Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Natl Assembly Passes Election Amendments; Abdullah Meets Mattis and McMaster

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Topline

  • Pakistan’s national assembly passed a constitutional amendment on Thursday approving the use of provisional census data as the basis for re-drawing constituency boundaries ahead of the next general elections. The assembly also approved a bill, which the senate also passed on Friday, that reaffirms a requirement that candidates take an oath affirming the finality of Mohammad’s prophet and maintains separate voter rolls for members of the Ahmedi minority community.
  • On Friday, the Islamabad high court set a Saturday deadline for city officials to clear out demonstrators protesting changes to the candidate oath, and Islamabad police are reported to have set a 10 pm Friday deadline for demonstrators to disperse; some reports indicate that Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal has objected to earlier proposals for the use of force.
  • Chief Executive Abdullah met with Sec. Mattis and National Security Advisor McMaster on Thursday, and praised the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan in press interviews. A Pentagon press briefing on Thursday confirmed that new troop deployments authorized under the strategy have been completed and that current force levels in Afghanistan now total around 14,000 servicemembers.
  • Former IEC chairman Najibullah Ahmadzai accused the presidential palace of interfering in the elections after he was fired earlier this week.
  • The Pakistani military announced that the Balochistan Frontier Corps killed a Balochistan Liberation Front commander in Turbat during an operation on Friday, who they linked to an attack earlier this week that killed 15 migrant laborers.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • Balochistan Operations: The Balochistan Frontier Corps arrested five suspects and seized an cache of arms and explosives during raids across several districts in Balochistan on Thursday, military spokesmen announced. On Friday, the military announced that Younis Taukali, a commander of the Balochistan Liberation Front separatist group, had been killed in an operation in the Turbat district; he was accused of involvement in the murder of 15 migrant laborers earlier this week. The Baloch Liberation Army was separately reported to have claimed to have carried out the attack on the laborers, who they identified as employees of the Federal Works Organization, which denied that. Speaking on Thursday, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal pledged to strengthen border security in Balochistan, blaming India for sponsoring terrorist attacks in the province from Afghanistan. [AP] [The Nation]
  • Tensions with India: Two people were killed and five others injured in cross-border firing along the Line of Control in Kashmir on Friday, local police officials report. Earlier on Thursday, India repatriated a Pakistani man who had been imprisoned since 2006 for overstaying a visa in the country. [The Nation]
  • Shrine Bombing Suspect Arrested: On Friday, Sindh police and Rangers announced the arrest of Nadir Ali, identified as a suspect involved in the February attack on the Lal Shahbaz Qalandar shrine in Sehwan, which was claimed by the Islamic State. [The Nation]

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Constituency Amendments Passed: On Thursday, the national assembly passed a constitutional amendment that directs the Election Commission to re-draw constituency boundaries on the basis of provisional population census data. The Nation notes that around 60 PML-N lawmakers were absent from the vote, leaving the opposition to make up the difference needed to pass a constitutional amendment. Dawn reports that the government agreed to expand the number of census blocks subject to audit to five percent, in order to secure the support of the MQM. The senate is due to consider the amendment on Monday. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [APP]
  • Election Amendment Reaffirms Separate Status for Ahmedis: On Thursday, the national assembly voted to approve an amendment to the elections law that reinstates oath requirements for candidates to affirm the finality of Mohammad’s prophethood, and reaffirms the use of a separate voter list for members of the Ahmedi minority. The senate passed the bill on Friday. Also on Friday, the Islamabad High Court ordered city officials to clear out demonstrators protesting the issue by Saturday; Islamabad police have given protestors a 10 pm deadline to vacate the highway where they have been staging a sit-in for the past week. The Nation reports that Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal has rejected proposed to use force to oust the demonstrators, however. [Dawn] [The Nation] [AP] [The Nation] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Corruption Cases and Other Legal Battles: The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a Jamaat-e-Islami petition on Nov 23 that seeks investigations against all individuals named in the Panama Papers and reported to own offshore business assets. The National Accountability Bureau has asked for Finance Minister Dar to be placed on the Exit Control List and barred from traveling outside the country; he remains in London, and faces warrants for his arrest. [Dawn] [ET]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Diamer Bhasha Dam Withdrawn from CPEC Proposals: Water and Power Development Authority Chairman Muzammil Hussain told the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee earlier this week that Pakistan has withdrawn requests for China to fund the Diamer-Bhasha dam under the CPEC framework, saying that Chinese requirements that they take ownership of the dam were “not doable”.

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Jamaat-e-Islami Rejects Phased FATA Merger [The Nation]
  • LNG Import Consortium Dissolved [Reuters]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • US Troop Levels: Speaking at a press briefing on Thursday, Pentagon officials said that the U.S. had completed its deployment of around 3,000 additional troops to Afghanistan since the announcement of the administration’s new strategy August, bringing current levels to around 14,000 servicemembers in country. [AFP]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Abdullah in Washington: Chief Executive Abdullah met with National Security Advisor McMaster and Sec. Mattis on Thursday to discuss the U.S. strategy in in Afghanistan, which he praised in an NPR interview. In that interview and one with PBS, he declined to answer questions about his intentions to run for the presidency in competition or conjunction with Pres. Ghani. Speaking to Voice of America on Wednesday, Abdullah acknowledged that the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan had formed a “foothold” in Afghanistan, but said that the Afghan government was not supporting the group. [Khaama Press]
  • Sacked IEC Chairman Alleges Interference: Speaking following his removal from office on Thursday, former Independent Election Commission chairman Najibullah Ahmadzai accused the presidential palace of making illegal demands of the IEC and seeking to manipulate the next elections; he did not provide specifics. [Khaama Press]

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • McCaskill Questions $400M in Projects Highlighted for Sustainability Concerns by SIGAR [Stars and Stripes]
  • Report: Implementation of the DOD Leahy Law Regarding Allegations of Child Sexual Abuse by Members of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces – “We found that prior to specific command guidance issued in September 2015, U.S. personnel in Afghanistan may not have known to report allegations of child sexual abuse to their chains of command.” [DOD Inspector General’s Office (pdf)]
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Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: ISIS Bomber Targets Atta Noor Gathering in Kabul; NAB Announces Reopening of Case Against Dar

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Topline

  • A suicide bomber targeted a gathering of supports of Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor at a wedding hall in Kabul on Thursday; the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, which killed at least nine and as many as 18 people. Noor is not reported to have been present at the time of the attack.
  • The Chief Justice of Pakistan rejected an appeal from Nawaz Sharif seeking to consolidate the corruption cases against him. On Wednesday, the National Accountability Bureau announced that it was reopening the Hudaibya Paper Mills money laundering case against Finance Minister Dar, who denounced the move in remarks from London. The Express Tribune reports that Dar may be removed from his position and the finance portfolio given to Interior and Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal, although Nawaz Sharif is reported to be opposed to the move.
  • Pres. Ghani fired the chairman of the Independent Election Commission on Wednesday, after five IEC commissioners called for his removal; no replacement has been named.
  • The Islamabad High Court heard a petition from Tehreek-e-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah activists on Thursday who are seeking the release of an PML-N committee investigation into changes made to the oath taken by candidates affirmining the finality of Mohammad’s prophethood; the court instead appears to have ordered demonstrators to cease their sit-ins.
  • PM Abbasi chaired a meeting of Pakistan’s National Security Council on Wednesday, which reportedly reviewed the security situation in Balochistan, relations with the Middle East, and counterterrorism financing.
  • Chief Executive Abdullah is in Washington, and spoke at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on Wednesday.

 

Pakistan — Security

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Sharif Corruption Cases: Nawaz Sharif met with aides in Islamabad after he appeared before an accountability court on Wednesday to discuss his legal and political strategy; speaking to reporters after the court hearing, he said that “our conviction is pre-determined”, and that “an order issued on my review petition a few days ago was, in fact, a message to the accountability court that Nawaz Sharif must be punished at all cost.” On Thursday, Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar rejected Nawaz’s appeal against the court decision rejecting his petition to consolidate the three cases against him. On Wednesday, the National Accountability Bureau announced that it was reopening an investigation against Finance Minister Dar in connection to the Hudaibya Paper Mills money laundering case; from London, Dar issued a statement denouncing the move. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • Constituency Delimitation: Parliamentary party leaders met on Wednesday to discuss a constitutional amendment that will allow the reapportioning of constituencies amongst the provinces on the basis of provisional census data; the PPP did not attend, however. Another meeting is planned for Thursday, after which National Assembly Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq suggested they were prepared to pass the bill. [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • Islamabad Protests: On Thursday, the Islamabad High Court heard a petition from the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah, one of the groups protesting in Islamabad over changes to the oath taken by candidates affirming the finality of Mohammad’s prophethood, which had sought the public release of a PML-N committee investigation into those changes. The Nation reports that the court ordered protestors to end their sit-in, although Dawn’s reporting suggests no clear-cut order was issued and that demonstrators were instead “advised” to end the sit-in. Extra riot police have reportedly been deployed in Rawalpindi. Reuters interviews members of the Ahmadi community who express fear at being scapegoated and targeted for greater persecution. On Wednesday, dissident PTI legislator Ayesha Gulalai accused Imran Khan of instigating the protests. [Guardian] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Other Political Activity: Police investigators have rejected a statement filed by Imran Khan in response to four cases brought against him in connection to the PTI’s 2014 Islamabad sit-ins, saying Khan must appear in person before investigators. On Thursday, the Supreme Court ordered PPP leader Asim Hussain to be removed from the exit control list, allowing him to travel outside the country. [ET] [The Nation]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Iqbal Floated as Finance Minister: The Express Tribune, citing anonymous sources in the prime minister’s office, reports that Interior and Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal is likely to receive the finance portfolio as well, replacing Ishaq Dar. Nawaz Sharif is however reported to have objected to the change. Iqbal led preparatory meetings on Wednesday to prepare for the CPEC Joint Coordination Committee conference later this month.

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Foreign Ministry Says No Response Yet from India On Offer to Allow Jhadav a Meeting With Wife [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET]
  • Sindh Rangers Arrest 11, Including Two Party Activists [ET] [ET]
  • MQM-Pakistan Leader’s Home Burgled in Karachi [ET]
  • Gazain Marri Granted Bail in Murder Case [Dawn]
  • Pakistan to Seek Renegotiation of TAPI Gas Import Price [ET]
  • Sui Southern Gas Plans to Lay 567 Km of Pipelines [The Nation]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • Suicide Bomber Targets Atta Noor Gathering in Kabul: At least nine people were killed and seven injured, the majority of them police officers, when a suicide bomber attempted to enter a wedding hall in Kabul on Thursday that had been rented by Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor for a political gathering; some reports put the death toll as high as 18 people. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, which the Taliban denied involvement in. The AFP reports that Noor was not present at the time of the attack; as of this writing, he has not issued a statement. [NYT] [Reuters] [Khaama Press]
  • US and NATO Strategy: In an AP interview, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that he was confident that the alliance would meet the force level requests set by Resolute Support commander Gen. John Nicholson, saying that “we are still receiving pledges and announcements about more troop contributions from allies.” Separately, CENTCOM commander Gen. Joseph Votel visited Kabul on Wednesday and met with Nicholson and the Afghan National Army chief of staff, Gen. Mohammad Sharif Yaftali to discuss training and support efforts.
  • Police Salary Increase: Acting minister of interior Wais Barmak pledged to increase salaries for police officers by up to five percent next year, TOLO reports.
  • Attacks and Operations: The ministry of defense claimed that as many as 50 Taliban fighters were killed in airstrikes in the Shindand district in Herat on Wednesday.

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • IEC Chairman Fired: On Wednesday, Pres. Ghani ordered the firing of Independent Election Commission Chairman Najibullah Ahmadzai, following a letter from five other commissioners accusing him of mismanagement and abuse of his authority. No replacement has been named. In a TOLO interview, Ahmadzai alleged that he had been pushed out by Ghani advisor Akram Khplwak and Vice President Mohammad Sarwar Danish. [Khaama Press]
  • Abdullah Visits US: Chief Executive Abdullah spoke at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington on Wednesday, expressing optimism that the new U.S. strategy towards the region would help defeat the Taliban insurgency. [TOLO]
  • Government Rejects Loya Jirga: In a statement on Thursday, the office of the president said that “certain circles” were seeking to convene a Loya Jirga but that “government officials have been instructed not to participate in such gatherings that are against the law”, an apparent reference to proposals from former Pres. Karzai that such a gathering be organized.

 

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Lapis Lazuli Corridor Agreement Signed: Officials from Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Georgia signed an agreement on Wednesday to form the “Lapis Lazuli Corridor” linking Afghanistan to Turkey by road and rail.

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Pakistani Frontier Corps Repatriates Afghan Soldier Who Entered Kurram Agency [Dawn] [ET] [Khaama Press]
  • Mohaqiq Expresses Concern Over Islamic State Activities in Afghanistan [TOLO] [Ariana News]
  • Aid Provided for Families Displaced by Pakistani Shelling in Kunar [Pajhwok]
  • Afghanistan’s Booming Heroin Trade Leaves Trail of Addiciton at Home [Guardian]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Sharif Corruption Trial Begins; IEC Commissioners Call for Chairman’s Removal

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Topline

  • The National Accountability Bureau corruption trial against Nawaz Sharif began on Wednesday; the court granted Nawaz a one-week absence from the proceedings, and his daughter Maryam Nawaz a one-month exemption from appearing.
  • Five of the seven Afghan Independent Election Commission commissioners have signed a letter calling for Chairman Najibullah Ahmadzai’s removal from office, TOLO reports.
  • Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor and deputy to the chief executive Mohammad Mohaqiq met on Tuesday to discuss the Coalition for the Salvation of Afghanistan opposition alliance; a spokesman for Vice Pres. Dostum claims he is preparing to return to Afghanistan within the next week.
  • The UN release its annual Afghan opium production survey on Wednesday, reporting an 87% increase in production and 67% increase in the area under cultivation.
  • Islamabad police arrested at least eight demonstrators at the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah protests on Tuesday; police are reported to be instituting a cordon around the protestors, and interior ministry officials reiterated that they would not accept the demonstrators’ demand for Law Minister Zahid Hamid to be removed.
  • PM Abbasi pledged a ten-year aid program for Balochistan during a visit to Quetta on Tuesday, with funding to be split between the provincial and federal governments; his announcement did not specify the cost of the effort, however.
  • Turkmenistan hosted a meeting of the Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan on Wednesday, at which five countries are expected to sign an agreement on the formation of the “Lapis Lazuli Corridor” linking Afghanistan and Turkey.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • Tensions with India: District officials in Poonch report that an elderly woman was killed in cross-border shooting by Indian soldiers near the Line of Control on Tuesday. On Wednesday, the foreign ministry formally protested the incident with the Indian deputy ambassador to Pakistan. [ET] [The Nation]
  • South Waziristan Militia Sets Up Social Controls: Dawn reports that local tribal elders and religious leaders in Wana, South Waziristan have formed a new “peace committee” and have ordered a ban on cultural and social activities and the movement of women outside the home; the group is led by Salahuddin, identified as a successor to Mullah Mohammad Nazir, a commander who was killed in a 2013 drone strike.

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Sharif Corruption Trial Begins: Hearings began in the corruption cases against Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday, as National Accountability Bureau prosecutors introduced two witnesses from the Securities and Exchange Commission and Federal Board of Revenue. Nawaz was granted a one-week exemption from appearing at the hearings by the court, and Maryam Nawaz was given a one-month leave. Speaking to reporters afterwards, Nawaz said that “accountability is being controlled by someone else and we are only being punished. This is not accountability but revenge.” In comments on Tuesday after Imran Khan was granted bail in four cases related to the 2014 PTI protests in Islamabad, Maryam Nawaz said that the “strict criteria of justice” was only being applied to the Sharif family. [AP] [ET] [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • Some Arrests at Islamabad Protests: Police and Frontier Corps personnel arrested at least eight protestors in Islamabad on Tuesday who threw stones at them as they approached demonstrators; Dawn reports that police are beginning to encircle the demonstration and to cut off supplies to the group. State Minister for Interior Talal Chaudhry warned that the government was prepared to clear the highway where the demonstration is taking place, and rejected their demand for Law Minister Zahid Hamid to be removed.
  • Other Political Activity: On Tuesday, the Punjab government presented the inquiry report into the 2014 Model Town police clashes to a Lahore High Court bench. The parliamentary committee debating a new accountability law appears to be deadlocked after meeting again on Wednesday. Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, JUI-F leader Fazlur Rehman denied that proposals to revive the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal coalition of religious parties were being pushed by representatives of “the establishment”. The Nation notes division within the PTI over the party leadership’s calls for early elections and Khyber Paktunkhwa Chief Minister Pervaiz Khattak’s acceptance at the Council of Common Interests of constituency delimitation legislation. [Dawn] [The Nation] [The Nation] [The Nation] [ET]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Balochistan Aid: During a visit to Quetta on Tuesday, PM Abbasi announced a ten-year development program for Balochistan aimed at providing basic services to all union councils in the province; funding for the program will be split between the provincial and federal governments, although the costs of the effort were not specified. [Dawn]
  • Energy Crisis: Orders from the government to halt production at high-cost furnace oil-fired power plants have left Pakistan State Oil facing as much as $100 million penalties for six incoming fuel shipments ordered before the restrictions were put in place, the Express Tribune reports.

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • 15 Bodies Found in Kech District [Dawn]
  • Punjab Police Warn of Jamaat-ul-Ahrar Suicide Bombing Plot [The Nation]
  • Army Chief Visits Mangla Corps [Dawn] [ET] [The Nation]
  • Pakistan Ranked ‘Not Free’ in Internet Freedom Report [Dawn] [ET]
  • Commentary: FAFEN Cautions Against Deviation from Constitutional Framework – “FAFEN has expressed serious concerns over the ongoing efforts to amend the 1973 Constitution seeking deviation from the basic constitutional framework that requires allocation of seats among all federating units on the basis of population in accordance with the last preceding census.” [FAFEN]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • Tensions with Pakistan: On Tuesday, the Pakistani foreign ministry formally protested to the Afghan charge d’affaires in Islamabad after a cross-border attack in Bajaur left two Pakistani soldiers dead, saying that such “attacks on Pakistani forces confirm the presence of a large number of terrorists in the increasingly ungoverned spaces in Afghanistan”. In Kunar, provincial officials accuse Pakistan of firing more than 500 rockets across the border in the past four days, displacing dozens of families from border districts. [Dawn]
  • Attacks and Operations: Parwan provincial education director Zalmai Shahid was killed in a bombing on Tuesday evening; accounts conflict as to whether the bomb was planted on his vehicle or by the roadside. No claim of responsibility has been reported for the attack. On Wednesday, the NDS announced the seizure of a bomb-laden cart in Kabul; no arrests were reported. [Khaama Press]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Commissioners Push to Fire IEC Chief: TOLO reports that five of the seven commissioners of the Independent Election Commission have signed a letter seeking the removal from office of IEC Chairman Najibullah Ahmadzai, accusing him of poor management and misuse of authority.
  • Opposition Politics: Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor and deputy chief executive Mohammad Mohaqiq, the other two leaders of the Coalition for the Salvation of Afghanistan, met on Tuesday to discuss efforts to “establish a new political consensus” among opposition groups. Meanwhile a spokesman for Vice Pres. Dostum tells Ariana News that he will return to Afghanistan within a week; former Jawzjan governor Ahmad Eschi reiterated calls for Dostum to be investigated and charged in connection to the abuse allegations against him.
  • Cabinet Confirmations: Parliament secretary Abul Qadir Zazai Watandost tells TOLO that Vice President Mohammad Sarwar Danish will formally nominate cabinet ministers, most of whom have been serving for months in “acting” capacity, for confirmation “soon”; he also indicated that some changes had been made to the nominations, but provided no further details. The report also indicates that acting education minister Asadullah Hanif Balkhi was fired by Pres. Ghani on Tuesday.

 

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Four Army Officers Sentenced to Death on Murder Charges [Khaama Press]
  • Report: Afghanistan Opium Survey 2017: Cultivation and Production – “Opium production in Afghanistan increased by 87 per cent to a record level of 9,000 metric tons in 2017 compared with 2016 levels, according to the latest Afghanistan Opium Survey figures released today by the Afghan Ministry of Counter Narcotics and UNODC. The area under opium poppy cultivation also increased to a record 328,000 hectares (ha) in 2017, up 63 per cent compared with 201,000 hectares in 2016.” [UNODC]

 

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: CCI Agrees to Re-Sample Census; ANA to Pension Off 2000 Officers

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Topline

  • Monday’s meeting of the Council on Common Interests agreed to move ahead with the use of provisional census data to draw constituency boundaries for the next general elections, but only after first conducting a re-sampling check of around 1% of all census blocks in response to complaints from the Sindh provincial government, a process that will reportedly take at least three months.
  • The Afghan defense ministry announced plans to institute new mandatory retirement ages for senior officers and to pension off around 2,000 officers over the next two years, including 70% of current generals, in order to open up more promotion opportunities for younger officers.
  • Taliban fighters attacked multiple checkposts in Kandahar on Monday evening; at least 22, and potentially as many as 70, police officers were reportedly killed in the Zhari and Maiwand districts. Four U.S. soldiers were also wounded earlier in the day in a suicide car bombing attack in the Dand district.
  • The Supreme Court of Pakistan concluded hearings on disqualification petitions against PTI leaders Imran Khan and Jahanghir Khan Tareen on Tuesday, but did not immediately issue a verdict. Nawaz Sharif has petitioned the Islamabad High Court challenging the National Accountability Bureau’s refusal to consolidate three corruption cases against him into a single set. A NAB court issued a non-bailable arrest warrant against Finance Minister Dar on Tuesday after he failed to appeal for court hearings.
  • Chief Executive Abdullah departed Kabul on Monday; he will visit the United States and Canada this week.
  • Islamist activists continue to protest in Islamabad, blocking major roads, and demanding the ouster of Law Minister Zahid Hamid; three police officers were reportedly wounded in clashes on Tuesday.
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Chief Minister Pervaiz Khattak met with JUI-S leader Sami-ul Haq in Nowshera on Monday, who also met with former ISI officer Mohammad Aamir to discuss the re-formation of the MMA coalition of religious parties. The head of the Sindh Rangers, Maj. Gen. Muhammad Saeed, denied that the military was involved in the formation of the MQM-Pakistan or its brief alliance last week with the Pak Sarzameen Party.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • Tensions with India: Speaking at a conference in Islamabad on Tuesday, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee Gen. Zubair Mahmood Hayat accused India’s RAW intelligence agency of “stoking chaos and anarchy in the region” and seeking to sabotage the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project through the sponsorship of Baloch militant groups. [ET] [The Nation]
  • Tensions with Afghanistan: In a statement on Monday, the Pakistani military’s chief spokesman called for “more efforts” by Afghanistan and the international military coalition there to “eliminate terrorist sanctuaries in Afghanistan” after an attack on a Pakistani army checkpost in the Bajaur Agency which left two soldiers dead. [ET] [The Nation]

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • CCI Meets to Discuss Census, Constituency Delimitation: A meeting of the Council on Common Interests on Monday agreed to move ahead with reapportioning constituencies among the four provinces on the basis of provisional census data collected earlier this spring, but only on the condition that the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics first re-sample one percent of all census blocks across the country to confirm the figures’ accuracy, a process the prime minister’s office said would likely take three months. The original census figures are due to be finalized by April 2018, which the Election Commission has said would not be enough time to use the data to draw new constituency boundaries. A meeting of parliamentary party leaders has been called for Wednesday to discuss legislation on the issue. [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • Corruption Investigations and Legal Battles: Nawaz Sharif filed an Islamabad High Court petition on Tuesday challenging the National Accountability Bureau’s refusal to consolidate three corruption cases against him into a single hearing; the IHC refused to stay the NAB proceedings, but agreed to hear Nawaz’s appeal. The Supreme Court concluded hearings on disqualification petitions brought against Imran Khan and Jahangir Khan Tareen on Tuesday, and did not immediately issue a verdict. The Election Commission concluded hearings on Monday on a petition challenging the PTI’s intra-party elections for party offices, and said it would issue a verdict on Nov 28. A NAB court issued a non-bailable arrest warrant for Finance Minister Dar on Tuesday, denying his appeals to send a representative to the hearings instead. Another NAB court has ordered the seizure of Hassan and Husssain Nawaz’s assets after they failed to appear before the court. On Monday, lawyers for Foreign Minster Khawaja Asif challenged the composition of the IHC judicial bench hearing a disqualification petition against him. [ET] [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation] [The Nation] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Islamabad Protests Continue: Activists associated with the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah and Sunni Tehreek continued to block major roads in Islamabad on Monday; the interior ministry is reportedly hesitant to order police to clear the protesters, despite multiple charges filed against them. Three policemen were reportedly wounded in a clash with protestors on Tuesday, and “dozens” of arrests have reportedly been made. On Tuesday, the Islamabad High Court began hearings on changes to the oath taken by candidates affirming the finality of Mohammad’s prophethood, and ordered changes to the oath to be reversed. [ET] [APP]
  • Other Political Activity: Khyber Paktunkhwa Chief Minister Pervaiz Khattak met with JUI-S leader Sami-ul Haq at his madrassa in Nowshera; former ISI officer Mohammad Aamir also met with Sami separately to discuss the re-formation of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal alliance of religious parties. In an interview on Monday, Sindh Rangers Director General Maj. Gen. Muhammad Saeed denied that the military had been involved in the formation of the MQM-Pakistan or its recent brief alliance with the Pak Sarzameen Party. Top PML-N leaders met on Monday and reiterated their commitment to block PTI calls for early elections, or delays in the election schedule. The Nation reports that Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique is likely to be named as the new general secretary for the PML-N. The PML-N, PML-F, and PTI opposition parties are seeking to introduce a no-confidence motion against Sindh Assembly deputy speaker Syeda Shehla Raza, accusing her of misusing her authority to cut off opposition legislators. [ET] [ET] [ET] [The Nation] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • PM Abbasi Visits Quetta [ET] [The Nation]
  • Supreme Court Orders Report on Missing Persons Within Two Weeks [The Nation] [Dawn]
  • Inquiry Ordered After Teenager Killed in Shootout Between Police and Drug Gang in Karachi [Dawn]
  • Petroleum Ministry Says No More Large Firms Expected to Quit LNG Projects after Exxon [Reuters]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • Officers to Be Pensioned Off: A spokesman for the Afghan Defense Ministry said Monday that the ministry has finalized a plan to set mandatory retirement ages and pension off approximately 2,000 high-ranking officers — about 70% of the army’s serving generals — over the course of the next two years in order to provide more promotion opportunities for younger officers.
  • Attacks and Operations: Four U.S. soldiers were wounded in Monday’s suicide car bombing attack in Kandahar’s Dand district, a spokesman for the Resolute Support mission confirmed; the Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. Taliban fighters attacked multiple checkposts in the Zhari and Maiwand districts in Kandahar on Monday evening, and killed as many as 22 policemen; security officials claim to have killed at least 40 Taliban attackers. The NYT, citing an anonymous police official, reports that as many as 70 police officers, including five unit commanders, were killed. Taliban fighters were reported to be using night-vision goggles, which the police lack. Kandahar police also report they killed four would-be suicide bombers as they were preparing to use a Humvee packed with explosives to target the police headquarters building in the Maroof district on Monday evening. Taliban fighters also attacked checkposts in Farah province, killing at least nine security personnel. [Reuters] [Khaama Press]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Abdullah to Visit US: Chief Executive Abdullah departed Kabul on Monday for a trip to the United States and Canada; he is expected to meet with U.S. officials, attend the Halifax International Security Forum, and speak at the UN. [Khaama Press]
  • Taliban Talks: The UAE reportedly refused to issue visas to Taliban representatives seeking to take part in a conference planned to take place last week in Dubai that was organized by the international mediation organization Pugwash; TOLO suggests the delay was due to ongoing disputes between the UAE and Qatar, where the Taliban maintain an office. A spokesman for the Taliban denied that the group had been planning to participate.

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Parliament Refers First Secretary Corruption Charges to Attorney General’s Office Despite Parliamentary Vote [TOLO]
  • Italy Pledges 4.3 Million Euros for Polio Eradication [TOLO]
  • National Procurement Commission Approves Afs 2 Billion in New Contracts [Khaama Press]
  • Report: Afghanistan in 2017: A Survey of the Afghan People – “The number of Afghans who say the country is moving in the right direction has increased and optimism has risen slightly, reversing a decade-long downward trajectory in national mood. At the same time, fears about security and the economy affect attitudes about the future of the country, and a large number of respondents indicate they would leave the country if afforded the opportunity.” [The Asia Foundation]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Pakistan Allows Accused Spy Jhadav to Meet Wife; US Advisors to Partner on Combat Missions

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Topline

  • Pakistan’s foreign ministry announced Friday that it would allow the wife of accused Indian spy Kulbhushan Jhadav to meet with him; the Express Tribune attributed the move to “quiet efforts by the US” to broker a reduction in tensions between the US and Pakistan. The Pakistan Rangers and Indian Border Security Force concluded talks in New Delhi and agreed on the “need to revive the spirit of the 2003 ceasefire agreement” along the Line of Control; on Sunday, police officials in Pakistani Kashmir reported that a boy had been injured in cross-border firing.
  • PML-N leaders met on Friday and Sunday to plan the party’s legal and political strategy. The Supreme Court heard an appeal on Monday by the National Accountability Bureau seeking to reopen a money laundering case against Nawaz and Shehabz Sharif that the Lahore High Court had previously closed in 2014; Judge Asif Saeed Khose, who recommended the case be reopened in the Panama Papers verdict, recused himself.
  • Speaking to reporters last week at the NATO conference in Brussels, Gen. John Nicholson said that he had not “seen any change yet in [Pakistan’s] behavior” in terms of taking action against Taliban sanctuaries. Foreign Policy reports that the deployment of a new Security Force Assistance Brigade to Afghanistan will allow “hundreds” of U.S. troops to partner with Afghan units on combat missions in order to call in air and artillery support.
  • Pak Sarzameen Party leader Mustafa Kamal claimed on Saturday that the alliance between his party and the MQM-Pakistan was brokered by unnamed representatives of “the establishment” at the request of MQM-P leader Farooq Sattar; the alliance appears to have collapsed, with both parties now refusing to adopt the other’s name.
  • On Friday, former Pres. Musharraf announced that he was forming his own alliance, the Pakistan Awami Ittehad, consisting of 23 smaller parties; several of these, including the Pakistan Awami Tehreek and Majlis-i-Wahdatul Muslimeen, subsequently denied that they had agreed to join the alliance. Religious party leaders are negotiating the re-formation of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal coalition; JUI-S leader Maulana Sami-ul Haq said Sunday that his support was conditional on the JUI-F and JI quitting their government coalition membership.
  • The TTP Jamaat-ul-Ahrar has split, with commander Mukarram Khan forming a new group, the Hizbul Ahrar, based in Nangarhar.
  • At least eleven police cases have been filed against Tehreek-i-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah leader Khadim Hussain Rizvi as demonstrations continued in Islamabad over the weekend; protestors are demanding the removal of Law Minister Zahid Hamid.
  • The NYT notes concerns among Afghan security officials over the return to Afghanistan of Afghan veterans of the Iranian-sponsored Fatemiyoun Division from Syria.
  • The first shipment of wheat from India to Afghanistan through Iran’s Chabahar port arrived in Nimroz on Saturday.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • Accused Indian Spy Granted Meeting with Wife: On Friday, Pakistan’s foreign ministry announced that the government had agreed to facilitate a meeting between accused Indian spy Kulbhushan Jhadav and his wife; Jhadav’s mother had previously appealed for a chance to meet with him. The Express Tribune attributes the move to “quiet efforts by the US” to broker a reduction in tensions between India and Pakistan. Separately on Friday, a Pakistan Rangers delegation concluded biannual talks with India’s Border Security Force in New Delhi, with both sides agreeing that they would “need to revive the spirit of the 2003 ceasefire agreement” along the Line of Control. PM Abbasi and Chief of Army Staff Bajwa traveled to the Chirikot sector of the Line of Control on Friday, where he announced funding for the construction of new bunkers for civilians living near the border. On Sunday, Pakistan’s Maritime Security Agency arrested 23 Indian fishermen accused of violating territorial water limits. Separately, police officials in Rawalkot reported that a boy was injured in cross-border firing by Indian forces on Sunday. [AP] [ET] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Jamaat-ul-Ahrar Splits: The AP reports that a faction of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan Jamaat-ul-Ahrar has broken off in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province under the leadership of commander Mukarram Khan, who previously served as a commander and spokesman for the JuA. The new group, using the name Hizbul Ahrar, attributed the split to differences over “attacks against innocent minority Christians, killing civilians, extortion, kidnapping for ransom”, and other “un-Islamic” practices.
  • FATA Attacks: On Monday, Pakistan’s military reported that two soldiers were killed in an attack on a checkpost in the Bajuar Agency by militants crossing over the Afghan border; the military claimed to have killed 8-10 of the attackers. Elsewhere, seven people, including three security personnel, were wounded when a bomb planted on a motorcycle went off near a passing security convoy in Bannu on Sunday. [Dawn]
  • Arms Restrictions: On Saturday, the Interior Ministry issued an order suspending arms licenses for automatic weapons, setting a January 15 deadline for bearers to either exchange the weapon for Rs 50,000 in compensation or otherwise convert the weapon into a semi-automatic. [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • ASWJ Leader Removed from Watchlist: The Express Tribune reports that Masroor Nawaz Jhangvi, the son of the founder of the Sunni sectarian group Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan / Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat and a Punjab provincial assembly member, was removed from the “Fourth Schedule” watchlist by the Punjab Home Ministry last week. As many as 300 other people, not identified in the report, were also removed.

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Sharifs Meet to Plan Strategy: Nawaz and Shehbaz Sharif met with other top PML-N leaders in Lahore on Friday to discuss their legal and political response to the corruption cases against the family and timelines for new general elections. Party leaders, including PM Abbasi, met again on Sunday; former information minister Pervez Rashid told Dawn that “the PML-N will not go for confrontation with any state institution, as our focus is on preparing for the 2018 elections”. The Supreme Court heard arguments on Monday in an appeal brought by the National Accountability Bureau to reopen the Hudaibiya Paper Mills money laundering case against the Sharif brothers, which was previously closed in a March 2014 Lahore High Court judgement. Judge Asif Saeed Khosa recused himself from the case, citing his previous Panama Papers verdict recommending that it be reopened. The Supreme Court is also due to hear an appeal on Monday from Nawaz Sharif against the NAB court’s rejection of his plea to consolidate three separate corruption cases into a single hearing. The PML-N reportedly plans to hold a rally in Abbottabad on Nov 20, to be headlined by Nawaz, with another rally to follow in Sheikhupura. Additionally, a national assembly session is expected to be called this week after Abbasi chairs a meeting of the Council on Common Interests on Monday to discuss amendments reapportioning the number of constituencies between the provinces. The Express Tribune reports that Finance Minister Dar was removed from the CCI on Monday and replaced by Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal. [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • MQM-PSP Alliance Collapses: Following the announcement and subsequent collapse last week of an alliance or merger of the MQM-Pakistan and the Pak Sarzameen Party, MQM-P leader Farooq Sattar visited the party’s “Martyrs’ Monument” at Karachi’s Azizabad neighborhood on Saturday; the party was blocked by city police and security officials from staging a rally in the area and only a limited number of party leaders were allowed to visit the site, however. PSP leader Mustafa Kamal held a separate press conference on Saturday at which he claimed that the alliance had been brokered by unnamed representatives of “the establishment” at Sattar’s request over the course of the past eight months; he reiterated his opposition to joining under the MQM name. MQM-P leader Faisal Subzwari said afterwards that “we’ll never strip ourselves of our identity” and said that Kamal had “missed a golden opportunity”. On Sunday, PPP leader Asim Hussain met with Sattar to “convey a special message” from former Pres. Zardari; PPP leader Faryal Talpur, Zardari’s sister, subsequently issued a statement saying that Asim had not consulted with the PPP leadership prior to his meeting with Sattar. On Monday, MQM-P national assembly remember Syed Ali Raza Abidi formally submitted his resignation. [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation] [The Nation] [ET]
  • Musharraf Announces Another Alliance: On Friday, former Pres. Musharraf announced that he was founding a new alliance, the Pakistan Awami Ittehad, which he said would include his former party the All Pakistan Muslim League, as well as Tahir-ul Qadri’s Pakistan Awami Tehreek, the Sunni Ittehad Council and Sunni Tehreek, Majlis-i-Wahdatul Muslimeen, and many other smaller parties. Party organizers said they were planning a convention in Lahore and rally in Karachi in December. On Saturday, representatives of the PAT, SIC, and MWM all said that they had not agreed to joining the alliance. On Sunday, Musharraf claimed that his party could, in alliance with the MQM-P and PSP, defeat the PPP in Sindh, but also discounted any interest in leading either the MQM-P or PSP. [The Nation] [APP] [ET]
  • Islamabad Protests Continue: At least eleven police cases have been filed by Islamabad police against Tehreek-i-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah leader Khadim Hussain Rizvi, after his demonstrators were accused of attack a television crew on Friday and kidnapping four police officers, later released on Saturday. Demonstrators demanded the removal of Law Minister Zahid Hamid over the changes to an oath taken by candidates affirming the finality of Mohammad’s prophethood, and according to police complaints threatened to attack cabinet ministers’ families if their demands were not met. A protestor delegation met with Interior Ministry representatives on Saturday, who refused to agree to their demands. [NYT] [WAPO] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Other Corruption Investigations and Legal Battles: The Islamabad High Court will begin hearings on Monday in a PTI disqualification petition against Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif over his holding of a foreign work permit with a UAE company. Finance Minister Dar is expected to skip hearings in the corruption case against him scheduled for Tuesday, citing poor health. Hassan and Hussain Nawaz skipped court hearings on Friday, and are likely to be classified as “proclaimed offenders” at the next hearing. On Monday, the Election Commission heard arguments and reserved a verdict on a petition challenging PTI intra-party elections held in June. [The Nation] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Other Political Activity: JUI-S leader Sami-ul Haq told supporters on Sunday that the revival of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal alliance of religious parties was still “conditional”, adding that he would insist that the JUI-F and JI quit their participation in governing coalitions at the national and provincial level before forming the MMA. The MMA parties have formed a steering committee to negotiate details of the alliance; in comments to Dawn, PML-N and PTI sources downplayed concerns over the alliance’s formation, but PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar criticized the move as a project to “mainstream Taliban”. Mumtaz Bhutto’s Sindh National Front officially merged with the PTI in a ceremony on Friday. Former foreign minister Sardar Aseff Ahmad Ali re-joined the PTI on Friday; he had joined the party from the PPP in 2011, then quit it in 2013. Imran Khan led a rally in the town of Taunsa Sharif in the Dera Ghazi Khan district of Punjab on Saturday. [ET] [ET] [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation] [Dawn]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Coalition Support Funds: The Senate and House conference committee report of the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act agrees to authorize up to $700 million in Coalition Support Fund payments to Pakistan, $350M of which is contingent on certification of Pakistan action against the Haqqani network, which the Department of Defense has declined to certify for the past two years.

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Supreme Court Orders “Removal of Grey Areas” in Missing Persons Cases [Dawn]
  • NADRA Yet to Issue Cards to 370,000 Newly Registered Afghan Refugees [Dawn]
  • Three Baloch Liberation Army Members Sentenced to Death Over 2014 Gas Pipeline Bombing [Dawn]
  • Frontier Corps and Quetta Police Kill Three in Raid [ET]
  • Local ANP Leaders Accused of Hiring Taliban Militants to Kill Activist Parween Rehman [Dawn]
  • Two Employees of Turkish Sanitation Firm Killed in Rawalpindi [The Nation]
  • Activists Challenge Removal of Sindh Police Chief [Dawn]
  • Chinese Firm All But Stops Work on Lahore-Matiari Transmission Line [Dawn]
  • Strike in Gwadar and Turbat After Attack on Water Tankers [Dawn]
  • Power Outage in Peshawar’s NA-4 Constituency After PML-N Loss [ET]
  • Additional Non-Tariff Barriers Raised on Cotton Imports [ET]
  • Commentary: Hard Cases, Bad Law – “The biggest casualty of Panama might be public faith (across the political spectrum) in the SC’s ability to act as a neutral arbiter of the law.” [Babar Sattar, The News]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • US Strategy: Speaking to reporters on Thursday after a NATO defense ministers conference in Brussels, Resolute Support commander Gen. John Nicholson said that he had not “seen any change yet in [Pakistan’s] behavior” in terms of taking action against Taliban sanctuaries, but that “the United States has been very clear about the direction we want to go and we hope to see some change in the coming weeks and months”. Sec. Mattis said that “there are ways we can reward Pakistan and there are ways we can ensure they are held to account”, and “we are going to work with Pakistan and make this work”. TIME notes that Nicholson has not yet spoken directly with Pres. Trump about the U.S. Afghanistan strategy; Nichsolson nonetheless said that “I believe I have [Trump’s] confidence… because the policy that we received on August 21st is everything that I asked for”. [Dawn]
  • US Airpower and Assistance: Foreign Policy reports that changes to the rules of engagement and the deployment of a new Security Force Assistance Brigade to Afghanistan will allow “hundreds” of U.S. troops to partner with Afghan units on combat missions in order to call in air and artillery support. The Washington Post reports on training efforts for the new fleet of 159 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, but notes that contingent will not be fully in place and manned by Afghan pilots until 2022. Speaking to the Meshrano Jirga on Sunday, Afghan National Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mohammad Sharif Yaftali said that the U.S. had pledged to provide more than 1,500 Humvees to the ANA next year.
  • Syrian Returnees: The NYT notes concerns among Afghan security officials over the return to Afghanistan of Afghan veterans of the Iranian-sponsored Fatemiyoun Division from Syria; one member of the group says that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps had promised support to the group to defend against attacks on Afghan Shiites by the Islamic State, although Afghan officials say that thus far they see little organized evidence of active support from Iran for the veterans.
  • Civilian Casualties: The NYT highlights the dispute between UN and US and Afghan officials on whether civilian casualties occurred as a result of a U.S. airstrike in Kunduz’s Chardara district on Nov 3, and interviews some survivors of the bombing. Russia’s foreign ministry issued a statement Friday calling for a “thorough and objective investigation into all circumstances of the incident”.
  • Border Tensions with Pakistan: Kunar provincial police officials accuse Pakistani forces of firing more than 120 rockets into several bordering districts between Saturday and Sunday, wounding at least one person.
  • Attacks and Operations: Acting Afghan Defense Minister Gen. Tariq Shah Bahrami told a press conference in Kabul on Sunday that insurgent attacks had increased by 13% over the past seven months, but that insurgent casualties had risen by 11%. In an earlier TOLO interview, Nicholson attributed the spike in suicide attacks to the Taliban suffering “twice as many casualties” as the Afghan security forces during the month of September, saying that “these were indiscriminate terror attacks that killed civilians and attempt to show their relevance and they had absolutely no strategic purpose.” Speaking to a group of attorneys general on Sunday, Pres. Ghani said that Afghan security forces would “adopt an offensive posture next year”. Kapisa police officials claim that 35 Taliban fighters were killed in an Afghan Air Force airstrike in the Tagab district on Friday. ANA officials in Kunar say they killed an Islamic State commander in an airstrike in the Chapa Dara district on Friday. A suicide bomber driving a stolen Humvee attacked an checkpost in the Nawa district in Helmand on Saturday, wounding two Afghan soldiers. The mayor of Badakhshan’s provincial capital of Faizabad escaped injury in a suicide attack on Saturday. Eight police officers were killed in an attack on their checkpost in Farah city on Sunday evening. A suicide car bomber attacked a NATO convoy in the Dand district in Kandahar on Monday; no details on casualties have been reported as of this writing. Also on Monday, Nangarhar provincial officials reported that a U.S. drone strike in the Achin district killed four ISIS militants. [Pajhwok] [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [AP]
  • Security Visas: The conference report between the House and Senate on the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act agrees to provide 3,500 additional Special Immigrant Visas for Afghans who aid U.S. forces as interpreters or in other roles, The Hill reports.

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Karzai Reiterates Criticisms: In an Al Jazeera interview, former Pres. Karzai reiterated criticism of the United States, saying that he welcomed an International Criminal Court investigation into possible war crimes and suggesting the that U.S. “had a hand” in the expansion of the Islamic State in Afghanistan. Karzai met with Russia’s ambassador to Afghanistan on Sunday to discuss proposals to convene a Loya Jirga.
  • Penal Code Amended: On Saturday, Second Vice President Mohammad Sarwar Danish and Justice Minister Abdul Basir Anwar announced the introduction of an amended penal code, which specifies new categories of crime, including those related to corruption, the environment, elections, and cybercrime, and also increases minimum prison sentences from 24 hours to three months. [TOLO]
  • Dostum May Return: A spokesman for Vice Pres. Dostum tells the BBC’s Afghanistan service that Dostum’s “health condition has improved” and “his medical treatment has concluded along with some other works in Turkey”, suggesting that he would return to Afghanistan “soon”.

 

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Indian Wheat Shipment Arrives: The first shipment of wheat from India to Afghanistan through Iran’s Chabahar port arrived in Nimroz on Saturday, which Afghan officials touted as a means of gaining independence from imports through Pakistan; the shipment was dispatched Oct 29. [Ariana News] [ET]

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Parliament Votes Against Referring Secretariat Chief to Attorney General’s Office [TOLO]
  • Hekmatyar Rejects Reports on ‘Ethnic War’ Comments, Criticizes ‘Warmongers’ [TOLO] [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • Report: Behind the Steel Doors: A Labyrinth of Challenges in Prisons in Afghanistan – “Based on strong evidence collected from Pol-i-Charkhi and Baghlan prisons, the phenomenon of overcrowding has adverse impact not only on operations and functioning of the prisons but it severely violates rights of inmates.” [Integrity Watch Afghanistan (pdf)]
  • Commentary: Qari Hekmat’s Island: A Daesh Enclave in Jawzjan? – “This is the first time that a rival group in the north has successfully challenged the Taleban while invoking the name of their latest nemesis, Daesh.” [Obaid Ali, AAN]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: MQM-PSP Alliance Cracking; NATO Short of Training Mission Troop Goals

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Topline

  • Less than a day after announcing an alliance with the Pak Sarzameen Party, MQM-Pakistan leader Farooq Sattar appeared to reverse course, after other MQM-P leaders met without him and issued a statement saying that the party still planned to contest the next elections under its own name and sybol.
  • Additional reports on Thursday’s meeting of NATO defense ministers confirm initial accounts that the alliance failed to reach an agreement on fulling staffing Resolute Support commander Gen. John Nicholson’s request for around 1,500 additional allied troops for the training mission in Afghanistan.
  • Zadran tribal elders in Paktia tell TOLO they are prepared to negotiate with leaders of the Haqqani network, if authorized to do so by the Afghan government.
  • Leaders of several religious parties, including the Jamaat-e-islami and JUI-F, met in Lahore and “agreed in principle” to revive the MMA alliance of religious parties. Mumtaz Bhutto has also announced that he will merge his Sindh National Front party with the PTI.
  • PPP senator Farhatullah Babar resigned from a parliamentary committee debating a new accountability law in protest over his party’s change in position on whether that law should have jurisdiction over the military and judiciary.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • US Ambassador Meets Army Chief: U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan David Hale met with Chief of Army Staff Bajwa in Rawalpindi on Thursday to discuss “regional and bilateral security issues”; no details of the conversation were released. Separately, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Alice Wells testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee earlier this week; her prepared statement said that “the United States does not seek a role as a mediator between India and Pakistan, but encourages both countries to restart dialogue at the earliest opportunity”, and noted concerns about “Pakistan’s growing fissile material stockpiles and its expanding and diversifying military nuclear and missile programs”. [ET]
  • Rangers Kill Three at Shia Mosque: The Sindh Rangers announced Friday that they had killed three suspected suicide bombers who attempted to attack a checkpost near a Shia mosque in the town of Rohri in Sindh’s Sukkur district. The attack coincides with Shia ceremonies commemorating the death of Imam Hussain. [The Nation]

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • MQM-PSP Alliance Shows Early Cracks: Several leaders of the MQM-Pakistan held a meeting on Thursday, a day after party leader Farooq Sattar had announced an alliance with the rival Pak Sarzameen Party and plans to contest the next general elections under “one party, one manifesto and one symbol”. Following their meeting, MQM-P deputy convener Kanwar Naveed Jameel said that the party intended to continue to contest the election under its own name and symbol. After this, Sattar — who did not attend the leadership meeting — held his own press conference at which he professed his resignation from the party’s leadership, which he subsequently withdrew. Sattar also criticized PSP leader Mustafa Kamal for his continued criticism of the MQM, and left unclear whether he would continue to pursue negotiations. On Friday, Sattar petitioned the Election Commission to disqualify Karachi deputy mayor Arshad Vohra, who quit the party to join the PSP in late October; however the Express Tribune notes that unlike in the national and provincial assemblies, there is no prohibition in local government law against party switching. Separately, Karachi police announced the arrest of two MQM activists linked with the party’s London-led faction. [ET] [GEO] [The Nation]
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: PPP senator Farhatullah Babar resigned from the parliamentary committee debating a new accountability law on Thursday, protesting his own party’s change in stance on whether a new accountability commission should hold jurisdiction over the military and judiciary. The thirty-day deadline previously given to Hassan and Hussain Nawaz to appear before an Islamabad accountability court and face charges expires Friday, after which they may face asset seizures and additional court penalties. The Supreme Court returned a petition brought by Imran Khan challenging the 2017 Electoral Law’s provisions allowing Nawaz Sharif to serve as PML-N party chief despite being disqualified from office. Supreme Court arguments continued on Thursday in the disqualification case against PTI leader Jahanghir Tareen. The Supreme Court agreed Friday to hear a National Accountability Bureau appeal challenging a 2014 Lahore High Court decision acquitting Nawaz Sharif and others in the 2000 Hudaibya Paper Mills money laundering case. [The Nation] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Other Political Activity: Leaders of several religious parties, including the Jamaat-e-Islami and JUI-F, met in Lahore on Thursday and “agreed in principle” to revive the Muttahida Majlis Amal alliance of religious parties; another meeting of the group is planned for December in Karachi. On Friday, Mumtaz Bhutto announced that his Sindh National Front party would merge with the PTI. Pakistan Bureau of Statistics officials will brief senators on Friday after earlier criticisms of the census. [Dawn] [The Nation] [The Nation] [Dawn] [Dawn]

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • In Lahore, Smog Has Become a ‘Fifth Season’ [NYT]
  • Tehreek Labaik Ya Rasool Allah Protests Continue in Islamabad [ET]
  • National Security Advisor Visits Uzbekistan [The Nation]
  • Frontier Corps Seize Bomb-Laden Motorcycle in Zhob District [ET]
  • Oil Tanker Suppliers Protest Kohat Tunnel Restrictions [The Nation]
  • Commentary: Full Circle – “The third intervention now underway brings forth the spectre of an anti-mainstream party front of old Miltablishment allies, aided and abetted by a new pro-Miltablishment player in the shape of the PTI.” [Najam Sethi, Friday Times]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • US and NATO Force Levels: The NYT, WSJ, and WAPO have additional reporting on Thursday’s NATO defense ministerial meeting on Afghanistan in Brussels; NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg acknowledged to reporters that “we still have some gaps that we are continuing to work on, and we will address them with allies and partners so that we have a troop level, and not only the number of troops, but the type of troops we need to have a mission in Afghanistan next year”. Resolute Support commander Gen. John Nicholson said that he was seeking at minimum 15,800 troops for the training mission, counting Americans. The WSJ, echoing earlier reports, says that allies have committed “roughly 700” additional troops, against a goal of 1,500 additional allied forces. Turkish officials tell the Post that they have agreed to provide another 50 advisors, and 47 “quick-reaction” soldiers based at the Kabul airport. Stoltenberg also said that the UAE and Qatar had expressed interest in contributing to the coalition. [Pajhwok] [Khaama Press]
  • Attacks and Operations: Ministry of Interior officials tell TOLO they are working on a plan in conjunction with other security agencies to increase the security of Kabul and other major cities through the winter. A police officer was killed and five wounded in a bombing attack on a border police compound in the Helmand provincial capital of Lashkar Gah on Friday; reports conflict as to whether the incident was a suicide or car bombing attack. [Khaama Press]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Opposition Politics: Several opposition political leaders and parliamentarians met in Kabul on Thursday, calling for a Loya Jirga to be held and voicing support for former Pres. Karzai to return to office.
  • Taliban Talks: A group of Zadran tribal elders tell TOLO that they are prepared to reach out and negotiate with the Haqqani network, if given the authority to do so on behalf of the government; Sirajuddin Haqqani and his family share tribal ties with the Zadran.

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Defense Ministry Rebuffs Hekmatyar Comments on ‘Ethnic War’ [TOLO]
  • Ministry Shares List of Over 1,000 Mining Contracts [TOLO]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: NATO and US Increase Training Mission Troops; MQM-Pakistan and Pak Sarzameen Party Unite

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Topline

  • NATO defense ministers meeting in Brussels have agreed to provide around 90% of the troop levels sought for the Resolute Support mission, officials say; exact numbers were not released publicly, but Reuters puts the contributions at around 700 additional non-U.S. soldiers and 2,800 additional American soldiers. The AP earlier reported that an additional Army brigade was being deployed early next year to provide training and assistance, boosting the U.S. presence in country to roughly 16,000 servicemembers.
  • The MQM-Pakistan and Pak Sarzameen Party, until recently rivals, announced on Wednesday that they would unite under “one name, one manifesto, one symbol, and one party” for the next general elections. Details of the alliance are apparently still under negotiation; at least one MQM-Pakistan legislator, Ali Raza Abidi, has announced his resignation from the party in response.
  • The Quetta deputy police chief was killed in a suicide bombing attack on his vehicle on Thursday morning, which the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan claimed responsibility for.
  • UNAMA officials reported Thursday that they had found “credible reports” that at least ten civilians were killed in a U.S. airstrike in Kunduz last week, contradicting earlier denials by the Resolute Support mission and Afghan security officials that any civilians had been killed.
  • Medecins Sans Frontieres has been ordered to halt its operations in the Bajaur Agency, two months after being ordered to close operations in Kurram, a spokesman for the charity said Thursday.
  • PM Abbasi has called a meeting of the Council on Common Interests on Monday in an attempt to resolve the deadlock over the reapportionment of constituencies between the provinces on the basis of provisional census data.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • Senior Police Officer Killed in Quetta Bombing: Quetta Deputy Inspector General of Police Hamid Shakeel and two other people were killed when a suicide bomber attacked his vehicle on Thursday morning; at least seven people were injured. A spokesman for the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan claimed responsibility for the attack. [The Nation]
  • MSF Expelled from Bajaur: A spokesman for Medecins Sans Frontieres / Doctors Without Borders tells the Express Tribune that the group has been ordered, without explanation, to close up its operations in the Bajaur Agency; MSF has supported hospital operations there since 2013. MSF activities in the Kurram Agency, its only other FATA presence, were previously ordered to close in September.
  • Afghan Border Clashes: On Thursday, the Pakistani military announced that a soldier had been killed after unidentified “terrorists” attacked an army checkpost in the Rajgal Valley of the Khyber Agency; five militants were said to have been killed in the attack, but no further details were provided.
  • Border Talks with India: A Pakistan Rangers delegation departed for New Delhi on Wednesday to take part in a biannual meeting with their Indian Border Security Force counterparts.

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • MQM-Pakistan and PSP Announce Alliance: MQM-Pakistan leader Farooq Sattar and Pak Sarzameen Party leader Mustafa Kamal held a joint press conference on Wednesday at which they announced plans to set aside their differences and contest the next general elections under “one name, one manifesto, one symbol and one party.” Kamal said that “we will not unite under the name of MQM”, saying he remained committed to “bring[ing] down Altaf Hussain and destroy[ing] his toxic legacy”. The Express Tribune reports that several MQM leaders, including spokesman Aminul Haq, have said they “will not abandon the party name”; MQM-Pakistan national assembly member Ali Raza Abidi announced his resignation. Former Pres. Musharraf issued a statement welcoming the alliance. [The Nation] [Dawn]
  • Constituency Dispute: PM Abbasi has called a meeting of the federal-provincial Council on Common Interests for Monday in an effort to break the deadlock in parliament over the passage of an amendment to reapportion the number of constituencies between the provinces in advance of the next general elections; the PPP had demanded the move. Several senators challenged the census results during debate on Wednesday. [Dawn] [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: PML-N party leaders met in Islamabad on Wednesday and issued a statement afterwards rejecting the Supreme Court’s detailed verdict, released earlier this week, dismissing Nawaz Sharif’s appeal of the court’s Panama Papers verdict; the party describe the more recent verdict as an “awful example of prejudice, bigotry, anger and provocation”. On Wednesday, the government announced that it was withdrawing additional security provided to members of the Joint Investigation Team tasked with investigating the Panama Papers case. [Dawn] [ET] [The Nation] [Dawn]
  • Religious Rallies: Islamabad police have filed charges against Khadim Rizvi, a leader of the Tehreek Labaik Ya Rasool Allah who led a rally in the city on Wednesday, citing the death of an infant whose parents were unable to get through demonstrators’ roadblocks to reach the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences hospital.
  • Other Political Activity: Imran Khan led a rally in Chitral on Wednesday, accusing Nawaz Sharif of seeking to undermine the judiciary and reiterating calls for early elections. Khyber Paktunkhwa Chief Minister Pervaiz Khattak also announced that he was splitting Chitral into two districts. [The Nation] [The Nation] [The Nation] [ET]

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Public Accounts Committee Scrutinizes Rangers’ Commercial Activities [ET] [Dawn]
  • Interior Minister Grilled Over NIC Issued to Slain Taliban Leader [Dawn]
  • Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Appeal to Suspend Bail for Police Officers in Bhutto Murder Case [Dawn]
  • After Helicopter Criticism, Chief Minister Khattak Suspends VIP Protocol for Himself [ET]
  • Ex-PIA Chief ‘Wants to Return to Pakistan’ to Face Allegations, But ‘Facing Obstacles’ [ET]
  • Jamshoro Power Company Suffers Rs 2.45 Billion Loss in FY2016 [ET]
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Finds Rs 82 Billion in Unspent Accounts [ET]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • Troop Deployments: On Wednesday, a spokesman for Pres. Ghani welcomed reports that the alliance was also preparing to increase its troop contribution by around 3,000 soldiers; on Thursday, NATO officials indicated that they had secured commitments for around 90% of the forces sought by military commanders, but declined to provide specific numbers. Reuters reports that U.S. contributions will make up the bulk of the 3,000 additional soldiers for the U.S. mission, with non-NATO allies and partners providing around 700 additional troops and the U.S. 2,800. The AP reported earlier that the total number of U.S. forces in Afghanistan is likely to exceed 16,000 servicemembers after an additional Army security force assistance brigade is deployed early next year, surpassing a “tentative cap” of around 15,000 U.S. troops.
  • Civilian Casualties: A UNAMA investigation found “credible reports” that at least ten civilians were killed in a joint U.S.-Afghan operation in Kunduz’s Chahardara district last week, the UN announced Thursday; the NATO Resolute Support mission and Afghan special forces had previously denied that there were any civilian deaths, although local sources claimed as many as sixty had been killed. [TOLO]
  • Other Attacks and Operations: Haji Ghani, a former district governor in Balkh’s Marmol district and a Jamiat-e-Islami commander, was killed in a suicide attack in Mazar-e-Sharif on Thursday morning; the Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, and accused Ghani of cooperating with U.S. intelligence and supporting prostitution. Two people were killed and four wounded in a bombing of a guesthouse in Nangarhar’s Momand Dara district; no claim of responsibility has been reported. Nangarhar provincial officials claim that three Taliban fighters were killed in an attack by rival ISIS forces in the Chaparhar district on Tuesday. [AP] [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [NPR]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Ghani and Abbasi Speak: Pres. Ghani spoke by phone with PM Abbasi on Wednesday to express condolence over the death of a Pakistani consulate staffer in Jalalabad; a statement from Abbasi’s office said that “the PM stated that Pakistan expected that urgent steps would be taken by the Afghan government to apprehend the culprits of this heinous crime and bring them to the justice at the earliest possible”. [APP]

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Abdullah Condemns Attacks on Afghan Media [TOLO]
  • CCTV Footage Shows MPs Forcing Way Into Parliament Archives [TOLO]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Nawaz Sharif Indicted in Three Corruption Cases; NATO Defense Ministers Meet in Brussels

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Topline

  • On Wednesday, the Islamabad accountability court hearing charges against Nawaz Sharif rejected his petition to consolidate three corruption cases against him into one, and indicted him in all three cases. The next hearings have been set for Nov 15. Earlier on Tuesday, the Supreme Court issued its detailed ruling rejecting an earlier petition by Nawaz seeking a review of its verdict in the Panama Papers case.
  • NATO defense ministers are meeting in Brussels today to finalize plans for an increase in troop deployments in Afghanistan. On Tuesday evening, Pres. Ghani spoke by phone with VP Pence to discuss the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan.
  • The chairman of Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission was reported to have resigned on Tuesday; an IEC spokesman denied those reports, but acknowledged he was not present for work on Wednesday, citing “personal reasons”.
  • Pakistani parliamentary leaders remain deadlocked over an amendment to reapportion national assembly constituencies amongst the four provinces; PM Abbasi will lead outreach to the PPP and other parties in an effort to reach an agreement.
  • Chief of Army Staff Bajwa met with Iran’s defense minister and the leadership of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps on Tuesday; the Pakistani military said that the two countries had agreed that “they will not allow their land to be used against each other by any third party”, and to strength border security cooperation measures.
  • The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the killing of a Pakistani consulate staffer in Jalalabad on Monday; the Torkham border crossing was closed after his body was repatriated to Pakistan on Tuesday.
  • The MQM-Pakistan and Pak Sarzameen Party have announced a joint press conference for later this evening, at which some reports suggest they will announce some form of alliance.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • Iran Talks: On Tuesday, Chief of Army Staff Bajwa met with Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier Amir Hatami and the leadership of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps; the Pakistani military’s spokesman said that “both Iran and Pakistan agreed that they will not allow their land to be used against each other by any third party” and that further border security measures were agreed to, including fencing by Iran and the creation of a hotline system. [ET] [The Nation]
  • Bombs Defused: Five improvised explosives were discovered and defused near the entrance to the Mehran University of Engineering and Technology in Jamshoro on Wednesday; no claim of responsibility has been reported. [The Nation]

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Sharif Indicted in Corruption Cases: On Wednesday, the Islamabad accountability court hearing corruption charges against Nawaz Sharif and his family members issued a verdict rejecting his petition for three cases to be consolidated into a single one; he was subsequently indicted in all three, to which he pled not guilty. Prosecution witnesses were summoned and hearings have been adjourned until Nov 15. Speaking to reporters afterwards, Nawaz said that the investigations against him were “politically motivated” and that he was “being denied the right to a fair and just trial”; in remarks after hearings on Tuesday, he said that he would not seek to evade “so-called accountability”, however. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court released its detailed verdict on previous petitions filed by Nawaz seeking a review of its earlier verdict in the Panama Papers; the ruling said that Nawaz had “never [come] forth with the entire truth” and “tried to fool the people inside and outside the parliament”. Maryam Nawaz denounced the verdict in comments on Twitter. [AP] [The Nation] [The Nation] [The Nation] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET]
  • Constituency Legislation Remains Stalled: A meeting of parliamentary leaders on Wednesday remained deadlocked over draft legislation to reapportion constituencies amongst the provinces based on provisional census data. Speaking to reporters afterwards, National Assembly Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq rejected proposals from PPP opposition leader Khurshid Shah to hold polls on the basis of existing constituency boundaries. Nawaz Sharif met with PM Abbasi on Tuesday to discuss the issue and has reportedly tasked him with negotiating with secure support for the bill’s passage; anonymous PML-N sources say believe the PPP is withholding support to extract extra concessions. The PTI has conditioned its support on the government winning over the PPP and MQM. [ET] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Corruption Investigations and Legal Battles: At hearings on Wednesday, PML-N lawyers accused PTI leader Jahanghir Tareen of submitting forged documents detailing his land assets during a Supreme Court hearing on petitions seeking his disqualification, and accused him of failing to pay taxes on that land. [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation] [Dawn] [ET]
  • MQM Factions Meet: The MQM-Pakistan and Pak Sarzameen Party have announced a joint press conference in Karachi later this evening, which initial reports suggest may be used to announce an alliance between the two factions. [ET] [The Nation]
  • Census Disputes: Pakistan Bureau of Statistics officials defended the conduct of the census earlier this year during Sindh High Court hearings challenging the results of the count; separately, the senate committee on statistics has called for a parliamentary investigation into the census’ accuracy. [Dawn]

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Foreign Minister Says Pakistan in ‘Better Position on Diplomatic Front’ [The Nation] [ET] [ET] [Dawn]
  • National Assembly Committee to Investigate Alleged Intelligence Bureau ‘Monitoring List’ [Dawn]
  • Minister Joins Opposition in Criticizing Financial Institutions [Dawn]
  • Suspects Transferred to Police Custody in Case of Sindh United Party Leader’s Son’s Murder [Dawn]
  • PM Abbasi Visits Naval Headquarters [ET]
  • Pakistan Seeks China’s Help to End Smog-Related Power Breakdowns [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • North Korean Diplomat’s Alcohol Stash Raises Bootlegging Suspicions [Reuters]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • US and NATO Strategy: Pres. Ghani spoke by phone with Vice President Pence on Tuesday evening to discuss the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan, “the fight against corruption, the peace process and the scheduled elections”, among other topics. As noted yesterday, NATO defense ministers are meeting in Brussels on Wednesday to discuss plans to increase the number of NATO troops in Afghanistan by around 3,000 soldiers. US ambassador to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchinson told reporters on Tuesday that the U.S. also would “like to see Pakistan come in, in a positive effort to help stabilize Afghanistan”. In a VOA interview, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that “we have to address the big challenge that [the] Taliban, the insurgents are working also out of bases in Pakistan… it is extremely important that all countries in the region support efforts of the Afghan national unity government and that no country provide any kind of sanctuary for the terrorists.” [Khaama Press] [Pajhwok] [AP]
  • Islamic State Claim Responsibility for Pakistani Staffer’s Murder: On Tuesday, the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the killing of a Pakistani consular staffer Nayyar Iqbal Rana in Jalalabad the day prior. Pres. Ghani’s office ordered an investigation into the incident on Wednesday. The Torkham border crossing was closed by Pakistan on Tuesday following the repatriation of Rana’s body. [Khaama Press] [Reuters]
  • Other Attacks and Operations: Wardak provincial police officials report that at least 15 Taliban fighters staged an attack on a police training center in the Syedabad district on Tuesday evening, but that all were killed; officials claim that no Afghan security forces suffered casualties. Shamshad TV resumed broadcasts shortly after being attacked by Islamic State fighters in Kabul on Tuesday. [WSJ] [TOLO] [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Report of IEC Chairman’s Resignation: On Wednesday, a spokesman for the Independent Election Commission denied earlier reports that IEC Chairman Najibullah Ahmadzai had resigned, but acknowledged that he was not at work that day for “personal reasons”.
  • Hezb-e-Islami Meets: Gulbuddin Hekmatyar led a gathering of Hezb-e-Islami supporters in Kabul on Wednesday, where he called on “all Afghans and political parties to work together in favor of healthy competition among political parties”, including the Taliban, who he urged to join the reconciliation process. He also reiterated that elections should not be delayed.
  • Census Law Dispute: In a statement on Tuesday, the presidency called on members of parliament to reconsider their vote rejecting an executive decree on the national census law that provides for the inclusion of ethnic categories on national ID cards.
  • Ghani Visits UAE: Pres. Ghani departed for a trip to the United Arab Emirates on Wednesday.

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Afghan Taliban Deny Receiving Support from Russia or Iran [ET]
  • National Procurement Commission Approves Afs 1.6 Billion in New Projects [Khaama Press]
  • USAID to Fund Textbook Distribution Project [TOLO]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: ISIS Claims Attack on TV Station in Kabul; Constituency Legislation Stalled in Parliament

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Topline

  • The Islamic State claimed responsibility for an attack on Shamshad TV in Kabul on Tuesday; two guards were killed, and as many as twenty people injured.
  • NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters on Tuesday that the NATO alliance was preparing to authorize the deployment of around 3,000 additional troops to Afghanistan; NATO defense ministers are meeting today.
  • The NATO Resolute support mission issued a statement on Monday saying it had found no evidence of civilian casualties following a U.S. airstrike in Kunduz, which some accounts had suggested killed as many as sixty people.
  • Legislation for the reapportioning of constituencies between the provinces remains stalled in Pakistan’s national assembly after a meeting of parliamentary party leaders on Tuesday failed to reach an agreement on a way forward.
  • Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his family appeared again before an Islamabad accountability court on Tuesday, where his lawyer made arguments for the consolidation of three corruption cases against Nawaz into a single reference.
  • In a statement on Monday, the Afghan presidency said that it was committed to free speech and suggested that it would reverse or block a proposed ban on the use of messaging apps like WhatsApp or Telegram, following reports of such a move last week.
  • A Pakistani consulate staffer in Jalalabad was killed by unidentified gunmen on Monday.
  • On Monday, the Lahore High Court heard arguments from the Punjab government appealing its order for the release of the 2014 Model Town inquiry report.
  • Chief of Army Staff Bajwa held talks with Iranian leaders in Tehran on Monday, reportedly focused on the situation in Afghanistan and border security; few details were released.

 

Pakistan — Security

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Constituency Legislation Stalled Again: A meeting of parliamentary leaders on Tuesday failed to resolve disputes over legislation to reapportion directly-elected constituencies among the provinces on the basis of provisional census data, with the MQM and PPP reiterating their objections to the census results. A national assembly session on Monday failed to pass the legislation, which as a constitutional amendment requires the support of two-thirds of the house, apparently due to continued low attendance. Speaking at a press conference following a meeting of top PML-N leadership on Monday, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal insisted that the government would complete its full term and that elections would be held in the first week of August 2018. ANP and JUI-F leaders separately objected to PTI proposals for early elections. [The Nation] [The Nation] [The Nation] [ET]
  • Nawaz Appears Before Court Again: Nawaz Sharif and his daughter and son-in-law appeared before an Islamabad accountability court again on Tuesday, where Nawaz’s lawyer made arguments in his petition to combine three corruption cases against him into a single reference. Arguments concluded on Tuesday and the court reserved its verdict, setting the next hearing for Wednesday. [The Nation] [AP]
  • Corruption Investigations and Legal Battles: Federal Board of Revenue officials met on Monday to discuss possible investigations against Pakistani nationals named in the release of the ‘Paradise Papers’ on Sunday. On Monday, a Lahore High Court bench ordered the Punjab government to produce its investigation report into the June 2014 Model Town clash between police and Pakistan Awami Tehreek activists for review at another court hearing; lawyers for the government had appealed an earlier LHC order mandating its publication. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court continued hearings into the disqualification petition against PTI leader Jahanghir Tareen. The parliamentary committee debating a new National Accountability Commission law remains deadlocked, with the PPP objecting to proposals that provincial government officials be covered under the law’s jurisdiction; speaking to reporters, PPP parliamentary leader Syed Naveed Qamar defended the party’s move to drop support for proposals that members of the judiciary and military be covered, suggesting that “there is a rift among institutions and such an environment is not suitable for tabling such a proposal, as it may aggravate the situation.” The Islamabad High Court has agreed to hear a challenge brought by the main opposition parties against the appointment of State Bank of Pakistan governor Tariq Bajwa. [Dawn] [The Nation] [Dawn] [The Nation] [ET] [The Nation] [ET]
  • Army Chief Meets Iranian President: Chief of Army Staff Bajwa met with Iranian Pres. Rouhani in Tehran on Monday and also held talks with his counterpart Iranian Chief of General Staff Major General Muhammad Bagheri. The Pakistani military said that the talks had focused on the “Afghan situation, growing threat of ISIS in the region and Pak-Iran border security”. [ET]
  • US Relations: Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif and US Ambassador to Pakistan David Hale participated in a Track II dialogue meeting in Islamabad on Monday; speaking to reporters afterwards, Asif said that “there is still trust deficit” between the two countries. In his remarks, Hale reiterated that the U.S. “ask[s] for equal diligence in decimating all the groups operating in Pakistan which threaten the region’s stability”. Separately, Sindh governor Mohammad Zubair led a business delegation to Washington DC on Monday. [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Other Political Activity: The PTI’s candidate for the NA-120 by-election, Yasmin Rashid, filed an Election Commission petition on Tuesday challenging the results of that election. Speaking at a rally in Attock on Monday, Imran Khan reiterated corruption allegations against Nawaz Sharif and former Pres. Zardari. [ET] [ET]

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Pakistan Debates How to Fill Education Gaps [Reuters]
  • Karachi Police Arrest Three ISIS-Linked Militants [Dawn]
  • Arms Cache Seized in South Waziristan [ET]
  • Policeman Killed at Kalat Checkpost [The Nation]
  • JUI-F Leader Challenges FATA Reform Plan [ET]
  • Russian Parliamentary Delegation Meets with Speaker Ayaz Sadiq [The Nation]
  • PM Abbasi Plans to Inaugurate Second LNG Import Terminal [ET]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • TV Station Attacked: The Islamic State claimed responsibility for an attack on Tuesday on the headquarters of Shamshad TV in Kabul, a private Pashto-language broadcaster. At least two people were killed in the attack and as many as twenty or more injured; at least two gunmen and a suicide bomber were involved, reportedly wearing police uniforms. The station’s news director said that no threats had been received prior to the attack. Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor denounced the attack; the Taliban denied any involvement in the incident. [NYT] [AP] [TOLO]
  • NATO to Increase Force Levels: Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday prior to a NATO defense ministers’ meeting, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that the alliance was prepared to increase the number of troops deployed to Afghanistan by around 3,000 personnel in order to “help the Afghans break the stalemate”; he said they would not have combat roles, however. [TOLO]
  • Civilian Casualties: In a statement on Tuesday, the NATO Resolute Support mission said that it had found “no evidence of civilian casualties” in connection to a U.S. airstrike in Kunduz last week that was alleged to have killed as many as sixty residents in the Chardara district. The statement noted that “no hospitals or clinics in the local area indicated treatment of people with wounds from armed conflict”. Afghan security forces had also denied that any civilians had been killed in the operations. [RFE/RL]
  • Pakistani Diplomat Killed: Nayyar Iqbal, an employee at the Pakistani consulate in Jalalabad, was shot and killed by unidentified gunmen on Monday evening; his body was returned to Pakistan on Tuesday. Pakistan’s foreign ministry formally protested the incident and demanded that the perpetrators be brought to justice; Afghanistan’s ambassador to Pakistan condemned the killing. [Dawn] [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • Other Attacks and Operations: Two ISIS fighters were killed in a U.S. airstrike in Nangarhar’s Nazian district on Monday, provincial police officials reported; airstrikes in the Achin district on Sunday reportedly killed at least seven ISIS fighters. Mohammad Fazel Afif Jamshedi, a member of the Herat provincial council, was killed by unidentified gunmen in Herat city on Tuesday; no claim of responsibility has been reported.

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Messaging App Ban Reversed: In a statement on Monday following reports over the weekend that the Afghan government had imposed a ban on the use of messaging apps like WhatsApp and Telegram, the presidency said that the government was committed to the freedom of speech, and would not allow a ban on their use.
  • Election Preparations: On Monday, a spokesman for the Independent Election Commission accused international donors of failing to provide funding for the procurement of electronic equipment needed to digitize election records, expressing concerns that elections would be delayed as a result.
  • Talks with Pakistan: UK ambassador to Pakistan Thomas Drew met with Pakistan’s National Security Advisor Nasser Khan Janjua on Monday to brief him on meetings with Pres. Ghani in Kabul last week; Janjua’s office quoted him saying that “Pakistan and Afghanistan needed to resume and strengthen political, diplomatic, military and intelligence co-operation at all levels”. [ET] [The Nation]

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Hezb-e-Islami Plans Kabul Gathering [Khaama Press]
  • Thirty-Third Flight Departs via Afghan-India Air Corridor [Pajhwok]
  • Report: Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict: Attacks Against Places of Worship, Religious Leaders and Worshippers – “Since 1 January 2016, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) documented 51 incidents of: attacks against places of worship and persons exercising their right to religious worship, observance, and practice and targeted killings, abductions, and intimidation of religious scholars and religious leaders, mainly by Anti-Government Elements.” [UNAMA (pdf)]
  • Commentary: The ‘Humvee Bomb’ Series: The October Wave of Taliban Attacks in 2017 Context – “The latest wave of Taleban attacks in October 2017 was an attempt to regain momentum and compensate for the fact that their permanent territorial gains remained scarce throughout 2017.” [Thomas Ruttig, AAN]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Nawaz Huddles with Top PML-N Leaders; Civilians Reportedly Killed in Kunduz Airstrike

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Topline

  • Nawaz Sharif met with close aides in Lahore on Saturday and has called a meeting of the senior PML-N leadership in Islamabad on Monday, which will reportedly focus on mending intra-party divisions and planning for the passage of legislation, which stalled last week for lack of a quorum, to reapportion directly-elected national assembly constituencies among the provinces. The PPP has opposed that legislation and called for the next elections to be conducted using existing constituency boundaries; on Sunday, the MQM rallied in Karachi and called for a new census to be held.
  • As many as sixty Afghan civilians may have been killed in a U.S. airstrike during joint operations with Afghan special forces in Kunduz province’s Chardara district on Friday evening; an Afghan special forces initially denied that any civilians had been killed, but a NATO Resolute Support spokesman said they were investigating the incident.
  • A U.S. Special Forces sergeant was killed in a “combat operation” on Saturday in Logar province; details of the incident have not been released.
  • Pakistani Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal said Friday that 29 terrorism cases had been referred to the military courts system for prosecution, with another 80 cases under review.
  • The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court sought formal approval to initiate war crimes investigations in Afghanistan dating back to 2003; she said that “the ultimate focus will be upon those most responsible for the most serious crimes.
  • Former Jawzjan governor Ahmad Eschi told local press on Saturday that a Kabul court had issued eight-year prison sentences against seven of Vice President Dostum’s bodyguards in connection to Eschi’s detention and alleged sexual abuse last year. All were sentenced in absentia and Dostum and his spokesmen have not commented on the reports.
  • The Afghan government has reportedly issued orders to Afghan telecommunications providers to block access to messaging apps such as WhatsApp and Telegram; it is unclear how widely the order has been implemented, and the government offered conflicting statements as to the rationale behind the ban.
  • The widow of former ISI officer Khalid Khawaja filed a new case against Geo News anchor Hamid Mir on Saturday accused Mir of involved in Khawaja’s kidnapping in South Waziristan in 2010; he suggested that the case was revived as a result of his recent investigations into attacks on journalists.
  • Former All Pakistan Sugar Mills Association chairman Javed Kayani and his uncle Sheikh Saeed Ahmad are reported to be cooperating as witnesses against Nawaz Sharif in the National Accountability Bureau corruption investigation against him. Finance Minister Dar is reportedly unable to pay his lawyers after his assets were frozen. On Monday, Imran Khan filed a Supreme Court petition challenging the Electoral Act of 2017, which allowed Nawaz to resume leadership of the PML-N after his disqualification from office.
  • Hezb-e-Islami leader Guldbuddin Hekmatyar met with Independent Election Commission and Electoral Complaints Commission officials on Saturday; at a press conference afterwards, he insisted that the commissions’ leadership should not be changed and that elections should be held on time.
  • The families of two Baloch militant leaders were released after being detained last week at the Chaman border crossing.
  • Pakistani Chief of Army Staff Bajwa arrived in Tehran on Sunday for meetings with Iranian civilian and military leaders.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • Military Courts: In an interview on Friday, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal said that the government had referred 29 terrorism cases to the military courts system for prosecution; another 80 cases are said to be under review. Chief of Army Staff Bajwa was reported to have earlier written to the prime minister, noting that no new cases had been referred to the military court system thus far this year.
  • Case Against TV Anchor Revived: The widow of former ISI officer Khalid Khawaja, who was kidnapped in South Waziristan and later killed in 2010, filed a new police case accusing prominent Geo TV anchor Hamid Mir of involvement in Khawaja’s kidnapping. The case was reported to have been filed at the order of the Islamabad High Court, but Mir was not given the opportunity to contest the charges; he tells the Express Tribune that it is being revived in retaliation for his recent investigations into recent attacks on journalists. [Dawn]
  • Baloch Militant Families Freed: Speaking at a press conference on Friday, Balochistan home minister Sarfaraz Bugti announced that the provincial government had released the families of two leaders of the Baloch Liberation Front and Baloch Liberation Army militant groups, after they were arrested at the Chaman border crossing earlier in the week. Separately on Friday, the military announced the arrest of a Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan operative in the Zhob district. A landmine blast in the Dera Bugti district on Saturday injured two women. [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation] [ET]
  • FATF Review: A plenary session of the Financial Action Task Force last week ordered Pakistan to submit a compliance report on its efforts to curtail fundraising by groups like Jamaat-ud-Dawa at the next meeting in February 2018, The Hindu reports.
  • FATA Attacks and Operations: One child was killed and two injured in a landmine blast in South Waziristan on Saturday.

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Nawaz Meets with Party Leaders: Nawaz Sharif met with close aides in Lahore on Saturday and has called a meeting of senior PML-N leaders in Islamabad for Monday, at which he will reportedly seek to assuage concerns over intra-party divisions. Dawn suggests the meeting will focus primarily on the delimitation of constituencies on the basis of provisional census data. Nawaz reportedly planned to kick off a series of rallies, beginning on Abbottabad on Nov 12, although the Express Tribune reports that has been delayed until the end of the month to avoid a conflict with a Tableegh-i-Jamaat gathering the same day. Shehbaz Sharif returned from a week-long stay in London on Sunday. Speaking to reporters on Friday after his most recent court appearance, Nawaz dismissed charges from Imran Khan that he was seeking to negotiate a new “National Reconciliation Ordinance” amnesty with establishment officials. [ET] [The Nation] [Dawn]
  • Election Planning: The PML-N parliamentary leadership will meet Tuesday to discuss their strategy for the passage of a law reapportioning directly-elected constituencies amongst the provinces based on provisional census data, after a vote was delayed Friday in the absence of a quorum. Speaking to reporters on Saturday, PPP opposition leader Khurhshid Shah said his party would not support the bill if the Sindh government’s objections to the census figures were not resolved, and suggested the next elections should be held on the basis of previous constituency boundaries. A PTI spokesman endorsed that proposal but said that those elections should be held by April, before the release of final census results. PML-N senator Mushahidullah Khan told reporters on Monday that the party would call a joint session of parliament to push through the legislation if it cannot be passed by Nov 10, a deadline set by the Election Commission. [ET] [ET] [The Nation]
  • Corruption Investigations and Legal Battles: The Express Tribune reports that former All Pakistan Sugar Mills Association chairman Javed Kayani and his uncle Sheikh Saeed Ahmad are preparing to cooperate as witnesses against Nawaz Sharif in the National Accountability Bureau corruption investigation against him, and will testify that they opened overseas bank accounts on his half. Another report suggests that Finance Minister Dar is unable to pay his lawyers after his assets were frozen as part of an ongoing corruption case, and that his senior lawyer Khawaja Haris is seeking to drop the case. The Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan has reportedly frozen 1.9 million shares in twelve companies owned by Hussain and Hassan Nawaz. On Saturday, the Election Commission returned a PTI petition on technical grounds that had sought an investigation into the PML-N’s foreign fundraising; on Monday, Imran Khan filed a Supreme Court petition challenging the Electoral Act of 2017, which allowed Nawaz Sharif to resume leadership of the PML-N after his disqualification. Also on Monday, PML-Q leaders Chaudhry Shujaat and Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi made statements before the NAB in response to corruption investigations against them. On Sunday, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, the group that reported the original ‘Panama Papers’ leak, released the findings of a new investigative project based on additional offshore business registries; former Pakistani prime minister Shaukat Aziz and former National Insurance Corporation Limited chairman Ayaz Khan Niazi were among those identified in the release. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET]
  • Army Chief Visits Iran: Chief of Army Staff Bajwa arrived in Tehran on Sunday; he is expected to meet with Iranian civilian and military leaders, but few details have been released as of this writing. On Friday, Bajwa met with the UK ambassador to Pakistan, Thomas Drew, following earlier meetings between Drew and Pres. Ghani in Afghanistan. [ET]
  • MQM Rallies in Karachi: MQM-Pakistan leader Farooq Sattar led a rally in Karachi on Sunday, challenging the party’s rivals and insisting that the MQM remained the dominant political force in the city; he also accused the census of under-counting Urdu speakers in Karachi and other parts of Sindh, and called for a new census to be conducted. [The Nation]
  • Religious Rallies: The Washington Post interviews protestors affiliated with the Tehreek Labaik Ya Rasool Allah who had been demonstrating in Islamabad against changes, later reversed, to the oath taken by election candidates affirming the finality of Mohammad’s prophethood; on Sunday, the group called off those protests, but another faction led by Khadim Rizvi, which is registered as a political party, plans to lead a march between Lahore and Islamabad on Monday. [ET] [The Nation] [Dawn]
  • Other Political Activity: In an interview on Friday, Interior Minister Iqbal accused Imran Khan of seeking to “create chaos” and “sabotage” senate elections scheduled for March in an effort to force early elections; Iqbal said the government was committed to upholding “internal stability” in Pakistan. Imran led rallies in Khanewal on Saturday and Ghotki on Sunday, reiterating corruption allegations against the PML-N and PPP leadership and saying that Pakistan “would not accept another NRO”. The Nation reports that the PTI plans to require candidates for national assembly seats sign up 10,000 new party members as a requirement for receiving a party ticket endorsement, and provincial assembly candidates at least 5,000 new members. The PPP held rallies around the country on Sunday to protest increases in fuel prices. [ET] [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation] [Dawn]

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Islamabad Extends Authorization for Punjab Rangers’ Deployment [ET]
  • Rangers Arrest 11 in Karachi Raids [ET] [ET]
  • Former Interior Minister Says No Maryam Nawaz Role in ‘Dawn Leaks’ [Dawn] [ET]
  • Intra-Kashmir Trade Resumes at Poonch Crossing [Dawn]
  • Dr Qibla Ayaz Appointed New Chairman of Council of Islamic Ideology [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Chief Minister Uses Official Helicopter to Attend Wedding in Mansehra [ET]
  • PPP Islamabad Chapter President Injured in Knife Attack [The Nation]
  • Lawyers Mark Anniversary of Musharraf Emergency Rule [ET] [ET]
  • Pakistan Protests ‘Free Balochistan’ Ads on London Cabs [ET] [Dawn]
  • Heavy Smog Blankets Pakistan and India [AP] [The Nation] [ET]
  • Power Outage Hits Punjab and Balochistan [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Commentary: The Danger of Trump’s Pakistan Approach – “Washington is trying to address a mélange of geopolitical, regional, and national security challenges, along with the failing Afghanistan war, without an overarching strategy or grand design.” [Touqir Hussain, The Diplomat]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • Civilian Casualties: At least 13 Afghan civilians were reportedly killed in a U.S. airstrike in the Chardara district of Kunduz province during a joint U.S.-Afghan operation on Friday evening; a spokesman for the U.S. military said it was investigating the incident, while a spokesman for the Afghan special forces denied that any civilians had been killed. The Washington Post reports that the death toll could be as high as 60, and The Guardian put the number between 40-55. Former Pres. Karzai denounced the strike. [TOLO] [Pajhwok]
  • U.S. Soldier Killed: The NATO Resolute Support mission announced Saturday that an American soldier had died from wounds sustained during an operation in Logar province; on Sunday, he was identified as Sgt. 1st Class Stephen Cribben, a Special Forces communications sergeant from California. Details of the incident are limited, but his unit was described as being engaged in “combat operations”. [AP] [Khaama Press]
  • Other Attacks and Operations: Afghan military officials claim to have killed three foreign fighters in airstrikes in the Marawara district of Kunar province on Saturday. Nangarhar provincial officials reported that U.S. airstrikes in the Achin district on Sunday killed at least 15 ISIS fighters. [Pajhwok] [Khaama Press]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • ICC Seeks Authorization to Investigate War Crimes: The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda of Gambia, requested authorization on Friday to begin formal investigations into possible war crimes charges committed in Afghanistan since 2003. She did not specify particular cases or targets for investigation but said that “the ultimate focus will be upon those most responsible for the most serious crimes allegedly committed in connection with the situation in Afghanistan.” In a preliminary report last year, the prosecutor’s office identified the Taliban, Afghan government, and U.S. armed forces and CIA as alleged perpetrators. [Reuters] [Guardian]
  • Dostum Guards Sentenced in Eschi Case: Former Jawzjan governor Ahmad Eschi told Pajhwok and TOLO on Saturday that a Kabul court had issued eight-year prison sentences on Wednesday against seven bodyguards working for Vice President Dostum, who allegedly beat and sexually abused Eschi last year. None of the guards appeared for the case and all were sentenced in absentia; Eschi reiterated calls for Dostum to be personally charged as well. Dostum or his spokesmen have not commented on the report. [Khaama Press]
  • Messaging Services Banned: The Afghan government has reportedly ordered telecommunications providers to block access to the messaging applications WhatsApp and Telegram; one government-owned provider is reported to have complied with the order, with other private companies reviewing decisions on whether or how to comply. The impetus for the ban is reported to have come from the National Directorate of Security, without explanation, and Ministry of Communications and Information Technology officials speaking anonymously to the NYT described it as a “temporary” move. Late Friday, MCIT officials attributed the move to a desire to “introduce a new kind of technology” in response to customer complaints about WhatsApp performance. [WSJ] [Reuters] [Pajhwok] [TOLO]
  • Election Preparations: Hezb-e-Islami leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar met with the leadership of the Independent Election Commission or Electoral Complaints Commission on Saturday, presenting his party’s proposed plan for “holding transparent elections”. Speaking in a joint press conference with IEC leaders afterwards, Hekmatyar opposed any changes to the membership of the IEC or ECC, suggesting that proponents of a change “are afraid of elections”. Separately, Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor was reported to have held meetings in Kabul last week with Jamiat-e-Islami leaders to discuss future plans for his “Coalition for the Rescue of Afghanistan”, formed earlier this summer. [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [Pajhwok]
  • Corruption Investigations: On Saturday, a Wolesi Jirga investigative committee ordered the suspension of chief secretary Khuda Nazar Nasrat on corruption charges and for his case to be referred to the Attorney General’s office for investigation; the commission also directed Speaker Abdul Rauf Ibrahimi to return Afs 5.3 million in expense payments. Separately, on Sunday the Anti-Corruption and Justice Center upheld a sentence against Abdul Ghafar Dawi in connection to charges of embezzlement and corruption related to fuel contracts; the sentence was reduced from nine to six years and eight months, however. Dawi retains a right of further appeal. [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [TOLO]
  • Regional Diplomacy: Pres. Ghani met with the visiting foreign minister of Indonesia on Monday. Chief Executive Abdullah met with Russia’s ambassador to Afghanistan and will represent Afghanistan at an upcoming Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit.

 

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Budget Planning: At a cabinet meeting on Sunday chaired by Pres. Ghani, the government approved a draft budget for the 2018 fiscal year, and referred it to parliament for approval. The budget allocates Afs 267 billion for the general operational budget and Afs 90 billion for the development budget, and sets a domestic revenue generation target of Afs 161 billion. The Meshrano Jirga is scheduled to review the budget on Monday. [Khaama Press]
  • Donor Assistance: Speaking at a meeting of donor countries in Kabul on Sunday, U.S. deputy chief of mission Richard Riley stressed that anti-corruption efforts were a “precondition” for continued assistance. Separately, UNAMA officials met with officials in the presidency and civil society representatives on Sunday to discuss assistance spending priorities.

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Bowe Bergdahl Receives Dishonorable Discharge But No Prison Time [WAPO]
  • Afghan Officials Protest British Ambassador’s Endorsement of Durand Line as Settled Border [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press]
  • Chamber of Commerce Reports Spike in Kidnappings [TOLO]
  • Acting Interior Minister Threatens to Sack Kabul Police Chiefs Over Crime [TOLO]
  • Fire Breaks Out at Military Base in Kapisa [TOLO]
  • Justice Ministry Says it Has Halted Theft of 7,200 Acres of Govt-Owned Land in Three Years [TOLO]
  • Trade Between Iran and Afghanistan Rises [TOLO]
  • Commentary: One Step Closer to War Crimes Trials: ICC Prosecutor Requests Authorization to Investigate – “After the failures of national courts to take their suffering seriously, the launch of an ICC investigation would be immensely significant, putting the most senior, responsible leaders of the Taleban, Afghan security officials and US forces and officials under scrutiny.” [Kate Clark and Ehsan Qaane, AAN]
  • Commentary: An ICC Investigation of the US in Afghanistan: What Does it Mean? – “Although the administration will certainly not welcome today’s news from the ICC, it should consider whether it can balance its approach to the Afghanistan investigation on the one hand with a policy towards everything else the ICC does and stands for on the other.” [Alex Whiting, Just Security]