Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: UNAMA Reports Civilian Casualty Decline; Bombing Targets Peshawar Madrassa

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Topline

  • A new quarterly report from UNAMA covering the first nine months of this year found that 2,117 civilians had been killed and 3,822 injured, which is the lowest level recorded since 2012. The UN nonetheless stated that “the harm done to civilians remains inordinate and shocking” and reiterated a call for a humanitarian ceasefire. Separately, the NYT reports delays by the Afghan government in making compensation payments to civilian victims; the office for handling those claims was transferred from the chief executive to the presidency following the conclusion of the 2019 elections dispute earlier this spring.
  • At least eight people were killed and scores more injured in an bombing at the Jamia Zuberia madrassa in Peshawar on Tuesday; no claim of responsibility was reported, and the Pakistani Taliban denied responsibility.
  • Four members of the government negotiating team in Qatar have returned home to Kabul, citing “person matters”, TOLO reports.
  • The Pakistani parliament passed resolutions in the upper and lower house on Monday condemning the publication in France of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad, and calling for a boycott of French products.
  • As of Tuesday, Pakistan reports 329,375 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 4.317 million tests, with at least 6,745 associated deaths.
  • As of Tuesday, Afghanistan reports 41,032 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 120,914 tests, with at least 1,523 associated deaths.

Pakistan — Security

  • Peshawar Madrassa Bombing: At least eight people were killed and scores more injured in an bombing at the Jamia Zuberia madrassa in Peshawar on Tuesday; no claim of responsibility was reported, and the Pakistani Taliban denied responsibility. [Reuters] [AP] [Guardian] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Tensions with India: Pakistan marked a ‘Black Day’ on Tuesday on the anniversary of what the prime minister’s office described as the anniversary of “Indian forces land[ing] in Srinagar to forcibly occupy the territory and subjugate people of Jammu and Kashmir” 73 years ago; Pakistani leaders issued statements condemning Indian policies in Kashmir, and the foreign ministry formally protested to the Indian charge d’affaires. [Dawn]
  • Missing Persons: In a report to the Supreme Court submitted following an investigation into the abduction of journalist Matiullah Khan earlier this summer, investigators from the Federal Investigation Agency, Islamabad police, and National Database and Registration Authority all professed an inability to identify Khan’s abductors.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: The Supreme Court will hold hearings on Wednesday on a review petition by Judge Qazi Faez Isa challenging the court’s order for the Federal Board of Revenue to investigate his family’s assets. On Tuesday, the court dismissed an appeal from the National Accountability Bureau to add Shehbaz Sharif’s name to the Exit Control List, noting that Shehbaz was already being held in custody. On Monday, lawyers for PM Khan argued for his acquittal in a case related to the PTI’s 2014 Islamabad sit-in protests. The Lahore High Court dismissed a petition challenging the formation of the Competition Commission of Pakistan. [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Other Political Activity: Government and opposition lawmakers sparred in the national assembly on Monday, with Foreign Minister Qureshi and Khawaja Asif of the PML-N competing to introduce resolutions condemning the publication in France of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad, and trading accusations related to the arrest in Karachi earlier this month of PML-N leader Mohammad Safdar. The lower house ultimately passed a joint resolution, which included a call to boycott French products; the senate also passed a resolution on the cartoons issue. Special representative for the prime minister Maualana Tahir Ashrafi announced plans to raise the issue in the Organization of the Islamic Conference. [ET] [ET] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • COVID Crisis: As of Tuesday, Pakistan reports 329,375 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 4.317 million tests, with at least 6,745 associated deaths. Rs 4.84 billion in funds donated to the Prime Minister’s Coronavirus Relief Funds remain unutilized, the government acknowledged in response to questioning in the national assembly on Monday.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Turkish National Defense Minister Meets Army Chief [ET]
  • Four Killed in Kurram [Dawn]
  • CPEC Joint Working Group Approves Three New Road Projects [ET]
  • British Auto Firm to Manufacture Electric Buses in Pakistan [ET]
  • PM Khan Promotes ‘Knowledge City’ Project [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Civilian Casualties: A new quarterly report (pdf) from the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan for the first nine months of this year found that 2,117 civilians had been killed and 3,822 injured, which is the lowest level recorded since 2012. The UN nonetheless stated that “the harm done to civilians remains inordinate and shocking” and reiterated a call for a humanitarian ceasefire. The UN noted a decline in attributable attacks, as the Taliban or Islamic State claimed responsibility for fewer attacks; pro-government forces were found to responsible for approximately 28% of all casualties, and casualties caused by the Afghan Air Force increased 70%, for eight percent of the total. Separately, the NYT reports on delays by the Afghan government in making compensation payments to civilian victims; the office for handling those claims was transferred from the chief executive to the presidency following the conclusion of the 2019 elections dispute earlier this spring. [Reuters] [TOLO]
  • Attacks and Operations: At least three people were killed in a complex attack targeting a police special forces base in Khost city on Tuesday; the Taliban are not reported to have claimed responsibility as of this writing. The Washington Post profiles one of the victims of Saturday’s attack on a Kabul education center, which targeted members of the Hazara community. Three people were killed in a magnetic bomb attack in Kabul on Tuesday. Afghan Army Chief of Staff Yasin Zia cited the recent NDS operation that killed a senior Al Qaeda operative in Ghazni as evidence that the Taliban “have not cut ties with Al Qaeda”. [AP] [Ariana News] [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Peace Talks: Four members of the government negotiating team in Qatar have returned home to Kabul, citing “person matters”, TOLO reports. In a meeting in New Delhi on Monday with visiting U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, India’s Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar was quoted saying that “India has stakes in Afghanistan’s stability, and that decision about the country’s future should be made by Afghans without use of force”. Elsewhere, Amb. Khalilzad traveled to Norway to hold talks on the process with Norwegian diplomats.

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

Afghanistan — Remainders

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: FATF Keeps Pakistan on ‘Grey List’; ISIS Attacks Kabul Education Center

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Topline

  • The FATF left Pakistan’s status on the organization’s “grey list” unchanged at the conclusion of its plenary session on Friday, urging Pakistan to complete its agreed upon action plan for reforms by February 2021. The FATF said Pakistan had reached compliance on 21 out of 27 targets previously set in 2018 when it was greylisted.
  • On Sunday, the NDS announced that it had killed Husam Abd al-Rauf, also known as Abu Muhsin al-Masri, a deputy Al Qaeda leader who faced terrorism charges in the United States. The US National Counter-Terrorism Center confirmed al-Masri’s death; Pres. Ghani’s office said that the operation “proved that the threat of terrorism and the Taliban’s links to terrorist networks are still in place.”
  • At least 30 people were killed and dozens more wounded in a suicide bombing that targeted an education center in western Kabul on Saturday. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack; the center had previously been targeted in an attack in 2017.
  • At least one person was reportedly arrested in connection to the disclosure of civilian casualties in an Afghan Air Force airstrike in Takhar province last week. Human Rights Watch criticized Vice Pres. Saleh for “trying to silence those who reported a potentially unlawful airstrike” and called for the unidentified individual’s release; Saleh rejected the accusation and reiterated his contention that no civilians had been killed. In a statement on Sunday, Amb. Khalilzad said that “it is vital that Afghanistan’s independent media and robust civil society be allowed to document current events”.
  • The Pakistan Democratic Movement opposition coalition held a major rally in Quetta on Sunday. Ali Imran Syed, a television reporter for Geo News, was abducted on Friday evening and later released on Saturday; his last story for the network prior to his kidnapping was related to investigations into the arrest the previous week of PML-N leader Mohammad Safdar by paramilitary and intelligence officers.
  • In a detailed ruling published on Friday, the Supreme Court of Pakistan quashed a disciplinary charge brought against Judge Qazi Faez Isa, holding it to be “tainted with mala fide in law”; the court had previously issued a short order to that effect in mid-June. The detailed ruling does not call for any action against the PTI government for bringing the charges against Isa.
  • Afghan government and Taliban representatives held another meeting in Qatar on Saturday, but no agreement was announced on a framework for talks. Speaking at a press conference on Sunday, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar said that “an interim government is the only solution” to the current conflict, and accused the Ghani administration of not supporting peace.
  • As of Monday, Pakistan reports 328,602 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 4.29 million tests, with at least 6,739 associated deaths.
  • As of Monday, Afghanistan reports 40,937 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 120,425 tests, with at least 1,518 associated deaths. On Monday, the attorney general’s office announced corruption charges against the Herat governor and other provincial officials, accusing them of embezzling Afs 20 million in coronavirus assistance funds.

Pakistan — Security

  • FATF Keeps Pakistan on ‘Grey List’ Status: A plenary session of the international Financial Action Task Force that concluded on Friday left its status on the organization’s “grey list” unchanged, urging Pakistan to complete its agreed upon action plan for reforms by the next plenary session in February 2021. The FATF said Pakistan had reached compliance on 21 out of 27 targets previously set in 2018 when it was greylisted. Federal Industries Minister Hammad Azhar, who has led the country’s engagement with the FATF process, celebrated the move as a “diplomatic victory”. [FATF Statement] [AP] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Reported Abducted: Ali Imran Syed, a television reporter for Geo News, was abducted on Friday evening and later released on Saturday; the circumstances of his abduction were not disclosed, but his last story for the network prior to his kidnapping was related to investigations into the arrest the previous week of PML-N leader Mohammad Safdar by paramilitary and intelligence officers. On Saturday, special assistant to the prime minister Shahbaz Gill accused the opposition of “orchestrating drama” and faking video related to Safdar’s arrest. [ET] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Quetta Bombing: Three people were killed and two wounded in an explosion in Quetta on Sunday, coinciding with a demonstration by the combined opposition parties; no claim of responsibility was reported. [AP] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Opposition Rallies in Quetta: The Pakistan Democratic Movement opposition coalition held a major rally in Quetta on Sunday; Bilawal Bhutto Zardari addressed the gathering by video link from Gilgit and Nawaz Sharif from London, while Maryam Nawaz and other opposition party leaders from the BNP, JUI-F, ANP, and other parties participating in person. Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement leader Mohsin Dawar was barred from traveling to Quetta on Saturday to attend the rally; after the rally, Maryam said that her aides had received threatening phone calls warning of a “massive crackdown” in response. Information Minister Shibli Faraz denounced the opposition movement as “the third piece of the axis of evil” alongside India and Israel, and said that the government planned to meet again on Monday to consider action against the opposition rallies. In an interview on Friday, PM Khan reiterated his objective to secure Nawaz Sharif’s extradition from the UK, and predicted that he would “emerge with a clear majority” if midterm elections were held. Dawn reports that the PTI plans to ramp up its challenges against the PPP government in Sindh in response to the opposition movement. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [The Nation]
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: In a detailed ruling published on Friday, the Supreme Court quashed a disciplinary charge brought against Judge Qazi Faez Isa, holding it to be “tainted with mala fide in law”; the court had previously issued a short order to that effect in mid-June. The detailed ruling does not call for any action against the PTI government for bringing the charges against Isa, although a minority statement from Judge Yahya Afridi called for criminal proceedings against Law Minister Farogh Naseem and special assistant to the prime minister Mirza Shahzad Akbar. Maryam Nawaz called for PM Khan and Pres. Alvi to step down following the verdict; the Pakistan Bar Council called for resignations from Alvi, Naseem, and Akbar. On Monday, the Supreme Court reserved a verdict on challenges brought against the Sindh Local Government Act and a petition for acquittal from PM Khan in connection to the  PTI’s 2014 Islamabad protests. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET]
  • PM Denounces ‘Islamaphobia’: In an open letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, PM Khan called on the social media company to “place a similar ban on Islamaphobia and hate against Islam for Facebook that you have put in place for the Holocaust”. On Sunday, Khan accused French Pres. Macron of having “attacked Islam” by encouraging the publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad and for other remarks by Macron following the murder of a French teacher who had shown those cartoons to his class last month. The Pakistani foreign ministry conveyed a formal protest to the French ambassador on Monday. [ET] [Dawn]
  • Other Political Activity: Planning Minister Umar visited Hyderabad on Saturday, where he defended the federal government’s plans to develop two Karachi islands; he also met with MQM leaders to discuss their demands to conduct a new census in Karachi. Two dissident PML-N provincial assembly members met with Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar again on Saturday. On Friday, PM Khan appointed Raoof Hasan as special assistant for information. [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • COVID Crisis: As of Monday, Pakistan reports 328,602 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 4.29 million tests, with at least 6,739 associated deaths. Dawn notes a surge of new cases in Punjab. The World Bank projects that “learning poverty”, defined as being unable to read or understand a simple text by age ten, may increase further to 79% as a result of COVID-related school closures. [ET] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • PPP Senator Raza Rabbani Questions Legal Status of CPEC Authority [Dawn]
  • MQM Activist Arrested on Charges of Indian Spy Agency Links [The Nation]
  • Over 9.79 Million New Voters Registered Since 2018 Elections [The Nation]
  • Auditor General Reports Rs 3 Trillion in Power Sector Irregularities [Dawn]
  • Government and Opposition Hold Competing Inauguration Ceremonies for Lahore Metro Train Project [The Nation] [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Al Qaeda Leader Killed: On Sunday, the NDS announced that it had killed Husam Abd al-Rauf, also known as Abu Muhsin al-Masri, a deputy Al Qaeda leader who faced terrorism charges in the United States. Details of the operation in which al-Masri was killed remain limited, although it reportedly took place in Ghazni province’s Andar district. The US National Counter-Terrorism Center confirmed al-Masri’s death; Pres. Ghani’s office said that the operation “proved that the threat of terrorism and the Taliban’s links to terrorist networks are still in place.” [Ariana News]
  • Kabul Bombing: At least 30 people were killed and dozens more wounded in a suicide bombing that targeted an education center in western Kabul on Saturday; many of the victims were students. The Taliban denied responsibility for the attack, which was subsequently claimed by the Islamic State; the center had previously been targeted in an attack in 2017. VP Sarwar Danish blamed the Taliban for the attack. [AP] [TOLO] [TOLO]
  • Civilian Casualties in Takhar Airstrike: At least one person was reportedly arrested in connection to the disclosure of civilian casualties in an Afghan Air Force airstrike in Takhar province last week; Human Rights Watch criticized Vice Pres. Saleh for “trying to silence those who reported a potentially unlawful airstrike” and called for the unidentified individual’s release; Saleh rejected the accusation and reiterated his contention that no civilians had been killed. In a statement on Sunday, Amb. Khalilzad echoed findings from other human rights groups that civilians had been killed and said that “it is vital that Afghanistan’s independent media and robust civil society be allowed to document current events”.
  • Security  Assistance: Pres. Ghani chaired a meeting on Saturday to review plans for the Afghan security forces, saying that they would “move towards self-sufficiency”. In a Facebook message on Monday, VP Saleh said that the government was working on a plan to “empower people at risk of future attacks” from ISIS and the Taliban, but said that there “will be no such thing as militia and weapon distribution”. [TOLO]
  • Other Attacks and Operations: The Washington Post reviews recent attacks around the country, including those in and around the provincial capitals of Helmand, Takhar, and Ghor. Fighting is reportedly still ongoing around Lashkar Gah in Helmand. The U.S. military confirmed on Sunday that the U.S. carried out an airstrike in support of Afghan forces in Wardak province’s Nerkh districth, killing five Taliban fighters; the Taliban accused the U.S. of violating the terms of the agreement reached in February, and claimed that three civilian children had been killed. Nine people were reportedly killed in a double bombing in Ghazni city on Saturday morning. Six security guards at the Kamal Khan dam in Nimroz province’s Chaharbarak district were taken hostage on Friday; elsewhere on Friday, seven construction workers were taken hostage in the Nahr-e-Shahi district in Balkh. A female police officer was killed in a shooting in Kandahar city on Sunday. Three people were wounded in a magnetic bomb attack in Kabul on Monday. [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [Khabarnama] [Khabarnama] [TOLO] [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Peace Talks: Afghan government and Taliban representatives held another meeting in Qatar on Saturday, but no agreement was announced on a framework for talks. Speaking at the conclusion of a NATO defense ministerial in Brussels on Friday, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that “NATO supports the peace process in Afghanistan. The Doha talks are fragile, but the best chance for peace.” Speaking at a press conference on Sunday following a visit to Pakistan, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar said that “an interim government is the only solution” to the current conflict, and accused the Ghani administration of not supporting peace. [TOLO] [TOLO] [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • Regional Diplomacy: In an interview with the Indian press, former governor Atta Mohammad Noor called on India to “play a more proactive role” and “engage with the Taliban but not give them legitimacy.” An Afghan parliamentary delegation met with Prime Minister Khan and Foreign Minister Qureshi during a visit to Islamabad over the weekend. [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • COVID Crisis: As of Monday, Afghanistan reports 40,937 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 120,425 tests, with at least 1,518 associated deaths. On Monday, the attorney general’s office announced corruption charges against Herat governor Abdul Qahid Qatali and other provincial officials, accusing them of embezzling Afs 20 million in coronavirus assistance funds.

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Opposition to Rally in Quetta Today; US Targeted ISIS in Support of Taliban Operations

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Topline

  • The Washington Post reports that U.S. Joint Special Operations Command forces in Afghanistan conducted air strikes in support of Taliban operations against the Islamic State in Kunar province last fall and winter, guiding the strikes on the basis of intercepted Taliban communications rather than through direct contacts with the group.
  • In advance of a planned opposition rally in Quetta on Friday, the National Counter Terrorism Authority issued a warning of potential attacks targeting political or religious leaders, and the provincial government called on the opposition to delay the meeting. The BNP-Mengal party plans to formally join the opposition benches in the national assembly after previously splitting with the governing PTI coalition.
  • As of Friday, Pakistan reports 326,216 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 4.204 million tests, with at least 6,715 associated deaths.
  • As of Friday, Afghanistan reports 40,387 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 119,323 tests, with at least 1,507 associated deaths.

Pakistan — Security

  • FATF Scrutiny: The Financial Action Task Force plenary session in Paris is expected to conclude in Paris later today with a decision on whether to retain Pakistan’s status on the group’s ‘grey list’.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Opposition Politics: In advance of a planned opposition rally in Quetta on Friday, the National Counter Terrorism Authority issued a warning of potential attacks targeting political or religious leaders, and the provincial government called on the opposition to delay the meeting. The BNP-Mengal party plans to formally join the opposition benches in the national assembly after previously splitting with the governing PTI coalition, which would bring the combined opposition to 160 seats, against 177 for the combined government coalition. The Sindh provincial government formed a ministerial committee to investigate the arrest of PML-N leader Mohammad Safdar on Monday. At a press conference on Friday, Maryam Nawaz quoted her father saying that “there is a state above the state”, saying that “Imran Khan proved it in the Karachi incident”. Speaking separately, JUI-F leader Fazlur Rehman said that “the very elements who had set the trap” for Safdar, an apparent reference to the PTI government and military, were now conducting the inquiry into his arrest. [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Pearl Murder Case: Following a hearing on Thursday, the Supreme Court adjourned for four weeks on a case challenging the acquittal of four men linked to the 2002 murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. [The Nation]
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: The National Accountability Bureau has reportedly approved additional corruption references against Nawaz Sharif, his former personal secretary, and other PML-N leaders on charges of misappropriations for the purchase of armored vehicles. In a statement on Thursday, Judge Qazi Faez Isa publicly released details on his assets in response to a right to information request from the Women Action Forum on the assets of public office holders in the judiciary and military. The MQM petitioned the Supreme Court on Thursday to conduct a new census in Sindh. [ET]
  • Other Political Activity: PPP leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari continued campaign activities in Gilgit-Baltistan on Thursday ahead of legislative assembly elections there scheduled for Nov 15. On Wednesday, the prime minister’s office appointed Pakistan Ulema Council chief Maulana Tahir Ashrafi as special assistant for the Middle East, in addition to the earlier position he was appointed to on religious harmony. [The Nation] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Army Chief Observes Gujranwala Exercises [ET]
  • Karachi Explosion Linked to Gas Leak [Dawn]
  • Qureshi Speaks by Phone with Uzbek Counterpart [The Nation]
  • Institute of Business Administration Cancels Remote Lecture By Atif Mian [Dawn]
  • Competition Commission Issues Report on ‘Sugar Cartel’ [Dawn]
  • PM Khan Reviews Housing Loan Program [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • US Supported Taliban Operations Against ISIS: The Washington Post reports that U.S. Joint Special Operations forces in Afghanistan conducted air strikes in support of Taliban operations against the Islamic State in Kunar province last fall and winter, guiding the strikes on the basis of intercepted Taliban communications rather than through direct contacts with the group. Former U.S. Central Command chief Gen. Joseph Votel confirmed that U.S. forces had “deconflicted” earlier strikes during the 2016-2019 period from Taliban units who were prepared for attacks against ISIS forces.
  • Attacks and Operations: Two Romanian soldiers serving with NATO forces in Kandahar were wounded in a roadside bombing in Kandahar on Thursday morning. At least 20 Afghan soldiers were reportedly killed in an attack on their checkpost in the Khashrod district in Nimroz over Thursday evening; six soldiers were reportedly taken hostage. The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan has opened an investigation into an Afghan Air Force airstrike in Takhar province on Wednesday that reportedly killed a dozen children. The district governor of Takhar’s Ishkamish district was reportedly kidnapped on Thursday. TOLO interviews families displaced by fighting around Helmand province earlier this month. [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • WJ Speaker Visits Pakistan: Wolesi Jirga Speaker Mir Rahman Rahmani led a delegation of lawmakers to Islamabad on Friday, where they will meet with Pakistani national assembly members and other Pakistani leaders. [Ariana News]
  • Conservative Cleric Gains Influence in Herat: The NYT profiles Mawlawi Mujib Rahman Ansari, a religious leader in Herat city whose followers have reportedly begun vigilante enforcement of his conservative interpretation of Sharia law in parts of the city.

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Ghani Orders Investigation Into Alleged Ministry of Finance Corruption [TOLO]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Trump White House Reiterates Drawdown Goals; Opposition Prepares for Quetta Rally

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Topline

  • National Security Advisor O’Brien reiterated that the Trump administration plans to draw U.S. forces down to approximately 4,500 this month, and further to “somewhere around 2,500 to 2,800 in early 2021”. Speaking at an election rally on Wednesday, Pres. Trump repeated his desire for a full withdrawal of U.S. forces. Speaking separately at a NATO defense ministerial meeting in Brussels on Wednesday, Amb. Kay Bailey Hutchinson said that “the conditions have not been met at this time” for a further drawdown.
  • Speaking in the Sindh provincial assembly on Wednesday, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah alleged that an unnamed federal cabinet minister had threatened to dissolve the Sindh provincial government if it did not cooperate in the arrest of PML-N leader Mohammad Safdar on Monday. Speaking to reporters in London on Thursday, Nawaz Sharif called for the judiciary to investigate the incident. Opposition leaders are preparing for another protest rally in Quetta on Oct 25, which Nawaz will reportedly address remotely.
  • At least twelve people, including several civilians, were reportedly killed in an Afghan Air Force airstrike on a mosque in the Takhar provincial capital on Wednesday evening, where Afghan forces have suffered heavy casualties this week in clashes with Taliban fighters. VP Saleh denied that any civilians had been killed.
  • As of Thursday, Pakistan reports 325,480 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 4.177 million tests, with at least 6,702 associated deaths.
  • As of Thursday, Afghanistan reports 40,626 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 118,980 tests, with at least 1,505 associated deaths.

Pakistan — Security

  • Tensions with India: In a vote on Wednesday, government legislators passed a bill out of the national assembly committee on law that authorizes a review of accused Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav’s conviction, following earlier ordinances and the International Court of Justice’s ruling on Jadhav’s case; opposition lawmakers denounced the measure. [ET]
  • FATF Scrutiny: In a press briefing on Thursday, Pakistan’s foreign ministry spokesman denied reports that Saudi Arabia had voted against removing Pakistan from the Financial Action Task Force’s ‘grey list’; the FATF plenary session is ongoing this week and concludes tomorrow, with no actions yet announced by the group. [ET]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Opposition Politics: Speaking in the Sindh provincial assembly on Wednesday, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah alleged that an unnamed federal cabinet minister had threatened to dissolve the Sindh provincial government if it did not cooperate in the arrest of PML-N leader Mohammad Safdar on Monday, a threat that Shah said he had rebuffed. Shah met with top Sindh police officials on Wednesday, pledging support for them. The joint opposition Pakistan Democratic Movement denounced the arrest as an attempt to “create a rift between the center and the provinces”, and accused PM Khan of ordering Safdar’s arrest; Information Minister Shibli Faraz accused the opposition of “trying to spark conflict among the institutions”. Speaking to reporters in London on Thursday, Nawaz Sharif called for the judiciary to investigate the incident. Opposition leaders are preparing for another protest rally in Quetta on Oct 25, which Nawaz will reportedly address remotely. PPP leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari will not attend that rally in person, and will instead campaign for party candidates in Gilgit-Baltistan, where he arrived on Thursday. [WAPO] [The Nation] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: Pakistan has sought the extradition of Nawaz Sharif by the UK in a formal letter to Home Secretary Priti Patel sent earlier this month, the Financial Times reports. Former Pres. Zardari has been granted exemption from making in person court appearances in two pending corruption cases. The Election Commission will miss another deadline in a long-pending case against the PTI on charges of improper overseas fundraising. [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • Other Political Activity: The Sindh assembly passed two resolutions on Wednesday calling for the withdrawal of the federal government’s ordinance for the development of two islands off the Karachi coast; PM Khan discussed the islands project in a meeting with Attorney General Khalid Javed Khan on Wednesday, and was reported to be seeking to “de-escalate” the conflict with Sindh over the issue.

Pakistan — Economics and Development

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Pakistan and Oman Sign MOU on Military Cooperation [The Nation]
  • Army Chief Visits Line of Control [Dawn]
  • Cabinet Committee Approves Rs 17 Billion in Supplemental Defense Spending [The Nation]
  • Weapons Cache Seized in Zhob District [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • US Force Levels: In a Politico interview on Tuesday, National Security Advisor O’Brien reiterated that the administration plans to draw U.S. forces down to approximately 4,500 this month, and further to “somewhere around 2,500 to 2,800 in early 2021”, saying that “that’s where the president wants to be … that’s what the Pentagon is executing.” Speaking separately at a NATO defense ministerial meeting in Brussels on Wednesday, Amb. Kay Bailey Hutchinson said that “we will be looking at conditions on the ground to determine if there is a capability to draw down more troops”, but “the conditions have not been met at this time”. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg reiterated that the alliance “will make a decision together, coordinate our efforts based on the principle ‘in together, adjust together, and when the time is right, when the conditions are met, then we will leave together,’ but not before”. Speaking at an election rally on Wednesday, Pres. Trump repeated his opposition to “sacrificing American blood and treasure in endless foreign wars in countries that you’ve never even heard of” and said “they’re all coming back”.
  • Attacks and Operations: At least twelve people, including several civilians were reportedly killed in an Afghan Air Force airstrike in Takhar province on Wednesday evening, where Afghan forces have suffered heavy casualties this week in clashes with Taliban fighters. A spokesman for the Takhar governor said that a madrasa in the provincial capital of Taloqan had been struck; the ministry of defense earlier claimed to have killed a dozen Taliban fighters in a strike in the Baharak district. In a statement on Thursday, VP Saleh denied that any civilians had been killed. Four civilians were killed and more wounded in a mortar attack on a marketplace in the Shireen Tagab district in Faryab on Thursday morning. A power pylon was destroyed in Herat’s Ghoryan district on Wednesday night, cutting power to half of the province. The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission reports that nearly 40,000 people have been displaced by fighting around the Helmand provincial capital of Lashkar Gah that began earlier this month, and at least 15 civilians killed. A former counter-narcotics police commander was killed in a shooting in Kabul on Wednesday. [Ariana News] [Ariana News] [Khabarnama] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Peace Talks: In remarks on Wednesday during his visit to the Wolesi Jirga, Pres. Ghani called on the Taliban to halt attacks, saying that their “recent attacks in Helmand and Ghor provinces and rest of the country show that they still believe in their false perception of victory”. Ghani added that “the republic can embrace everyone” and that in contrast to the Taliban, “we build every day and you destroy it”.

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

Afghanistan — Remainders

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Sindh Police Protest Coerced Safdar Arrest; 12 Visa Applicants Killed in Jalalabad Stampede

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Topline

  • Following reports that Sindh provincial police chief Mushtaq Mahar had been detained and coerced into agreeing to the arrest of PML-N leader Mohammad Safdar on Monday, Mahar and several other top officers sought 60-day leave in protest; at a press conference on Tuesday, PPP leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari called for an investigation by the military, which a spokesman for Chief of Army Staff Bajwa announced shortly afterwards.
  • At least a dozen people were killed on Wednesday morning in a crowd stampede at a soccer stadium in Jalalabad that had been set up by the Pakistani consulate to process medical visa applications.
  • On Wednesday, Pres. Ghani addressed a session of the Wolesi Jirga, nominating 24 cabinet ministers for confirmation after months and in some cases years of those officials serving in an “acting” capacity.
  • More than three dozen Afghan security personnel were reportedly killed in separate clashes in the Takhar province’s Baharak district and the Kang district in Nimroz.
  • At least five people were wounded in a bombing at a bus terminal in Karachi on Tuesday; no claim of responsibility was reported. On Wednesday, a large blast leveled a portion of a multi-story building in Karachi, killing five people; police are still investigating the cause of the blast.
  • As of Wednesday, Pakistan reports 324,744 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 4.148 million tests, with at least 6,692 associated deaths.
  • As of Wednesday, Afghanistan reports 40,510 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 118,540 tests, with at least 1,501 associated deaths.

Pakistan — Security

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Safdar Arrest Backlash: At a press conference on Tuesday, PPP leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari confirmed earlier reports by Maryam Nawaz that the Sindh provincial police chief, Mushtaq Mahar, was briefly detained by unidentified men on Monday evening to coerce him to carry out the arrest of PML-N leader Mohammad Safdar on Monday; Bilawal called for an investigation by the military. Several senior Sindh provincial police officials, including Mahar, put in mass applications for a 60-day period of leave from their posts in protest against the interference, citing the Safdar arrest as a source of demoralization and shock. The Pakistani military announced that it would open an investigation into the incident shortly after Bilawal’s press conference, and the Sindh police officials later deferred their leave requests. Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah met with Sindh police officials on Wednesday, praising their service. [Reuters] [AP] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: Following a hearing on Tuesday, a Lahore accountability court transferred custody of Shehbaz Sharif from the National Accountabilty Bureau to judicial remand. PM Khan met with Attorney General Khalid Javed Khan on Wednesday to discuss pending cases in the high courts. At a hearing on Wednesday, the Supreme Court extended a deadline for the establishment of 120 new accountability courts by another month. [The Nation]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • COVID Crisis: As of Wednesday, Pakistan reports 324,744 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 4.148 million tests, with at least 6,692 associated deaths.
  • Food Inflation: At a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, PM Khan reportedly reprimanded officials for delaying wheat imports, which he blamed for rising flour prices. Khan also reportedly ordered additional sugar imports and fines for sugar mills accused of delaying sugarcane processing. Khan met with Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar in Lahore on Wednesday, reiterating orders to control essential food prices. [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Health Workers End Islamabad Protest [Dawn]
  • Circular Debt in Power Sector Rises to Rs 2.15 Trillion in FY2020 [Dawn]
  • Gas Shortage Projected for Winter [Dawn]
  • PPP Senators Continue Protests Over Karachi Island Development [Dawn]
  • Gilgit-Baltistan Caretaker Chief Minister Barred from Making Personnel Transfers [Dawn]
  • China Welcomes Lifting of TikTok Ban [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Attacks and Operations: At least a dozen Afghan police officers were reportedly killed in two roadside bombings in the Kang district in Nimroz province on Tuesday, including the district police chief. At least 25 security personnel, including provincial police commander Raz Mohammad Durandish, have reportedly been killed in clashes in the Baharak district in Takhar. The ministry of interior reported Tuesday that 180 civilians had been killed and 375 wounded in attacks across the country; on Wednesday, the ministry of defense claimed that at least 115 Taliban fighters had been killed in operations over the preceding 24 hours. [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • Dozen Killed in Stampede at Jalalabad Consulate: At least a dozen people, all of them women, were killed on Wednesday morning in a crowd stampede at a soccer stadium in Jalalabad that had been set up by the Pakistani consulate to process medical visa applications, which were opened last week after an eight-month freeze. The Pakistani embassy issued a statement expressing “deep grief” over the incident. [WAPO] [Reuters] [Khaama Press] [TOLO]
  • NATO Defense Ministerial: Speaking ahead of a meeting of NATO defense ministers on Wednesday, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg reiterated that “the Taliban must live up to their commitments, significantly reduce the levels of violence, and pave the way for a ceasefire”, and said that “any further adjustments” to the alliance’s approximately 12,000 troops deployed in Afghanistan would “remain conditions-based”. [Ariana News] [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Hekmatyar Visits Pakistan: Hezb-e-Islami leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar met with PM Khan and Pres. Alvi during a visit to Pakistan on Tuesday. In remarks at an Islamabad think tank on Wednesda, Hekmatyar said that “America has been defeated in Afghanistan” and called for a “pure Afghan solution” to the conflict, saying that the current talks in Qatar were between the presidential palace and the Taliban and “are not intra-Afghan talks”. [TOLO]
  • Cabinet Confirmations: On Wednesday, Pres. Ghani addressed a session of the Wolesi Jirga, nominating 24 cabinet ministers for confirmation after months and in some cases years of those officials serving in an “acting” capacity.

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • VP Saleh Orders Crackdown on Undocumented Vehicles [TOLO]
  • Uzbekistan Deputy Prime Minister Meets Pres. Ghani [TOLO]
  • Report: Afghanistan’s Terrorism Challenge: The Political Trajectories of Al Qaeda, the Afghan Taliban, and the Islamic State – “As the U.S. government seeks to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan and power-sharing talks between the Afghan Taliban and the Afghan government continue, there are competing judgements on the nature and scope of the threat of terrorism from Afghanistan.” [Asfandyar Mir, MEI]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: PML-N Leaders Face New Cases After Protests; NATO Reviews Security Aid

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Topline

  • At a press conference on Tuesday, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah said that the provincial government would form an inquiry commission into PML-N leader Mohammad Safdar’s arrest. Safdar was unapologetic at a press conference on Tuesday. Lahore police registered cases against Safdar and Maryam Nawaz on Tuesday on charges of “damaging public order” during their participation in the early opposition rally in Gujranwala last Friday.
  • A plenary meeting of NATO allies on Monday reviewed and affirmed plans for continued financial support to the Afghan security forces from 2021-2024; no specific overall funding figures were announced. The UK announced Tuesday that it had pledged £70 million in support of the Afghan National Army Trust Fund for the next year.
  • Representatives of the Taliban and Afghan government met again in Qatar on Monday evening; no agreement was announced, but both sides agreed to continue talks.
  • As of Tuesday, Pakistan reports 324,077 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 4.122 million tests, with at least 6,673 associated deaths.
  • As of Tuesday, Afghanistan reports 40,369 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 118,072 tests, with at least 1,499 associated deaths.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Opposition Politics: Opposition and government-affiliated senators sparred in parliament on Monday over the arrest and subsequent release on bail of PML-N leader Mohammad Safdar following an opposition rally in Karachi. At a press conference on Tuesday, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah said that the provincial government would form an inquiry commission into Safdar’s arrest, although he also defended the police for having “acted in accordance with the law”. Safdar was unapologetic at a press conference on Tuesday, vowing to revisit the mausoleum of Mohammad Ali Jinnah annually on the date of his arrest. Lahore police registered cases against Safdar and Maryam Nawaz on Tuesday on charges of “damaging public order” during their participation in the early opposition rally in Gujranwala last Friday. PM Khan met with PTI leaders on Monday and was quoted reiterating that “the government will not be blackmailed” and ordering renewed efforts to seek Nawaz Sharif’s extradition from London. [The Nation] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET]
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: The Islamabad High Court held another hearing on Monday on efforts by the government to secure Nawaz Sharif’s return from the UK to face charges in Pakistan. The National Accountability Bureau is reportedly preparing to close an inquiry against Shehbaz Sharif in the Punjab Saaf Paani company. Shehbaz’s detention was extended for another two week period at a court hearing on Tuesday. [ET] [ET] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

Pakistan — Remainders

  • UK Chief of Defense Staff Meets Chief of Army Staff Bajwa [The Nation]
  • Punjab Chief Secretary Tasks Volunteer ‘Tiger Force’ with Price Control Duties [Dawn]
  • Parliamentary Panel Opposes Electricity Surcharges [Dawn]
  • Cabinet Committee Oppose Higher Wheat Support Price [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Peace Talks: Representatives of the Taliban and Afghan government met again in Qatar on Monday evening; no agreement was announced, but both sides agreed to continue talks. UN Special Representative Deborah Lyons met with Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi in Islamabad on Monday to discuss the Afghan peace process, which Qureshi reiterated support for. Qureshi also met with Hezb-e-Islami leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar on Monday, calling on Afghan leaders to “seize this historic opportunity to achieve durable and sustainable peace in Afghanistan”. In remarks at an event last week, former U.S. National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster reiterated his criticism of U.S. talks with the Taliban, saying that the U.S. was “pursuing a policy of appeasement”. [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Ministry of Foreign Affairs Condemns Pakistani Rocket Strikes [Khabarnama]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Opposition Rallies in Gujranwala and Karachi; Ghor and Badakhshan Capitals Attacked

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Topline

  • Pakistani opposition parties staged rallies in Gujranwala and Karachi on Friday and Sunday, denouncing the PTI government; in a remote address to the gathering on Friday, Nawaz Sharif explicitly named the Chief of Army Staff and ISI chief as having conspired with the PTI to oust the PML-N government, drawing rebuke from government officials. PML-N leader Mohammad Safdar was briefly arrested in Karachi over Monday night after leading a protest chant during a visit to the mausoleum of Mohammad Ali Jinnah earlier on Sunday; he was later released on bail.
  • At least 13 people were killed and scores wounded in a suicide car bombing attack near the provincial police headquarters in the Ghor provincial capital of Ferozkoh on Sunday; Taliban fighters are also reported to be encroaching on the Badakhshan provincial capital of Faizabad. The Taliban have reportedly agreed to halt operations around the Helmand provincial capital; on Sunday, the Taliban blamed the U.S. for violating their February agreement by conducting airstrikes in support of Afghan forces there. Amb. Khalilzad said in a later statement that “unfounded charges of violations and inflammatory rhetoric do not advance peace” and that violence “remains distressingly high”.
  • In a speech on Friday, U.S. National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien reiterated that the Trump administration was planning to draw down U.S. forces in Afghanistan to approximately 2,500 by early next year, insisting that “it’s not speculation” and “that’s the plan of the president”.
  • Two trucks carry supplies for NATO forces in Afghanistan were attacked in the Khyber district on Friday; no claim of responsibility was reported.
  • Abdullah Abdullah visited Iran on Sunday, meeting with Foreign Minister Zarif and Pres. Rouhani; separately, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar arrived in Pakistan on Monday for a three-day visit.
  • On Monday, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority announced a reversal of its ban on the social media service TikTok after the company agreed to impose content moderation controls.
  • As of Monday, Pakistan reports 323,452 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 4.101 million tests, with at least 6,659 associated deaths.
  • As of Monday, Afghanistan reports 40,287 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 117,674 tests, with at least 1,497 associated deaths.

Pakistan — Security

  • NATO Trucks Attacked: Two container trucks carrying supplies for NATO forces in Afghanistan were attacked and set on fire in the Khyber district on Friday; the drivers escaped unhurt. No claim of responsibility was reported for the attack. [Dawn]
  • Balochistan Attack: A Pakistani soldier was killed and three others wounded in an attack in the Turbat area of Balochistan on Saturday; no immediate claim of responsibility was reported.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Opposition Protests: Opposition parties staged a rally in Gujranwala on Friday, the first major demonstration of the combined Pakistan Democratic Movement coalition. In a remotely televised address to the gathering, Nawaz Sharif explicitly named Chief of Army Staff Bajwa and ISI chief Lt. Gen. Faiz Hameed as having conspired to oust his government in the 2018 elections, and criticized the PTI government for having “ruined everything”. PPP leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari also addressed the gathering, and said afterwards that “it saddens me to see generals’ names being taken at rallies — whether those held by the prime minister or the opposition”, accusing PM Khan of using the military as a “political prop”. PPP leader Aitzaz Ahsan was more directly critical in a separate interview on Saturday. Nawaz’s remarks drew rebuke from PM Khan and other members of the PTI governing coalition, with Khan referencing Nawaz’s own history of having entered into politics with military backing in the 1980s. The opposition leaders convened again in Karachi on Sunday for another rally, at which PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz accused the PTI government of “hiding behind the armed forces” to “hide your own failures”. Early Monday morning, Mohammad Safdar, Maryam’s husband, was arrested from his hotel room by Karachi police on charges of “violating the sanctity” of the mausoleum of Mohammad Ali Jinnah by leading protest chants there earlier on Sunday. Safdar was later released on bail.  Dawn notes that the PML-N has brought in additional private security around Nawaz’s London home. [Guardian] [Reuters] [Reuters] [The Nation] [The Nation] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET]
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a pair of petitions challenging judicial appointments on the Sindh High Court since 2017. On Saturday, the interior ministry announced that it had cleared 5,807 individuals from a travel blacklist. On Saturday, the Federal Investigation Agency arrested a former managing director of Pakistan International Airlines, Aijaz Haroon, and charged him with making illegal appointments and salary allotments. [ET] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • TikTok Ban Reversed: On Monday, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority announced that it had reversed its ban on the social media service TikTok after the company agreed to impose content moderation on “obscenity and immorality”. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET]
  • Other Political Activity: The Jamaat-e-Islami announced plans to hold its own protest movement against the government beginning on Nov 1. PPP leaders continue to object to PTI government plans to develop two Karachi islands; a group of Sindhi nationalist parties held a rally in Hyderabad on Friday protesting the development plans. [Dawn] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • COVID Crisis: As of Monday, Pakistan reports 323,452 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 4.101 million tests, with at least 6,659 associated deaths. [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Price Controls: PM Khan met with PTI legislators in a meeting on Friday, at which he reportedly faced criticism from some parliamentarians over rising food inflation and increases in power and gas tariffs. Traders in Mohmand held a protest on Friday against “price checking” disruptions to their businesses by members of the PTI’s volunteer ‘Tiger Force’.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Foreign Ministry Denies Reports of Pakistani Soldiers Fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • TTP Threat Letters Reported in Lower Dir [The Nation]
  • PTI Activist Killed in Intra-Party Clash in Nowshera [Dawn]
  • Two New Polio Cases Reported in Balochistan [Dawn]
  • Aviation Minister Insists No Plans to Privatize PIA [ET]
  • Expansion of Gas Network for Domestic Users May Be Discontinued [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • US Force Levels: In a speech on Friday, U.S. National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien reiterated that the Trump administration was planning to draw down U.S. forces in Afghanistan to approximately 2,500 by early next year, insisting that “it’s not speculation” and “that’s the plan of the president”, who had earlier called for a full withdrawal of forces by Christmas in a public Tweet; O’Brien characterized Trump’s statement as a “hope”, not an order. O’Brien’s remarks came after an interview in which Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Mark Milley had suggested that any drawdown past roughly 4,500 by November would be the result of “conditions based” planning. [AP]
  • Attacks and Operations: At least 13 people were killed and scores wounded in a suicide car bombing attack near the provincial police headquarters in the Ghor provincial capital of Ferozkoh on Sunday; there was no claim of responsibility for the attack. Another attack on a security checkpost in the capital was reported later Sunday night; Taliban fighters were earlier reported to have blocked roads into the Tiwara district center in Ghor. Badakahshan provincial police officials acknowledged that their forces had withdrawn from the eight police district in the provincial capital of Faizabad on Sunday after several days of clashes with Taliban forces in the area; as many as 18 security personnel have reportedly been killed in the past week. Eight militiamen were reportedly killed in a Taliban attack on their checkpost in the Imam Sahib district in Kunduz on Saturday evening. Two civilians were killed in a mortar attack in the Dehrawood district in Uruzgan over Saturday night. A government official and an NDS officer were killed in a shooting in Ghazni city on Friday. Afghan commandos reinforced a besieged army unit in Wardak’s Jalrez district in an operation over Sunday night. [TOLO] [TOLO] [Khabarnama] [Khabarnama] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press]
  • Security Appointments: On Saturday, Pres. Ghani announced the appointment of approximately 100 new district police chiefs across the country. Earlier on Friday, Vice Pres. Amrullah Saleh announced that Ghani had tasked him with assuming direct command of security in Kabul, following a recent rise in crime and other security incidents in the capital. [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [Khabarnama] [TOLO]
  • Border Tensions with Pakistan: At least one civilian child was killed and four injured in cross-border shelling by Pakistani military forces across the border into Kunar province’s Marawara district, the provincial governor told reporters on Monday.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Peace Talks: In anonymous comments to the AP on Friday, Taliban sources said that they would halt attacks around the Helmand provincial capital of Lashkar Gah, as previously announced by Amb. Khalilzad. In a statement on Sunday, the group accused the U.S. of violating the agreement reached in February by carrying out “excessive” airstrikes in support of Afghan forces around the city in the past week, laying blame on the U.S. for the escalation of violence. A spokesman for the U.S. military rebuffed that accusation. In a statement on Twitter on Sunday, Khalilzad said that “unfounded charges of violations and inflammatory rhetoric do not advance peace” and that violence “remains distressingly high”. Some accounts suggest fighting is still ongoing around the Helmand provincial capital of Lashkar Gah, with at least 40 schools closed as a result and more than 5,000 families displaced. Germany’s special envoy for Afghanistan met with Taliban representatives in Qatar on Sunday to discuss the peace process. [AP] [TOLO] [TOLO] [Ariana News] [Ariana News]
  • Regional Diplomacy: Abdullah Abdullah met with Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif in Tehran on Sunday, and Pres. Rouhani on Monday, as part of a two-day visit to Iran; in an interview during his visit, Abdullah said that “all countries will benefit from peace in Afghanistan more than continuing the war”. Hezb-e-Islami leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar arrived in Islamabad on Monday for a three-day visit; he initially met with Foreign Minister Qureshi, and is also expected to meet with other leaders and give a public address at a think tank. [TOLO] [TOLO] [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • General Raziq Death Anniversary Commemorated [TOLO]
  • Cabinet Confirmation Vote Planned for Wednesday [Khabarnama] [Pajhwok]
  • A Storied Female Warlord Surrenders, Exposing Government Militia Weaknesses [NYT]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Khalilzad Says Taliban Agree to ‘Re-Set’ and Reduce Violence; Convoy Attacked in Balochistan

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Topline

  • In a statement on Thursday, Amb. Khalilzad said that after a series of talks between himself, Gen. Miller, and Taliban leaders, “we agreed to re-set actions by strictly adhering to implementation of all elements of the US-Taliban Agreement and all commitments made”, which he said included an expectation that violence and casualties would “drop significantly”. A Taliban spokesman confirmed that meetings had been held but did not confirm an agreement on a reduction in violence or military operations. UN and US diplomats reiterated calls on Thursday for a halt to the Taliban offensive around the Helmand provincial capital of Lashkar Gah, where fighting has reportedly continued but detail reporting is limited.
  • At least twenty Pakistani soldiers and private security guards were killed in separate attacks in Balochistan and North Waziristan, the former claimed by Baloch militant groups and the latter by the TTP.
  • The combined opposition political parties are en route as of this writing to a rally site in Gujranwala on Friday, their first major demonstration under the new Pakistan Democratic Movement coalition banner.
  • As of Friday, Pakistan reports 321,877 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 4.009 million tests, with at least 6,621 associated deaths.
  • As of Friday, Afghanistan reports 40,088 confirmed COVID-19 cases, and at least 1,485 associate deaths; the ministry of public health’s dashboard is currently broken, and a total case count was not reported in the press on Friday.

Pakistan — Security

  • Oil Convoy Attacked: At least seven Pakistani soldiers and seven private security guards escorting a convoy for the Oil and Gas Development Company Ltd. were killed while traveling the coastal highway between Gwadar and Karachi in an attack on Thursday. The attack was claimed by the Baloch Raji Ajoi Sangar, a coalition of Baloch separatist groups that includes the Balochistan Liberation Army. [AP] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Other Attacks: Six Pakistani soldiers were killed in an attack on their checkpost in North Waziristan on Wednesday evening, which was claimed by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan. Separately, police in the Upper Dir district reportedly defused three roadside bombs on Wednesday evening.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • COVID Crisis: As of Friday, Pakistan reports 321,877 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 4.009 million tests, with at least 6,621 associated deaths. Rashid Rabbani, an assistant to the Sindh chief minister and PPP vice president, passed away on Thursday from the virus. Two Punjab provincial cabinet members, Mian Aslam Iqbal and Hussain Jahanian Gardezi, tested positive for the virus on Thursday. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • $1.15 Billion Agreement Signed with World Bank for Two Khyber Paktunkhwa Power Projects [Dawn]
  • Indian Embassy Seeks Release of Four Prisoners Accused of Espionage [The Nation]
  • Lahore Police Chief Clashes with Crime Investigation Agency Officer [Dawn]
  • Foreign Minister Qureshi Speaks with Saudi Communications Minister [The Nation]
  • Cabinet Approves Wheat Import [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • US Force Levels: The NYT reports that the White House convened a meeting of interagency officials last week to discuss Pres. Trump’s call for a full withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan and other countries, but that no decision was made.
  • Attacks and Operations: UN and US diplomats reiterated calls on Thursday for a halt to the Taliban offensive around the Helmand provincial capital of Lashkar Gah, where fighting has reportedly continued but detail reporting is limited. Provincial governor Yasin Khan alleged that foreign fighters from Al Qaeda and Pakistani militant groups were participating in the offensive. Elsewhere, fifteen people were wounded in a grenade attack on a wedding in the Badakhshan provincial capital of Faizabad. On Thursday, Pres. Ghani ordered new “strict and urgent action” against crime in Kabul. [AP] [TOLO] [TOLO] [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Peace Talks: In a statement on Twitter on Thursday, Amb. Khalilzad said that after a series of talks between himself, Gen. Miller, and Taliban leaders, “we agreed to re-set actions by strictly adhering to implementation of all elements of the US-Taliban Agreement and all commitments made”, which he said included an expectation that violence and casualties would “drop significantly”. A Taliban spokesman confirmed that meetings had been held but did not confirm an agreement on a reduction in violence or military operations. Khalilzad met with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Thursday, who said afterwards that “the Doha talks offer the best chance for peace, but Taliban must keep their promises and reduce the unacceptable level of violence.” In remarks on Friday marking the death anniversary of former Kandahar police chief Abdul Raziq, Abdullah Abdullah said that a reimposition of the Taliban emirate “will not be acceptable for the people of Afghanistan under any circumstances”. [Reuters] [TOLO] [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • COVID Crisis: As of Friday, Afghanistan reports 40,088 confirmed COVID-19 cases, and at least 1,485 associate deaths; the ministry of public health’s dashboard is currently broken, and a total case count was not reported in the press on Friday.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Ex-Taliban Commander Now Serves as NSC Spokesman [NYT]
  • Commentary: The Intra-Afghan Peace Talks: Warring Parties Negotiate, Victims of War Are Excluded – “Efforts to shift the language towards a victim-centred peace may help persuade the government and Taleban leadership that the inclusion of victims does not necessarily mean trials, but raises possibilities of compensation and healing that even their fighters can benefit from.” [Ehsan Qaane, AAN]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Punjab Restricts Opposition Rally, Citing COVID; Doha Talks Continue Despite Helmand Clashes

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Topline

  • The Punjab provincial government has recommended a ban on public gatherings and processions in the province, citing a risk of coronavirus transmission; the move comes two days ahead of a planned opposition rally in Gujranwala. On Thursday, Gunjranwala district officials granted permission for the rally, but said they would enforce physical distancing controls between attendees and require masks. As many as 400 opposition party activists have reportedly been arrested on the eve of the rally on charges of violating health controls. On Thursday, the NAB issued new arrest warrants against former Pres. Zardari in a money laundering case.
  • Fighting is ongoing in Helmand, although details remain limited. Representatives from the government and Taliban negotiating teams held a “general meeting” in Qatar on Wednesday evening. Ariana News reports that the two sides have agreed to “put aside their disputes” over Islamic jurisprudence and the precedent of the US-Taliban agreement to focus instead on setting a framework and agenda for future talks; other sources have not confirmed this.
  • Iran’s foreign ministry announced that Abdullah Abdullah would visit Tehran this Sunday for a three-day visit.
  • On Wednesday, the Khyber Paktunkhwa provincial government withdrew from the case it had brought against PTM leaders Mohsin Dawar and Ali Wazir in connection to a clash at an army checkpost in North Waziristan last May.
  • Two Pakistani civilians were reportedly killed in an exchange of cross-border fire at the Line of Control in Kashmir on Wednesday.
  • As of Thursday, Pakistan reports 321,218 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 3.976 million tests, with at least 6,614 associated deaths.
  • As of Thursday, Afghanistan reports 40,026 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 115,968 tests, with at least 1,481 associated deaths.

Pakistan — Security

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Opposition Politics: In remarks on Wednesday, PM Khan reiterated that he would refuse to grant amnesty to opposition party leaders facing corruption charges; in separate remarks, JUI-F leader Fazlur Rehman vowed to oust the government before the end of the year. The Punjab provincial cabinet committee on COVID-19 has recommended a ban on public gatherings and processions in the province, citing a risk of coronavirus transmission; the move comes two days ahead of a planned opposition rally in Gujranwala. On Thursday, Gunjranwala district officials granted permission for the opposition rally, but said they would enforce physical distancing controls between attendees and require masks. As many as 400 opposition party activists, most from the PML-N, have reportedly been arrested on the eve of the rally on charges of violating health controls. [The Nation] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Case Withdrawn Against PTM Leaders: On Wednesday, the Khyber Paktunkhwa provincial government withdrew from the case it had brought against Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement leaders Mohsin Dawar and Ali Wazir in connection to a clash at an army checkpost in North Waziristan last May.
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: At a press conference on Wednesday, advisor to the prime minister Shahzad Akbar accused PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz of using government development funds to rig the results of the NA-120 by-election in 2017, which her mother contested on behalf of Nawaz Sharif. On Thursday, the National Accountability Bureau issued new arrest warrants against former Pres. Zardari in a money laundering case. [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [The Nation] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Other Political Activity: The government has called sessions of the national assembly and senate for Friday. The Punjab provincial government has delayed providing information to the Election Commission that the ECP has sought in order to conduct constituency demarcation for local government elections. [ET] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • COVID Crisis: As of Thursday, Pakistan reports 321,218 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 3.976 million tests, with at least 6,614 associated deaths. Planning Minister Umar warned on Thursday that Pakistan’s case positivity rate had reached its highest level in the past 50 days, 2.37% nationwide, and warned of potential additional restrictions if people did not follow public health guidelines. Health officials in Khyber Paktunkhwa report a shortage of testing materials and trained staff. [ET]
  • Price Controls: Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, PTI government ministers acknowledged rising wheat and sugar prices and insisted that the federal government was preparing action to curtail inflation. The cabinet deferred a decision on increasing price supports for wheat.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Government Seeking New Data Access From Big Tech Providers [Dawn]
  • Government Employees Protest in Islamabad [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Attacks and Operations: Fighting is ongoing in Helmand, although details remain limited; Stars and Stripes reports that Afghan Air Force is continuing to conduct airstrikes against Taliban forces, but US Forces-Afghanistan has not confirmed its involvement in those more recent strikes after acknowledging participation in operations over the weekend. Local sources speaking to TOLO blame an NDS-created militia force in the province for failing to maintain their security checkposts in the face of the Taliban offensive that began this weekend. Pres. Ghani attended funeral services on Thursday for Afghan Air Force personnel who died in a helicopter collision the day prior. In a statement on Thursday, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan condemned the violence, noting reports of civilian casualties and displacement, and saying that the offensive “only heaps further hardship and misery on ordinary Afghans and undermines efforts for progress and building bridges between parties at the historic Afghanistan peace talks in Doha.” The UK also condemned the Helmand offensive. Elsewhere, six Afghan police were killed in a suicide car bomb attack on their checkpost in Zabul’s Shahjoy district on Thursday morning.Officialsin Badakhshan say they have repelled a Taliban offensive in the Warduj district. A religious leader in the Nijrab district in Kapisa was killed by unidentified gunmen on Thursday. [Ariana News] [Ariana News] [TOLO] [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [Khabarnama]
  • US Force Levels: NBC reports that Pres. Trump is considering a forthcoming speech that would reaffirm plans to draw down U.S. forces in Afghanistan to 3,000 or fewer troops by early 2021, as announced by National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien earlier this month; anonymous officials say that decision “has already been reached”, but that advisors have pushed back against a call from Trump for a complete withdrawal by Christmas. [NPR]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Peace Talks: Representatives from the government and Taliban negotiating teams held a “general meeting” in Qatar on Wednesday evening; although no breakthrough was reported, Ariana News reports that the two sides have agreed to “put aside their disputes” over Islamic jurisprudence and the precedent of the US-Taliban agreement to focus instead on setting a framework and agenda for future talks. Other sources have not confirmed this. [Khaama Press] [TOLO]
  • Abdullah to Visit Iran: A spokesman for the Iranian foreign ministry announced Thursday that Abdullah Abdullah would visit Tehran on Oct 18 for a three-day visit to meet with Iranian officials, following earlier trips to Pakistan and India. [Khabarnama] [Ariana News]

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • COVID Crisis: As of Thursday, Afghanistan reports 40,026 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 115,968 tests, with at least 1,481 associated deaths.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Australian Police Drop Probe Against Journalist Over Classified Afghanistan Reports [Reuters]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: ANA Helicopters Collide in Helmand; Pakistan Accuses India of Supporting TTP

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Topline

  • Fighting continues in Helmand to repel a Taliban offensive that was launched over the weekend; on Tuesday, two Afghan army helicopters collided in midair during an operation in the Nawa district, killing all nine onboard. Defense Minister Asadullah Khalid visited Helmand on Wednesday; the UN reports at least 35,000 people have been displaced by the fighting.
  • In a BBC interview on Tuesday, Afghan negotiator Nader Nadery said that “if the violence goes higher and continues for a longer period of time” then they would have to consult as to whether “this two path[s] of talking and fighting would work or not”.
  • In an interview with India’s The Wire on Tuesday, special assistant to the prime minister Moeed Yusuf said that Pakistan would only agree to talks with India if it reversed the steps to assert control over Kashmir it instituted last year. Yusuf also alleged that Indian intelligence services had funneled support to the Pakistani Taliban, and that one of the planners of the 2014 Army Public School attack had received treatment in India.
  • As ofWednesday, Pakistan reports 320,463 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 3.943 million tests, with at least 6,601 associated deaths.
  • As of Wednesday, Afghanistan reports 39,994 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 115,720 tests, with at least 1,481 associated deaths.

Pakistan — Security

  • Tensions with India: In an interview with India’s The Wire on Tuesday, special assistant to the prime minister Moeed Yusuf said that Pakistan had received outreach from Indian sources expressing a “desire for conversation”, but said that Pakistan would only agree to such talks if India reversed the steps to assert control over Kashmir it instituted last year. Yusuf also alleged that Indian intelligence services had funneled support to the Pakistani Taliban, and that one of the planners of the 2014 Army Public School attack had received treatment in India.
  • Border Tensions with Afghanistan: The Pakistani military reported on Wednesday that a soldier had been killed in firing from across the border with Afghanistan into the Bajaur district; no claim of responsibility was reported. [AP]
  • Quetta Bombing: At least ten people were injured in a grenade attack that targeted a group of laborers working on a road project in Quetta on Wednesday; no claim of responsibility was reported.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Opposition Politics: Islamabad city officials have begun deploying containers to block of road access to parts of the city center on Tuesday; the combined opposition parties are planning a rally in Gujranwala on Friday, and a group of government employee’s union members is reportedly planning a parallel protest against “anti-worker policies” in the capital.
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: Following hearings on Tuesday, a Lahore accountability court extended Shehbaz Sharif’s detention for another weeklong period. Rukhsana Bangash, a former aide to former Pres. Zardari, was granted bail by the Islamabad High Court on Tuesday. [The Nation] [The Nation] [Dawn]
  • Other Political Activity: PPP leader senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar accused the PTI government of neglecting CPEC development projects in remarks on Tuesday, and called for Salim Bajwa’s removal as CPEC Authority chairman. PPP lawmakers in the senate moved a resolution on Tuesday seeking the rejection of a new federal ordinance for the development of two offshore Karachi islands; the Sindh provincial government has resolved not to hold any talks with the federal government on the islands until the ordinance is withdrawn. [ET] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • COVID Crisis: As ofWednesday, Pakistan reports 320,463 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 3.943 million tests, with at least 6,601 associated deaths. BalochistanChief Minister Jam Kamal Khan Alyani tested positive for the virus on Tuesday. On Tuesday, the National Command and Operation Center issued new directions to the provincial chief secretaries to formulate health guidelines on public gatherings; the Civil Aviation Authority issued new travel advisories for incoming travelers on Wednesday. [Dawn]
  • Price Controls: Following a federal cabinet meeting on Tuesday, Information Minister Shibli Faraz said that the government would take additional steps to curtail food price inflation, which he did not specify but said would “settle” the issue. [Dawn] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Pakistan and UK Hold Arms Control Talks [ET]
  • Inquiry Opened Against Lahore Police Chief [Dawn]
  • Government to Form ‘Interfaith Harmony Councils’ [Dawn]
  • British Airways Resumes Direct Flights to Lahore [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Helmand Offensive: Two Afghan army helicopters collided in midair over Helmand’s Nawa district on Tuesday, killing nine crew and soldiers onboard; the helicopters were reportedly picking up wounded soldiers after deploying a group of reinforcing Afghan commandos in the area. Defense Minister Asadullah Khalid traveled to Helmand on Wednesday to review operations to push back a Taliban offensive around the provincial capital that was launched over the weekend; electricity and communications lines have also been disrupted. UNAMA reports that at least 35,000 people have been displaced by fighting in the area, and called on all parties to “stop civilian harm”. [WAPO] [Reuters] [AFP] [AP] [Ariana News] [Ariana News] [Khaama Press]
  • Other Attacks and Operations: TOLOreports that as many as 16 Afghan security personnel were killed in an attack in the Gozargah-e-Noor district in Baghlan province that began on Tuesday evening; Baghlan police officials confirmed that at least six personnel were killed, and that fighting is ongoing as of Wednesday. Three Afghan security personnel were killed in two separate bombings and a shooting in three separate districts in Kabul province on Tuesday. Three policemen were killed in an attack on their checkpost in the Baharak district in Badakhshan on Wednesday. Two people were killed in a magnetic bomb attack near the Laghman provincial police headquarters on Wednesday morning. The ministry of interior reported Wednesday that 251 civilians had been killed in Taliban attacks over the past two weeks. [TOLO] [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Peace Talks: In an interview on Tuesday, government negotiator Nader Nadery said that “if the violence goes higher and continues for a longer period of time the level of pressure from the public on us will increase and then we will have to do consultation with our people, back, that could this two path of talking and fighting would work or not”, adding that “it is unacceptable for our people to be suffering the way they have suffered these past three weeks with increased violence”. Amb. Khalilzad held a virtual meeting with Pakistani special representative for Afghanistan Mohammad Sadiq on Tuesday. In a statement on Tuesday, former Pres. Karzai called on “the Afghan parties to the war to renounce violence and unite to establish peace”.  [Khabarnama]
  • Cabinet Confirmations: The Wolesi Jirga reportedly plans to hold confidence votes next week for cabinet positions nominated by Pres. Ghani over the past seven months, all of whom have served in an “acting” capacity.

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • COVID Crisis: As of Wednesday, Afghanistan reports 39,994 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 115,720 tests, with at least 1,481 associated deaths. On Wednesday, the ministry of public health announced that it would mandate the wearing of masks in government offices and hospitals. The MOPH is investigating reports that as many as 24 Kabul laboratories had been issuing fake COVID test results to facilitate outbound travel. [TOLO] [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Commentary: Don’t Abandon Peace for Afghanistan – “An accelerated withdrawal will effectively mean abandoning the fruits of two years of determined US diplomacy with the Taliban, Afghan partners in Kabul, our allies, and regional and international partners to get the Afghan parties to the negotiating table.” [James Cunningham, John Negroponte, Ronald Neumann, Hugo Llorens, Richard Olson, and Early Anthony Wayne, Atlantic Council]
  • Commentary: The Political Economy and Repercussions of COVID-19 and the Aid Response – “Covid is also creating a sizable hole in the national budget, diverting precious aid resources away from development and any possible ‘peace dividend.’” [Bill Byrd, AAN]
  • Commentary: America Should Stay in Afghanistan Until an Intra-Afghan Deal is Reached – Not Forever – “For U.S. soldiers to stay until an intra-Afghan peace deal is secured would be the best hope for securing a favorable outcome for both Afghans and Americans.” [Madiha Afzal, Brookings]