani, a brother to Sirajuddin; Khalil al-Rahman Haqqani, an uncle and financier; Yahya Haqqani, a brother-in-law and senior leader; and Abdul Rauf Zakir, the group’s chief of suicide operations. The U.S. Treasury Department has also imposed sanctions on a Pakistan-based hawala money transfer businesses, Haji Basir and Zarjmil Company, and its owner Haji Abdul Basir, for providing financial services to the Afghan Taliban. [State Department Statement] [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Bergdahl Transfer Violated Law, GAO Advises: Responding to a letter by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), the Government Accountability Office has concluded that the transfer of five Taliban detainees from Guantanamo Bay in exchange for the release of Bowe Bergdahl violated Section 8111 of the Defense Appropriations Act of 2014. The administration did not notify Congress in advance of the transfer, as required by the law; the Pentagon defended the decision, saying that compliance “would have interfered with the executive’s performance of two related functions that the Constitution assigns to the president: protecting the lives of Americans abroad and protecting U.S. service members”. [Reuters] [WAPO]
  • Afghan Government Accuses NYT Reporter of Spying: The U.S. ambassador to Kabul and the UN Special Representative to Afghanistan condemned Afghanistan’s expulsion of NYT reporter Matthew Rosenberg on Thursday. The Afghan Government Media and Information Center issued a statement defending the decision, saying that it “considers Mr. Rosenberg’s report more of an espionage act than a journalistic work, one that was meant to create panic and disruption in people’s minds, and provide the basis for other spying purposes.”

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Taliban Offensive in Kunduz Reportedly Led by Former Detainee [TOLO]
  • Five Policemen Killed in Checkpost Attack [TOLO]
  • New Disciplinary Code to Be Required for Candidate Agents at Election Audit [TOLO]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Talks Open Between PML-N and Opposition; Afghanistan to Seek Increase in Military Aid

Topline

  • The PML-N government opened talks with leaders of the PTI and PAT protest movements on Wednesday, but has made little headway in the face of maximalist demands for Prime Minister Sharif’s resignation. The PTI broke off talks on Thursday. Army officials have refused to directly mediate but have called for “meaningful dialogue”; Reuters reports that in meetings between Chief of Staff Raheel Sharif and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, the government was told that it must agree to “share space with the army” in order to “get through its many problems”. Afghan Finance Minister Omar Zakhilwal told an advance conference on Kabul that Afghanistan would seek to increase NATO military assistance pledges to Afghanistan to $6 billion annually at the upcoming summit in Wales. The Afghan attorney general’s office has ordered the expulsion of NYT correspondent Matthew Rosenberg; Pres. Karzai and other top officials were personally involved in the decision, a presidential spokesman confirmed. An ISAF soldier was stabbed and killed under unclear circumstances in Kabul on Wednesday; Kabul police say they have arrested a Taliban commander who was allegedly responsible.

Pakistan — Security

  • NATO Supply Line Attacks: Two people were killed in an attack on a supply convoy bound for NATO forces in Afghanistan that took place in the Khyber Agency on Thursday. No claim of responsibility for the attack has been reported.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Interventions Into Political Deadlock: Reuters reports that in talks last week between Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif, the military had delivered a message that it was not pursuing a coup through the support of the PTI and PAT protests, but that “if the government wants to get through its many problems and the four remaining years of its term, it has to share space with the army”. Shahbaz and COAS Sharif met again on Wednesday, during which the military said that it would not serve as an active mediator, but said the political opponents should open “meaningful dialogue” for an “urgent solution”. At Supreme Court hearings on Thursday, senior judge Anwar Zaheer Jamali cautioned PTI leaders to use “appropriate language” against their opponents, and sought a written reply from PTI lawyers on petitions challenging the current protest rallies. Pakistan Bar Council and Supreme Court Bar Association lawyers held a strike on Thursday to oppose “any move against democratic system in the country”. Responding to questions at a Wednesday press briefing, the State Department stated that the U.S. “do[es] not support any extra-constitutional changes to [Pakistan’s] democratic system, or people attempting to impose that”. [WAPO] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Talks Open Between Government and Protestors: Demonstrations continued in Islamabad on Wednesday; on Thursday, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan removed the Inspector General of the Islamabad Police, Aftab Cheema, from his position without explanation. PML-N activists are reported to have attacked the residence of PTI Vice President Shah Mehmood Qureshi in Multan, before being dispersed by police. Prime Minister Sharif met with a number of aides on Wednesday prior to the formation of negotiating committees, and with Pres. Mamnoon Hussain on Thursday. PTI party leaders met with the government negotiating team on Wednesday night, forestalling a planned protest in front of the prime minister’s residence. The PTI have presented a six-point list of demands during talks, which included PM Sharif’s resignation, fresh elections, the resignation of the current Election Commission, electoral reforms, the formation of a neutral caretaker government, and the punishment of those accused of rigging the 2013 elections. On Thursday, however, the PTI called off participation in the talks, accusing the government of restricting the movement of its party workers. Talks with Tahirul Qadri have also shown little progress, with the PAT demanding Nawaz and Shahbaz Sharif’s resignations and arrests of those responsible for the June clashes between PAT activists and Lahore police. [Reuters] [Dawn] [AJE] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Pakistan ‘Hopeful’ of Resumed India Dialogue [ET]
  • Debt Burden Reaches New Rs 16.4 Trillion Peak [ET]
  • Gilgit-Baltistan Legislature Passes Local Government Bill [ET]
  • Chinese Consul Visits Gwadar Port [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Security Assistance: At a coordination meeting held on Wednesday in Kabul, ahead of the NATO conference in Wales scheduled for September 4-5, Finance Minister Omar Zakhilwal said that current pledges to provide the country with $4.1 billion in annual military assistance were insufficient and that the government would seek commitments of $5.5 to 6 billion. On Wednesday, the EU announced 95 million euros in assistance for Afghan National Police salaries.
  • ISAF Soldier Stabbed: The foreign national stabbed near the Kabul airport on Wednesday was a soldier with the NATO military coalition, and died from his injuries, ISAF officials report. Circumstances of the killing are otherwise unclear, although Kabul police suggest the soldier had been engaged in an argument with a taxi driver before another man attacked him; other sources indicate he was escorting NATO trucks. The Taliban have claimed responsibility and suggest it occurred while the soldier, still unidentified, was shopping. Kabul police announced the arrest on Wednesday of Abdul Fatah Jahadwal, identified as a Taliban commander said to have carried out the attack. [TOLO]
  • Red Cross Workers Freed: Five Red Cross aid workers who were abducted by an unidentified armed group in Herat last week have been freed, the organization announced on Wednesday; no details of the negotiations for their release have been shared, and the Taliban has not claimed responsibility. [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • NYT Correspondent Expelled: As reported yesterday, on Wednesday the attorney general of Afghanistan ordered NYT correspondent Matthew Rosenberg to leave the country within 24 hours following the publication earlier this week of an article that suggested ongoing discussions within the government about the possible imposition of an interim government as the drawn-out presidential election standoff continues. The attorney general’s office declared the article to be “divisive and contrary to the national interest, security and stability of Afghanistan.” Rosenberg said that he was “never informed of a formal investigation and we do not understand how insisting on the right to a lawyer is not cooperating.” A spokesman for Pres. Karzai confirmed that the president had been involved in the decision, accusing the NYT of following a “deep state agenda”. The State Department described the move as a “significant step backward for the freedom of expression in Afghanistan that may well be unprecedented there,” urging the government to reverse the decision. [WSJ] [WAPO] [TOLO]
  • Audit Disputes: Fighting between candidate agents and Independent Election Commission staff on Tuesday delayed the start of the audit process on Wednesday; the IEC accused “high ranking electoral team members” of smuggling in weapons to be used in the fight. At a press conference on Thursday, Abdullah Abdullah reiterated his determination to “defend the right and votes of people”.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Taliban Press Offensive Amid Election Crisis in Kabul [WSJ]
  • Four ANA Soldiers Wounded in Kabul Bombing [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • Woman Injured in Kunar Shelling [Khaama Press]
  • USAID Grants $92M for Afghan Higher Education [TOLO]
  • Commentary: Why Afghanistan Should Be Worried About Pakistan’s Political Crisis – “Pakistan’s current political crisis is domestically driven. Its reverberations, however, will be felt across the border in Afghanistan — a country all too used to getting caught up in, and made to suffer for, the problems and rivalries of its regional neighbors.” [Michael Kugelman, South Asia Channel]
  • Commentary: Last Tango in Kabul – “The days of the Kabubble are over, and for those who have watched the Surge come and go, it’s hard to feel nostalgic for an imperial misadventure whose participants were more concerned about their bank accounts and careers than the people of this country.” [Matthieu Aikins, Rolling Stone]

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]