Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: US Considering Presidential Election Delay; Canadian and Pakistani FMs Discuss Bibi Case

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Topline

  • The WSJ reports that the Trump administration and Special Representative Khalilzad are considering delays for the Afghan presidential elections scheduled to take place in April, or otherwise the formation of some form of interim government, as they seek to initiate a peace process with the Taliban. A spokesman for Pres. Ghani opposed any delays to the elections, and in a statement on Tuesday US Ambassador Bass said that the US “remains committed to helping the electoral commissions and the Afghan government prepare for presidential elections in April 2019”.
  • Pres. Ghani met with protestors in Kabul on Monday and pledged additional reinforcements to repel a Taliban offensive in several Hazara-majority districts in Ghazni and Uruzgan; Chief of Army Staff Gen. Mohammad Sharif Yaftali traveled to the area on Tuesday to announce plans for a counter-offensive.
  • Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi spoke by phone with his Canadian counterpart to discuss Aasia Bibi’s case; Pakistani Minister for Religious Affairs Noorul Haq Qadri said Monday that Bibi remained in Pakistan and would not be allowed to leave the country until “the finalization of the legal process”.
  • A Karachi journalist detained over the weekend was produced in court on Monday and remanded to police custody after being charged with possessing “provocative literature”.
  • The ANP has expelled Bushra Gohar and Afrasiab Khattak, two senior party members.

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Aasia Bibi Case: Federal Minister for Religious Affairs Noorul Haq Qadri said Monday that Aasia Bibi remained in Pakistan and would not be allowed to leave the country until the “finalization of the legal process”. The Pakistani foreign ministry confirmed Tuesday that Foreign Minister Qureshi had spoken by phone with his Canadian counterpart about Bibi’s case. On Monday, the Lahore High Court threw out a petition seeking treason charges against Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan chief Khadim Rizvi and JUI-F leader Fazlur Rehman over their protests against Bibi’s acquittal. [ET] [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Press Freedoms: A Karachi journalist arrested over the weekend was produced before an anti-terrorism court on Monday and remanded to police custody for two days; his lawyers say that he is being charged with possessing “provocative literature”. Pakistani activists Nighat Dad and Taha Siddiqui tell Reuters that they have received warnings from Twitter over ‘objectionable content’ based on government requests for their accounts to be blocked. At a press conference on Monday, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry ordered payments of outstanding dues to media companies, and pledged to avoid the use of official advertisements as a political tool. [The Nation]
  • ANP Expels Senior Leaders: On Monday, the ANP suspended the party membership of senior leaders Afrasiab Khattak and Bushra Gohar for their “involvement in activities against the party interests”. [ET]
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: Speaking at an event on Tuesday, Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar vowed that the judiciary “must never be submissive to the executive or legislature but must support these other two pillars in their duties while it upholds its own duty as a guardian of the fundamental rights of the people and the supremacy of the rule of law”. National Accountability Bureau chairman Javed Iqbal has barred all NAB officials from speaking to the press after the Lahore NAB director, Saleem Shahzad, drew complaints for recent TV interviews. On Tuesday, PML-N leader Khawaja Saad Rafique petitioned the Lahore High Court seeking a transfer of all cases against the PML-N away from Shahzad’s jurisdiction. The Supreme Court approved an expanded bench to hear the NAB’s challenge against an Islamabad High Court verdict suspending Nawaz Sharif’s sentencing in the Avenfield properties case. Investigators in the money laundering cases linked to senior PPP leaders told the Supreme Court on Monday that two witnesses had disappeared after receiving Federal Investigation Agency summons; the court ordered a response from Sindh police officials as to their whereabouts. Former Pres. Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur’s bail in the case was extended until Dec 10. [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • IMF Talks: Dawn reports that IMF negotiators have raised concerns over Pakistan’s deficit projections, tax collection performance, and losses in the power sector in ongoing talks with Pakistani finance officials. Separately, The Nation reports that PM Khan will travel to Malaysia on Nov 20 for talks on possible assistance. [The Nation] [Dawn]

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Slain JUI-S Leader’s Secretary Reportedly ‘Missing’ [Dawn]
  • PM Meets Visiting Qatari Army Chief of Staff [Dawn]
  • Minister of State for Interior Pledges Aid for Slain Police Families [ET] [Dawn]
  • Foreign Minister Meets Aafia Siddiqui’s Sister [ET] [The Nation]
  • New Organization Seeks to Block FATA-Khyber Paktunkhwa Merger [Dawn]
  • Chief Justice to Visit UK for Dam Fundraising [ET] [Dawn]
  • PM Orders Action Against ‘Land Mafia’ [Dawn] [ET]
  • Punjab Information Technology Board Chairman Removed [ET] [Dawn]
  • Top Officials Attend Army Chief’s Son’s Wedding [ET]
  • Report: Barriers to Girls’ Education in Pakistan – “Both boys and girls are missing out on education in unacceptable numbers, but girls are worst affected.” [Human Rights Watch]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • Ghazni Security: Pres. Ghani spoke with demonstrators in Kabul on Monday and pledged to send reinforcements to several predominantly Hazara districts in Ghazni and Uruzgan that have come under a Taliban offensive in the past week; the protestors subsequently called of their demonstration, which earlier in the day was targeted by an Islamic State suicide bomber. Officials in Ghazni report that the Malistan district is on the verge of collapse and heavy fighting continues in the Jaghori district. Afghan National Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mohammad Sharif Yaftali visited Malistan on Tuesday and announced plans for a counter-offensive against Taliban forces. [Ariana News] [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • Other Attacks and Operations: At least 11 civilians were wounded in a magnetic bombing targeting their vehicle in the Ghanikhel district in Nangarhar on Tuesday morning, Pajhwok reports. [Khabarnama]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • US Reportedly Considering Presidential Election Delay: The WSJ reports that the Trump administration and US Special Envoy Khalilzad are considering pushing the Afghan government to postpone presidential elections currently scheduled for April 2019, as “some American officials fear that the irregularities and protracted political turmoil that routinely accompany Afghan voting could paralyze or destroy any peace process”. Other plans under consideration include the formation of an interim government or recognition that the newly elected government would only be on an interim basis. A spokesman for Pres. Ghani opposed any delays for the vote, saying that “continuity in a democratic process is a must and any other proposal than the will of Afghans which is outlined in our constitution is simply not acceptable.” On Tuesday, US Ambassador John Bass released a statement saying that “we remain committed to helping the electoral commissions and the Afghan government prepare for presidential elections in April 2019. Timing of Afghan elections is for Afghans to decide.”
  • Taliban Talks: Speaking remotely to a SAIS audience on Monday, Pres. Ghani said that “U.S. engagement is to ensure that talks with the Taliban result not in negotiations with Taliban but with talks, direct talks, between the Afghan government and the Taliban” and that the government would not seek peace talks “from a position of weakness.” On Monday, Pakistan reportedly freed two former Taliban officials, including Abdul Samad Sani, who led the Afghan Central Bank during the Taliban’s rule during the 1990s; officials attributed the move to US Special Envoy Khalilzad’s latest visit to the region. Russian special envoy Zamir Kabulov told reporters on Monday that the US and Taliban had held “around ten secret consultations” with the US, more than the two official contacts that have been reported. [TOLO] [Khabarnama] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [Ariana News]

 

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • After 17 Years, Many Afghans Blame US for Unending War [AP]
  • Commentary: Election Observations in Paktika: Pre-Election Fraud and Relatively Peaceful Polling – “Overall, the election appeared to have presented new opportunities: a new slate of candidates, campaigning where this had not happened before, tazkeras for people who had never had one before, and some actual turnout.” [Fazal Muzhary, AAN]

 

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Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Bomber Targets Rally Over Deteriorating Jaghori Security; Imran Says Will Uphold Bibi Court Verdict

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Topline

  • Heavy fighting is ongoing in Ghazni’s Jaghori district and in the adjoining districts of Malistan and Khas Uruzgan, all predominantly Hazara areas, after a new Taliban offensive began last week. Demonstrations were held in Kabul to protest the deterioration of security beginning Sunday; on Monday morning, a suicide bomber detonated near the rally, killing at least six people. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for that attack. Pres. Ghani visited Bamiyan and Daikundi over the weekend, where he pledged additional resources and approved the formation of a new security unit under the NDS; he also reportedly proposed the separation of Jaghori as its own province. During that visit, Ghani also confirmed that Second Vice Pres. Sarwar Danish would remain on his re-election ticket for the upcoming presidential elections.
  • In a statement following the conclusion of a Russia-hosted conference on the Afghan peace process on Friday, the Taliban said that they were “ready for face-to-face negotiations with the Americans and to discuss relevant issues with them” but reiterated that they would not talk to the Afghan government at this point. US Special Envoy Khalilzad arrived in Kabul on Saturday, and met with Pres. Ghani, Vice Pres. Dostum, and other Afghan leaders.
  • In remarks on Saturday, PM Khan said that the government would uphold the Supreme Court’s ruling on Aasia Bibi’s acquittal. Islamabad officials have withdrawn arrest orders against Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan leaders in connection to protests at the beginning of the month. The Supreme Court will hold hearings on Nov 16 in connection to the TLP’s 2017 sit-ins.
  • A Pakistani journalist with a Karachi Urdu daily was detained from his home by plainclothes security officials on Saturday, prompting protests from the local journalists’ union.
  • At least five Pakistani civilians were wounded and three Indian soldiers killed in exchanges of fire along the Line of Control in Kashmir over the weekend.
  • The Afghan Independent Election Commission announced that it would recount all votes cast in Kabul, and on Sunday fired six staffers, including the head of operations in Kabul.
  • PPP leaders said Friday that they had declined an offer from the government to head the Public Accounts Committee, saying it was an effort to divide the opposition, which has instead nominated PML-N leader Shehbaz Sharif for the position; Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry denied that any offer had been made.
  • Pakistan’s cabinet approved a new bailout for Pakistan International Airlines on Monday; in ongoing talks with the IMF, officials from the Fund reportedly reiterated recommendations that Pakistan seek to sell off PIA and other public sector enterprises.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • Journalist Detained: Nasrullah Khan, an editor with the Urdu daily Nai Baat, was detained by plainclothes security officials from his home in Karachi on Saturday; Karachi journalist unions protested the action and demanded his release. Khan’s detention follows an earlier intrusion at the Karachi Press Club by security personnel last week. [AP]
  • Indian Border Clashes: Pakistani military officials reported Saturday that at least five civilians had been wounded in cross-border exchanges of fire in Kashmir. On Sunday, Indian army officials said that two Indian soldiers had been killed by Pakistani sniper fire, and a third killed earlier on Saturday. [The Nation]
  • Iranian Border Clashes: Iranian border guards killed two people and wounded three as they were attempting to illegally cross the border at Panjgur in Balochistan on Sunday, Pakistani border officials reported. [ET]

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • TLP Protests: An interim report by the Punjab government estimates that the Tehreek-e-Labbaik demonstrations held at the start of the month to protest the acquittal of Aasia Bibi resulted in at least Rs 226 million in losses and property damage within the province. On Friday, Islamabad officials announced the withdrawal of arrest orders against 19 TLP leaders. The Supreme Court will hold hearings on the TLP’s 2017 sit-in protests on Nov 16, and the Lahore High Court has agreed to hear a petition seeking treason charges against TLP leader Khadim Rizvi. In remarks on Saturday, PM Khan said that “the rule of law depends on following the verdict of the Supreme Court” and that the government would uphold its ruling; at a press conference on Sunday, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry blamed unspecified groups for “play[ing] politics in the name of religion”, and said that “religion had nothing to do with” the recent protests. In remarks to supporters in Lower Dir on Friday, JUI-F leader Fazl-ur Rehman denounced the PTI government’s acceptance of Bibi’s acquittal, saying it was “clear indication that governments had given in to the demands made by the international Jewish lobby”. The JUI-F also held protests in Quetta and other parts of Balochistan on Friday; at a rally in Peshawar on Sunday, Fazl accused the government of seeking to amend the country’s blasphemy law. [The Nation] [The Nation] [Dawn] [AP]
  • FATA Reforms: PM Khan chaired a meeting on Friday to review plans for the merger of the former FATA districts with Khyber Paktunkhwa, vowing to “defeat the hidden powers” who he said were seeking to block the merger. Imran reiterated pledges that the former FATA districts would receive a special allocation in the National Finance Commission award; speaking at a separate event on Sunday, Khyber Paktunkhwa governor Shah Farman also said that the government remained committed to extending judicial and police systems to the area. [ET] [Dawn]
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: Lawyers for Nawaz Sharif and his family submitted a response to the Supreme Court on Saturday defending the Islamabad High Court’s suspension of their conviction and their release on bail, against a challenge by the National Accountability Bureau; Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar indicated on Monday that he was considering expanding the bench hearing the appeal. On Saturday, an accountability court extended Shehbaz Sharif’s physical remand in NAB custody through November 24. Although Hamza Shehbaz appeared before the NAB to give a statement on Friday, his brother Salman remains abroad in London. Special Assistant to the Prime Minister for Accountability Mirza Shahzad Akbar tells The Nation that the government plans to seek the extradition of Hassan and Hussain Nawaz as well as former finance minister Ishaq Dar following the signing of a new agreement with the UK. At a press conference on Monday, Akbar said that the government was tracing money laundering through more than 5,000 fake accounts. The Joint Investigation Team probing those charges against former Pres. Zardari and other PPP leaders and associates has sought records from the Sindh provincial government on its annual development projects; on Monday, the Supreme Court gave the JIT a two week deadline to submit a report. Separately, the Federal Investigation Agency is reportedly planning to bring money laundering charges against as many as 726 MQM activists. On Saturday, the Supreme Court reportedly dropped a case related to allegations that the NAB director general for Lahore, Shahzad Saleem, held a fake educational degree. PML-N leader Khawaja Saad Rafique and his brother Khwaja Salman Rafique have written to the NAB leadership seeking the transfer of cases against them away from the Lahore directorate, accusing Saleem of partisanship. On Monday, former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi called for the abolishment of the NAB. [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Parliamentary Committees Standoff: PPP leader Faisal Karim Kundi stated Friday that party leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari had turned down an offer from the PTI to head the Public Accounts Committee, which the PTI is seeking to block Shehbaz Sharif from chairing; Kundi said that the government’s proposal had been an attempt to “divide the opposition”. Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry denied that Bilawal had been offered the position, but said that the government “did not have any objection” to his taking the chairmanship. [The Nation]
  • Elections: The Election Commission has formed several working groups and tasked them with preparing reports on the ECP’s performance during the 2018 general elections, which are due by Nov 15. In parliament, federal education minister Shafqat Mahmood has been tasked with leading a subcommittee to set the terms of reference for the parliamentary committee investigating election complaints. The PPP will support PML-N candidates for the two vacant senate seats in Punjab, which will be elected on Nov 15. By-elections will be held for the PB-47 Kech constituency on Dec 6. [The Nation] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Other Political Activity: A leaked video of conversations between Punjab assembly speaker Pervaiz Elahi of the PML-Q, federal housing minister Tariq Bashir Cheema, and PTI leader Jahangir Tareen shows the former two complaining about tensions between Punjab governor Chaudhry Sarwar and chief minister Usman Buzdar, urging Tareen to “rein in” Sarwar. Elahi subsequently sought to downplay the video; PM Khan met with Sarwar and Tareen on Sunday in an effort to defuse the situation, and Sarwar told reporters there was no dispute between him and Buzdar. On Friday, the MQM-Pakistan formally expelled former leader Farooq Sattar from the party, after he formed a rival leadership committee; he rejected the move and reiterated calls for new intra-party leadership elections. Shehbaz Sharif met with PML-N leaders on Friday to discuss the party’s reorganization. [The Nation] [The Nation] [ET] [ET] [ET] [Dawn]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Investigations Continue Into Sami-ul Haq Assassination [Dawn]
  • Government ‘Determined to Bring Back Aafia Siddiqui’ [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
  • US Donates $1M for Afghan Refugees; Repatriation Halted for Winter [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Former IHC Judge Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui Again Petitions for Hearing on His Removal [Dawn]
  • Senator Raza Rabbani Introduces Legislation Requiring Parliamentary Ratification of Foreign Agreements [Dawn]
  • PM Seeks Performance Report from Ministers [ET]
  • Remittances Rise; Trade Gap Narrows Slightly [ET] [ET]
  • PM Warns of Dissolving FBR Over Poor Tax Collection Performance [ET]
  • Sindh Cabinet Bans Procurement of New Vehicles for Govt Officials [Dawn]
  • PM Inaugurates Lahore Homeless Shelter [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Power Production Drops as Winter Begins [ET]
  • Karachi Experiences Another Power Outage [Dawn]

 

Afghanistan — Security

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Russia Hosts Conference on Afghan Peace Talks: In a statement on Friday following the conclusion of a Russian-hosted conference on Afghan peace talks, the Taliban said that they were “ready for face-to-face negotiations with the Americans and to discuss relevant issues with them” and had “left the doors of understanding and negotiations open”, but reiterated opposition to any direct talks with the Afghan government, which did not sent an official delegation. Taliban negotiator Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai told reporters that “when we reach a solution about [the US] pullout of forces, then we enter a second phase among the Afghans how to bring about peace in Afghanistan”. The Afghan foreign ministry said that it “hopes that this meeting leads to direct talks between the government of Afghanistan and the Taliban and that the Taliban are not allowed to instrumentalize this meeting”; a spokesman for the ministry tells TOLO that “if Taliban claim independency, then they should enter direct talks with the government”. [WSJ] [ABC] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [TOLO]
  • Khalilzad Visits: Special Envoy Khalilzad arrived in Kabul and met with Pres. Ghani on Saturday as part of his latest tour of the region; he is expected to return after meetings in Pakistan, the UAE, and Qatar. Khalilzad also met with Vice Pres. Dostum and former Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor. [Khaama Press] [TOLO]
  • Presidential Elections: Pres. Ghani visited Bamiyan and Daikundui on Friday and Saturday; in Daikundi, he confirmed that Second Vice Pres. Sarwar Danish would be a part of his re-election ticket. He also reportedly approved the creation of a new security unit in Bamiyan under the provincial NDS, and ordered steps to increase the province’s administrative status. A spokesman for Ghani said on Facebook that Ghani had also raised the possibility of establishing the Jaghori district as a separate province. Ghani inaugurated several public works projects in Bamiyan during the visit. Elsewhere, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar met with Vice Pres. Dostum in Kabul on Saturday to discuss the upcoming elections. [TOLO] [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • Parliamentary Elections: Speaking at a press conference on Saturday, Independent Election Commission chief Abdulbadi Sayyad said that all votes cast in Kabul would be “reassessed and recounted” by a “new team; on Sunday, the IEC announced that seven staffers, included the head of operations in Kabul, had been fired. On Sunday, parliamentary candidates in Kunduz held protests accusing provincial election officials of rigging the results of the elections.

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Afghanistan is the World’s Polio Capital; These Afghans Hope to Fix That [NYT]
  • Afghan-Turk Students and Teachers Arrested in Herat [TOLO]
  • Germany Donates Body Armor Vests to Kabul Police [Khaama Press]
  • Parliament Defers Approval of Law of Children’s Rights [TOLO]
  • Ministry of Transport to Promote Afghan Flagging for Cargo Ships [TOLO]
  • Ministry of Finance Estimates Afs 12 Billion Budget Deficit for Next Fiscal Year [Khabarnama]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Russia Hosts Conference on Afghan Peace Process; Finance Delegation Returns to China

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Topline

  • Russia hosted a conference in Moscow on the Afghan peace process on Friday; a spokesman for the Taliban said that none of its representatives would hold talks with Afghan High Peace Council officials who are attending the meeting, but those HPC officials tell Reuters that they met with the Taliban side and “asked them to choose the place and the starting time” for peace talks.
  • US Special Representative Khalilzad is due to return to the region for meetings in Qatar, the UAE, Afghanistan and Pakistan from Nov 8 – Nov 20, the US State Department confirmed Thursday.
  • A Pakistani delegation led by the State Bank governor returned to China on Friday to follow-on talks on assistance, trade, and investment in Pakistan. Negotiations with the IMF are meanwhile ongoing in Islamabad.
  • TOLO reports that former national security advisor Hanif Atmar may be chosen as the presidential nominee of the ‘Grand National Coalition’ opposition group, but coalition members have not announced a final choice of candidate.
  • Speaking on Thursday, minister of state for interior Shehryar Afridi suggested the opposition party activists from the PML-N and other parties, rather than the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan, were responsible for violence and rioting during last week’s protests around the acquittal of Aasia Bibi.
  • In a ruling on Thursday, Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar ordered disciplinary action against Pakistani TV channels broadcasting coverage that might prejudice the outcomes of court proceedings.

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • TLP Protests: Speaking in the senate on Thursday, Minister of State for Interior Shehryar Afridi suggested that PML-N and other opposition party activists, rather than members of the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan, were responsible for rioting and vandalism during the recent nationwide protests against Aasia Bibi’s acquittal. On Friday, the Supreme Court set a Nov 16 court date for hearings on the TLP’s November 2017 sit-in in Islamabad. TLP spokesmen reiterated warnings to the government if Bibi was allowed to leave the country. JUI-F leader Fazlur Rehman held his own rally to protest the Supreme Court acquittal verdict in Karachi on Thursday. [Dawn] [The Nation] [ET]
  • Press Harassment: Plainclothes armed men entered the Karachi Press Club on Thursday evening and harassed local journalists, the KPC leadership announced; the Karachi police chief has pledged to conduct an inquiry. [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • FATA Reforms: A meeting of an ‘All FATA Grand Jirga’ on Thursday rejected plans for the extension of police and land management systems to the former FATA districts as part of their merger with the rest of Khyber Paktunkhwa province.
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: On Thursday, Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar ordered the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority to take disciplinary action against TV channels that broadcast commentary or reporting that might prejudice the outcomes of active court proceedings. The accountability court hearing corruption charges against Nawaz Sharif approved a National Accountability Bureau request to submit additional documents in the case. In an interview on Thursday, the NAB’s Lahore director Saleem Shehzad said that it had almost concluded questioning of Shehbaz Sharif; on Friday, PML-N legislators protested Shehzad’s appearance, saying it was part of a “media trial”. Hamza Shehbaz denounced NAB “double standards” in remarks on Thursday; he gave a statement to the NAB as part of its investigations into Shehbaz’s assets on Friday. [ET] [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation] [The Nation] [The Nation] [Dawn]
  • Other Political Activity: PM Khan met with PTI legislators in the national assembly on Thursday, professing a desire for détente with opposition lawmakers and normal assembly proceedings. The government has proposed a joint committee with the opposition to develop a code of conduct for lawmakers, which opposition leaders welcomed. [The Nation] [ET] [ET]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Chinese Aid and IMF Talks: The Pakistani delegation led by State Bank governor Tariq Bajwa arrived in Beijing on Friday for follow-on talks about Chinese assistance to help Pakistan mend its foreign exchange reserves. Ongoing negotiations in Islamabad with the IMF on Thursday focused on the power sector, where the IMF reportedly reiterated the need for structural reforms, and reported discrepancies between Chinese and Pakistani sources on the cost of ongoing projects. PM Khan reportedly plans to visit Malyasia to seek additional aid during the third week of November. [Dawn] [ET]
  • Tax Reforms: At a cabinet meeting on Thursday, the government approved a plan to separate tax policymaking powers from the Federal Board of Revenue, leaving it to focus solely on tax administration and collection, with a separate committee to be formed to set policy. [ET]

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Pakistan Voices Concern Over Indian Nuclear Submarine Patrol [Dawn]
  • Foreign Minister Says Complaints Raised with US Over Aafia Siddiqui Conditions [Dawn] [ET]
  • Supreme Court to Keep Zardari and Musharraf Asset Details Confidential in NRO Case [ET]
  • FIA and SBP Hold Talks on Reported Bank Hacks [Dawn]
  • BNP-M Leader Protests Federal Investment Plans in Province [Dawn]
  • Petroleum Division Gears Up to Deal with Likely Winter Gas Crisis in Punjab [ET]
  • Commentary: Pakistan’s Anti-Blasphemy Movement is Showing Once Again the Real Power Lies in the Streets – “The government — far from protecting the weak and marginalized who need it the most and challenging the powerful forces of bigotry who can defy it — has abandoned its own commitments to human rights.” [Omar Waraich, WAPO]

 

Afghanistan — Security

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Russia Hosts Afghanistan Conference: Russia’s foreign ministry opened a meeting on the Afghan peace process in Moscow on Friday, which Foreign Minister Lavrov said was “aimed at establishing an inclusive inter-Afghan dialogue in the interests of advancing the process of national reconciliation”. A spokesman for the Taliban said that its delegations would not hold any talks during the meeting with an unofficial Afghan government delegation that is also attending. Those members of the High Peace Council tell Reuters that they did meet with the Taliban and “discussed the subject of direct talks … and asked them to choose the place and the starting time”. India’s foreign ministry said Thursday that it would participate in the conference at a “non-official level”, sending two former diplomats. [Khaama Press] [TOLO]
  • Khalilzad Returns to Region: Special Envoy Khalilzad will make a return trip to Pakistan, Afghanistan, the UAE and Qatar from Nov 8 – Nov 20, State Department officials confirmed on Thursday. [TOLO]
  • Atmar Reportedly Chosen as Presidential Nominee: Anonymous sources tell TOLO that former National Security Advisor Hanif Atmar has been chosen as the presidential candidate to head the ‘Grand National Coalition’ opposition ticket; the coalition has not announced its choice of candidate.

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • MOU Signed for Kandahar Dam Reconstruction Project [Khaama Press]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: TLP Protests Forestall Release of Aasia Bibi; IEC Delays Parliamentary Results

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Note: The news returns to its regular daily update schedule from today; the following summary covers the November 1 – November 8 period. Apologies for the interruption in service and resulting length of this brief. Thanks for reading.

 

Topline

  • The Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan and other religious parties launched nationwide protests following the Supreme Court’s acquittal of Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman previously sentenced to death for blasphemy; the TLP agreed to call off those protests after talks with the government on Nov 3, and claimed to have agreement from the government to block Bibi’s departure from the country. Minister of state for interior Shehryar Afridi said on Nov 7 that the government could not do so given the court’s order, however; Bibi has reportedly been transportered to Islamabad under heavy security, but officials deny rumors that she has left the country. Her lawyer fled to the Netherlands on Saturday.
  • The Afghan Independent Election Commission has delayed the release of preliminary results from the parliamentary elections until at least Nov 23. The IEC announced the schedule for presidential elections taking place on Apr 20, but appears set to postpone provincial council elections. In a Bloomberg interview, Pres. Ghani confirmed his intention to seek re-election; Afghan opposition parties are holding talks on a possible slate for the elections.
  • Imran Khan visited China for meetings with officials in Beijing and a public address to a business conference in Shanghai; in a joint statement, China reiterated support for Pakistan but did not announce specific new assistance commitments. A Pakistani delegation is returning to China on Nov 8 for follow-on talks; Finance Minister Umar told reporters that following Imran’s trips to Saudi Arabia and China, Pakistan had overcome its “immediate balance of payments crisis”. An IMF staff delegation arrived in Islamabad on Nov 7 for talks on a bailout loan, which Umar indicated would likely total at least $5-6 billion.
  • JUI-S leader Maulana Sami-ul Haq was assassinated in a stabbing attack in his home in Rawalpindi on Nov 2; no claim of responsibility has been made.
  • The NYT reports that at least one Afghan guard was killed by US forces battling to escape the shooting incident at the Kandahar governor’s compound in which Gen. Abdul Raziq was killed. In a briefing for parliament on Nov 3, NDS chief Masoom Stanekzai blamed Pakistani intelligence services for sponsoring the attack.
  • Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Wells visited Kabul and Islamabad for talks on the Afghan peace process and the Chabahar port project; the US State Department announced a waiver on Iran-related sanctions for Chabahar on Nov 6.
  • The Afghan government will not send an official delegation to participate in a rescheduled Russian conference on the Afghan peace process in Moscow on Nov 9, but representatives from the High Peace Council will attend “in an independent capacity”. Other Afghan leaders, including former Pres. Karzai and Atta Mohammad Noor, are also participating, as are Taliban representatives. The US State Department said that it would send a staff-level representative from the Moscow embassy to observe.
  • A Utah National Guard officer who was also mayor of the town of North Ogden was killed in an insider attack at a military base in Kabul on Nov 3.
  • The Supreme Court of Pakistan has suspended a Peshawar High Court order overturning the convictions of 74 men convicted under the military courts system, agreeing to hear a government appeal against the lower court ruling.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • Sami-ul Haq Asassinated: Maulana Sami-ul Haq — the leader of the JUI-S faction and the Dar-ul Uloom Haqqania seminary, a former senator, and a prominent supporter of the Afghan Taliban — was assassinated at his residence in Rawalpindi on Nov 2 after being stabbed repeatedly by an unknown assailant. No public claim of responsibility has been made. Funeral services were held the following day, and JUI-S supporters announced a ten-day mourning period; Sami’s son, Maulana Hamid-ul Haq, was named acting party chief for the JUI-S on Nov 5, and the party has announced plans for a nationwide protest on Nov 9 and further leadership meetings on Nov 11-12th. In a statement, the JUI-S said that the killing “was not an internal issue rather Indians, Afghans and other elements are involved in this act”. The Afghan Taliban issued a statement mourning Sami as a martyr, as did Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat leader Maulana Ahmed Ludhianvi. Several staffers and guards have been questioned as part of investigations into the killing, but no arrests have been reported. Separately, the son of the late ISI general Hamid Gul, Abdullah Gul, told reporters that he survived a driveby shooting near the Islamabad airport on the same evening as Sami’s murder; Peshawar police have also reportedly warned of threats against JUI-F leader Fazlur Rehman. [NYT] [WAPO] [Reuters] [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Military Courts: On Nov 2, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the government’s appeal against a mid-October Peshawar High Court ruling that threw out the convictions of 74 men convicted under the military courts system, and in the interim suspended orders for their release. The PHC released its detailed ruling in the case on the same day. [ET]
  • Russian Exercises: A joint Russian-Pakistani military exercise in Khyber Paktunkhwa concluded on Nov 5, with Chief of Army Staff Bajwa and the Russian deputy head of mission to Pakistan attending. Pakistan’s Chief of Naval Staff Adm. Zafar Mahmood Abbasi visited St. Petersburg for talks with his counterpart on Nov 7.
  • Indian Border Clashes: Pakistani military officials reported that a teenage boy, a young woman, and a Pakistani soldier were killed in separate cross-border firing incidents on Oct 31, Nov 3, and Nov 8. [ET] [ET] [Dawn]

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Protests Forestall Release of Christian Woman Acquitted of Blasphemy: Following the Supreme Court of Pakistan’s acquittal of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who had been sentenced to death on blasphemy charges, the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan launched nationwide protests to denounce the verdict. In an address to the nation on Oct 31, PM Khan backed the court verdict and warned that the disruptions “would not be tolerated”; Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar also defended the judiciary in remarks on Nov 1. Chief of Army Staff Bajwa and PM Khan met on Nov 1 to discuss the security situation. Protests continued through a third day on Nov 2, paralyzing most major cities; in addition to the TLP, the JUI-F, Jamaat-e-Islami, and other religious parties also held rallies on Friday to protest the acquittal. In an interview on Nov 2, Pakistani military’s spokesman denied any military role in the case but said that “law and order should be maintained”. The TLP called off its protests on the evening of the 2nd, and said it had reached an agreement with the government to release arrested protestors and to block Bibi’s departure from the country while the TLP filed a legal challenge against the Supreme Court verdict; religious affairs minister Noor-ul Haq Qadri led the government side. PPP and PTI lawmakers came close to blows in the national assembly on Nov 5 over the former’s criticism of the agreement with the TLP; the PML-N earlier refused to participate in talks with the government over how to respond to the protests. Charges had been filed against scores of TLP activists, including leader Khadim Rizvi, whose Twitter account was suspended on Nov 4 at the request of the government. TLP leaders complained that some activists remained under detention as of Nov 7, and allege that at least two protestors were killed in police gunfire in Karachi. Bibi’s lawyer fled to the Netherlands over the weekend; he claimed that he had been pressured to leave by European diplomats against his wishes, but was granted temporary asylum on Nov 8. Bibi’s husband has applied for asylum in the UK and the United States for himself and for his translator. Italy and Canada both voiced concern over Bibi’s case. PM Khan ordered compensation be paid to those whose property was damaged during the TLP protests, and the interior ministry announced intentions to bring charges against those “miscreant elements” responsible; in remarks in the senate on Nov 8, Minister of State for Interior Shehryar Afridi said that the government “would make an example out of anyone who will try to take the law into their own hands”. On Nov 1, the PTI stated that the government was not seeking to impose travel restrictions on Bibi, and in earlier remarks on Nov 7, Afridi said that travel restrictions could not be imposed given the court’s verdict. He denied rumors that she had left the country, as did a spokesman for the foreign ministry. As of Nov 8, she was reported to have been freed from prison and to be in protective custody near the Islamabad airport. [NYT] [NYT] [WSJ] [Reuters] [Reuters] [Reuters] [Guardian] [Guardian] [The Nation] [The Nation] [The Nation] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • US Diplomat Visits: US Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Alice Wells visited Islamabad on Nov 6 for a meeting with Pakistani foreign ministry officials, as well as the Director General for Military Operations Gen. Nauman Zakria, and with Finance Minister Umar. Foreign ministry sources tell The Nation that talks focused on “possible talks with the Taliban and Pakistan’s steps to avert severe sanctions by the FATF”; speaking to reporters, Foreign Minister Qureshi said that “there are indications of opening up”. Speaking at a press briefing earlier on Nov 1, the US State Department urged Pakistan to reimpose a ban on the Jamaat-ud-Dawa and its charity affiliates. Qureshi and PM Khan also met with Uzbekistan Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov on Nov 1 for discussions on the Afghan peace process. [ET] [Dawn]
  • Punjab Police Chief Shuffle: On Nov 2, the Supreme Court ordered an investigation against federal minister for science Azam Swati for alleged misuse of authority in the removal of Islamabad police chief Jan Mohammad, who the court ordered reinstated the day prior. Muhammad resigned from his position after being reinstated, however, leading to the appointment of Amir Zulfiqar Khan as the new police chief; he had previously served as head of the Motorway Police. Separately, the Punjab police withdrew the appointments of senior police officials in Lahore and Bahawalpur on Nov 1. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [The Nation]
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: At a hearing on Nov 6, Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar suspended the Islamabad High Court’s September ruling which had itself suspended the sentences of Nawaz Sharif and his family while their appeals against their conviction proceeded; Supreme Court hearings on the National Accountability Bureau’s challenge to the IHC ruling will continue on Nov 12. Shehbaz Sharif’s parole to attend the national assembly session was extended through Nov 10; his sons have been summoned to testify before the NAB on Nov 9. Hearings continue against Nawaz Sharif in one of the epdning corruption cases against him. In an interview on Nov 1, former Pres. Zardari denied any wrongdoing in money laundering charges against him, and in remarks to party supporters on Nov 6 dismissed the risk of arrest. Federal Investigation Agency officers raided sugar mills affiliated with the Zardari-linked Omni Group on Nov 1. Government and opposition legislators held talks on Nov 6 on potential amendments to the NAB law. On Nov 7, the Supreme Court indicted legislator and televangelist Aamir Liaquat on contempt of court charges. On Nov 8, the Supreme Court voided the appointment of the former head of Pakistan Television, Ataul Haq Qasmi. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [The Nation]
  • Elections: Senate elections for two vacant seats from Punjab will be held on Nov 15; the PTI has nominated Seemi Edzi, sister of former party secretary general Jahangir Tareen, for a reserved women’s seat. Defense minister Pervaiz Khattak was elected head of the parliamentary committee investigating election complaints at its first meeting on Nov 6. [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Judicial Proceedings: Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar underwent angioplasty surgery on Nov 4. On Nov 2, the Judicial Commission nominated Judge Athar Minallah as the next Islamabad High Court chief justice. On Nov 5, former IHC judge Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui challenged the rejection by the Supreme Court registrar of his appeal against his dismissal. [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Other Political Activity: JUI-F leader Fazlur Rehman indefinitely postponed his plans for a combined opposition conference following the lack of commitment to attend from the PML-N. PM Khan met with two lawmakers affiliated with the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement on Nov 7. PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal has been appointed to head an intra-party committee to reorganize the party. The Express Tribune reports former interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan may rejoin the PML-N after contesting as an independent in the last elections. ANP leader general secretary Mian Iftikhar Hussian has issued disciplinary notices to two senior party leaders, Afrasiab Khattak and Bushra Gohar, on unspecified charges. [ET] [ET]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Imran Seeks Aid on China Visit: PM Khan visited China from Nov 2 – 6, accompanied by a delegation of senior ministers; during the visit he met with Pres. Xi and other Chinese officials and gave addresses at the Central Party School in Beijing and a trade conference in Shanghai. He also met with Russian PM Medvedev on the sidelines of the latter conference. Speaking to reporters prior to departure, Planning Minister Khusro Bakhtiar said that Pakistan would not seek the rescheduling of Chinese loan repayments this year but would focus on expanding trade and CPEC investments. The joint statement issued at the conclusion of Imran’s visit did not specify new assistance but broadly reaffirmed the partnership between the two countries, including Chinese praise for “Pakistan’s efforts in actively strengthening financial regulations to combat terrorism financing” and criticism of “politicisation of the UN Sanctions regime and the work of the Financial Action Task Force”. Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou told reporters on Nov 3 that “in principle that the Chinese government will provide necessary support and assistance to Pakistan in tiding over the current economic difficulties” and that further “detailed discussions” would be held regarding the specifics; a spokeswoman for the Chinese foreign ministry echoed that message in remarks on Nov 7. A Pakistani delegation led by the governor of the State Bank of Pakistan will return to China on Nov 8 for follow-on talks; the next meeting of the CPEC Joint Cooperation Committee will be held before the end of the year. Speaking at a press conference on Nov 6, Finance Minister Umar said that PM Khan’s visits to Saudi Arabia and China meant that Pakistan had overcome its “immediate balance of payments crisis”, and claimed that Pakistani exports would double with greater access to Chinese markets this year; commerce advisor Abdul Razak Dawood told reporters on Nov 8 that Umar had been misquoted and had said that Pakistani exports to China would double through a new duty-free agreement. The Express Tribune reports that the two countries have agreed to extend a currency swap agreement, and that China has blocked proposals for the use of third-party contractors for the construction of the Mainline Rail project. PM Khan chaired a meeting of the National Security Council upon his return from the trip, and held a cabinet meeting on Nov 8. He is expected to make a trip to Malaysia later this month to seek further assistance. [Reuters] [Reuters] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • IMF Talks: An IMF delegation arrived in Islamabad on Nov 7 for the first round of formal talks on a new bailout loan package for Pakistan’s deteriorating foreign exchange reserves, which are expected to continue through Nov 20. In an interview on Nov 7, Umar said that Pakistan would be seeking at least $5-6 billion from the IMF, although finance ministry sources tell The Nation that the total loan package is still undecided. The SBP’s foreign exchange reserves fell to $7.78 billion for the week ending Oct 26. The Express Tribune notes the depreciation of the rupee against the SDR basket of foreign currencies. Core inflation rates hit a four-year high in Oct 2018 as the SBP continued to raise interest rates. [ET] [ET]
  • Energy Sector: A federal cabinet meeting has overturned an agreement signed during the PML-N tenure for the import of liquefied natural gas from Turkey. On Nov 1, the government approved a petrol price hike; the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority has meanwhile lowered the price of liquefied petroleum gas. [Dawn] [ET]
  • Tax Revenues: The Federal Board of Revenue fell short of its tax collection target for the first quarter of the fiscal year by approximately Rs 100 billion; FBR officials blamed an economic slowdown and a contraction in imports following higher duties.

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • No Leads in Case of Missing Peshawar Police Officer [ET]
  • ISI Sought Travel Restrictions on Activist, Government Reports [Dawn]
  • Five Laborers Killed in Gwadar [Dawn] [ET] [AP]
  • Pakistani Army Captain Killed in Mohmand IED Blast [Dawn] [ET]
  • Police Officer Killed in Sheikhupura [Dawn] [AP]
  • PM Khan Meets Yemeni Ambassador [ET] [ET] [The Nation] [Dawn]
  • Spain Deports Pakistani National Linked to Islamic State [ET]
  • MQM Activist Sentence on 2013 Murder Charges [Dawn]
  • FIA and SBP at Odds Over Report of Bank Hacking [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • Aasim Zaheer Named Vice Chief of Air Staff [Dawn] [ET]
  • Education Minister Says ‘Consultation Underway’ on ‘Uniform Education System’ [Dawn]
  • PML-N to Oppose Punjab Local Government Amendments [The Nation]
  • Balochistan Provincial Government Seeks Drought Aid [Dawn]
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa and Federal Government Hold Talks on Stalled Dasu Dam [ET]
  • PM Housing Project Buyers Will Be Required to Make Down Payment [Dawn]

 

Afghanistan — Security

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Parliamentary Elections: On Nov 3, the Independent Election Commission said that the preliminary results of the elections would be delayed by more than 20 days, until Nov 23, with results from Kabul not due until Dec 1. Final results would follow within a month. As of Nov 6, the IEC reported that it had received results sheets and biometric registration devices from 26 provinces, and said it was planning on recounting the results from at least 404 polling centers across 11 provinces. Provincial IEC officials confirmed that the helicopter that crashed on Farah last week was carrying ballot boxes and biometric registration devices, and had been destroyed in the crash. Pajhwok reports allegations of IEC tampering in the results from Kunduz. In a report released on Nov 6, the UN reported that at least 56 civilians were killed and 379 wounded in violence around the country over the two days of the parliamentary elections held Oct 20-21st, a record high level compared to past election rounds. AAN has additional observer reports from Kandahar and Kunduz. [TOLO] [TOLO] [Khabarnama] [Khabarnama]
  • Presidential Elections: On Nov 3, the IEC announced the schedule for presidential elections to be held on Apr 20, 2019, with a new round of voter registration to begin Nov 22, and a final list of candidates to be announced by Feb 14. Preliminary results are scheduled to be announced by May 11; should a run-off be necessary, it will be held on June 13. At a meeting with civil society groups on Nov 2, IEC officials suggested that they might delay provincial council elections instead of holding them concurrently with the presidential election; the announcement on the 3rd did not specify a plan for the councils. In a Bloomberg interview on Nov 1, Pres. Ghani confirmed his intention to seek reelection. A conference of opposition political parties on Nov 1 demanded full biometric re-registration of voters for the presidential elections, and reiterated calls for the IEC not to count votes cast without biometric verification. On Nov 8, Ahmad Zia Massoud said that the ‘Grand National Coalition’ was preparing a list of nominees for the presidency, and would also nominate a prime minister and three vice presidents and deputies. On Nov 6, former finance minister Anwar-ul Haq Ahady announced his resignation from the coalition, citing disagreements over the structure of the government. [Khabarnama] [TOLO] [TOLO] [TOLO]
  • Russian Conference: In a statement on Nov 5, the Afghan ministry of foreign affairs said that it would not participate in a planned Russian conference in Moscow on Nov 9 on the Afghan peace process, but that representatives of the High Peace Council would attend “in an independent capacity”. Russian officials had earlier claimed that the government would participate, but reportedly angered officials by inviting a range of other Afghan political leaders, including former Pres. Karzai and Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor, who are also attending. Karzai also met with the Russian ambassador to Afghanistan on Nov 6. Taliban sources indicate that they will take part in the talks, but have not officially confirmed participation. The US embassy in Moscow will send a “representative to the working level to observe the discussions”, the State Department said on Nov 7. [Khabarnama] [Khabarnama] [Khabaranama] [TOLO]
  • Taliban Talks: In a WSJ interview, a senior Taliban commander warned that “we don’t want to prolong this war, but we can fight on forever”, saying that “the Americans must come up with a bold plan, a peace plan that will cover up their disaster in Afghanistan.” At a meeting on Nov 6, Pres. Ghani announced plans to establish a “consultative board” with representatives from around the country on a peace process. Ghani reiterated calls for the Taliban to join a peace process in a visit to Paktika on Nov 3. Mohammad Akram Khpalwak, the head of the High Peace Council secretariat, announced his resignation from that position and as an advisor to Pres. Ghani on Nov 7, without providing a reason. High Peace Council Chairman Karim Khalili held talks with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif in Tehran on Nov 5. A delegation of Indonesian religious leaders visited Kabul on Nov 3. [AP] [Khaama Press]

 

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • US Waives Chabahar Sanctions: Assistant Secretary Wells visited Kabul on Nov 5, where she met with Pres. Ghani, Chief Executive Abdullah, and other Afghan officials; her discussions reportedly focused in part on Afghan requests for a waiver on US sanctions against Iran for the Chabahar port project. That waiver was approved on Nov 6. [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [Khabarnama] [TOLO]

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Afghan and Pakistani Officials Hold Talks on Refugee Repatriation [Dawn]
  • Ghani Visits Paktika [Khabarnama] [TOLO]
  • Death Anniversary of Mustafa Kazemi Observed [TOLO]
  • Ghani Inaugurates Afghanistan-China Air Corridor [TOLO]
  • Turkmenistan Officials Sign Agreement on Transmission Line Investment [Khaama Press] [Khabarnama]
  • National Procurement Commission Approves Afs 2.2 Billion in Contracts [Khaama Press]
  • Hundreds of Shops Destroyed in Kabul Market Fire [Khaama Press] [AP]
  • Report: October Quarterly Report to Congress – “Despite the importance of the threat narcotics pose to reconstruction and despite massive expenditures for programs including poppy-crop eradication, drug seizures and interdictions, alternative-livelihood support, aviation support, and incentives for provincial governments, the drug trade remains entrenched in Afghanistan, and is growing.” [SIGAR (pdf)]
  • Commentary: The IEC and ECC Dispute Over Which Votes to Validate – “The controversy has, for now, resulted in a compromise that clarifies the criteria for the validation and invalidation of votes, but is unlikely to pre-empt the problems that will continue to flow from the chaotic implementation of the new system.” [Ali Yawar Adili, AAN]

 

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Asia Bibi Acquitted on Blasphemy Charges; Senior Officials Killed in Farah Helicopter Crash

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Note: The news will be on temporary hiatus from November 1st through November 7th, and will return on November 8th with a full summary of the interim period. Apologies for the interruption in service, and thank you for reading. American readers, please remember to make a plan and vote in the elections on November 6th!

 

Topline

  • On Wednesday, the Supreme Court of Pakistan acquitted Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman who had previously been sentenced to death on blasphemy charges in 2010. Members of the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan began demonstrations denouncing the verdict shortly afterwards, with leaders calling for the deaths of the presiding judges.
  • As many as 25 people, including a senior army commander for western Afghanistan and the head of the Farah provincial council, have been killed in an Afghan army helicopter crash in Farah on Wednesday. The Taliban claim to have shot down the helicopter, but government officials attributed the crash to bad weather.
  • Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif made a late Tuesday trip to Pakistan to discuss the status of a group of Iranian border guards abducted near the Balochistan border earlier this month.
  • The Peshawar High Court ruled on Tuesday that deputy commissioners in the former FATA districts could not exercise judicial powers under the FATA Interim Regulations previously imposed in May, ordered the formation of regular courts instead.
  • Afghan Independent Election Commission officials say they are still waiting for the completion of the transfer of biometric voter registration machines back to Kabul before downloading the voter registration data to their central server.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • Judge Killed: Chaudhry Mahmood Akhtar, a former Lahore High Court judge who was practicing as a lawyer, was killed by unidentified gunmen in a shooting in Gujar Khan on Tuesday; his wife and niece survived the attack. No claim of responsibility was reported. [ET]

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Supreme Court Acquits Asia Bibi: On Wednesday, a Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar acquitted Asia Bibi, a Christian woman previously convicted of blasphemy who has been facing a death sentence since November 2010, and ordered her immediate release from prison. The court ruling held that prosecutors failed to prove their case against Bibi beyond a reasonable doubt. Following the verdict, members of the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan began protests in Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad and other major cities, blocking major roads, condemning Bibi’s acquittal, and calling for the deaths of the presiding judges. [NYT] [AP] [Guardian] [ET]
  • Iranian Foreign Minister Visits: Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif arrived in Pakistan on Tuesday evening for discussions with Foreign Minister Qureshi over the status of a group of Iranian border guards abducted near the Pakistan border earlier this month. Separately, Uzbekistan’s foreign minister is scheduled to visit Pakistan on Wednesday. [Dawn]
  • FATA Reforms: On Tuesday, a Peshawar High Court bench ruled that deputy commissioners in the former Federally Administered Tribal Areas districts could not exercise judicial powers under the FATA Interim Regulations imposed in May, and ordered that regular courts by established in the area. Meanwhile, protests were held in Khyber during a visit by a Peshawar police delegation, objecting to the planned deployment of regular police to the district. [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Shehbaz Addresses Assembly: PML-N opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif addressed a national assembly session on Wednesday after his release on parole to attend the assembly, reiterating criticisms of the PTI government and the National Accountability Bureau for pursuing “selective accountability”. Anonymous PPP sources tell The Nation that the party would seek to mobilize against the government with the PML-N “in about six months”, suggesting that abortive plans for an opposition conference this week were “premature”. [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: Hamza Shehbaz and Salman Shehbaz skipped National Accountability Bureau hearings on Tuesday; Salman has reportedly left the country for London. The Supreme Court held hearings on Wednesday on the removal of the Islamabad police chief, which the attorney general and information minister sought to defend. [ET] [ET] [The Nation]
  • Other Political Activity: The Sindh provincial government has yet to form any standing committees in the provincial assembly, prompting protests from opposition parties. PM Khan met with Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar and assembly speaker Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi in Lahore on Tuesday, and reportedly warned Punjab provincial ministers that “if their performance did not improve the cabinet would not be reshuffled, instead the non-performing ministers would be sent home”. Elections for the leadership of the Supreme Court Bar Association will be held on Wednesday. The Election Commission has opened investigations against a PML-N and PTI legislator for alleged violations of campaign expenditure limits. [ET] [The Nation]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Government Defers PIA and PSM Privatization: At a meeting on Tuesday, the Privatization Commission reportedly decided to indefinitely defer proposals for the privatization of Pakistan International Airlines, Pakistan Steel Mills, and Pakistan Railways, and to focus instead on a few smaller enterprises. The commission also ordered efforts to recover approximately Rs 3.94 billion in dues from defaulting buyers of previously privatized firms. [The Nation]

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Peshawar High Court Upholds Mashal Khan Lynching Convictions [Dawn]
  • Supreme Court Judges Urge Larger Bench on Victim Compromises in Criminal Cases [ET]
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Senior Police Officer Injured in Peshawar Mugging [Dawn]
  • OGRA Recommends Petroleum Price Increase [ET]
  • Government to Revise Rate of Return on Electricity Projects Downward [ET]
  • Chief Justices Suggests Campaign Over Population Growth [Dawn]
  • Sania Nishtar Appointed BISP Chairperson [The Nation]
  • Commentary: Pakistan’s Debt Policy Has Brought Us to the Brink; Another Five Years is Unsustainable – “The last 10 years have seen a continuous and significant deterioration in Pakistan’s debt sustainability, and decades of economic mismanagement bears the blame.” [Uzair Younus, Dawn]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • Farah Helicopter Crash: As many as 25 people were killed when an Afghan army helicopter crashed in the Anar Dara district while traveling from Farah to Herat province on Wednesday; among the dead were the deputy army corps commander for western Afghanistan, Nematullah Khalil, and Farid Bakhtawar, the head of the Farah provincial council. The Taliban claim to have shot down the helicopter, but government officials attributed the crash to bad weather. [AP] [TOLO] [Khabarnama]
  • Attacks and Operations: At least six people were killed and eight wounded in a suicide bombing outside Pul-e-Charki prison in Kabul on Wednesday. Six people were wounded when a magnetic bomb detonated in the Helmand provincial capital of Lashkar Gah on Tuesday. Military officials in Nangarhar claim to have killed nine Taliban fighters in airstrikes in the Khogyani district on Tuesday. [Khaama Press] [Khabarnama]
  • Raziq Assassination Aftermath: The Wolesi Jirga has established a delegation to investigate the death of Kandahar provincial police chief Gen. Abdul Raziq, after rejecting the government’s own investigation into the incident. Pres. Ghani met with Kandahar political leaders in Kabul on Tuesday and pledged further investigations.
  • NDS Deputy Resigns: National Directorate of Security deputy Abdul Hakim Noorzai announced his resignation on Wednesday, protesting the “negligence and incompetence” of the Independent Election Commission in doing so.

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Parliamentary Elections: Independent Election Commission officials say they have not yet begun transferring data from biometric voter registration machines to a central server, and will do so once all machines have been returned to Kabul. On Tuesday, the attorney general’s office said that it was reviewing at least 130 cases related to allegations of electoral fraud. [Pajhwok] [Khabarnama]

 

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Draft Budget: On Wednesday, the ministry of finance presented its draft budget for the upcoming fiscal year to the parliament for approval; the budget plans for Afs 124 billion in development spending and Afs 275 in the regular operations budget.

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • National Procurement Commission Approves Afs 1.5 Billion in New Contracts [Khaama Press]
  • Commentary: The US Lost an Ally in Southern Afghanistan. But Abdul Raziq Was No Hero – “Raziq was a classic product of America’s failed policy in Afghanistan, wherein personalities have been propped up over — and sometimes at the expense of — institutions.” [May Jeong, The Intercept]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Nawaz and Shehbaz Meet; IEC Says Votes Cast Without Biometric Verification Will Be Counted

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Topline

  • Nawaz and Shehbaz Sharif met on Tuesday to discuss the PML-N’s participation in an opposition conference being organized by JUI-F leader Fazlur Rehman, and reportedly reaffirmed the decision for neither of them to attend, but for the PML-N to be represented by other top leaders.
  • The Afghan Independent Election Commission announced Tuesday that it would count votes cast in the parliamentary elections without biometric voter verification; at a joint press conference with the Electoral Complaints Commission, the IEC indicated that such votes would be counted “only if the voter lists are approved by the observers”.
  • Taliban sources tell the WSJ and AP that five former Guantanamo Bay detainees freed in 2014 in exchange for the release of U.S. Army soldier Bowe Bergdahl have officially joined the Taliban’s office in Qatar to participate in negotiations with the U.S. and other parties.
  • Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar has frozen the government’s removal of Islamabad police chief Jan Mohammad and sought further details on the rationale for this transfer; Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry defended the move in remarks on Tuesday.
  • CENTCOM commander Gen. Joseph Votel visited Kabul on Monday, meeting with Pres. Ghani, National Security Advisor Mohib, and other officials.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • Supreme Court Freezes Islamabad Police Chief’s Transfer: On Monday, Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar intervened to suspend a government order to remove the Islamabad police chief, Jan Mohammad, who had been transferred from his post on Saturday. The information ministry denied rumors that Mohammad had been transferred for ignoring phone calls from minister Azam Swati, but on Tuesday Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said that police officials should be answerable to government ministers, and defended Mohammad’s removal. Chief Justice Nisar warned that “the court will not tolerate such political transfers” and order a report from government officials. [Dawn] [ET]
  • Mohmand Bombing: A paramilitary Khasadar was killed in a roadside bombing the Mohmand district on Monday; elsewhere, four paramilitary Levies soldiers were wounded in a bombing in Bajaur.

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Shehbaz and Nawaz Meet: Shehbaz Sharif’s release on parole by the National Accountability Bureau was delayed on Monday, preventing him from attending a planned meeting of PML-N parliamentarians before the assembly session, which PML-N legislators boycotted in protest. On Tuesday, Nawaz Sharif met with Shehbaz along with other top party leaders in the assembly; the party leaders reportedly agreed that neither Nawaz or Shehbaz would attend a planned opposition conference this week, but that other senior party leaders would represent them. Speaking to reporters on Monday between court hearings, Nawaz rejected suggestions that he or other PML-N leaders were seeking an amnesty agreement with the government. [The Nation] [The Nation] [The Nation] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Local Government Reforms: Sindh local government minister Saeed Ghani told reporters on Monday that he was working as part of a committee to consider reforms to the provincial local government law, and suggested that he “supports a local government system in which the authority is devolved to the lowest level”, but added that the government “is not considering further devolution under pressure of the center or [to] fulfil wishes of a particular political party”.
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: Chief Justice Nisar chaired a hearing on the ongoing money laundering investigations against several top PPP leaders and associates on Tuesday. Also on Tuesday, the National Accountability Bureau questioned Mohammad Safdar, Nawaz Sharif’s son-in-law, as part of investigations into his assets. [The Nation] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Other Political Activity: In remarks on Monday, PM Khan said that “we will not be blackmailed by the opposition” and vowed that he would not permit Shehbaz Sharif to chair the Public Accounts Committee in the national assembly. On Monday, PTI secretary general Arshad Dad announced new leadership appointments for the party’s Punjab chapters. The PTI has nominated Waleed Iqbal for a vacant general senate seat from Punjab. [The Nation] [ET]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Finance Minister Defends Bailout: In a national assembly session on Tuesday, Finance Minister Umar defended the government’s move to seek a loan package from the IMF and from other “friendly countries”, claiming that the IMF agreement would be the country’s last. In a press briefing on Monday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson said that Imran Khan’s visit to Beijing on November 2 would be “an opportunity for leaders of the two countries to open a new chapter of bilateral relations”; anonymous Pakistani foreign ministry sources tell The Nation that “we want cash from China” and “they have hinted at supporting us”. [Dawn]

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Judicial Commission Begins Probe into Peshawar Army Public School Attack [Dawn]
  • Government to Seek Interpol ‘Red Warrant’ Against Altaf Hussain [Dawn]
  • Mobile Services Frozen During Chehlum [Dawn]
  • Senate Seeks Briefing on NGO Crackdown [Dawn]
  • Sindh Police Chief Calls for Reforms [Dawn]
  • Court Seeks Details of Lyari Gang Leader Uzair Baloch’s Whereabouts [ET]
  • Audit Finds Rs 143 Billion Loss by Four Power Distribution Companies [ET]
  • Minister of State for Interior Visits Qatar [Dawn]
  • Pres. Alvi Attends Inauguration of Istanbul Airport [Dawn]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • CENTCOM Commander Visits: CENTCOM commander Gen. Joseph Votel visited Kabul on Monday for meetings with Pres. Ghani, National Security Advisor Mohib, and other officials. The national security advisor’s office quoted Votel saying that Pakistan “must take practical steps against terrorism”, and Ghani’s office quoted him praising the Afghan security forces’ role during the recent elections. [Khabarnama] [Khaama Press]
  • Germany Charges Former Army Officer with War Crimes: On Monday German prosecutors charged an former Afghan army officer now living in Germany, identified as Ahmad Zaheer D., with abusing prisoners; further details on the incident were not disclosed.
  • Attacks and Operations: Security officials in Ghazni say they repelled multiple Taliban attacks across several districts in the province on Monday, claiming to have killed at least 37 fighters, including an Al Qaeda commander identified as Kamal Farooq, and to have arrested six. The ministry of interior said that the Taliban shadow district governor for Herat’s Pashtun Zargoon district was critically wounded in an operation on Monday. Three policemen, including a Farah city police district chief, and one civilian were killed in a  Taliban attack in Farah on Monday. [Khabarnama]
  • Raziq Assassination Aftermath: Top government security officials skipped a parliamentary session on the death of Kandahar police chief Gen. Abdul Raziq on Monday; members of parliament rejected a government report on Raziq’s death as insufficient. [Ariana News]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Parliamentary Elections: On Tuesday, the Independent Election Commission announced that it would count votes cast in the absence of biometric voter verification, reversing its position on the issue prior to the election. Khabarnama reports that the IEC and Electoral Complaints Commission, which had previously stated it would invalidate votes missing the biometric verification, have agreed to count such votes “only if the voter lists are approved by the observers”. The ministry of interior reported Monday that it had arrested at least 60 people around the country in connection to fraud allegations during the elections. [Khabarnama] [Khabarnama] [Khabarnama]
  • Taliban Talks: Taliban sources tell the WSJ and the AP that the five former Taliban detainees from Guantanamo who were freed in exchange for the release of former U.S. soldier Bowe Bergdahl have joined the Taliban’s office in Qatar and will participate in negotiations with the U.S. and other parties. Elsewhere, a spokesman for Chief Executive Abdullah downplayed the significance of the release of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar by Pakistan.
  • Presidential Elections: At a press conference on Tuesday, the IEC said that it would announce a schedule for the presidential elections within the next week. Deputy head of the Junbesh-e-Islami party Abdullah Qarloq tells Ariana News that Vice Pres. Dostum is unlikely to rejoin Pres. Ghani’s re-election campaign during next year’s presidential elections. In a separate interview, former Herat governor Ismail Khan called on Abdull Abdullah not to run again in the next presidential elections.

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Survey Finds Record Lows in How Afghans Rate Their Lives [AP]
  • Ghani Meets Visiting Denmark Foreign Minister [Khabarnama]
  • Afghanistan-Iran Joint Expo Held in Herat [TOLO]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Kandahar Votes in Delayed Parliamentary Polls; Nawaz Declines to Join Opposition Conference

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Topline

  • Elections were held in Kandahar on Saturday after being postponed for a week following the assassination of Gen. Abdul Raziq; no major violence was reported, but there were further reports of delayed openings and slow proceedings at the polls. At least six people were wounded and two killed in a bombing near the Independent Election Commission headquarters in Kabul on Monday; the Islamic State claimed responsibility. On Saturday, a spokesman for the Electoral Complaints Commission said that votes cast without accompanying biometric voter registration data would be invalidated; an IEC spokesman said that the ECC lacked the authority to make that decision.
  • Following talks with JUI-F leader Fazlur Rehman in Lahore on Sunday, Nawaz Sharif reportedly declined to join a proposed opposition conference in conjunction with the PPP. Shehbaz Sharif has been released on parole to attend a national assembly session today, but his NAB custody was extended again by ten days on Monday.
  • Speaking on Saturday in Lahore, former Pres. Zardari said he was “being attacked from all sides” as money laundering investigations continue to target his associates and investigators seek more records from the Sindh provincial government; Zardari claimed that he was being targeted to weaken Sindh’s autonomy.
  • On Friday, Foreign Minister Qureshi announced the replacement of all ambassadorial political appointments made by the previous government, replacing ambassadors to the US, UK, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere with career diplomats.
  • Following meetings with a visiting UAE delegation, Qureshi confirmed that Pakistan is seeking an agreement on deferred payment for oil imports and a foreign exchange deposit with the UAE, along the lines of its agreement with Saudi Arabia last week; anonymous sources tell the Express Tribune that the government is seeking a total package of as much as $8 billion.
  • Afghan foreign ministry officials say they have yet to confirm their participation in a planned Russian conference on the Afghan peace process; a spokeswoman for the Russian foreign ministry said earlier that no date had been set for the talks.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • Exit Control List: The Express Tribune reports that PM Khan withdrew the powers of the minister of state for interior to add or remove individuals from the Exit Control List, with the exception of “members of proscribed organisations, and those requested by the security organisations”; other decisions will be made by the full cabinet.
  • Counter-Terrorism Financing: The Express Tribune reports that a cabinet meeting in late September approved a ban on the Al-Rahmah Welfare Trust Organisation, which the US Treasury Department previously sanctioned in 2016 as a front organization for Al Qaeda active in financing for the Taliban and Lashkar-e-Taiba.
  • Military Courts: On Friday, the Pakistani military announced that Chief of Army Staff Bajwa had approved death sentences for 14 men tried under the military courts system. [The Nation] [AP]

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Nawaz to Skip Opposition Conference: JUI-F leader Fazlur Rehman met with Nawaz Sharif in Lahore on Sunday to discuss plans for an opposition conference in conjunction with the PPP; Nawaz reportedly declined to attend the conference in person. Anonymous sources speculate to The Nation that some amnesty agreement has been reached between Nawaz and the PTI government,  but in an interview on Friday, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry dismissed the opposition challenge, saying that “we can split the PML-N into many parts any time if we want to do so because neither the party has any ideology nor it has leadership”. National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser has agreed to a PML-N petition to parole Shehbaz Sharif and allow him to attend an assembly session on Monday; he will chair a meeting of PML-N legislators beforehand. [ET] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • PPP Money Laundering Investigations: Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar held hearings on Friday on the ongoing investigation into alleged money laundering charges linked to former Pres. Zardari and other Sindh government officials; Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah met with the chief justice on Saturday and afterwards told reporters that his government was cooperating in the inquiry but needed more time to respond to records quests by investigators. Dawn reports that National Accountability Bureau officers raided the Sindh information department on Friday.  On Saturday, the Federal Investigation Agency arrested Namar Majeed, the younger son of the chairman of the Omni Group, Anwar Majeed, who was himself arrested along with his older son in August in connection to the alleged scam. Speaking at a press conference on Saturday in Lahore, Zardari said that he was being “attacked from all sides” and suggested that he was being targeted in order to weaken Sindh’s autonomy. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET] [The Nation]
  • Ambassador Nominations: On Friday, Foreign Minister Qureshi announced that the government would replace all ambassadorial political appointees of the previous government with career diplomats, which includes the ambassadors to the US, UK, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and UAE. Asad Majeed Khan, currently the ambassador to Japan, has been tapped as the new ambassador to Washington. [The Nation]
  • Subnational Government Reforms: The Express Tribune reports that a government ask force on FATA reforms has decided to retain traditional jirga forums instead of replacing them with lower courts and magistrates. In an APP interview, Punjab governor Chaudhry Muhammad Sarwar said the government had yet to decide whether to set the tenure for local government bodies at three or four years. Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar has formed a committee to consider the creation of a separate South Punjab province. [Dawn] [The Nation] [ET]
  • Indian TV Banned: In a ruling on Saturday, Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar reimposed a ban on Indian television content, overturning a Lahore High Court ruling last year. [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Other Corruption Investigations and Legal Battles: On Saturday, the National Accountability Bureau initiated new investigations against Shehbaz Sharif on charges of “owning assets beyond his means”. On Monday, Shehbaz’s custody with the NAB was extended through November 7. The Supreme Court rejected a NAB petition on Monday seeking the reopening of another corruption case against Nawaz Sharif, appealing a previous ruling denying that action. Federal Investigation Agency officials reported to the Supreme Court that 44 “politically exposed individuals” currently own property in the UAE, including PM Khan’s sister. Petitioners have sought the disqualification from office of three PTI legislators, accusing them of holding dual nationalities. [ET] [ET] [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Other Political Activity: On Saturday, the MQM-Pakistan removed former leader Farooq Sattar from the party’s coordination committee, accepting a resignation he had offered last month; earlier on Friday, Sattar announced the formation of his own competing “restoration committee”. Former Sindh governor Ishratul Ibad Khan reportedly met with Pak Sarzameen Party leader Anees Khan in Dubai to discuss the possible formation of a new political party. Disputes over the appointment of the leadership of the national assembly’s Public Accounts Committee have stalled efforts to form other committees. On Friday, the Election Commission set a November 15 date for elections to fill senate seats left vacant after the disqualification of two PML-N legislators. Speaking at a conference on Sunday, National Party leader Hasil Khan Bizenjo warned that the country was in the grip of “silent martial law”. [ET] [Dawn]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Government Seeks UAE Aid: Speaking at a press conference on Friday following a visit to Pakistan by a UAE delegation led by Minister of State Sultan Ahmed Al-Jaber, Foreign Minister Qureshi said that Pakistan was seeking an agreement on deferred payments for oil imports along the lines of the deal reached with Saudi Arabia earlier in the week. Anonymous government sources tell the Express Tribune that the government is seeking a $3 billion agreement on deferred payments and as much as $5 billion in interest-free deposits with the State Bank of Pakistan to help shore up Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves. Separately, Chief of Army Staff Bajwa met with Major General Saleh Mohammad Saleh Megren Al-Ameri, the commander of the UAE army, on Monday. [The Nation] [Dawn]
  • Economic Reforms and Restructuring: The Express Tribune reports that PM Khan has imposed a limit of three foreign trips per year by cabinet ministers and has restricted them to the use of PIA, as part of the government’s austerity measures. On Saturday, PM Khan gave orders reconstituting the Executive Committee of the National Council and Economic Coordination Committee of the cabinet. On Sunday, Shahzad Qasim was appointed special assistant to the prime minister for the power sector. [ET]

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Uproar Over Reports of Israeli Jet Visit to Islamabad [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [The Nation]
  • Gunman Who Targeted Ahsan Iqbal Sentenced to 30 Years [Dawn] [ET] [The Nation]
  • Four Injured in Bajaur Bombing [Dawn]
  • Local JUI-F Leader Killed in Tank [The Nation]
  • Man Acquitted in NATO Containers Attack Case [Dawn]
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Police Officer Goes Missing in Islamabad [Dawn]
  • PM to Oversee Civil Servants’ Promotion Amid Legal Hitches [Dawn]
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Assembly Passes Rs 23 Billion Supplementary Budget [Dawn] [ET]
  • Chinese Ambassador Defends CPEC Benefits [Dawn]
  • Efforts Underway to Contain Oil Spill Near Karachi [AP]
  • Tax Cut on LPG Imports Hits Costly Local Gas [ET]
  • Air Marshal Assumes Charge of PIA [ET] [Dawn]
  • Report: EU Election Observation Mission Report on the 25 July General Elections in Pakistan – “Overall, technical preparations and logistical arrangements were sufficient for an orderly voting process. However, the count, transmission and tabulation of results lacked transparency, leaving room for allegations of electoral malpractices.” [EEAS]
  • Commentary: Pakistan’s Online Clampdown – “Efforts to control internet content seem to be picking up in the past few months. But murky procedures and guidelines mean that the regulation can easily tip over into censorship of ideas and political dissent.” [Ramsha Jahangir, Dawn]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • Bombing Targets Election Commission: At least six people were wounded in a suicide bombing near the Kabul headquarters of the Independent Election Commission on Monday; the IEC said that one policeman and one of its staffers had been killed in the attack. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack. [Khaama Press]
  • Attacks and Operations: At least five people were killed and 15 wounded in a suicide car bombing attack outside a police station in the Wardak provincial capital of Maidan Shah on Saturday; the Taliban claimed responsibility. Pajhwok reports that two security guards for the Logar provincial governor were killed in an attack in the provincial capital of Pul-e-Alam; the governor was not present at the time of the attack. Four Taliban fighters were killed in an NDS raid in the Khogyani district in Nangarhar province on Friday; another NDS raid on Sunday reportedly killed a Taliban shadow district governor and twelve other fighters. Two civilians were killed and three wounded in a roadside bombing in the Moqor district in Ghazni province on Saturday. A US drone strike in the Zurmat district in Paktia on Sunday reportedly killed five Taliban fighters; another drone strike in Nangarhar’s Haska Mina district reportedly killed three ISIS fighters. A NYT tally of casualties over the October 19 – 25 period reports 158 people killed and at least 474 wounded. [Khabarnama] [Khabarnama] [Khabarnama] [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Kandahar Votes: Elections were held in Kandahar on Saturday, a week after the rest of the country; a spokesman for the interior ministry said that at least 15,000 police officers had been deployed to provide security at the polls. No major violence was reported, but as in other provinces last weekend, delays were reported in the opening of the polls; at least 148 Independent Election Commission staffers reportedly failed to report for duty. Polling times were extended by an hour, to 5:00 PM. Khabarnama reports that no women voted in at least two districts, Arghistan and Khakriz. Some candidates alleged ballot-stuffing prior to the opening of polls; the Electoral Complaints Commission said that it had recorded at least 350 complaints during the vote. [Reuters] [AP] [TOLO] [TOLO] [TOLO] [Khabarnama]
  • Parliamentary Elections: In remarks on Saturday, a spokesman for the ECC indicated that votes not verified by biometric voter registration would be invalidated; a spokesman for the IEC said on Sunday the ECC did not have the authority to make that decision. IEC officials blamed telecommunications companies for failing to ensure internet connectivity for the biometric devices. In a statement on Sunday, the UN urged the IEC “to safeguard the integrity and transparency of the electoral process, especially concerning vote counting, as well as the tabulation and announcement of results”. A delegation of Ghazni leaders has been formed to discuss options for elections in the province, which have been indefinitely delayed; a spokesman for the IEC suggested that the elections might be held simultaneously with presidential elections planned for April 2019, but observer groups pointed out that voter registration had not been completed in Ghazni prior to the recent parliamentary vote. [Khabarnama] [Khabarnama]
  • Moscow Conference: A spokesman for the Afghan foreign ministry said that it had not yet decided on whether or not to attend a rescheduled Russian conference on the Afghan peace process; Pakistan will reportedly send representatives to the conference. Contrary to earlier Russian press reports, a spokeswoman for the Russian foreign ministry said Thursday that a date for the meeting was still under discussion.
  • Taliban Talks: Speaking at the Herat Security Dialogue on Friday, Uzbekistan Special Representative for Afghanistan Ismatulla Irgashev said that the Uzbekistan government had held talks with Taliban representatives in Tashkent earlier this summer “based on the suggestion from the central government in Kabul and still we are in contact and we will try to help Taliban and the Afghan government to find a shared language”. On Sunday, the Pakistani embassy to Afghanistan confirmed to TOLO News Pakistan’s role in the release of former Taliban commander Abdul Ghani Baradar. [Dawn] [Khaama Press]
  • Ghani Visits Helmand: Pres. Ghani visited the Helmand provincial capital of Lashkar Gah on Sunday for meetings with provincial leaders; several rockets reportedly struck the city during his visit, although no casualties were reported. [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press]

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Iran and Afghanistan Hold Talks Over Prisoner Swap [TOLO]
  • MPs Call for Suspension of Relations with Pakistan Over Raziq Killing [TOLO] [Khabarnama]
  • New Deputy Foreign Minister Idrees Zaman Takes Office [Khabarnama]
  • Fuel Costs Increase by Eight Percent Over Four Months [TOLO]
  • For Over a Decade, This Base Has Housed American Soldiers Rotating Through Afghanistan [NYT]
  • Commentary: Looking at Kandahar’s Upcoming Vote – “Things to watch will thus include implausible high turnouts in both secure and insecure areas, significant numbers of voters turning up without having registered, and the mass malfunction or loss of biometric devices and voter lists.” [Martine van Bijlert, AAN]
  • Commentary: Election Days in Zurmat, Paktia: Real Voting Only in the District Center – “Parliamentary elections were held there only on a tiny island of government control. Turnout was very low on the first election day and limited to the district center – another example of Afghanistan’s emerging rural-urban voting divide.” [Pakteen Khan and Thomas Ruttig, AAN]
  • Commentary: The Release of Mullah Baradar: A Contribution to the Peace Effort – “Baradar certainly has the potential to still be highly influential. Much will depend on his health and vigour and whether he was tortured in custody or otherwise mistreated.” [Kate Clark, AAN]
  • Commentary: Fighting Bullets with Ballots: Afghanistan’s Chaotic Election – “It cannot be said that a general reduction in violence has helped this election to succeed; the insurgency in Afghanistan is as strong as ever.” [Tom Hart, ACLED]

 

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Jamaat-ud-Dawa Ban Expires; Taliban Confirm Baradar Release

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Topline

  • The Islamabad High Court dropped hearings on a Jamaat-ud-Dawa petition challenging a ban on its activities after the JUD argued that the presidential ordinance ordering the ban had expired without extension.
  • On Thursday, a Taliban spokesman confirmed the release of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, attributing the move to “the recent contacts with the Americans”. Taliban sources tell Reuters that Baradar is unlikely to assume significant responsibilities following his release.
  • An attack in Balochistan’s Washuk district on Thursday targeted the convoy of the head of the Balochistan Frontier Corps; he was unhurt, but two soldiers were killed and three wounded. No claim of responsibility was reported.
  •  A spokesman for the Afghan Independent Election Commission said Thursday that preliminary results from the parliamentary elections could be delayed, but did not specify a timeline; they had been due to be released by November 10, with final results in January.
  • Punjab opposition leader Hamza Shehbaz indicated Thursday that the PML-N had not confirmed its participation in a planned opposition conference led by JUI-F leader Fazlur Rehman, would would do so in a meeting of senior leadership within the next three days.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • JUD Ban Dropped: Lawyers for the Jamaat-ud-Dawa argued on Thursday that the ban against the organization imposed by presidential ordinance in February had expired without extension or the conversion of the ban into law; Deputy Attorney General Raja Mehmood Khan conceded the expiration, and the Islamabad High Court ended hearings on a JUD petition originally brought to challenge the ban.
  • Balochistan Attacks Targets Frontier Corps Chief: Two Frontier Corps soldiers were killed and three wounded in an attack on the convoy of the FC’s inspector general for Balochistan, Maj. Gen. Saeed Ahmed Nagra, in the Washuk district on Thursday; he was unhurt. No immediate claim of responsibility was reported. Minister of state for interior Shaharyar Afridi denounced the attack during a visit to Quetta on the same day. [ET]
  • Gwadar Port Project: Speaking at a conference in Beijing on Friday, Pakistan Navy secretary Rear Admiral Javaid Iqbal said that the Gwadar port project with China was “purely a commercial venture and has no military overtones”.

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Opposition Politics: Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, Punjab opposition leader Hamza Shehbaz reiterated allegations that PML-N leaders were being targeted for corruption investigations at the direction of the PTI. The PML-N has yet to confirm its participation in an opposition conference planned by JUI-F leader Fazlur Rehman; Hamza indicated the party’s leadership committee would decide on the issue within three days. Opposition parties separately denounced the government’s decision to raise electricity tariffs on Thursday. [ET] [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Judge Challenges Removal: Islamabad High Court judge Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui petitioned the Supreme Court on Friday to challenge his dismissal by the Supreme Judicial Council earlier this month. [ET]
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: On Friday, Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar summoned Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah as part of the investigation into alleged money laundering on the part of senior PPP leaders, after complaints from investigators that the Sindh provincial government was not cooperating in the investigation. Lawyers for Nawaz Sharif objected to remarks by Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry, who had attested that Nawaz would be returned to prison as he continues to face corruption charges. Mirza Shahzad Akbar, the special assistant to the prime minister on accountability, met with UK home secretary Sajid Javid in London on Thursday to discuss mutual legal assistance and extradition agreements. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation] [The Nation] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET]
  • Other Political Activity: Balochistan minister for local government Muhammad Saleh Bhootani told a conference on Thursday that the government would conduct further consultation before finalizing amendments to the province’s local government law. The Election Commission has notified a PML-N and PTI parliamentarian for campaign expenditure violations. [The Nation]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Water Policy Meeting: PM Khan chaired a meeting of the National Water Council on Thursday, where he called for an “integrated approach” to address water scarcity. [Dawn] [The Nation]

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Army Chief Visits Line of Control [ET] [The Nation]
  • Pakistan Protests ‘Blasphemous Tweets’ by Dutch MP [ET]
  • NACTA Signs Agreement with HEC on Counter-Extremism [ET] [Dawn]
  • Supreme Court Orders Sikh Representation in Census Form [ET]
  • PIA ‘Misplaces’ Afghan Ambassador’s Luggage Twice in a Week [ET]
  • EPA Orders Halt to Byco Petroleum Operations after Oil Spill on Sindh-Balochistan Coast [Dawn]
  • Report: Ceasefire Violations in Kashmir: A War By Other Means? – “The number of ceasefire violations in Kashmir has risen dramatically in recent years. These deteriorating conditions along the border may be a good measure of India-Pakistan relations.” [Christophe Jaffrelot, CEIP]
  • Commentary: Does US Drone Warfare in Countries Like Pakistan Really Cause ‘Blowback’? – “Both camps are partly right and wrong. This is because each has been looking largely at different populations: those who are directly exposed to the events in question vs. those who are not.” [Daniel Silverman, WAPO]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • Attacks and Operations: Military officials in northern Afghanistan reported that at least nine Taliban fighters were killed in separate ground and air operations in Balkh and Badakhshan province.

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Baradar Release: A spokesman for the Taliban confirmed the release of former commander Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar earlier this week, and credited the move to “the recent contacts with the Americans”. A spokesman for the Pakistani foreign ministry declined to comment on the report. An anonymous Taliban source tells Reuters that Baradar is unlikely to assume any significant responsibilities for the movement. Two other commanders, including breakaway faction leader Mullah Mohammad Rasool, were also reportedly released. [TOLO]
  • Parliamentary Elections: A spokesman for the Independent Election Commission said Thursday that preliminary results for last Saturday’s parliamentary elections, which were to have been released on November 10, “may get delayed”; he did not provide a specific timeline. The Electoral Complaints Commission has registered more than 7,000 complaints related to the elections, most related to poor management of the polling exercise. [Khabarnama]

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Herat Security Dialogue Held [TOLO]
  • Cabinet Gives Approval to Draft Budget [Khaama Press]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: US and NATO Forces Halt ANSF Contacts After Insider Attacks; Imran Touts Saudi Loan Deal

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Topline

  • In a national address on Wednesday, PM Khan touted the new $6 billion loan agreement with Saudi Arabia, and suggested that “we expect a similar package” from two other “friendly countries”. Foreign Minister Qureshi rebuffed opposition party suggestions that the agreement had any conditions attached. Pakistani finance ministry sources indicate that they will still seek to negotiate an IMF loan agreement beginning in early November.
  • The US and NATO coalition have temporarily halted in-person contacts with their counterparts in the Afghan security services following two recent high-profile insider attacks, the Washington Post reports; a spokesman for the coalition described the move as “standard practice”.
  • Taliban commander Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar has reportedly been released from Pakistani custody following a request by US Special Envoy Khalilzad; Baradar was previously also reported to have been released in 2013.
  • US and European diplomats have formally written to PM Khan expressing “serious concerns” over the expulsion of international aid agencies working in Pakistan earlier this fall.
  • After repeated delays, the Pakistani cabinet gave approval to an electricity tariff rate hike, although it exempted several categories of consumers, including agriculture and several export-oriented industries.
  • Russia’s foreign ministry announced on Thursday that it would host a previously-postponed conference on the Afghan peace process in Moscow on November 1st.
  • Blackwater founder Erik Prince has secured lobbyist representation to advance his proposal for the privatization of the US mission in Afghanistan, Politico reports.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • NGO Crackdown: Reuters reports that US and European diplomats formally expressed their “serious concerns” over the expulsion of 18 international aid agencies in recent months, writing in a letter to PM Khan that “restriction on civil society risks affecting Pakistan’s international reputation as a genuine partner on human developments and undermining confidence of the international donor and business community”.
  • Quetta Police Officer Killed: A Quetta policeman was killed in a shooting on Thursday morning; no claim of responsibility was reported.

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • PM Makes National Address: In an address to the nation on Wednesday following his return from a trip to Saudi Arabia, PM Khan touted the new agreement with Riyadh as a means of reducing Pakistan’s balance of payments crisis, and suggested that “we expect a similar package” from two other “friendly countries”. He will visit China beginning Nov 2 and is expected to meet with Pres. Xi and other Chinese leaders. Imran suggested that Pakistan would continue efforts to play a mediating role in the Middle East, but did not provide details; he also denounced opposition rivals, vowing that “no corrupt person will be let go” and accusing them of seeking amnesty for theft of public resources. [The Nation] [Dawn]
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: Arguments began on Wednesday in Supreme Court hearings on a National Accountability Bureau petition challenging the suspension of Nawaz Sharif’s sentence in the Avenfield properties case. Hearings also continued in another case against Nawaz. On Wednesday, the Lahore High Court dismissed a petition challenging Shehbaz Sharif’s arrest. The Islamabad High Court ordered the removal of former ISI chief Asad Durrani from the Exit Control List on Wednesday. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Other Political Activity: PML-N sources tell the Express Tribune that they will “continue to fight its case only in the Senate and the National Assembly and provincial legislatures” and will not carry out a public protest movement. The PML-N has again formally requested that Shehbaz Sharif be released on parole to attend the next national assembly session on Oct 29. Punjab assembly speaker Pervaiz Elahi dismissed PML-N protests over the expulsion of several legislators following a brawl earlier this month. [Dawn]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Saudi Bailout: PML-N and PPP leaders criticized the government on Wednesday for providing few details of its bailout agreement with Saudi Arabia, calling for a full briefing to parliament on the issue. In separate remarks to reporters, Foreign Minister Qureshi insisted that there were no conditions attached to the money, and said that Pakistan would not deploy forces to the conflict in Yemen. A spokesman for the finance ministry told Reuters that Pakistan still intended to seek an IMF loan package, with negotiations to begin in early November.
  • Electricity Tariffs Raised: After repeated delays, a meeting of the Economic Coordination Committee of the cabinet on Wednesday gave approval to a hike in electricity price tariffs for most categories of consumers, but cut prices for the agriculture sector, and exempted export-oriented industrial consumers and small and medium commercial consumers. Approval by the full cabinet is expected to take place Thursday. Separately, the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority also approved a fuel price-related adjustment in tariffs. At a press conference on Thursday, Finance Minister Umar laid blame for the price increase on NEPRA, and said most households would not be affected by the increase. [ET] [ET] [The Nation]
  • Budget Debate: In separate votes on Wednesday and Thursday, the Khyber Paktunkhwa and Punjab assemblies approved budget bills for the remainder of the fiscal year; the PML-N continues to boycott the latter assembly. [The Nation]

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Judge Shaukat Ali Siddiqui Challenges Removal [ET]
  • Suspect in Dera Ismail Khan Jailbreak Killed in Raid [Dawn]
  • Pakistan Tries a New Way to Pay for a Dam: Crowdsourcing [NYT]
  • Musharraf Aide Says He is Undergoing Medical Treatment for Amyloidosis [Dawn]
  • Government Allows Overseas Pakistani Nationals Who Do Not File Taxes to Purchase Property [Dawn]
  • Hazara Province Proponent Baba Haider Zaman Passes Away [ET] [The Nation]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • Training Mission: A spokesman for the US and NATO coalition in Afghanistan confirmed to the Washington Post on Wednesday that the coalition had scaled back most face-to-face meetings with members of the Afghan security forces and had withdrawn from Afghan security facilities after two recent high-profile insider attacks, a move that they described as “standard practice”. Separately, the AP reports that the 1st U.S. Army Security Force Assistance Brigade, which is due to rotate out of Afghanistan in November, will return in February to overlap with a successor unit.
  • Raziq Assassination Aftermath: Chief Executive Abdullah visited Kandahar on Thursday, where he met with the family of Gen. Abdul Raziq paid his respects at Raziq’s grave. Meanwhile, members of the Wolesi Jirga and Meshrano Jirga called the Afghan government to provide more details on the attack that killed Raziq. In a statement, former national security advisor Hanif Atmar also urged for further investigations. [Khaama Press]
  • Prince Secures Lobbyist: Politico notes that Blackwater founder Erik Prince has retained a lobbyist to help advance his proposal to replace U.S. forces in Afghanistan with private security contractors in Congress.
  • Attacks and Operations: Residents of Nangarhar’s Rodat district say at least 17 civilians were killed in an Afghan special forces raid over Tuesday night; a spokesman for the governor confirmed that an NDS operation took place in the area, and said they investigate the claims of civilian deaths. At least two people were wounded in a magnetic bomb attack in Kabul targeting guards for the attorney general’s office. Four children were wounded in Herat city in a bombing on Thursday. [Reuters] [TOLO] [Ariana News] [Khaama Press]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Baradar Reportedly Freed: TOLO follows earlier fragmentary reports in the Pakistani press to report that former Taliban leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who was arrested in Pakistan in 2010, has been freed after requests from US Special Envoy Khalilzad. Baradar was previously reported to have been released to a quasi house arrest status in 2013. Two other senior Taliban leaders, Mullah Abdul Samad Sani and breakaway faction leader Mullah Mohammad Rasul, were also reportedly freed. A Taliban source speaking to the BBC confirmed Baradar’s release, saying that “he is in good shape and is expected to play a role in the peace process”. [RFE/RL]
  • Russian Conference: In a statement on Thursday, Russia’s foreign ministry announced that it would host a conference on the Afghan peace process in Moscow on Nov 1. The meeting was previously planned for early September but cancelled due to the non-participation of the Afghan government.
  • Parliamentary Elections: The Independent Election Commission officially opened its central results tabulation center in Kabul on Wednesday. At a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, Pres. Ghani tasked Second Vice President Danish to achieve a resolution on elections in Ghazni, which have been indefinitely postponed. [TOLO]

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • NATO Secretary General Reaffirms Support for Afghan Peace Process [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • Cabinet Approves Draft Budget for New Fiscal Year [Khabarnama]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Saudi Arabia Offers $6B in Loans; Vote Counting Begins for Parliamentary Elections

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Topline

  • On Tuesday, Pakistan’s foreign ministry announced that Saudi Arabia had agreed to make a $3 billion deposit with the State Bank of Pakistan and to offer $3 billion worth of oil on deferred payments, helping to ease the balance of payments pressure facing the Pakistani government.
  • Vote counting for Afghanistan’s parliamentary elections is due to begin today after election materials were returned from the polling centers to provincial centers on Tuesday. IEC chairman Abdul Sayyad estimated on Wednesday that around 20% of polling centers failed to make use of the biometric voter registration devices, but did not clarify whether the IEC would exclude those centers from the results, which are due to be announced on Nov 6. In a statement on Wednesday, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar denounced the IEC’s management of the elections as a “disgrace”.
  • In remarks during a visit to Kandahar on Tuesday, Pres. Ghani called on Pakistan to extradite suspects linked to the assassination of Gen. Abdul Raziq last week, saying that the attack had been “plotted in Pakistan”. Pakistan’s foreign ministry responded indirectly on Wednesday by saying that it “rejects baseless and unfounded allegations regarding the latest Kandahar attacks”.
  • The US Treasury department announced sanctions on two members of Iran’s Quds Force accused of providing support to the Taliban; Saudi Arabia and other allied Gulf states joined the U.S. in imposing the sanctions, which also covered two Pakistani nationals and four Afghans.
  • In remarks on Tuesday, Sec. Pompeo reiterated that “Pakistan will be held accountable” if it failed to meet U.S expectations on counterterrorism cooperation, adding that to achieve reconciliation in Afghanistan, “there can be no safe harbour for the Taliban or the Haqqani network”.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • Pompeo Reiterates US Counter-Terrorism Expectations: In remarks at a press conference on Tuesday, Sec. Pompeo reiterated that the United States’ “expectation is that Pakistan will not provide safe harbour to terrorists on their western border”, adding that “Pakistan will be held accountable if they do not achieve that”. Pompeo also said that while the U.S. supported reconciliation in Afghanistan, “to achieve that goal, there can be no safe harbour for the Taliban or the Haqqani network”.
  • Oil Workers Killed in North Waziristan: Three employees of the Maripur Oil and Gas Company and a Frontier Corps soldier were kidnapped and later founded dead in North Waziristan on Tuesday; no claim of responsibility has been reported. Separately, two security personnel were wounded in an attack on their checkpost.
  • Aircraft Sale: The Express Tribune reports that the Economic Coordination Committee of the cabinet has given approval to the sale of three JF-17 fighter aircraft, which are jointly produced in Pakistan with China, to the Nigerian Air Force, for a sale price of $184.3 million.

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Opposition Politics: PML-N chairman Raja Zafarul Haq met with JUI-F leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman and tells the Express Tribune that the PML-N will take part in the multi-party opposition conference planned with the PPP and other parties next week. The PML-N continued a boycott of the Punjab assembly on Tuesday, but on Wednesday allowed six new party legislators elected in recent by-elections to take the oath of office. Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, former prime minister and petroleum minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi defended his negotiation of the liquefied natural gas import agreement with Qatar and challenged PTI government ministers to a live debate over the issue. [ET] [The Nation]
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: The Supreme Court will hear a National Accountability Bureau challenge against the Islamabad High Court’s verdict suspending Nawaz Sharif’s sentence in the Avenfield properties case on Wednesday. The PML-N has petitioned National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser to again summon Shehbaz Sharif from his arrest to allow him to attend an assembly session scheduled for Oct 29. The NAB issued new summons for Shehbaz’s sons as part of an investigation into his assets. Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah insisted that his government was cooperating with an investigation into money laundering charges targeting top PPP leadership. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation] [The Nation] [ET]
  • Other Political Activity: Speaking on Tuesday, Khyber Paktunkhwa governor Shah Farman said that it had been a mistake to nominate his brother for the PK-71 by-election, which he PTI lost to the ANP. [ET] [Dawn]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Saudis Agree to $6B Rescue Package: On Tuesday, Pakistan’s foreign ministry announced that, following talks led by PM Khan in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia had agreed to “place a deposit of $3 billion for a period of one year as balance of payment support” with the State Bank of Pakistan, and to a three-year deferred payment agreement for up to $3 billion in oil imports, which is roughly equivalent to Pakistan’s annual imports from Saudi Arabia. The Saudi government also reportedly reaffirmed interest in investing in an oil refinery project at Gwadar. [WSJ] [ET] [The Nation]

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Four Children Wounded in Quetta School Shooting [Dawn] [ET]
  • Judge Athar Minallah Nominated as Islamabad High Court Chief Justice [Dawn] [ET]
  • Two Killed in Police Shooting at Swabi Checkpoint [ET]
  • Three Killed in Exchange of Fire Between Two Tribal Groups Near Quetta [ET]
  • Karachi Government Home Residents Clash with Police After Eviction Orders [AP] [Dawn]
  • Chief Justice Orders Penalties Against Geo News [ET]
  • World Bank to Conduct CPEC Study [ET]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • Ghani Says Raziq Killing ‘Plotted in Pakistan’: In remarks on Tuesday during a visit to Kandahar and meetings with the family of the late police commander Gen. Abdul Raziq, Pres. Ghani said that Raziq’s killing had been “plotted in Pakistan”, and called on Pakistan to extradite those responsible for planning the assassination. Pakistan’s foreign ministry released a statement on Wednesday saying that “Pakistan rejects baseless and unfounded allegations regarding the latest Kandahar attacks” and lamented the “media blame game”. [Khaama Press] [Khabarnama]
  • US Sanctions Iran-Linked Taliban: On Tuesday, the US Treasury Department announced sanctions against two Pakistani nationals and four Afghans; additionally, two Iranian nationals linked to the Quds Force and accused of providing support to the Taliban were also sanctioned. The statement noted that the sanctions “highlights the scope of the Iranian regime’s malign activities and regionally destabilizing behaviour and furthers the U.S. maximum pressure campaign against Iran”. Saudi Arabia and six other allied Gulf states joined the U.S. in imposing the sanctions. [Treasury Department Statement]
  • Attacks and Operations: Villagers in Nangarhar’s Rodat district blocked the Torkham-Jalalabad highway on Wednesday to protest civilian deaths in a military operation in the area. A US drone strike in Nuristan’s Nur Geram district reportedly killed six Taliban fighters on Wednesday. [Khabarnama] [Khaama Press]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Parliamentary Elections: A spokesman for the Independent Election Commission said Tuesday that all election materials had been transferred from polling centers back to provincial capitals and that the vote counting process would begin on Wednesday. Preliminary results are scheduled to be announced on November 6. IEC chairman Abdul Sayyad said Wednesday that approximately 20% of polling centers did not use biometric voter registration devices as planned, and said that those centers “will be dealt with more carefully”; opposition parties earlier called for any such votes to be discounted. A spokesman for the IEC tells Ariana News that the IEC is planning to refer the Kabul provincial IEC chief, Awal Rahman Rodwal, to the judiciary on charges of negligence in managing the vote process there. U.S. Ambassador John Bass met with Chief Executive Abdullah on Wednesday to discuss the elections; on Tuesday evening the UN Security Council issued a statement welcoming the elections and calling on the IEC and other bodies to “redouble efforts to ensure the integrity, neutrality and transparency of the electoral process”. In a statement on Wednesday, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar criticized the management of the elections as a “disgrace”, and said that “the election commission failed to hold fair and free elections”. [Khabarnama] [Khabarnama] [TOLO]

 

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Chabahar Talks: Officials from Iran, India, and Afghanistan held a trilateral meeting on Tuesday on the operationalization of their transit agreement on the Chabahar port in Iran, India’s foreign ministry announced.

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Outgoing Deputy Foreign Minister Warns Against Politicization of Ministry [TOLO]
  • National Procurement Commission Approves Afs 2.2 Billion in New Contracts [Khaama Press]
  • Commentary: Amid Intense Violence, Afghans Show Support for Democracy – “Unfortunately, these elections had greater operational problems than any other Afghan elections since the end of Taliban rule.” [Scott Worden, USIP]
  • Commentary: A Firsthand Account of the Trials and Chaos of Second-Day Voting – “After the second day of voting the IEC will have to deal with at least three types of results being retrieved from the polling centres and provinces: a) from polling stations that used both the voter lists and the biometric verification, b) from polling stations that used only the voter lists, without capturing the biometric verification data, and c) from polling stations that used neither of the two systems and made new on-the-spot, handwritten voter lists.” [Ali Yawar Adili, AAN]