Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Defense Minister Proposes ‘Strategic Cooperation’ with Saudis; US Targets Taliban Drug Labs

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Topline

  • Saudi Deputy Defense minister Mohammad bin Abdullah al Aeysh met with Pakistani Defense Minister Khurram Dastgir Khan and Chief of Army Staff Bajwa on Tuesday; Dastgir proposed an “all-encompassing strategic cooperation agreement” between the two countries.
  • U.S. military commanders report that they have struck at least 25 Taliban drug processing facilities in Helmand, claiming to have destroyed as much as $80 million in value for the Taliban, out of an estimated $300-400 million in annual revenue from the opium and drug trade.
  • The new U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, John Bass, formally submitted his credentials to Pres. Ghani in a meeting on Tuesday.
  • Opposition parties boycotted Pakistan’s national assembly on Tuesday over the government’s delay of its proposed legislation to merge the FATA with Khyber Paktunkhwa province; the Jamaat-e-Islami held a sit-in in Islamabad over the issue on Tuesday.
  • Members of the Afghan Independent Election Commission protested continued delays in the appointment of a new chairman at a press conference on Tuesday, warning they would select a chairman themselves if the government did not do so soon.
  • The NDS arrested four teachers affiliated with the Afghan-Turk school network on Tuesday evening, coming ahead of a visit by Pres. Ghani to attend an OIC conference in Turkey.
  • The rupee lost value against the dollar in trading for the third consecutive day on Tuesday, ending the day at around 110 to the dollar, for a loss of 4.86% since Friday. State Bank of Pakistan governor Tariq Bajwa said Tuesday that the rupee was “closer to the equilibrium” with the dollar.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • Defense Minister Proposes ‘Strategic Pact’ with Saudi Arabia: Defense Minister Khurram Dastgir Khan met with Saudi Deputy Defence Minister Mohammad bin Abdullah al Aeysh during the latter’s visit to Pakistan on Tuesday; in their meeting, Dastgir proposed the formalization of an “all-encompassing strategic cooperation agreement to deepen defence ties”. Al Aeysh also met separately with Chief of Army Staff Bajwa. [The Nation]
  • Peshawar High Court Bars Release of TTP Spokesman: In an order on Wednesday, a Peshawar High Court bench hearing a petition from the father of a student killed in the 2014 Army Public School attack barred the government from releasing former TTP spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan on bail and order further investigations by authorities.
  • Missing Persons Investigation: The Lahore High Court agreed to take up the case of missing peace activist Raza Mehmood Khan on Wednesday, who disappeared at the start of the month, and summoned a police officer investigating the case for more hearings next week. [ET]

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • FATA Reforms: Opposition parties boycotted national assembly proceedings on Tuesday over the government’s reversal on its previously announced plans to introduce legislation to facilitate the merger of the FATA and Khyber Paktunkhwa province. PML-N leaders said they were working to resolve the issue and called a meeting of political party leaders on Thursday to discuss the issue. Jamaat-e-Islami supporters held a sit-in in Islamabad on Tuesday after arriving in a protest march to demand the FATA merger. [The Nation]
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: PTI spokesmen indicated Tuesday that they would appeal an Islamabad anti-terrorism court ruling denying the PTI’s challenge against its jurisdiction to hear cases against Imran Khan in connection to the party’s 2014 sit-ins. Hearings in the Supreme Court on the reopening of the Hudaibya Paper Mills money laundering case have been delayed until Friday over the absence of one of the judges. The Election Commission has summoned the PTI’s finance secretary to testify in a case investigating the party’s overseas fundraising; hearings have been set for Jan 16. The Express Tribune reports that the National Accountability Bureau may investigate government payments to power companies at the start of its tenure in an effort to clear circular debts within the power sector; the senate finance committee held hearings on the issue on Tuesday. [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Other Political Activity: Voting on legislation to approve new constituency boundaries on the basis of provisional census data was stalled again on Tuesday. In remarks during a visit to Karachi, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal warned that elections would be delayed if the legislation was not passed soon. The PTI has reportedly halted its candidate selection process as the constituency boundaries remain unresolved. Separately, Pakistan Awami Tehreek sources tell Dawn that Tahirul Qadri will announce a “new agenda” of opposition protests against Shehbaz Sharif beginning Wednesday. The AFP profiles Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. [The Nation] [The Nation] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [ET]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Currency Devaluation: The rupee fell in value against the dollar in trading on Tuesday for the third consecutive business day, ending the day at Rs 110.64 to the dollar, for a cumulative loss of 4.86% since Friday. Banking sources tell the Express Tribune that the move, apparently taken at the recommendation of the IMF, signals the possibility of a new bailout package with the Fund. State Bank of Pakistan governor Tariq Bajwa told reporters on Tuesday that the rupee was “closer to the equilibrium” with the dollar, and noted Pakistan’s significant current account deficit as a contributor. [WSJ]

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • PM Abbasi Arrives for OIC Summit [ET]
  • Two Killed, Five Injured in Lyari Gang Shooting [Dawn] [ET]
  • In CPEC Talks, Chinese Drive a Hard Bargain with Pakistan [Dawn]
  • Sindh Police Submit Charges in Lal Shahbaz Qalandar Shrine Bombing Case [Dawn]
  • 12,000 Sindh Police Officers Found ‘Delinquent’ [Dawn]
  • Balochistan Legislators Express Concern Over Absence of National ID Cards for Women [The Nation]
  • Lawyers Protest in Multan Turns Violent in Clash with Police [Dawn]
  • IHC Bars TV Host Amir Liaquat from Broadcasting [Dawn]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • Helmand Airstrikes: Speaking at a press briefing on Tuesday, U.S. military commanders said they had eliminated 25 Taliban drug-processing facilities in Helmand in recent airstrikes, which they said equated to almost $80 million in value for the insurgency. Officials estimate that the Taliban receives between $300-400 million annually from the opium trade. [Khaama Press]
  • Attacks and Operations: Nangarhar provincial officials announced the seizure of a weapons cache during a search operation in the Behsud district on Tuesday evening. Afghan National Army officials reported that at least ten ISIS fighters were killed in operations in Nangarhar’s Khogyani district on Wednesday. The Taliban shadow deputy district governor in Laghman province’s Badpakh district was reportedly killed by a malfunctioning explosive at his home on Monday. [Khaama Press]
  • Iranian Concern Over ISIS: In remarks on Tuesday, Iranian Intelligence Minister Syed Mahmoud Alavi expressed concerns that the Islamic State had “lost land, but has not surrendered its arms, and is looking for land in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia in order to, in this way, revive the idea of the Islamic caliphate”. [Khaama Press]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • New US Ambassador: New U.S. Ambassador John Bass formally presented his credentials to Pres. Ghani in a meeting on Tuesday; in a statement, Bass aid that he “look[s] forward to working with the Afghan government, as well as with all the people of Afghanistan, to continue to build a peaceful, secure, and prosperous future”.
  • Election Preparations: Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, members of the Independent Election Commission warned that they would select their own chairman if the government did not do so soon, accusing it of “making irrelevant excuses”; a spokesman for Pres. Ghani said that “the government is committed that elections be held on time” and was working to appoint a new chairman. [Ariana News]
  • Crackdown on Turkish Schools: The National Directorate of Security arrested at least four teachers affiliated with the Afghan-Turk school network on Tuesday evening, and also searched a school facility in Kabul; parents of the students accused security personnel of improperly searching the girls’ hostel. The crackdown on the school, associated with exiled Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, came as Pres. Ghani departed for an Organization of the Islamic Conference summit in Turkey. [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press]

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Ghani Appoints Two Deputies for National Security Advisor [TOLO]
  • VP Danish Meets Indian Counterpart Venkaiah Naidu in New Delhi [TOLO]
  • DABS Officials Say Work on Kajaki Dam Second Phase to Begin Soon [TOLO]
  • Commentary: The Walking Dead – “As U.S. troops draw down, the Afghan military struggles to provide care for its countless wounded soldiers — on the battlefield and at home.” [Maija Liuhto, Foreign Policy]
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Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Government Delays FATA Reforms Legislation; Opposition Grows Over Stalled Election Reforms

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Topline

  • The PML-N government abruptly reversed course on Monday and did not introduce legislation to approve the merger of the FATA with Khyber Paktunkhwa province and repeal the Frontier Crimes Regulation, as had been announced on Friday; opposition leaders denounced the move.
  • Two PML-N national assembly members and three provincial assembly members submitted their resignations on Tuesday, as part of a group affiliated with Pir Hameeduddin Sialvi, who is demanding Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah’s resignation.
  • The NYT and Washington Post review prospects for Afghanistan’s parliamentary elections, currently slated to take place next July, and note growing if still fragmented opposition protests over the Ghani administration’s stalled reform pledges.
  • PM Abbasi will attend an Organization of the Islamic Conference summit in Turkey tomorrow and is expected to travel to London afterwards to meet with Nawaz Sharif.
  • Russian, Chinese, and Indian foreign ministers met in New Delhi on Monday; among other topics, they discussed Afghanistan, where Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov said the government and Taliban as well as “those who can influence the situation, including neighbours” needed to “find a political solution”.
  • Two Pakistani soldiers were killed by sniper fire in North Waziristan on Tuesday; no claim of responsibility was reported for the attack.
  • At least three Afghan soldiers were killed in attacks on multiple checkposts in Ghazni on Tuesday. A U.S. soldier was killed and two injured in a “vehicle incident” in Nangarhar on Monday, the U.S. mission in Afghanistan reported; further details were not immediately released.
  • Pakistan’s trade deficit widened to $15.03 bllion during the July-November period, 28.6% higher than the same period last year. The rupee lost further value against the dollar in trading on Monday.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • US Ambassador Meets Army Chief: US Amb. Hale met with Chief of Army Staff Bajwa in Rawalpindi on Monday for talks on regional security issues; no details of their conversations were released.
  • FATA Attacks and Operations: Two army soldiers were killed by sniper fire in North Waziristan on Tuesday, the military announced; no claim of responsibility has been reported. Separately, six TTP suspects linked to the attack on the Peshawar Agricultural Training Institute earlier this month were arrested during raids near Charsadda and Mohmand on Monday. [The Nation]

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • FATA Legislation Withdrawn: The government reversed on its announced plans to introduce legislation on Monday that would repeal the Frontier Crimes Regulation in FATA and authorize its merger with Khyber Paktunkhwa, sparking opposition protests; government ministers failed to offer explanations for why the legislation was withdrawn. Imran Khan and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari both denounced the move. Separately, the Jamaat-e-Islami held a protest march that culminated in a rally in Islamabad on Tuesday, demanding that the FATA be merged with Khyber Paktunkhwa by the end of the year. [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • PML-N Legislators Resign: Five PML-N legislators – correcting earlier reports, the total includes two national assembly members and three provincial assembly members – formally submitted their resignations from the assemblies on Tuesday; all are affiliated with Pir Hameeduddin Sialvi, who has demanded the resignation of Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah. PML-N sources tell the Express Tribune that they will resist any pressure for Sanaullah to resign, but that PM Abbasi and Shehbaz Sharif will consult with Nawaz Sharif in London later this week to discuss the party’s response. [ET] [The Nation]
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: On Tuesday, the National Accountability Bureau appointed retired judge Shah Khawar as the NAB’s new prosecutor general. Supreme Court hearings continued on Tuesday on the NAB’s plea to reopen the Hudaibya Paper Mills money laundering case against the Sharifs. The Nation reports that NAB investigators departed for London on Sunday for further investigations of Sharif family properties in the UK. [Dawn] [The Nation] [The Nation] [ET]
  • Other Political Activity: Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal tells Dawn that PM Abbasi will reach out to Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah on Tuesday in an effort to secure the PPP’s support for the senate passage of a bill allowing the use of provisional census data for the delimitation of constituencies for the next general elections. Iqbal expresses concerns that further delays would result in a “caretaker set-up that goes beyond its constitutional limit of 90 days [which] will be a recipe for rigging and interference in the election”. In remarks on Monday, Khyber Paktunkhwa Chief Minster Pervaiz Khattak said that the PTI would not become part of any electoral alliance in the next elections, and reiterated calls for early elections. [Dawn] [WAPO]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • CPEC Planning: Briefing a parliamentary committee on Monday, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal confirmed earlier reports that China had halted financing for three highway projects and was reviewing “new guidelines” for project financing under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor; he did not provide further explanation as to why.
  • Economic Indicators: Remittances fell 2.57% year-on-year in November to $1.576 billion, State Bank of Pakistan data released Monday indicates. Total remittances during the first five months of the fiscal year totals $8.021 billion, which is up 1.28% year-on-year. The trade deficit totaled $15.03 billion during the same period, 28.6% higher than the same period last year. The Pakistani rupee continued its depreciation on Monday, ending trading at Rs 108.41 to the dollar, for a total loss of 2.75% during the past two working days.

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Abbasi to Attend OIC Summit in Turkey on Wednesday [The Nation] [ET]
  • Abducted Military Engineering Service Employee Found Dead in Rawalpindi [Dawn]
  • Punjab Reaches Agreement with Chinese Consul on Trials for Chinese Nationals [Dawn]
  • Six TTP Suspects Held in Balochistan [The Nation] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Musharraf Urges Pakistan to Back UAE and Saudis Against Qatar [Dawn]
  • Petroleum Ministry Seeks to Clear Pakistan State Oil Bills After Furnace Oil Generation Halted [ET]
  • PM Abbasi Rejects Plans to Sell Roosevelt Hotel to Clear PIA Debts [ET]

 

Afghanistan — Security

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Election Preparations: The NYT and WAPO both review the current stalled plans for parliamentary elections officially scheduled to take place next July, and growing opposition protests over the continued delays in the election process. The NYT piece also notes tensions for U.S. officials seeking to protect both Pres. Ghani’s government and to work with many of his opponents who hold official government positions.
  • Regional Diplomacy: Speaking at an event in India on Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov criticized the current U.S. strategy in Afghanistan and said that “the government of Afghanistan, the Taliban, and those who can influence the situation, including neighbours” should “find a political solution” to the conflict in Afghanistan. Lavrov was visiting for a trilateral foreign minister-level dialogue with Indian and Chinese counterparts; Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj told reporters on Monday that she had “put across my view that a significant rise in acts of terrorism by terrorist organizations like the Taliban, Daesh, al-Qaeda, and Lashkar-e-Taiba, directly undermine international peace and security”. [Khaama Press]
  • Parliament Secretary Accused of Confirmation Deal: Freshta Amini, a lawmaker from Nimroz, accused Wolesi Jirga first secretary Abdul Qadir Zazai Watandost of negotiating a secret agreement to secure confirmation votes for an unnamed cabinet minister last week, and of recording her vote in support of confirmation without her approval; he denied the allegation. [Pajhwok]

 

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Indian Companies to Begin CASA-1000 Work: Two Indian companies who were awarded contracts in May to construct the CASA-1000 power transmission line project are expected to begin work in the coming weeks, Afghan officials announced on Monday. [TOLO]

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Hunting Taliban and Islamic State Fighters, From 20,000 Feet [NYT]
  • Hekmatyar Reiterates Opposition to Loya Jirga, Calls for Taliban to Join Peace Process [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • Afghan Women Cadets Under Training in India [TOLO]
  • National Procurement Commission Approves Afs 2.1 Billion in New Contracts [Khaama Press]
  • New Contracts Signed for $267 Million Power Projects [Khaama Press]
  • Commentary: Today’s Pro-Government Militias Could Be Tomorrow’s Warlords – “By mobilizing a new force Ghani risks reinforcing, over time, the ranks of the very enemy he hopes to defeat. Today’s allies risk becoming tomorrow’s insurgents.” [Deedee Derksen, War on the Rocks]
  • Commentary: US Bombing of Afghan Drug Labs Won’t Crush the Taliban – “The criminal economy thrives on weak state institutions, systemic corruption and poverty, while the insurgency represents, fundamentally, a political challenge. These are separate phenomena with distinct histories and different solutions.” [Borhan Osman, AAN]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Qadri Meets with Opposition Leaders; ISIS Fighters Reportedly Relocating to Jawzjan

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Topline

  • Pakistan Awami Tehreek leader Tahir-ul Qadri met separately with a string of opposition party leaders on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and is reportedly planning to launch a “joint opposition alliance” aimed at pressuring the PML-N to dissolve its government and call early elections. A senate session called for Monday may take a vote on stalled legislation aimed at reapportioning constituencies amongst the four provinces on the basis of provisional census data; reports conflict as to whether the PPP has agreed to move forward with the bill, and whether it is seeking early elections or not. Former Pres. Zardari has reportedly called a meeting in Dubai to discuss the party’s strategy. Five PML-N national assembly members resigned on Sunday at the call of Pir Hameeduddin Sialvi, who had earlier claimed to have the support of at least fifteen legislators.
  • The AFP reports that an unspecified number of French and Algerian Islamic State-affiliated fighters have relocated from Syria to Afghanistan’s Jawzjan province; U.S. and Afghan forces are reportedly planning a new offensive against the ISIS splinter group there.
  • US Forces-Afghanistan officials report continuing air and artillery strikes on Taliban drug processing facilities in Helmand, which commander Gen. John Nicholson claims has destroyed nearly $50 million worth of “direct Taliban revenues” since the campaign begain last month.
  • Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission has reportedly finalized an assessment of polling station locations and security, increasing overall the number of polling stations nationwide but cutting them in a number of provinces.
  • States and Frontier Regions Minister Abdul Qadir Baloch and deputy Planning Commission chairman Sartaj Aziz signaled on Friday that the government was preparing to introduce legislation this week to abolish the Frontier Crimes Regulation in FATA and begin the process of merging it with Khyber Paktunkhwa, a process they said would likely take several years; speaking to supporters on Saturday, Imran Khan threatened street protests if the merger did not take place before elections were held.
  • During remarks in Khost on Sunday and Monday, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar criticized Iranian interference in Afghanistan and what he described as “islands of power” within the Afghan government that he blamed for ethnic polarization; Chief Executive Abdullah in turn criticized Hekmatyar’s remarks for contributing to ethnic divisions.
  • Following talks with IMF representatives, the State Bank of Pakistan has reportedly agreed to allow the rupee to depreciate against the dollar in order to shore up declining foreign exchanges reserves; it fell in trading on Friday.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • Tensions with India: In remarks on Friday, a spokesman for India’s External Affairs Ministry welcomed Pakistan’s willingness to facilitate a meeting between accused Indian spy Kulbhushan Jhadav and his wife and mother, who will be accompanied by an Indian diplomat; the spokesman said the meeting “can’t be called consular access as of now”, however. In a statement on Monday, Pakistan’s foreign minister rebuffed remarks by PM Modi accusing his rivals in the Congress Party of holding “secret meetings” with Pakistan’s ambassador ahead of elections taking place in Gujrat. [ET]
  • Landmine Bombings: Two men were injured in a landmine blast in Balochistan’s Kohlu district on Monday; elsewhere, three children were wounded in a similar blast in North Waziristan.

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Opposition Parties Back PAT After Model Town Report Release: Pakistan Awami Tehreek leader Tahir-ul Qadri met separately in Lahore on Saturday with Mustafa Kamal of the Pak Sarzameen Party and Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Jahangir Tareen of the PTI. Speaking at press conferences after each meeting, Qadri reiterated demands for the resignations of Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Law Minister Rana Sanauallah for their alleged roles in the 2014 Model Town clash between Punjab police and PAT activists, and threatened street protests if those and other demands were not met. Qadri also met with PML-Q leaders on Sunday, and announced plans for a lawyers convention on Dec 14. The Express Tribune reports that the PAT plans to launch a “joint opposition alliance” against the PML-N that will demand the dissolution of the current government and call for early elections; the PPP, PTI, PML-Q, and PSP are all reported to have agreed to join the alliance. However, PPP parliamentary opposition leader Khurshid Shah told reporters on Saturday that the PPP “will not be a part of any attempt to overthrow the government… we want this government to complete its constitutional term”. Former Pres. Zardari, who met with Qadri on Friday, has called a meeting of senior party leaders in Dubai for Monday; in remarks on Sunday, Zardari accused Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan of “pushing the country into external and internal crises”. Speaking at the inauguration of a new power plant in Jhang on Saturday, PM Abbasi dismissed the opposition meetings and reiterated that elections would be held on schedule. [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • Election Preparations: The Express Tribune reported Saturday that the government is undertaking “intense lobbying” in an effort to secure the passage of an amendment allowing the delimitation of constituencies on the basis of provisional census data, which the PPP is reported to be blocking in an effort to secure concessions from the PML-N on the senate elections scheduled for March. On Sunday, the PPP was reported to have given “conditional agreement” to the legislation’s passage, and was said to have sought guarantees from the government that elections would be held on schedule. Meanwhile, the prime minister’s office is preparing an order to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics to conduct an audit of five percent of all census blocks as part of an agreement with the MQM and PPP, a process that is expected to take as long as six months. [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation] [ET] [ET]
  • PML-N Legislators Resign: On Sunday, five PML-N national assembly members affiliated with Pir Hameeduddin Sialvi, including his son, announced their resignation from the party over demands for the removal of Law Minister Rana Sanaullah. Sialvi had earlier claimed to have the backing of 15 legislators. Separately, Dawn and The Nation report that PML-N student wing leaders are angry over their exclusion from the party’s new Central Executive Committee leadership body.
  • FATA Reforms: Speaking at a press conference on Friday, States and Frontier Regions Minister Abdul Qadir Baloch and deputy Planning Commission chairman Sartaj Aziz announced the government would introduce legislation on Monday to abolish the Frontier Crimes Regulation in the FATA and start the process of merging the agencies with Khyber Paktunkhwa province. They suggested that the full merger process would likely take at least one or two years, however. Baloch also said that internal import tariffs for goods from other parts of Pakistan to FATA would be withdrawn beginning January 1. Imran Khan addressed a PTI FATA youth chapter on Saturday in Islamabad and threatened to lead street protests if the merger was not completed before the next general elections. [Dawn] [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: Lawyers for the National Accountability Bureau are seeking a delay in Supreme Court hearings on the reopening of the Hudaibya Paper Mills money laundering case against Nawaz and Shehbaz Sharif, citing the need for the appointment of a new prosecutor general following the retirement of Waqas Qadeer Dar in November. Supreme Court rejected that request in hearings on Monday, at which judges focused their questions on the circumstances of Nawaz’s 2000 exile from Pakistan. In separate hearings, Ishaq Dar was formally declared an “absconder” for failing to appear in the corruption case against him. Also on Monday, an Islamabad anti-terrorism court rejected a PTI petition requesting the transfer of cases filed against him in connection to the party’s 2014 Islamabad protests. [ET] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Other Political Activity: Imran Khan met with PTI leadership from Karachi on Saturday, and was quoted vowing that the PTI “will free Sindh from the clutches of Zardari and his corrupt lackeys”; in remarks on Monday, he ruled out any PTI-PPP alliance. Imran led a rally in Faisalabad on Friday, and in Sheikhupura on Sunday. On Saturday, police and paramilitary Rangers blocked activists affiliated with the MQM’s London faction from visiting graveyards in Karachi to commemorate slain party leaders. Two senior leaders of the London faction, Babar Ghauri and Shamim Siqqiui, announced their resignations on Sunday. MQM-Pakistan leader Farooq Sattar led a rally in Hyderabad on Friday, where he demanded a greater share of national and provincial revenues be redistributed to Sindh’s urban population. MQM-P national assembly legislator Salman Mujahid Baloch joined the Pak Sarzameen Party on Friday. Former chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry met with lawyers groups in Hyderabad on Saturday, and criticized Nawaz Sharif for launching a “smear campaign” against the judiciary. [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation] [The Nation] [The Nation]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Rupee Depreciated After IMF Talks: Dawn reports that the State Bank of Pakistan and finance ministry have agreed to allow the rupee to depreciate following meetings with the IMF last week, a move aimed in part at shifting foreign currency holdings from private to official reserves. The rupee fell from 105.5 to the dollar to 109.5 in trading on Friday. Express Tribune analysis suggests that the government has been double-counting some exchange reserves and that net foreign exchange reserves held by the SBP are likely to drop below $5 billion after repayment of external debt tranches in the coming months. The Express Tribune also reports that IMF officials pressed for legislation to be passed that would set a binding cap on the government’s borrowing limit, which the finance ministry rejected. [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Energy Crisis: The Oil Companies Advisory Council, a coalition of refineries and oil marketing companies, has warned of a shortage of jet fuel and other products as a result of the closure of furnace oil-fueled power plants and corresponding lack of sufficient demand to keep refineries open. The Express Tribune reports that Pakistan and Russia are near agreement on the revival of the Iran-Pakistan-India natural gas pipeline, which Indian officials are also reported to be interested in rejoining. [ET]

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • UAE Transfers Custody of MQM Leader Linked to Baldia Factory Fire [Dawn] [ET]
  • Iranian Envoy Calls on Pakistan to ‘Move Faster’ to Improve Ties [Dawn]
  • Over 300 Baloch Militants Surrender in Ceremony [Reuters] [Dawn] [ET] [The Nation]
  • Countrywide Rallies Condemn Trump’s Jerusalem Move [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Lal Masjid Cleric Calls for Crackdown on ‘Online Blasphemy’ [ET]
  • Motorcycle Riding Banned in Bannu [ET]
  • US Embassy Provides $23M in Protective Gear for Pakistani Police [The Nation]
  • 98.3 Million SIM Cards Blocked Under National Action Plan [Dawn]
  • Pakistan and China Hold Joint Naval Exercise [The Nation]
  • Two Accused Kidnappers Killed in Karachi [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • PM Abbasi Approves Endowment Fund for BISP [The Nation]
  • 1,000 Primary Schools Closed in Khyber Paktunkhwa Due to Low Attendance [Dawn]
  • Agha Khan Meets PM, President, Visits Chitral [APP] [ET]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • Islamic State in Afghanistan: The AFP reports that “a number” of French and Algerian fighters affiliated with the Islamic State have relocated to Jawzjan from Syria, although estimates vary; residents of the Darzab district claim that as many as 200 foreigners have settled in the area. U.S. and Afghan forces are reportedly planning to conduct joint operations in Faryab and Jawzjan provinces targeting ISIS militants. The WSJ embeds with U.S. and Afghan special forces fighting the Islamic State in the Achin district. Nangarhar provincial officials say that nine ISIS fighters were killed in a clash with security forces in the Khogyani district on Monday; an airstrike in the Haska Mina district on Saturday reportedly killed three.
  • Helmand Operations: In a statement on Sunday, the US Forces-Afghanistan mission announced the use of the M142 rocket artillery system to target a Taliban narcotics processing facility in Helmand on Friday; the statement estimated the damage as “the destruction of nearly $1 million in direct Taliban revenues” but did not provide further details. Earlier on Friday, USFOR-A announced airstrikes on multiple narcotics processing facilities in Helmand the day prior; in total, US and Resolute Support Commander Gen. John Nicholson has claimed that the air campaign against Taliban drug processing labs has inflicted nearly $50 million in damages.
  • Other Attacks and Operations: Pres. Ghani visited Badghis province on on Sunday, where he reviewed security and inaugurated a new section of ring road construction. Ghani was quoted saying that Afghan security forces would shift from a “defensive to offensive approach” in the new year. The LAT looks at efforts to train more Afghan special forces commandos. A local police commander in Nangarhar’s Khogyani district was killed in a roadside bomb on Sunday. Taliban fighters reportedly executed two civilians in the Shirzad district in Nangarhar on Saturday night. A U.S. airstrike on the outskirts of the Uruzgan provincial capital of Tirin Kot on Saturday reportedly killed eight Taliban fighters. Taliban fighters reportedly seized weapons and ammunition and killed three soldiers in an attack on a checkpost in Ghazni on Saturday. Afghan security forces have reportedly detained at least a dozen foreign fighters and their families, the majority of them Chechen, in operations in Logar province’s Azra district, who are accused of providing explosives training to Taliban fighters in the area. Afghan National Army commandos claim to have killed as many as 76 Taliban fighters in a weeklong operation in the Imam Sahib district in Kunduz. [Ariana News] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [Pajhwok]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Election Preparations: Independent Election Commission operational chief Wasima Badghisi told reporters on Saturday that the IEC was preparing to submit a plan to the presidential palace for review on using paper ballots and voter registration lists, dropping earlier plans for the use of digital lists. Pajhwok reports that the IEC has finalized an assessment of polling station locations, and has increased the overall number of stations to 7,355 nationwide; polling centers were cut in a number of provinces, however, including those which have seen an increase in the number of refugee returnees. [TOLO]
  • Hekmatyar Criticizes Iranian Interference: In remarks on Monday during a visit to Khost, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar criticized Iranian intervention in Afghanistan and indirectly criticized deputy chief executive Mohammad Mohaqiq for his support of the Syrian regime. During earlier remarks on Sunday, Hekmatyar also criticized what he described as “sovereign islands of power” within government ministries, which he suggested had contributed to ethnic polarization; he suggested that members of the Zadran tribe in particular had been marginalized due to their connection to the Haqqani network. Chief Executive Abdullah responded to Hekmatyar’s remarks, saying that “unity among the people is a must” and “talking about ethnic and pitting one province against others is not encouraging anyone towards any positive goal.” [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press]
  • Taliban Talks: In remarks on Sunday, Chief Executive Abdullah said that the government had no preconditions for talks with the Taliban and “if the insurgent group wants, there is no obstacle to open a political office” for the group in Kabul. A spokesman for Abdullah on Saturday said that the government was “assessing” the status of Taliban’s office in Qatar.
  • Protests Over Jerusalem Embassy Move: Wolesi Jirga members and senators broadly criticized the Trump administration’s move of the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem in debate on Saturday and Sunday; the Wolesi Jirga passed a resolution calling for a suspension of relations with the U.S. in response. Protests were held in several provinces on Friday.
  • Cabinet Sworn In: Following their confirmation by parliament in a vote last week, Pres. Ghani swore in eleven cabinet members on Saturday, many of whom had already been leading their ministries in “acting” capacities.

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Harassment All Around, Afghan Women Weigh Risk of Speaking Out [NYT]
  • Pakistan Warns its Citizens of Kidnapping Risks in Afghanistan [Khaama Press]
  • Afghan Ambassador to Pakistan Optimistic Ties Will Improve [Khaama Press] [Dawn]
  • Afghanistan to Attend Meeting of Central Asian Foreign Ministers [TOLO]
  • Work on TAPI in Afghanistan to Begin in Spring, Ministry of Mines Says [TOLO]
  • Ghani Attends Kabul Trade Expo, Stresses Need to Improve Trade Balance [TOLO]
  • Commentary: Afghanistan Now Has a Constitutional Cabinet – “An analysis of the new ministers’ backgrounds also reveals that, unlike previous offerings of candidates, many are not easily identified with the two camps in the National Unity Government (NUG), that of President Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah.” [Thomas Ruttig, AAN]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Zardari and Qadri Call for Shehbaz’s Resignation; More Details on Prince Afghanistan Plan

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Topline

  • Former Pres. Zardari met with Pakistan Awami Tehreek leader Tahir-ul Qadri on Thursday and echoed his calls for the resignation of Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif over the 2014 clashes between PAT activists and the Punjab police in Lahore. Qadri will meet with PTI and PSP leaders on Saturday.
  • Pakistan’s foreign ministry confirmed that it would allow the wife and mother of accused Indian spy Kulbushan Jhadav to meet with him on Dec 25. Separately, two civilians and an Indian soldier were reportedly killed in cross-border firing in Kashmir.
  • Buzzfeed has obtained another copy of Blackwater founder Erik Prince’s proposal for the use of private security contractors to replace U.S. forces in Afghanistan; the proposal also suggests that exploitation of Afghan mineral resources could be used as a basis for funding the intervention.
  • During remarks in Quetta on Thursday, Chief of Army Staff Bajwa expressed concern that Pakistan’s seminaries were not providing students with a “worldly education” or preparing them for jobs outside the mosque.
  • Minister for States and Frontier Regions Abdul Qadir Baloch told a press conference on Friday that the government plans to repeal the Frontier Crimes Regulation in FATA within the coming week, but that the timeline for a merger of FATA with Khyber Paktunkhwa is still uncertain.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • Tensions with India: Police officials in Azad Jammu and Kashmir accuse Indian forces of firing on a funeral service in a border village in the Poonch district on Thursday, killing two people and injuring another woman. The Pakistani military claimed to have killed one Indian soldier in retaliatory fire. Separately, Pakistan’s foreign ministry announced that it would allow a meeting between accused Indian spy Kulbuhshan Jhadav and his wife and mother in Islamabad on Dec 25. [ET] [The Nation]
  • Chinese Security Warning: On Friday, the Chinese embassy in Islamabad issued a warning to its citizens in Pakistan about reports of a “series of terror attacks” aimed at Chinese organizations and personnel; it did not provide further details.
  • Missing Persons Investigations: The senate committee on human rights plans to summon former extrajudicially detained “missing persons” to testify on their experience behind closed doors, and to separately call representatives of Pakistan’s security agencies to testify on the issue. [Dawn] [The Nation]

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Zardari and Qadri Meet: Former Pres. Zardari met with Pakistan Awami Tehreek leader Tahir-ul Qadri on Thursday and joined him in calling for the resignation of Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif over his alleged role in the 2014 Model Town clash between police and PAT activists. Zardari also suggested that the PPP was open to an electoral alliance with the PAT. Qadri will also meet with PTI and Pak Sarzameen Party leaders on Saturday.
  • Army Chief Calls for Revision of Madrass Curriculum: Speaking during a visit to Quetta on Thursday, Chief of Army Staff Bajwa expressed concerns that seminary curriculums were not preparing students with a “worldly education” or for jobs outside the mosque and suggested a need to “revisit the concept”. [Dawn] [ET] [The Nation]
  • FATA Reforms: Speaking at a press conference on Friday, Minister for State and Frontier Regions Abdul Qadir Baloch said that the government planned to repeal the Frontier Crimes Regulation in FATA within a week, but that there was no firm timeline for the merger of the FATA with Khyber Paktunkhwa. Maulana Sami-ul Haq of the JUI-S led a conference of political parties on Thursday, which reiterated demands for FATA’s merger.
  • Criticism for Move of Jerusalem Embassy: The national assembly unanimously passed a resolution on Thursday condemning the Trump administration’s move of the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. The Jamaat-e-Islami has announced plans for a protest at the U.S. consulate in Lahore on Friday. Pakistani diplomats are reportedly seeking to launch a coordinated opposition movement against the shift through the Organization of the Islamic Conference.
  • Other Political Activity: Speaking to reporters on Thursday, special assistant to the prime minister on law Barrister Zafarullah Khan said that if the senate failed to pass legislation allowing for the delimitation of constituencies on the basis of provisional census data, the next general elections would be held on existing lines drawn on the basis of 1998 census data. The Election Commisson will begin revising voter rolls starting Dec 15. [The Nation] [The Nation] [The Nation]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

 

Pakistan – Remainders

  • UAE Transfers Custody of MQM Leader Accused in Baldia Factory Fire [The Nation]
  • PML-F Leader Found Dead in Hyderabad [The Nation]
  • London Mayor Meets PM and FM, Visits Karachi [ET] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Pakistan Transfers Command of Multinational Maritime Task Force to Australia [ET]
  • Chief Justice Hears Land Theft Cases in Sindh [Dawn] [ET]
  • Chinese Diplomat Provides Additional Details on Projects Approved at CPEC JCC Meeting [Dawn]
  • LNG Terminal at Port Qasim Resumes Operations [ET]
  • Rupee-Dollar Exchange Stabilizes After Sharp Deterioration in Early Trading [Dawn]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • Private Security Proposals: Buzzfeed reports on another iteration of Blackwater founder Erik Prince’s proposal to provide security in Afghanistan through the use of a private security contractor force that would augment the Afghan national security forces; the proposal also suggests that exploitation of Afghanistan’s mineral resources could be used as a basis for funding the intervention. The copy of the proposal obtained by Buzzfeed differs from previous version of the plan reported by The Atlantic and Politico, but the report does not clarify the discrepancies or provide a date for this version of the proposal.
  • Attacks and Operations: At least two people were killed and six injured in a bombing at a market in Kabul on Friday; details of the blast are limited. Another bombing killed one person and injured eight at a mosque in Nangarhar’s Mohmand Dara district during Friday prayers; no claim of responsibility has been reported. On Thursday, Nangarhar provincial officials reported that a Taliban commander reportedly charged with managing Taliban prison facilities in the province had been killed in an Afghan special forces raid in the Hesarak district. Wardak police officials announced that they destroyed a Taliban “treatment facility” during operations in the Syedabad district on Thursday, killing “several” Taliban fighters. Afghan National Army commandos reportedly killed at least twenty Taliban fighters in Kunduz’s Imam Sahib district in an operation on Thursday. [Pajhwok]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Criticism for Move of Jerusalem Embassy: U.S. military personnel in Afghanistan are reportedly on alert over the possibility of violent protests after the announcement by the Trump administration of plans to move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. Former Pres. Karzai has joined other Afghan leaders in condemning the move.
  • Refugee Deportations: A group of 27 Afghan refugees who were denied asylum in Germany were repatriated in a flight to Kabul on Thursday.

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Pakistan Shares Proposals for Joint Working Groups with Afghanistan [Khaama Press]
  • Interior Ministry Aims to Double Number of Female Police [TOLO]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: PML-N Under Pressure from PAT and Pir Sialvi Faction; Jerusalem Embassy Move Criticized

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Topline

  • Pakistan Awami Tehreek leader Tahirul Qadri warned that he would launch street protests if Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Law Minister Rana Sanaullah were not convicted following the release of the inquiry report on the 2014 Model Town clashes between PAT activists and Punjab police; the PTI voiced support for the PAT’s position, and former Pres. Zardari is reportedly meeting with Qadri today. Meanwhile, Pir Hameeduddin Sialvi, the leader of the Sial Sharif shrine in Sargodha, announced that he was splitting from the PML-N over separate demands for Sanaullah’s resignation, and said that a group of at least 15 PML-N legislators in the national and provincial assemblies would quit the party at a gathering in Faisalabad on Dec 10.
  • Pres. Ghani issued a statement on Thursday expressing concern over the Trump administration’s plans to shift the location of the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem; the Taliban also denounced the move, as did PM Abbasi of Pakistan and other leaders in both countries.
  • Imran Khan appeared before an Islamabad anti-terrorism court on Thursday in response to charges related to the PTI’s 2014 sit-ins; his lawyers argued the court lacked jurisdiction over the issue. The Islamabad High Court ruled on Thursday that the corruption cases against Nawaz Sharif should be heard simultaneously and verdicts issued simultaneously.
  • Anonymous Pakistani sources maintain that they successfully rebuffed demands from Sec. Mattis during his visit earlier this week to take action against militant safe havens.
  • Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission will use national ID cards for voter registration and will not seek to introduce a broader biometric voter registration system, IEC secretary for operations Wasima Badghisi told an interviewer on Wednesday. Speaking in Kabul on Thursday, Abdul Rasool Sayyaf warned of a national crisis if elections were delayed.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • US Relations: Anonymous Pakistani sources tell the Express Tribune that Pakistani officials told visiting U.S. Secretary of Defense Mattis earlier this week that Pakistan would not accept demands to “do more” against militant safe havens in the country and would not conduct joint operations inside Pakistan; those sources also claim that “the firm stance adopted by the country’s civil and military leadership is likely to make US change its current stance”. Speaking on Thursday, Pakistan Air Force Chief Marshal Sohail Aman said that the PAF had been ordered to shoot down any drones, including those of the U.S., that violated Pakistani airspace.
  • Engineer Freed in Afghanistan: A Pakistani engineer working on a Frontier Works Organization-managed road project linking Torkham and Jalalabad who was kidnapped in August was freed and reunited with his family on Wednesday, the Pakistani military announced; details of his recovery were not disclosed.
  • Other Military Operations: Two terrorist suspects were killed in a military operation in the Swat district on Wednesday, the military announced; on Thursday, army forces reportedly identified and cleared a bomb-making factory in a network of caves in the Khyber Agency. No arrests were reported in the latter case. [ET] [The Nation]

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • PAT Threatens Protests After Model Town Inquiry Report Released: Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday following the Punjab government’s publication of its inquiry into the Model Town clash, PAT leader Tahirul Qadri said that he would launch a new protest movement if Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Law Minister Rana Sanaullah were not convicted. The PTI’s main spokesman voiced support for the PAT’s position, and Imran Khan told reporters that he would support PAT street protests. Former Pres. Zardari spoke by phone with Qadri on Wednesday and is expected to meet with him on Thursday.  [ET] [The Nation]
  • Other Political Activity: Pir Hameeduddin Sialvi, the leader of the Sial Sharif shrine in Sargodha, announced on Wednesday that he was disassociating himself from the PML-N over its failure to meet his demands to remove Law Minister Rana Sanaullah from office, saying that at least fifteen members of the national and provincial assembly would follow him by submitting their resignations at an event scheduled to take place on Dec 10 in Faisalabad. On Wednesday, JUI-S leader Sami-ul Haq announced that his party would ally with the PTI instead of joining a coalition of other religious parties during the next general elections, a move that Sami suggested would “block the victory of liberal and secular forces”. On Thursday, the Election Commission responded to a PTI petition by stating that despite not taking an oath of office since winning elections in September, Kulsoom Nawaz remained a national assembly member and was not subject to disqualification. [ET] [ET] [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation] [Dawn]
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: Speaking to reporters in London on Wednesday, Nawaz Sharif reiterated criticisms of the judicial rulings that led to his disqualification from office, and suggested that all past inquiry commission reports should be made public, not just the recently-released inquiry into the Model Town clashes between police and Pakistan Awami Tehreek protestors in 2014. On Thursday, the Islamabad High Court ruled that three corruption cases against Nawaz should be heard simultaneously, and for a decision in all three cases to be issued simultaneously. The accountability court hearing cases against Nawaz rejected an objection from his lawyers to the inclusion of a witness, Noreen Shahzad, whose name was not included by prosecutors in an initial witness list. Separately, Imran Khan appeared before an Islamabad anti-terrorism court on Thursday, where his lawyers challenged its jurisdiction to hear charges against him dating back to the PTI’s 2014 sit-in. [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Criticism of Jerusalem Embassy Move: In a statement on Wednesday, PM Abbasi’s office warned against the Trump administration’s plans to move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, which it said was a “severe blow to the Middle East peace process”. PML-N senate leader Raja Zafarul Haq also called for a conference of Muslim nations to respond to the move. [ET]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • CPEC Financing: During talks with Pakistan’s finance ministry on Wednesday, IMF officials warned that repayment obligations for loans taken to finance China-Pakistan Economic Corridor construction projects could peak at 1.6% of GDP, or $3.5-4.5 billion per year, by 2024.

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Parliamentary Delegation Visits Miram Shah, Line of Control  [ET] [The Nation]
  • PM Abbasi to Oversee Meeting on ICJ Filing in Jhadav Case [Dawn]
  • Punjab Government to Vet Curriculum for ‘Objectionable’ Material [ET]
  • Senate Human Rights Committee Seeks Testimony from ‘Missing Persons’ [Dawn]
  • London Mayor Sadiq Khan Visits Islamabad [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Agha Khan Visits Islamabad [ET]
  • PM Abbasi Approves Formation of Capital Mass Transit Authority [The Nation]
  • LNG Terminal Breakdown Disrupts Gas Supplies [Dawn]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Criticism of Jerusalem Embassy Move: In a statement on Thursday, Pres. Ghani’s office said that the Trump administration’s plans to move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem “will not result in a positive and permanent solution”, and said that the Afghan government had shared “its deep concerns with US leadership through diplomatic channels”. Chief Executive Abdullah echoed those concerns in a separate statement. Speaking at a meeting in Kabul on Thursday, Abdul Rasool Sayyaf warned that the move was an “irreparable mistake”. A spokesman for the Taliban said that the United States had “exposed its colonialist face and declared enmity toward Islam as well as support for policy of occupation and colonization of Muslim lands.” [Khaama Press]
  • Election Preparations: In an interview on Wednesday, Independent Election Commission operational secretary Wasima Badghisi said that the IEC had agreed not to introduce a biometric verification system for voter registration and would use existing ID cards instead. Speaking at Thursday’s gathering, Abdul Rasool Sayyaf warned of a national crisis if elections were not held on time.
  • Cabinet Confirmations: In a statement on Thursday, Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor criticized parliament’s rejection of Nargis Nehan as minister of mines and petroleum, the only female candidate and the only candidate to be rejected in the most recent round of confirmation votes.

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • ADB to Finance Pul-e-Khumri-Surkhan Power Project [TOLO]
  • MOI Torches Nine Tons of Drugs Seized in Kabul [TOLO]
  • Report: Disease or Symptom: Afghanistan’s Burgeoning Opium Economy in 2017 – “Though opium cultivation and production have always been volatile, what happened in 2017 goes well beyond normal year-to-year fluctuations.” [William Byrd, AREU (pdf)]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Punjab Govt Releases Model Town Inquiry Report; ANA and NATO Introduce Child Protection Policy

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Topline

  • The Punjab government opted not to challenge a Lahore High Court verdict ordering the publication an inquiry into the 2014 clash between Pakistan Awami Tehreek activists and Punjab police in Lahore, releasing the report; Law Minister Rana Sanaullah, who receives the bulk of the blame in the report for the clash, dismissed its findings at a press conference on Tuesday. The PTI and PAT called for his resignation.
  • Afghanistan’s defense minister signed an agreement with NATO’s Resolute Support mission on a new child protection policy, which includes new reporting procedures for allegations of child abuse.
  • At least six people were killed in a bombing in North Waziristan on Tuesday that targeted an army vehicle; in Balochistan, three laborers working for the National Logistics Cell were killed in an attack by unidentified militants.
  • Afghan womens’ activists called on the national unity government to re-nominate Nargis Nehan after parliament’s rejection of her nomination as petroleum minister earlier this week, the only one of twelve candidates whose nominations were rejected.
  • Pakistan began talks on Tuesday with the IMF on its plans for repayment of the $6.2 billion Extended Fund Facility loan program that ended last September; repayment is due to begin in 2018.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • FATA Attacks: At least six people were killed and eight injured when a bomb planted on a motorcycle was detonated near an army vehicle in North Waziristan’s Mir Ali area on Tuesday evening; no immediate claim of responsibility was reported. [Reuters] [AFP] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Balochistan Laborers Killed: Three laborers working for the National Logistics Cell on a railway construction project were killed and a fourth wounded in an attack by unidentified militants in Balochistan’s Harnai district on Tuesday; no claim of responsibility has been reported. [Dawn]
  • Arms Licensing: At a federal cabinet meeting on Tuesday, PM Abbasi approved a proposal to lift a ban on the issuance of arms license for “non-prohibited bore” weapons and to allow the licensing of automatic weapons that are converted to semi-automatic function.

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Inquiry Report Released into 2014 Lahore Clash: Following the Lahore High Court’s verdict on Tuesday ordering the release of an inquiry report into the 2014 clash between Punjab police and Pakistan Awami Tehreek activists in Lahore’s Model Town neighborhood, the Punjab government opted not to file an appeal and instead released the report, which can be found here. The report principally lays blame for the clash, in which 14 people died, on Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah; police officers interviewed for the inquiry refused to specify who gave the order to open fire, however. Sanaullah held a press conference on Tuesday as the report was released, arguing that it lacked sufficient evidence; the government also released a parallel report by former Lahore High Court chief justice Khalilur Rehman Khan, which argued against accepting the findings of the main inquiry. Dawn notes that ISI and Intelligence Bureau assessments of the clashed collected for the inquiry differ on whether protestors were armed and who may have opened fire first, with the ISI blaming police and the IB blaming protestors. PAT leader Tahirul Qadri accused the government of tampering with the inquiry before publication. Imran Khan and other PTI opposition leaders in Punjab called for Sanaullah’s resignation on Wednesday. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation] [The Nation] [ET]
  • US Talks: In an interview on Tuesday following talks with Sec. Mattis, Foreign Minister Asif said that Mattis and his delegation had sought to assure Pakistan that “there would be no military role of India in Afghanistan”. Chief of Army Staff Bajwa met with corps commanders in Rawalpindi on Tuesday to discuss the meeting with Mattis, as well as his recent visit to Saudi Arabia and Iran; details of those discussions were not disclosed. [Dawn] [ET] [The Nation]
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: The accountability court hearing corruption charges against Nawaz Sharif heard witness statements during hearings on Wednesday, who testified to various bank transfers carried out by Sharif between 2010-2017. [Dawn]
  • Other Political Activity: PPP senator Taj Haider, the party’s parliamentary leader in the senate, tells Dawn the party will not accept legislation reapportioning constituencies on the basis of provisional census data unless the party’s demands regarding the audit of census results were met. A senate session has been called for Dec 11. PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari led a rally of party supporters in Islamabad on Tuesday evening, commemorating the party’s 50th founding anniversary; former Pres. Zardari also attended, and told the crowd that “we will not save [the PML-N’s] democracy… we will bring our own democracy”. [The Nation] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • IMF Talks: Pakistan began talks with the IMF on Tuesday to review its repayment of the $6.2 billion Extended Fund Facility loan program that it completed last September; repayment is scheduled to begin in 2018.
  • Polio Crisis: A new polio case was registered in Karachi on Tuesday, the second such reported case in the past three months; officials said that the child, from an Afghan migrant family, had previously been vaccinated but had not received other immunizations and had suffered from malnutrition.

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Lahore Peace Activist Still Missing [Reuters] [ET] [The Nation]
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa to Armor 454 Police Vehicles [ET]
  • Three Karachi Police Officers Suspended on Corruption Charges [ET]
  • Arms Cache Seized in Chaman [The Nation]
  • London Mayor Sadiq Khan Visits Lahore [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Cabinet Rejects Proposal for Pensions for Parliamentarians [ET]
  • Oil Power Plants Resume Generation [ET]
  • Supreme Court Presses Sindh Leadership On Karachi Drinking Water Quality [Dawn]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • Defense Minister Signs Child Protection Policy: On Tuesday, Defense Minister Tariq Shah Bahrami signed an agreement with the NATO Resolute Support mission adopting policies aimed at protecting children from violence, including new reporting procedures for allegations of child abuse.
  • Anti-Corruption Investigator Killed: The LAT profiles Almar Habibzai, a police officer working with the Major Crimes Task Force investigating high-profile corruption cases, who was killed outside his home in Kabul in mid-October.
  • Attacks and Operations: On Tuesday, the Pentagon released video showing the airstrike on a vehicle in Helmand last week that killed Mullah Shah Wali, the Taliban “Red Group” commander killed on Dec 1. The Pentagon also confirmed Afghan reports of a joint operation that killed a senior Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent commander, Omar Khetab. On Tuesday, Afghan army officials in Nangarhar reported that as many as 25 ISIS fighters had been killed in airstrikes in the Achin district. [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Women Criticize Rejection of Nehan Nomination: A meeting of activists at the Afghan Womens Network in Kabul on Tuesday called on the national unity government to re-nominate Nargis Nehan as minister of mines and petroleum after her nomination was rejected by parliament, the only one of twelve candidates to be rejected.
  • Taliban Talks: Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, High Peace Council chairman Karim Khalili said that Indonesian religious scholars he met with during a visit to Jakarta last month had offered to “play their role to constitute a regional consensus of religious scholars” in support of an Afghan peace process. HPC secretary Akram Khpulwak said that the HPC was open to talks with the Taliban “through whatever mechanism they suggest”. [Ariana News] [TOLO]

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • VP Danish Calls for Mobilization Campaign Against Illiteracy [Ariana News]
  • US to ‘Set Up a New Military Camp in Afghanistan’ [Dawn]
  • Respiratory Diseases on the Rise Due to Pollution [TOLO]
  • Report: The Game of Numbers: Analysis of the National Budget 2018 – “While lack of political will and weaknesses in the executive have resulted in a weak national budget document and a sluggish implementation, the parliament has distorted the whole budget process in their own favor.” [Integrity Watch Afghanistan (pdf)

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Mattis Says Pakistan ‘Must Redouble its Efforts’; NDS Reports AQ Commander Killed in Ghazni

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Topline

  • Sec. Mattis held talks with Pakistani civilian and military leaders on Monday, during which he reiterated that Pakistan “must redouble its efforts to confront militants and terrorists operating within the country”.
  • Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security announced on Tuesday that a joint U.S.-Afghan operation in Ghazni had killed Omar bin Khatab aka Omar Mansoor, identified as the second-ranking commander of the Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent branch; as many as 80 other Al Qaeda fighters were also said to have been killed. Details were limited and US military officials have not yet commented on the reports.
  • The Lahore High Court ordered the public release of an inquiry report on the 2014 clash between Punjab police and Pakistan Awami Tehreek activists in Lahore.
  • China has reportedly temporarily halted financing for at least three CPEC-funded highway construction projects in Pakistan, citing the need for “new guidelines” for project approval.
  • Pres. Ghani met with China’s special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan on Monday, who proposed that China will host a trilateral ministerial conference with the three countries. Ghani also visited Uzbekistan on Monday and Tuesday, where he signed new cooperation agreements.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • Mattis Meets with Military and Civilian Leaders: Sec. Mattis met separately with Pakistani civilian and military leaders during a visit to Islamabad and Rawalpindi on Monday; a statement by the U.S. embassy said that Mattis had “reiterated that Pakistan must redouble its efforts to confront militants and terrorists operating within the country”, while a statement from PM Abbasi’s office said that Pakistan was committed to “eradicating terrorism once and for all in all its forms and manifestations”, comments that were echoed by Chief of Army Staff Bajwa. [Reuters] [AP] [ET] [ET] [The Nation]
  • Missing Persons: Raza Mahmood, a social activist who had worked on India-Pakistan dialogues, has reportedly disappeared from his home in Lahore. During Supreme Court hearings on Monday, a commission investigating cases of missing persons reported that nearly 1,500 cases are still under investigation, the majority from Khyber Paktunkhwa.

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: On Tuesday, the Lahore High Court ordered the public release of an inquiry into a 2014 clash between Punjab police and Pakistan Awami Tehreek activists in Lahore that left 14 dead; PAT leader Tahirul Qadri welcomed the order, and reiterated calls for Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif to resign. An accountability court hearing corruption charges against Nawaz Sharif and family continued hearings on Tuesday; Nawaz and his daughter Maryam Nawaz departed for London after receiving exemptions from mandatory appearances at Monday’s hearings, and were represented by their lawyers. Hasan and Hussain Nawaz, Nawaz’s sons, were declared “proclaimed offenders” on Monday as they continue to skip court hearings. [The Nation] [The Nation] [The Nation] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Interim Law Minister Named: Zafarullah Khan, current a special assistant to the prime minister on law, has been appointed acting federal law minister until a formal replacement for former Law Minister Zahid Hamid is named, Dawn reports.
  • Other Political Activity: Imran Khan led a rally in Layyah on Monday, where he pledged to pursue agricultural reforms, introduce new education policies, reform taxes, and increase investment. The PPP will hold a rally in Islamabad on Tuesday as part of its celebrations of its 50th founding anniversary. MQM-Pakistan leader Farooq Sattar led a rally in Mirpurkhas on Monday, where he dismissed the formation of a new faction by former party leader Saleem Shehzad; the party is also planning a rally in Hyderabad on Dec 8. The Jamaat-e-Islami’s FATA chapter plans to lead a protest march on Islamabad starting Dec 10 to demand action on the planned merger between FATA and Khyber Paktunkhw aprovince. In an interview on Sunday, former Pres. Musharraf suggested he would be open to forming an electoral alliance with the Jamaat-ud-Dawa’s political party. [ET] [The Nation] [Dawn]  [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • CPEC Investment: Dawn reports that China has temporarily halted funding for at least three highway construction projects previously approved under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor framework; Chinese officials at the most recent Joint Coordination Committee meeting are reported to have told their Pakistani counterparts that “new guidelines” for approval were being developed.

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Balochistan Home Minister Links Police Attackers to TTP in Afghanistan [Dawn] [ET]
  • PTI Dismisses Government Claims of ‘Zero Loadshedding’ [ET]
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Rejects Proposed Gas Tariff Revisions [ET]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • Al Qaeda Targets Reportedly Killed: On Tuesday, Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security intelligence agency announced that a joint U.S.-Afghan operation in Ghazni’s Gilan district had killed Omar bin Khatab, also known as Omar Mansoor, identified as the second-ranking commander of the Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent branch. The statement, which did not specify when the operation took place, also claimed that as many as 80 other Al Qaeda fighters were killed and 27 arrested in parallel operations in Paktia and Zabul provinces; the NATO Resolute Support mission has not commented on the operation. [Reuters] [RFE/RL] [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • Other Attacks and Operations: Afghan army officials in Helmand reported that U.S. and Afghan forces had carried out over 400 airstrikes in the province during the last eight months. Provincial government officials reported that nine Taliban fighters were killed in operations in the Musa Qala and Gereshk districts on Tuesday. In Nangarhar, police officials reported that six militants were killed in airstrikes in the Haska Mina district on Sunday; further details were not reported.

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Regional Diplomacy: Pres. Ghani met with China’s special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Deng Xijun, on Monday; China has reportedly proposed to convene a meeting of the three countries at the foreign minister level. Ghani traveled to Uzbekistan on Monday afternoon, and signed a bilateral cooperation agreement with his counterpart Shaat Mirziyoyev on Tuesday. On Monday, the High Peace Council announced that an Indonesian delegation will visit Kabul later this month to hold talks on the Afghan peace process, following a visit by chairman Karim Kalili to Jakarta last month. [Pajhwok] [TOLO] [Ariana News]
  • Election Preparations: In a statement on Monday, a spokesman for Pres. Ghani said that the government was consulting with civil society representatives on a choice for a new Independent Election Commission chairman; the selection commission which Ghani previously tasked with proposing new nominees does not yet appear to have met.

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Former Takhar Governor Appointed Deputy for National Security Council [Khaama Press]
  • National Procurement Commission Approves Afs 3.6B in Projects [Khaama Press]
  • Female Army Officers Travel to India for Training [Khaama Press]
  • Commentary: The 2018 Afghan National Budget: Confronting Hard Realities by Accelerating Reforms – “Afghanistan’s fundamental structural problems remain: it is highly aid dependent, has a persistently large fiscal gap (less revenue than spending) and will see a progressive squeeze on public investment over time.” [Kate Clark and Bill Byrd, AAN]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Mattis Arrives in Pakistan for Talks; Atta Again Blocked from Kandahar Opposition Meeting

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Topline

  • Sec. Mattis arrived in Pakistan on Monday for talks with senior Pakistani civilian and military leaders; he told reporters prior to his arrival that he was expecting to see “action reflected in their policies” against terrorism. Speaking at a separate forum in California, CIA Director Pompeo said that should Pakistan fail to take action against terrorist groups, “we are going to do everything we can to make sure that that safe haven no longer exists”.
  • On Saturday Nawaz Sharif took part in a rally in Quetta sponsored by coalition partners the Paktunkhwa Milli Awami Party. The PML-N has constituted a new Central Executive Committee, which includes leadership roles for Maryam Nawaz and Hamza Shehbaz. On Monday, the Islamabad High Court denied another petition from Nawaz to consolidate the corruption cases against him into a single proceeding; his lawyers have filed another parallel petition on the issue with the Supreme Court.
  • Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor and Batur Dostum, the vice president’s son, were again blocked from traveling to Kandahar on Saturday to attend a conference on opposition leaders. Some other leaders did participate in the meeting; government spokesmen denied reports that Kandahar governor Zalmay Weesa had been dismissed for failing to stop the meeting from occurring.
  • The Wolesi Jirga voted on Monday to approve the nominations of nine cabinet nominees, but rejected the nomination of Nargis Nehan as minister of mines and petroleum, the only female candidate.
  • A senior Taliban commander in Helmand, Mullah Shah Wali, was reported to have been killed in an airstrike in the Musa Qala district last week; he reportedly commanded the Taliban’s “Red Group” special forces unit.
  • Six people were killed in a suicide bomb at a gathering held in support of Pres. Ghani in Jalalabad on Sunday; no claim of responsibility was reported for the attack, which followed an ISIS-claimed rocket attack that struck a Jalalabad TV station and killed two security personnel.
  • The Tehreek-e-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah faction led by Maulana Asif Jalali ended its sit-in on Friday without the resignation of Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah, but with reported concessions from the government on clerical review of the provincial education curriculum and of restrictions on the use of loudspeakers at mosques. Jalali professed that he was ready to quit the TLYRA movement after the sit-in ended. The Supreme Court and Islamabad High Court criticized the response to the Islamabad sit-ins last month; an IHC judge said that the settlement agreement brokered by the military was unconstitutional.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • Mattis Arrives for Talks: Sec. Mattis arrived in Pakistan on Monday for talks on the U.S. strategy towards the region; he met first with PM Abbasi and with top civilian officials and is expected to meet with Chief of Army Staff Bajwa. Abbasi told reporters after their meeting that “we’re committed (to) the war against terror … nobody wants peace in Afghanistan more than Pakistan”. Speaking earlier to reporters while traveling to Egypt on the first leg of his trip, Mattis said that his meetings in Pakistan were an effort “to go in and set the conditions for future collaboration that leads to reconciliation in Afghanistan and a denial of safe havens for any terrorist group that would attack anyone in the region or elsewhere in the world”. Mattis was also quoted saying that “we have heard from Pakistan leaders that they do not support terrorism. So I expect to see that sort of action reflected in their policies.” Speaking separately at a forum in California, CIA Director Mike Pompeo said that should Pakistan fail to take action, “we are going to do everything we can to make sure that that safe haven no longer exists”. [AP] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Peshawar ATI Attack Aftermath: Peshawar police and security services arrested at least nine suspects in Saturday raids on the outskirts of the city following Friday’s attack on the Agricultural Training Institute, which was claimed by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan. The PML-N’s Khyber Paktunkhwa chapter president Amir Muqam blamed “external enemies” for the attack; in a statement on Saturday, the Pakistani military said that it had conveyed “substantial evidence of TTP sanctuaries” in Afghanistan to a visiting Afghan military delegation. The Express Tribune notes that CCTV cameras at the institute were not connected to hard drives to store surveillance data, complicating the investigation. [ET] [The Nation]
  • Balochistan Conflict: A child was killed and two others injured in a bombing near a Christian neighborhood in the town of Chaman, Balochistan, on Friday; no claim of responsibility has been reported. On Sunday, the military announced the arrest of 11 suspected members of the Baloch Republican Army after raids in the Sibbi district. Paramilitary forces in the Kohlu district also announced the seizure of an arms cache on Sunday; no arrests were reported. [ET] [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Mohmand Bombing: A roadside bombing in the Mohmand Agency on Saturday killed Malik Ameer Rehman, a pro-government tribal elder.

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Nawaz Rallies in Quetta: Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif spoke at a rally sponsored by PML-N coalition partners the Paktunkhwa Milli Awami Party in Quetta on Saturday, where he touted the PML-N’s development record and rejected the corruption charges that led to his disqualification from office, saying that “only the people, electing the rulers, should have the authority to remove them through [the] ballot”. On Saturday the PML-N announced the formation of a new Central Executive Committee; second-generation leaders Maryam Nawaz and Hamza Shehbaz were included in the group’s membership. Nawaz has summoned a meeting of the group in Islamabad on Monday, and will reportedly travel to London on Tuesday. [Dawn] [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: Lawyers for Nawaz Sharif continue to petition the Supreme Court to consolidate the corruption cases against him into a single reference; on Monday, the Islamabad High Court rejected a parallel petition seeking the consolidation of two cases. The accountability court hearing those cases resumed hearings after the IHC verdict; Nawaz was granted a weeklong exemption from court appearances. Separately, the PTI has again petitioned the Election Commission demanding an investigation into overseas fundraising by the PPP and PML-N. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • Lahore Tehreek-e-Labbaik Sit-In Ends: On Friday evening, the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah faction led by Maulana Asif Jalali announced that it was ending its weeklong sit-in outside the Punjab Assembly in Lahore; the protestors had unsuccessfully sought the resignation of Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah. The government has reportedly agreed to reconsider restrictions on the use of loudspeakers by mosques, and to allow for a religious review of the Punjab education curriculum. Jalali, whose faction has split from the group led by Maulana Khadim Rizvi, also professed that he was preparing to resign from the movement. Dawn has a detailed profile of Rizvi and the TLYRA. On Saturday, the Supreme Court issued an order in a case initiated in response to last month’s protests in Islamabad, ordering further reports from the interior and defense ministries about casualties during the crackdown and upholding a temporary ban on broadcasts of the protests by PEMRA. During hearings on Monday, an Islamabad High Court judge said that the agreement ending the Islamabad sit-in was unconstitutional. [WAPO] [APP] [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • PML-N and PPP Hold Talks: The Express Tribune reports that National Assembly Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq and PPP opposition leader Khurshid Shah have agreed that the two parties will “work together to avert the possibility of the formation of a technocrat government”; speaking at a press conference on Sunday, Shah said that the PPP “will not compromise on democracy”. Former prime minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani told reporters on Saturday that the PPP would not hold talks with Nawaz Sharif, however. [ET] [The Nation]
  • JUD to Contest 2018 Elections: Speaking at a meeting with a group of reporters in Lahore on Saturday, Jamaat-ud-Dawa leader Hafiz Saeed confirmed that JuD’s Milli Muslim League political party affiliate would contest the next general elections to “highlight the Kashmir cause internationally”.
  • Other Political Activity: On Saturday, former MQM leader Saleem Shehzad announced that he planned to launch his own political party to contest the next general elections; he returned to Pakistan in February after several years in exile as an aide to Altaf Hussain. MQM-Pakistan deputy convener Kamran Tessori announced he was quitting the party on Sunday, after joining it earlier this year. Speaking on Sunday, MQM-P leader Farooq Sattar said that he was no longer seeking an alliance with the Pak Sarzameen Party, saying “we made sincere efforts for unity but the other side wasted it”. Speaking in Nowshera on Saturday, JUI-S leader Sami ul-Haq said that his party would decide whether to join the PTI or a revived Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal coalition after consultations on Dec 6. Former PTI leader Javed Hashmi met with Nawaz Sharif on Monday and agreed to “fight together for democracy”, although he stopped short of announcing that he was rejoining the PML-N. Imran Khan led a rally in Chistian on Sunday. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation]

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Pakistan and Saudi Arabia Conduct Counter-Terrorism Drills in Riyadh [ET] [AFP]
  • At SCO Summit, PM Abbasi Calls for ‘Keeping Politics Out of Regional Trade’ [Dawn] [APP]
  • Foreign Minister Proposes Joint Military-Industrial Investment with Azerbaijan and Turkey [The Nation]
  • National Security Advisor Confirms Backchannel Talks with India [The Nation]
  • Supreme Court Continues Hearings on ‘Missing Persons’ [Dawn]
  • Three Badin Police Officials Convicted for Detention of Former Home Minister Mirza’s Aide in 2015 [Dawn] [ET]
  • Police Kill Three Militant Suspects in Faisalabad [The Nation]
  • Three Police Officers Arrested Over Counterfeit Arms Licensing Scam [Dawn] [ET]
  • Debt Sustainability Indicators Head to Dangerous Threshold [ET]
  • LPG Dealers to Go On Strike Against Duty Imposition [Dawn]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • Taliban Commander Killed in Helmand: Mullah Shah Wali, also known as Mullah Nasir, was killed in an airstrike in Helmand’s Musa Qala district last week, the NDS announced on Sunday. He was identified as the commander of a Taliban special forces unit known as the “Red Group”. The Taliban have not confirmed his death. Three other Taliban fighters were also reported to have been killed in the strike. [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • Jalalabad Attacks: At least six people were killed and thirteen wounded in a suicide attack in the Nangarhar provincial capital of Jalalabad on Sunday, which targeted a rally at a soccer stadium that was being carried out in support of Pres. Ghani; no claim of responsibility was reported. Earlier on Saturday, rockets struck near a private TV station in the city, killing at least two security personnel and wounding ten people; the Islamic State claimed responsibility for that attack. [AP] [TOLO]
  • Border Force Shifted to MOD: On Saturday, Pres. Ghani authorized the transfer of the Afghan Border Force from the control of the ministry of interior to the ministry of defense, which he said would help create a “united command”. In his comments at the ceremony with Border Force officials, Ghani also denounced remarks by deputy chief executive Mohammad Mohaqiq, who had described his critics as supporters of ISIS; Ghani subsequently issued an apology statement on Sunday after he suggested that “those who have made such claims should prove it and those who are unable to prove it must wear [a] head scarf”, which were criticized as denigrating women. Meanwhile, SIGAR released an audit report on Friday which found that $9.48 Million in customs inspection equipment procured by CENTCOM in 2006 for Afghan border crossings was unused as of March-April 2017. [Ariana News] [Khaama Press] [TOLO]
  • Other Attacks and Operations: Reuters examines the formation of an ISIS affiliate in Jawzjan after the defection of a local Taliban commander; in another piece, Kunduz residents report some improved security from Taliban threats, but growing concerns over crime and kidnappings. The LAT investigates the rise in civilian casualties accompanying the rise in the use of airstrikes by U.S. and Afghan forces. A magnetic bomb planted on a container belonging to Afghan security personnel wounded four people in Kabul on Saturday morning; no claim of responsibility was reported. Three Afghan police officers and a security contractor were killed in a Taliban attack in Farah province’s Posht Rod district on Saturday. U.S. and Afghan airstrikes in Nangarhar’s Khogyani and Achin districts reportedly killed four ISIS fighters on Thursday and twelve ISIS fighters on Saturday. [TOLO] [Pajhwok] [Khaama Press]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Opposition Politicians Meet in Kandahar: Opposition politicians met in Kandahar on Saturday; Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor and Batur Dostum, Vice Pres. Dostum’s elder son, did not attend after their flights from Mazar-e-Sharif were again delayed and cancelled on Friday, which the Civil Aviation Authority attributed to flight schedule delays. The Jamiat-e-Islami party denounced the cancellations, accusing the government of not respecting the “values of democracy, freedom of movement, speech, and other forms of freedom”. Former NDS chief Rahmatullah Nabil, who attend the gathering, also accused the government of “creating divisions among the people”. Speaking separately in Kabul on Friday, Abdul Rasool Sayyaf said that politicians should uphold “the national interests”, and voiced support for the formation of a constitutional Loya Jirga. There were reports on Saturday that Kandahar governor Zalmay Weesa was fired after failing to stop the opposition gathering from happening; Weesa denied those reports, and a spokesman for Pres. Ghani also rejected them. On Monday, Vice Pres. Dostum and deputy chief executive Mohammad Mohaqiq met in Anakara to discuss their alliance and the security situation in Afghanistan.  [TOLO] [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [Ariana News]
  • Cabinet Confirmations: Cabinet nominees for the ministries of of defense, interior, work and social affairs, mines and petroleum, and transport appeared before the Wolesi Jirga on Saturday to present their plans for their ministries; the nominees for the ministries of economy, agriculture, communications and IT, and borders and tribal affairs appeared on Sunday. On Monday, the Wolesi Jirga voted to approve the nomination of 11 ministers, but rejected the nomination of Minister of Mines Nargis Nehan, the only woman among them. [Pajhwok]
  • Regional Relations: Speaking at Friday’s Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Russia, Chief Executive Abdullah called on member states to “use their leverage and contacts with armed Afghan militant groups to urge they enter into intra-Afghan talks”, and sought permanent membership for Afghanistan in the SCO. Abdullah also met with Russian PM Medvedev on the sidelines of the summit. Pres. Ghani met with parliamentary representatives on Sunday, and was reported to have told them that the Afghan government was committed to strengthening bilateral cooperation with India. Meanwhile, Beijing will host an Afghanistan-China Joint Economic and Trade Commission meeting on Monday. [Khaama Press]

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Former Public Order Police Force Commander Sentenced for Misuse of Authority [Khaama Press]
  • Resolute Support to Develop Balkh and Kandahar Military Airports [TOLO]
  • 11-Year Old Has Spent Her Life in Jail, a Serial Killer as a Cellmate [NYT]
  • Afghanistan and Azerbaijan Sign Five Agreements [TOLO]
  • Iran Inaugurates Extension of Chabahar Port [AP] [TOLO]

 

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: TTP Attack Peshawar Campus; Atta Noor Blocked from Traveling to Kandahar Opposition Meeting

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Topline

  • Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan gunmen attacked the campus of the Peshawar Agricultural Training Institute on Friday morning, killing at least nine people and wounding dozens more. The attack followed a roadside bombing in South Waziristan on Thursday that killed a pro-government militia leader and former TTP commander.
  • Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor and Vice Pres. Dostum’s son Batur Dostum were reportedly barred from flying from Mazar-e-Sharif to Kandahar on Thursday evening, where they had planned to attend a gathering of other political leaders; they denounced the move and accused the presidential palace of blocking their travel. The Kandahar meeting has been postponed until Saturday; organizers warned of “serious consequences” if Noor was not allowed to attend.
  • Chief Executive Abdullah took part in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Russia on Thursday, and Pres. Ghani visited Azerbaijan for a meeting of the “Heart of Asia” regional forum on Afghanistan.
  • The PPP commemorated its 50th founding anniversary on Thursday. Nawaz Sharif has tasked top party aides with reaching out to dissident lawmakers within the party, rather than punishing them for skipping a vote to block PPP legislation that would have barred him from continuing as party chief.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • TTP Attacks Peshawar Agricultural Training Institute: At least nine people were killed and 32 wounded in an attack by at least three gunmen gunmen dressed in burqas on the Peshawar Agricultural Training Institute campus on Friday morning; the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan claimed responsibility for the attack, and claimed to have been targeting an ISI safe house. Police sources tell Dawn that all of the gunmen were wearing suicide vests but that none detonated. A spokesman for the Pakistani military said that the TTP claim of responsibility proved that the attack had been planned across the border in Afghanistan. The attack coincided with celebrations of the birthday of Prophet Mohammad, and a large portion of the student community was not present at the time. [AFP] [Reuters] [The Nation]
  • Militia Members Killed: Wali Jan Mehsud, the leader of a pro-government militia in South Waziristan’s Spinkai area and former TTP commander, was killed along with four other tribal elders in a roadside bombing on Thursday; the local Sajna or Mehsud group faction of the TTP claimed responsibility for the attack. Separately, one soldier was killed and another wounded in a roadside bomb in the Mohmand Agency on Friday. [AP] [ET] [The Nation]

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Islamabad Protest Aftermath: Dawn follows other reports on factionalism within the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah and its associated political party, the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan. Another Dawn piece discloses details of a police report on clashes with protestors outside the home of former interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan during last week’s protests in Islamabad, which confirmed at least four protestors had been injured when police opened fire. Elsewhere, Karachi senior superintendent of police Rao Anwar Ahmed has been placed on leave and is under investigation for injuries sustained during clash between police and protestors last week. [BBC] [Dawn]
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: National Accountability Bureau chairman Javed Iqbal has reportedly directed NAB officials to complete inquiries against the Sharif family in four corruption cases within the next 90 days. On Thursday, the Islamabad High Court summoned Mohammad Safdar, Nawaz Sharif’s son-in-law, for a hearing on Dec 14 to respond to a NAB petition seeking to cancel his release on bail. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [The Nation]
  • Other Political Activity: Nawaz Sharif has reportedly tasked Senator Pervaiz Rashid, Railways Minister Saad Rafique, and National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq with reaching out to PML-N lawmakers who failed to appear at a Nov 21 session of parliament to vote against a PPP measure that would have barred Nawaz from continuing as party chief due to his disqualification from office. PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari commemorated the party’s 50th founding anniversary on Thursday in Islamabad, calling on “all forces” to “let the country be run under a democratic system”, and criticizing the PML-N government’s response to last week’s Islamabad sit-ins. Bilawal will lead a PPP rally in Islamabad on Dec 5. Earlier on Wednesday, PPP Sindh president Nisar Ahmed Khuhro insisted that the Sindh provincial assembly would not be dissolved before the end of its tenure and reiterated the party’s opposition to early elections. [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation] [Dawn]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Tax Revenues: The Federal Board of Revenue provisionally collected Rs 1.302 trillion in taxes during the July-November period of the current fiscal year, but fell short of its Rs 1.363 trillion target, the Express Tribune reports.

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Speaking at Indian Conference, Obama Says No Evidence of Pakistani Knowledge of Bin Laden Presence [Dawn] [ET]
  • PM Abbasi Attends SCO Summit [APP] [ET]
  • Supreme Court Overturns Life Sentences for Three Convicted in Plotting Attack on Musharraf [Dawn] [ET] [The Nation]
  • Pakistan-China Border Consultations Held [The Nation]
  • No Leads in Islamabad Mosque Shooting [ET]
  • Interior Minister Inspects Islamabad Police Stations [ET]
  • OGRA Starts Consultations on Gas Tariff Structure [ET]
  • Pressure of Rupee Likely to Ease After Bond Float [ET] [ET]
  • Agha Khan to Return to Chitral in December [Dawn]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Atta Reportedly Barred from Flying to Kandahar: In a video posted on social media on Thursday evening, Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor said that he had been blocked from traveling to Kandahar to attend a gathering of other political leaders on Friday; Batur Dostum, the vice president’s son, had been accompanying him. A spokesman for Dostum’s Junbesh-e-Milli party accused Pres. Ghani of intervening to block their travel. The Afghan Civil Aviation Authority attributed the action to a lack of facilities for overnight flights at Kandahar Airport and laid blame on the Resolute Support mission for the decision. On Friday organizers of the Kandahar meeting, including deputy speaker of parliament Humayoun Humayoun and Haji Zahir Qadir, said they would postpone the meeting until Saturday, and warned of “serious consequences” if Noor was not allowed to travel there within the next twelve hours. [Khaama Press]
  • Regional Diplomacy: Chief Executive Abdullah held talks with the prime ministers of Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Sochi, Russia, on Friday. Pres. Ghani traveled to Baku, Azerbaijan on Thursday to chair a summit of the “Heart of Asia” regional forum on Afghanistan; in remarks on Friday, Ghani stressed the need for regional connectivity, cooperation, and trade, and touted the effectiveness of Afghan special operations forces in combating Taliban and ISIS insurgents. [Pajhwok] [TOLO]

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • “Afghan Star” is the Voice of a New Generation, and Muslim Clerics Aren’t Happy About It [WAPO]
  • Ministry of Finance Reduces Fuel Tax [TOLO]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Intelligence Bureau Officer Killed at Islamabad Mosque; IEC Calls on Ghani to Appoint Chairman

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Topline

  • An Intelligence Bureau officer was killed and four others wounded in a driveby shooting outside a Shia mosque in Islamabad on Wednesday evening; the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi al-Alami has reportedly claimed responsibility.
  • A U.S. drone strike reportedly targeted a Haqqani network commander, Abdur Rasheed, in the Kurram Agency on Thursday; Pakistani news sources report that the strike took place across the border in Paktia.
  • Afghan Independent Election Commission members called on Pres. Ghani to appoint a new IEC head within 20 days, saying they lacked legal authority to take decisions in the absence of a chairman.
  • In a statement on Wednesday, spokesmen for Pres. Ghani said that remarks by deputy chief executive Mohammad Mohaqiq praising Afghan fighters in Syria “do not represent the views of the government of Afghanistan”.
  • The Supreme Court of Pakistan held hearings on Thursday into the government’s botched crackdown on Tehreek-e-Labbak Ya Rasool Allah protests in Islamabad last week. The PML-N is reported to be divided over whether to impose punishments over the response.
  • Provincial officials in Logar announced the arrest of a group of 11 Chechen nationals, including women and children, accusing of carrying weapons.
  • Pakistan raised $2.5 billion from a 10-year Eurobond and 5-year Sukuk bond issue on Wednesday.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • Sectarian Violence: Unidentified gunmen killed an Intelligence Bureau constable and wounded as many as four others in a driveby shooting outside a Shia mosque in Islamabad on Wednesday evening; Reuters reports that the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi al-Alami claimed responsibility for the attack. Separately, rival Sunni sects, at least one of which was affiliated with an unnamed “banned organization”, clashed in the Khairpur district on Thursday, leaving three dead and nine injured. [AP] [ET] [The Nation]
  • Drone Strike Targets Haqqani Fighters: As many as four people, reported to be Haqqani network fighters, were killed in a U.S. drone strike on a building in the upper Kurram Agency on Thursday; the target of the attack was identified as commander Abdur Rasheed, although it is unclear if he was among those killed. Pakistani news sources cite a spokesman for Afghanistan’s Paktia provincial governor, who says the strike took place in the Patan district, bordering Kurram.
  • Border Security: Chief of Army Staff Bajwa visited Bajaur Agency on Wednesday for a briefing on cross-border security and plans related to fencing and fortifying the border; he also met with a group of religious scholars from FATA and Khyber Paktunkhwa, praising their “contribution to maintaining peace and harmony”. An Afghan military delegation led by Chief of General Staff Mohammad Habib Hesary is scheduled to arrive in Pakistan on Thursday for border talks. [ET]

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Islamabad Protests Aftermath: The Supreme Court held hearings on Thursday into the government’s response to the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah protests in Islamabad; Judge Mushir Alam expressed concern over the role of intelligence agencies in brokering an end to the standoff, and criticized the media for its coverage. Police submitted a report to the court on Wednesday, which cited a mixed command and fatigue, as well as protestors’ resistance, as factors contributing to the botched crackdown. At a press conference on Wednesday, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal said that the protests had been a “conspiracy to stir sectarianism” and claimed that protestors had been professionally armed. 73 protestors arrested over the course of the sit-in were released on bail by an Islamabad anti-terrorism court on Thursday; 47 remain in custody. Meanwhile, the TYLRA has split over ongoing protests in Lahore led by Maulana Ashraf Asif Jalali, which Maulana Khadim Rizvi diassociated himself from in remarks on Wednesday. Jalali’s faction plans to continue its sit-in through the Eid Miladun Nabi holiday, which begins Friday. Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif is reported to be pushing for punishments over the failed crackdown, but the Express Tribune reports that other leaders of the party are opposed to such a move given widening splits within the PML-N coalition and new threats of resignations by national assembly legislators. [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation] [The Nation] [Dawn]
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: On Thursday, the Lahore High Court agreed to hear a petition accusing Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz of making “anti-judiciary statements”. The Islamabad High Court has agreed to hear a petition challenging Article 202 of the new Election Act, which sets membership and registration fee thresholds for parties to register; hearings have been set for January 9, 2018. The Election Commission has adjourned hearings on petitions challenging Nawaz Sharif’s leadership of the PML-N, as the Supreme Court conducts parallel hearings on the subject. The Express Tribune reports that Communications Minister Hafiz Abdul Karim also holds an overseas work permit; he is also under investigation by the National Accountability Bureau on charges of holding a fake educational degree. [Dawn]
  • Other Political Activity: On Thursday, the PTI petitioned the Election Commission seeking clarification on its options for a legal challenge over Kulsoom Nawaz’s failure to take an oath of office as a national assembly member in the three months since her election in the NA-120 by-election; she remains hospitalized in London. The PPP marked its fiftieth founding anniversary on Thursday. PPP Sindh provincial assembly member Saeed Ghani has been appointed as the party’s Karachi division president after the removal of Asim Hussain. [Dawn] [The Nation] [The Nation]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Energy Crisis: Pakistan State Oil has reportedly suspended supplies to Pakistan International Airlines over the latter’s failure to make payments on Rs 16 billion in dues. PM Abbasi and Qatari prince Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al-Thani inaugurated a coal power plant in Karachi on Wednesday, which Abbasi said had helped Pakistan generate an electricity surplus. [The Nation] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Bond Issue: Pakistan received $8 billion in bids for its issuance of dollar-denominated 10-year Eurobond and 5-year Sukkuk bonds on Wednesday, and raised $2.5 billion from the offering. Interest rates were set at 6.875% and 5.625%, respectively.

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • PM Abbasi Departs for Russia to Attend Shanghai Cooperation Organization Summit [ET] [The Nation]
  • Three TTP Suspects Arrested in Multan [The Nation]
  • Trade Activities Picking Up at Torkham Border [Dawn]
  • Lawmakers Criticize Reporting on Disputed Intelligence Bureau ‘Monitoring List’ [Dawn]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • Chechens Arrested: Logar provincial officials reported Thursday that security forces had arrested a group of 11 Chechen nationals, including some women and children, in the Azra district on Wednesday; weapons were reportedly seized from the group. The statement did not specify whether they were linked with any militant group, although they are reported to have been traveling from Nangarhar. [TOLO] [Ariana News]
  • Other Attacks and Operations: A U.S. drone strike in Nangarhar’s Achin district on Wednesday killed at least eight militants, according to army spokesmen. Provincial officials also claim that fighting is still ongoing between ISIS and Taliban fighters in the Khogyani district, and that six ISIS fighters were killed on Wednesday. On Thursday morning, four policemen were killed in an attack on their vehicle in the Pushti Road district of Farah province. [Khaama Press]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Election Appointments: Independent Election Commission members met on Wednesday and called on Pres. Ghani to appoint a new chairman for the IEC within 20 days, saying they lacked legal authority to take further decisions in the absence of a chairman.
  • Presidency Criticizes Mohaqiq Remarks: In a statement on Wednesday, the presidential palace said that deputy chief executive Mohammad Mohaqiq’s praise for Afghan fighters in Syria was “against the principles of [Afghanistan’s] foreign policy, the national interests, stability and security as well as against the laws in Afghanistan, and it does not represent the views of the government of Afghanistan”. [Khaama Press] [Pajhwok]
  • Regional Diplomacy: Chief Executive Abdullah visited New Delhi on Thursday, where he spoke at a summit and warned against “catastrophic consequences” from “any type of hedging that differentiates between ‘good and bad terrorist’”. [Hindustan Times]

 

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Budget Planning: Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, ministry of finance spokesmen noted that 47.5% of the next fiscal year’s draft budget will be funded through domestic resources, although security service costs are not included in the budget.

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • US Contractor Imprisoned for Taking Kickbacks from Afghan Subcontractor [Stars and Stripes]
  • Afghan Girl’s Robotics Team Overcomes Setbacks to Win Contest in Europe [NYT]
  • Finance Ministry Develops Strategy to Support State Banks [TOLO]
  • Kandahar City Residents Owe Afs 70M in Unpaid Water Bills [Pajhwok]