Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Ghani ‘Blindsided’ by US-Taliban Talks; Imran Suggests IMF Alternative Still an Option

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Topline

  • The NYT reports that Pres. Ghani was “blindsided” by US Special Envoy Khalilzad’s meeting with the Taliban in Qatar last week and that Khalilzad provided few details when he met with Ghani afterwards, accentuating the government’s concerns that it will be marginalized in direct US-Taliban talks.
  • On Thursday, just two days ahead of parliamentary elections, the Electoral Complaints Commission announced the disqualification of seven parliamentary candidates, and suggest that more disqualifications could take place. A Gallup poll ahead of the elections found only 19% of respondents had confidence in the election’s honesty, and a record low 13% feel safe. In a statement on Thursday, the Taliban reiterated calls to boycott the elections.
  • Speaking to a delegation of Pakistani newspaper editors on Wednesday, PM Khan suggested that Pakistan might yet avoid an IMF bailout thanks to the support of “friendly countries”; a cabinet meeting is scheduled for Thursday to review the bailout application.
  • On Wednesday, the Supreme Court of Pakistan disqualified two PML-N senators for failing to fully renounce their dual citizenships prior to filing their candidacies in February.
  • Foreign Minister Qureshi spoke by phone with his Iranian counterpart on Wednesday, pledging “active efforts” to recover 11 Iranian border guards believed to have been kidnapped near the Balochistan border earlier this week.
  • Two Afghan civilians were killed and five Czech soldiers wounded in a suicide car bombing attack on their convoy while on patrol in the Bagram district in Parwan province on Wednesday.
  • The new Punjab police chief has suspended more than 110 policemen linked to the 2014 Model Town clash; his predecessor’s refusal to take that move reportedly led to his replacement earlier this month.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • Iranian Border Tensions: Foreign Minister Qureshi spoke by phone with his Iranian counterpart on Wednesday, pledging “active efforts” to recover 11 Iranian border guards believed to have been kidnapped near the Balochistan border on Tuesday, which Qureshi blamed on “our common enemies”. The militant group Jaish-al-Adl has reportedly claimed responsibility for the incident. [AP] [The Nation] [Dawn]

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • PML-N Senators Disqualified: On Wednesday, the Supreme Court disqualified two PML-N senators, Haroon Akhtar and Sadia Abbasi, from office, citing their failure to fully renounce their dual citizenships prior to filing their candidacies for the senate in February. [The Nation] [Dawn]
  • Model Town Investigations: Shortly after taking office, new Punjab police chief Amjad Javed Saleemi has suspended more than 110 policemen involved in the 2014 Model Town clash with Pakistan Awami Tehreek activists; Dawn reports that his predecessor Mohammad Tahir’s refusal to take this action led to his dismissal. [Dawn]
  • Sharif Corruption Investigation: During accountability court testimony on Thursday, former Panama Papers Joint Investigation Team head Wajid Zia said that he believed documents from Qatar prince Hamad Bin Jassim Bin Jaber Al-Thani attesting to a transfer of funds to the Sharif family were false. A WSJ article detailing the collapse of the Dubai-based Abraaj Group also reports that the firm paid Pakistani businessman Navaid Malik $20 million in October 2015 to secure the support of Nawaz and Shehbaz Sharif for the sale of its stake in K-Electric to China’s Shanghai Electric, who purportedly sought payouts to charities and election funds; a lawyer for the Sharifs denied any such discussions took place.
  • Other Corruption Investigations and Legal Battles: On Thursday, the Supreme Court rejected an appeal from PML-N leader Hanif Abbasi seeking PM Khan’s disqualification from office. In an Express Tribune interview Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah accused the National Accountability Bureau and Federal Investigation Agency of interfering in provincial affairs, blaming corruption investigations for slowing government development efforts. The Sindh provincial anti-corruption body opened land-grabbing investigations against two PTI lawmakers on Wednesday. [ET] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Other Political Activity: Speaking to reporters on Wednesday during his visit to parliament, Shehbaz Sharif denied any split between himself and his brother Nawaz Sharif over the party’s response to the ongoing legal crackdown against its leadership. Sahibzada Amir Jahangir, a close associate of PM Khan, announced Wednesday that he would not accept an appointment as special assistant to the prime minister for foreign investments. By-elections for the vacant NA-247 seat in Karachi will be held Oct 21, with the PTI expected to hold the seat. [ET]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Economic Reforms: Speaking to a delegation of newspaper editors on Wednesday, PM Khan suggested that Pakistan might yet avoid an IMF bailout, as negotiations with “friendly countries” were still ongoing. Khan is expected to chair a cabinet meeting on Thursday focused on the issue. Separately, Finance Minister Umar has ceded powers to approve supplementary budget allocations during the fiscal year, which will now require full cabinet approval. On Wednesday, Umar chaired a meeting on tax reform policy. [ET] [Dawn]
  • CPEC Project: Speaking to Pakistani journalists in Beijing on Wednesday, Wang Lei, the executive managing director of the China Railway Corporation, denied earlier reports by Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid that Pakistan and China had agreed to renegotiate the cost of the MR-1 railway project.
  • Polio Cases: Two new polio cases were reported in Karachi and the Khyber agency on Wednesday, the sixth and seventh cases reported so far this year.

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Bajwa Meets Italian Defense Minister [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Punjab Orders Police Deployments Around Schools [Dawn]
  • PTA Extends Deadline for Mobile Phone Registration by Two Months [Dawn]
  • EU Trade Delegation Arrives to Review GSP-Plus Convention [Dawn]
  • PM Khan Speaks by Phone with Malaysian PM [The Nation]
  • Supreme Court Orders Thar Coal Audit [ET] [ET] [The Nation]
  • PIA Faces Rs 2 Billion a Month in Losses [Dawn]
  • Commentary: Censorship Under Military was Bad; It May Be Worse in a Democracy – “The persecution of Cyril Almeida is now the center of a clampdown on Pakistani media unprecedented in scale and sophistication.” [Mohammad Hanif, NYT]

 

Afghanistan — Security

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Ghani ‘Blindsided’ by Taliban Talks: The NYT reports that Pres. Ghani only learned of US Special Envoy Khalilzad’s meeting with Taliban representatives in Qatar last week from news reports and the Taliban’s public statement, and that Khalilzad did not share details of his discussions when he met with Ghani afterwards. Ghani, like his predecessors, has insisted that the Afghan government be part of any talks. At an event on Wednesday hosted by the High Peace Council, former national security advisor Rangin Dadfar Spanta expressed alarm over “meetings behind closed doors”, saying that “in the current talks, the Afghan government is not present, neither are the Afghan people or representatives of Afghanistan”. [TOLO]
  • Election Preparations: On Thursday, two days prior to elections and after the end of the formal campaign period, the Electoral Complaints Commission announced the disqualification of seven parliamentary candidates; a spokesman for the ECC suggested further disqualifications were possible. The ECC reported receiving 311 complaints during the campaign period, of which 214 had been resolved. The NYT previews the elections and overviews the broader security and political crises facing the government; the AP interviews a female candidate in Wardak. A Gallup survey released Thursday found that a record low 13% of Afghans feel safe and only 19% have confidence in the honesty of the elections. In a statement on Thursday, the Taliban reiterated calls to boycott the elections, saying that they were “a foreign plot to prolong occupation” and calling on tribal and religious leaders to prevent public participation. Speaking on Wednesday, Interior Minister Wais Barmak pledged security for the elections; the Torkham border crossing with Pakistan will be closed beginning Thursday evening through Sunday. IEC officials in Balkh tell Pajhwok that 41 polling stations in the province may be closed due to insecurity; all polling centers will be shut in three Jawzjan districts due to insecurity. [Khaama Press] [TOLO] [Khabarnama] [TOLO] [Khaama Press]

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Afghan Drought Displacing More People Than Taliban Conflict [BBC]
  • Commentary: A Young ‘Wave of Change’ for the Wolesi Jirga? – ““Taghir” – change – has been a key word in many of the campaigns and a hope expressed by many voters, even though the slogans were rarely backed by detailed political programmes.” [Thomas Ruttig, AAN]

 

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Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Shehbaz Denounces NAB Arrests; Parliamentary Candidate Killed in Helmand

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Topline

  • PML-N leader Shehbaz Sharif was allowed to address parliament on Wednesday, where he denounced the “unholy alliance between PTI and NAB” and alleged that his arrest and corruption charges against him were brought in an effort to weaken the PML-N’s performance in last weekend’s by-elections.
  • Abdul Jabar Qaharaman, an incumbent parliamentarian seeking re-election in the upcoming parliamentary elections, was killed in a bombing in his office in Lashkar Gah, Helmand, on Wednesday. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. Attacks were also reported on two separate candidates in Logar province on Wednesday, but no casualties were reported.
  • The official campaign period for the elections will conclude this evening, with voting taking place on Saturday. As of Tuesday, the Independent Election Commission reported that it had been unable to deliver election materials to thirty districts due to security or impassable travel routes.
  • A Pakistani cabinet meeting on Tuesday again deferred a decision to raise electricity tariff rates, but approved subsidized natural gas supply for several export-oriented industries.
  • Speaking at an event in the UK on Tuesday, Pakistan’s chief military spokesman said that “US forces must stay in Afghanistan till complete peace is achieved”.
  • In remarks on Tuesday, former NDS chief Amrullah Saleh warned that Afghanistan would not accept a “secret deal” between the United States and the Taliban, saying that peace talks with Taliban should be done by the Afghan government and Afghan people”.
  • Afghan deputy foreign minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai announced his resignation on Wednesday, citing differences of opinion within the national unity government leadership.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • Military Spokesman Says US Should Remain in Afghanistan: Speaking at an event in the UK on Tuesday, Inter-Services Public Relations spokesman Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor said that Pakistan’s position was that “US forces must stay in Afghanistan till complete peace is achieved”.

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Shehbaz Addresses Parliament: PML-N leader Shehbaz Sharif was paroled from National Accountability Bureau custody on Wednesday and allowed to address a special session of the national assembly, where he denounced the “unholy alliance between PTI and NAB”, alleging the corruption charges against him and his arrest were undertaken to weaken the PML-N’s performance in last week’s by-elections. Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry denied that the PTI had influenced the NAB’s actions and said that “democracy was not under threat by accountability but looters are”; Law Minister Farogh Naseem also insisted that the NAB was independent of the government. Separately on Wednesday, the Lahore High Court dismissed a petition to allow Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz to travel outside the country. [ET] [ET] [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • PTM Activists Released: Nine Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement activists were granted bail on Tuesday in a case related a demonstration held by the group in Swabi in August. [The Nation]
  • Other Corruption Investigations and Legal Battles: PML-N leaders Khawaja Saad Rafique and Khawaja Salman Rafique made statements for the NAB on Tuesday in response to investigations against them. A banking court extended former Pres. Zardari’s bail in the money laundering case against him for the third time on Tuesday, until Nov 13. [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET]
  • Other Political Activity: On Tuesday, PM Khan appointed Sahibzada Amir Jahangir, a friend and British Pakistani, as special assistant on foreign investment. Balochistan provincial information minister Zahoor Buledi denied rumors of a no-confidence motion against Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan. The election observation group FAFEN reported improvements in the transparency of the vote and management of Sunday’s by-elections. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Price Hikes: A meeting of the Economic Coordination Committee of the cabinet on Tuesday again delayed a decision on raising electricity tariff rates; Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said that the government would soon take “decisive steps” on electricity prices, and attributed the delay to the absence of Power Minister Omar Ayub, who is currently visiting China. The cabinet did approve subsidized provision of re-liquified natural gas for the textile, carpet, leather, sports and surgical goods industries. Meanwhile, the Federal Board of Revenue raised import duties on more than 570 products in an effort to generate Rs 20 billion in revenues. PML-N spokeswoman Marriyum Aurangzeb criticized the government for “dropping an inflation bomb on the public”. [Dawn] [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • Budget Debates: On Tuesday, the PTI government in Punjab introduced a Rs 2.026 trillion budget for the remaining eight months of the fiscal year, over the protests of PML-N legislators who sought to disrupt the provincial assembly session. As part of its budget proposal, the government in Khyber Paktunkhwa will eliminate around 6,500 civil service positions; the provincial finance secretary also acknowledged at a press conference on Tuesday that the province’s external debts had risen to $3.8 billion, a record high. [ET] [The Nation] [Dawn]

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • NAB Officials to Meet with FATF Delegation [The Nation]
  • Pakistan Urges Russia to Enhance Defense Ties [The Nation]
  • China Vows to Fight Indo-US Propaganda Against CPEC [The Nation]
  • Chief Justice Visits Peshawar Army Public School [APP]
  • Senate Committee Seeks Delay in PTA Deadline for Phone Registration [Dawn]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • Election Violence: Abdul Jabar Qahraman, a member of parliament from Helmand seeking reelection, was killed by a bomb planted in his office on Wednesday; the Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. Three other men were also killed in the bombing and seven wounded. Qahraman is at least the ninth parliamentary candidate to be killed during the campaign period; Pres. Ghani denounced the attack. Separately, gunmen attacked the convoy of a candidate and a bombing disrupted another candidate’s rally in Logar province; no casualties were reported in either case. Provincial election officials in Logar tell Pajhwok that insecurity had closed more than half of the planned polling centers in the province. [AP] [Khaama Press]
  • Other Attacks and Operations: German transport helicopters flying near Mazar-e-Sharif over Tuesday night were fired on, and returned fired; no injuries were reported, but details of the incident are limited. A NDS special forces raid in the Sherzad district in Nangarhar province killed several Taliban militants and destroyed a car bomb, the NDS announced. Military officials in Ghazni claim that at least twenty-three Taliban fighters were killed in US airstrikes in the Qarabagh and Aab Band districts on Tuesday. Four civilians were killed in a roadside bomb in Helmand’s Nawa district on Tuesday.

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Election Preparations: The official campaign period for the parliamentary elections will conclude on Wednesday evening, to be followed by a 48-hour period prior to polling on Saturday. Independent Election Commission officials reported Tuesday that election materials could not be distributed to 30 districts due to security and impassable routes; in another 44 districts, materials were delivered by airdrop. Reuters interviews and profiles several female candidates. [WAPO] [Khabarnama] [Khabarnama]
  • Taliban Talks: Speaking at a gathering in Kapisa on Tuesday, former NDS chief Amrullah Saleh said that “peace talks with Taliban should be done by the Afghan government and Afghan people”, warning that Afghanistan would not accept a “secret deal” between the United States and the Taliban. Speaking at a separate event in Kabul, High Peace Council secretary Mohammad Akram Khpalwak denied that US Special Envoy Khalilzad had discussed US troop withdrawals with the Taliban.
  • Deputy Foreign Minister Resigns: Deputy Foreign Minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai announced his resignation on Wednesday, citing unspecified “serious differences in opinion” within the national unity government. [Khaama Press]

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Senior Government Officials Continue to Owe Millions of Afghanis in Electricity Dues [Ariana News]
  • Government Announces Approval of Information Protection Law [Khabarnama]
  • Report: From Europe to Afghanistan: Experiences of Child Returnees – “This report urges the EU and Norwegian governments to halt the return of children to Afghanistan until the security situation has improved and all the necessary safeguards are in place to ensure that children’s rights, as enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) are respected.” [Save the Children (pdf)]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: ECP to Count Overseas Votes in By-Elections; 3M Afghans in Need of Food Aid Due to Drought

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Topline

  • The ECP will count the votes of expatriate Pakistanis cast as part of a pilot test during the by-elections on Sunday; around 6,000 votes were cast, and overseas votes have the potential to alter results in at least six constituencies.
  • At least three million people are in urgent need of food assistance due to ongoing nationwide drought in Afghanistan, the UN warned on Monday, announcing $35 million in assistance towards the efforts.
  • PM Khan will visit China next month for talks on Chinese investment in the agriculture and social sectors and the signature of an agreement on the formation of special economic zones as part of CPEC. At a press conference on Monday, China’s foreign ministry spokesman endorsed an IMF bailout for Pakistan and reiterated that CPEC-related debts were not the primary source of its current balance of payments crisis.
  • China’s ambassador to India announced plans for the two countries to support a joint training program for Afghan diplomats in India, and suggested that other cooperation between the two countries on Afghanistan would follow.
  • The Samangan provincial police chief was killed in a Taliban attack in the Dara-e-Sof Payeen district on Monday evening, along with at least ten other police officers.
  • An accountability court extended Shehbaz Sharif’s detention for another two weeks at a hearing on Tuesday. The Express Tribune reports former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi may replace Shehbaz as PML-N opposition leader after his return to parliament following Sunday’s by-elections.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • US Consulate Vehicle in Crash: A US consulate vehicle struck a motorcycle rider in Karachi on Monday evening, injuring him; no details were released on the identity of the vehicle’s passenger, and police did not immediately announce charges in the incident.

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • By-Elections: Following a meeting on Monday, the ECP announced that it would count all votes cast by overseas Pakistani nationals as part of a trial project for the by-elections held on Sunday; those votes have the potential to be determinative in at least six constituencies. Speaking to reporters on Monday after the elections, Nawaz Sharif said that “being the largest political party of the country, PML-N has been facing revenge politics by the ruling PTI but despite all these odds, people voted for PML-N, which is good omen for time to come when PML-N will come to power with public support”. PM Khan met with PTI leaders in Islamabad on Monday to review the party’s performance, which fell short of expectations; he was quoted saying that “our engagement in the affairs of the government created a gap with the public contact, and the opposition took advantage of this”. Following seat gains in the national assembly, the PML-Q is expected to seek an additional ministry as part of its coalition agreement with the PTI. [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • China Visit: PM Khan met with a delegation from the Chinese Communist Party in Islamabad on Monday, expressing his desire to “learn from Chinese experience in poverty alleviation, fighting corruption and agriculture development”. Imran will visit China next month, where he is expected to sign an agreement on the formation of special economic zones as well as “social sector development”. Another Chinese delegation is also currently visiting Pakistan for talks on agricultural cooperation and investment. [The Nation]
  • Russian Cooperation: Pakistani and Russian military forces will conduct a joint exercise in northwestern Pakistan from October 21 – November 4. Meanwhile, Pakistan extended the validity period for a $2 billion Lahore-Karachi gas pipeline agreement signed in October 2015.
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: On Tuesday, an accountability court extended the detention of PML-N leader Shehbaz Sharif for another two weeks as he faces the National Accountability Bureau questioning related to an alleged housing development scam. Separate hearings against Nawaz Sharif continued on Tuesday. Hearings in a money laundering case against former Pres. Zardari were adjourned until mid-November. [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • Other Political Activity: On Monday, the national assembly secretariat announced the formation of the parliamentary committee to investigate allegations of election rigging in the July general elections. The Express Tribune reports that former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, who won re-election to parliament in Sunday’s by-elections, may replace Shehbaz Sharif as the PML-N opposition leader as Shehbaz continues to face corruption charges. Nawaz Sharif is maintaining a “self-imposed embargo” on public political activities and is unlikely to headline party rallies in the near future, The Nation reports. The PTI reportedly plans to stall the appointment of a chairman for the Public Accounts Committee, which the PML-N and PPP are demanding be headed by an opposition lawmaker. Four more ministers were inducted into the Sindh provincial cabinet on Monday. [Dawn] [Dawn]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • IMF Talks: Speaking on Monday, Finance Minister Umar pledged that the government would brief parliament on its IMF loan agreement for approval. At a press conference on Monday, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson said that it supported the IMF “carrying out [an] objective evaluation of Pakistan’s financial difficulties and assisting it in dealing with current difficulties”, and said those talks would not affect bilateral relations, adding that debt incurred through the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor was a low proportion of Pakistan’s outstanding debts. [Dawn]
  • Energy Pricing: The Economic Coordination Committee of the cabinet is expected to meet on Tuesday and give delayed approval to an increase in electricity tariffs. Separately, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said that the government was planning to audit power projects initiated by the PML-N during its tenure. The government is also reportedly seeking to renegotiate the rate of return for investors in two liquefied natural gas import terminals. [The Nation]
  • Budget Debate: On Monday, the Khyber Paktunkhwa provincial government introduced a Rs 648 budget for the remaining eight months of the fiscal year; PML-N legislators boycotted the session. The Punjab assembly is expected to begin debate on a budget bill on Tuesday. [ET]

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Hayat Visits Washington for Military Conference [Dawn]
  • Jaish-al Adl Claims Kidnapping of Iranian Guards Near Pakistan Border [Reuters]
  • Supreme Court Orders Decision on Gilgit-Baltistan Status [ET]
  • Commission on Disappearances Reports 36 Missing Persons Traced in September [Dawn]
  • Three Detained for Running Banned Outfits’ Web Pages [Dawn]
  • Tax Rate Changes Through Statutory Ordinance Planned [ET] [ET] [ET]
  • Supreme Court Suspends Service Tax Charge on Mobile Services [ET]
  • Government Expands Housing Development Plans [ET] [The Nation]
  • Petition Accuses Chief Justice of Misconduct [Dawn]
  • Supreme Court Gives ISI Four Weeks to Open Road to Traffic [Dawn]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • Attacks and Operations: The Samangan provincial police chief, Khawani Tahari, was killed along with as many as ten other police officers in an attack in the Dara e Sof Payeen district in Samangan on Monday night. Another 15 officers were reportedly captured in the attack. In Kunduz, an Afghan Local Police commander warns that his forces in the Qala-e-Zal district are encircled by Taliban fighters and need reinforcements; in the Aliabad district, military officials say they killed 12 Taliban fighters and recaptured two armored personnel carriers. Six civilians were killed in a mortar attack in Ghazni’s Deh Yak district on Tuesday. At least nine ISIS fighters were reportedly killed in a US drone strike in the Achin district in Nangarhar on Tuesday. Fighting in Farah’s Balabalok district on Monday destroyed a bridge link on the Herat-Kandahar highway. [Khaama Press] [TOLO] [Khabarnama] [Khabarnama]
  • Security Appointments: On Monday, the ministry of interior announced the appointment of Brig. Gen. Ghulam Farooq Tarakhel as the new security chief for Ghazni province, among other security appointments. [Khabarnama]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • India and China Announce Joint Training Program: On Monday, China’s ambassador to India announced that the two countries would cooperate on a program to train Afghan diplomats at the Indian Foreign Service Institute, which he suggested would be followed by other forms of joint cooperation in Afghanistan.
  • Taliban Talks: In an interview on Monday, a spokesman for the High Peace Council welcomed US Special Envoy Khalilzad’s recent meeting with the Taliban, but said that “the Taliban alone have no eligibility to discuss the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan” and that the US “must consider Afghanistan’s continued stability and security”.

 

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Ghani Launches Journalist Insurance Fund [Khabarnama]
  • IEC Calls on Security Agencies to Protect Journalists on Election Day [Khabarnama]
  • Religious Scholars Complain of Neglect in Election Preparations [Ariana News]
  • National Procurement Commission Introduces Electronic Procurement System [Pajhwok]
  • Kabul Hosts Expo on TAPI Investment [TOLO]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: PTI Retains Pluralities But Loses Ground in By-Elections; Khalilzad Holds Talks with Taliban

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Topline

  • Pakistan held by-elections in 11 national and 24 provincial assembly constituencies on Sunday; preliminary results indicate that while the PTI retained a plurality in the national and provincial assemblies, it lost ground to the PML-N and other opposition challengers from its performance in July.
  • US Special Envoy Khalilzad held talks with the Taliban in Doha on Friday; on Saturday, the Taliban confirmed the talks, which they said focused on “an end to the occupation and a peaceful solution to the Afghan issue”. Khalilzad returned to Kabul on Saturday and briefed Pres. Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah; he also met separately with Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.
  • At least 22 people were killed at a bombing an rally for a female parliamentary candidate in Takhar province on Saturday; no claim of responsibility was reported. At least two other attacks over the weekend targeted candidates or their offices.
  • Afghan and Pakistani border forces clashed at the Shorabak district border on Sunday as the Pakistani side sought to fence the disputed Durand Line border; no initial casualties were reported, but on Monday Kandahar police chief Gen. Abdul Raziq claimed that three Pakistani soldiers had been killed. The Chaman-Spin Boldak border cross was temporarily closed, but reopened on Monday.
  • Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan activists held rallies on Friday to warn of future demonstrations if the Supreme Court acquitted Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy. On Friday, the PTI government withdrew legislation that would have imposed matching penalties for false declarations of blasphemy.
  • Speaking at a press conference on Saturday, Finance Minister Umar denied reports that his relations with PM Khan had been strained by his recommendation for an IMF bailout, and said that Pakistan was prepared to share the details of debts incurred as part of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor projects, which he insisted was not a major contributor to the country’s current balance of payments crisis.
  • A spokesman for Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission insisted on Sunday that parliamentary elections would be held as scheduled on October 20, and denied reports of issues with the use of biometric voter registration machines.
  • Pashtun women’s rights activist Gulalai Ismail was briefly detained at the Islamabad airport upon arrival on Friday.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • Indian Border Clashes: On Sunday, Pakistani military officials reported that a Pakistani boy was wounded in cross-border firing by Indian forces at the Line of Control.

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • By-Elections Held: By-elections were held on Sunday for 11 national and 24 provincial assembly constituencies, after the campaign period closed on Friday; around 400 candidates are contesting those seats. On Friday, the PPP and PML-N had announced a last-minute seat adjustment, with the PPP withdrawing its candidates from the four Lahore constituencies and the parties supporting each other in at least two other Punjab seats. Preliminary results indicate that the PTI and PML-N each won four national assembly seats, the PML-Q two, and the MMA one; on net, the PTI appears to have lost at least three national assembly seats from the July general elections, although it still holds a plurality. The PTI remains short of an absolute majority in the Punjab assembly and will remain reliant on the PML-Q to form a coalition. Speaking on Monday, Nawaz Sharif celebrated his party’s performance; separately, former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, who won the NA-124 race, expressed concern that the polling administration was “being controlled from somewhere else”. Police in Sargodha arrested at least 15 PML-N activists on Saturday, charging them with “hate speech against national institutions” during the July general elections; several activists were also reportedly arrested in Lahore on Friday. Samar Bilour, the widow of ANP leader Haroon Bilour, won his provincial assembly seat. Overall turnout was reportedly low, and the Express New reported that no women cast votes in six Chakwal polling stations. Around 7,000 Pakistani expatriates were registered to vote absentee in the elections, and approximately 6,200 of them reportedly cast ballots, although the ECP has not yet decided whether to include those votes. Approximately 1,700 polling stations out of around 7,500 were classified as “highly sensitive”; around 40,000 army soldiers were deployed both inside and outside all polling stations. Despite apparent breakdowns on election day in July, the ECP again made use of its results transmission and results management systems. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation] [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • TLP Protests: Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan activities rallied in Lahore, Karachi, and other areas on Friday to protest against the possible acquittal of Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death on blasphemy charges, warning of countrywide demonstrations in the event that she was freed. The AFP interviews Aasia’s family, who express hopes for her freedom but express fears about threats to them if they remain in Pakistan. Separately, the PTI government withdrew legislation that would have imposed penalties for false accusations of blasphemy. [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • Pashtun Rights Activist Temporarily Arrested: On Friday, Federal Investigation Agency officials temporarily detained Pashtun and women’s rights activist Gulalai Ismail after her arrival at the Islamabad airport; she was freed shortly afterwards, but faces charges along with other Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement leaders related to an August rally in Swabi. [AP]
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: Sharif family members were allowed to meet with Shehbaz Sharif at the National Accountability Bureau offices in Lahore on Saturday. Hearings continue in the corruption casea against Nawaz Sharif. On Friday, immigration department officials blocked the passports of PML-N leader Khawaja Saad Rafique and his brother in response to a NAB investigation against them. On Monday, the Lahore High Court granted protective bail to the two brothers. Mirza Shahzad Akbar, the special assistant to the prime minister for accountability, told a press conference on Sunday that he would visit the UK this week for talks that would include an extradition request against former finance minister Ishaq Dar. The Federal Board of Revenue is reportedly scrutinizing around 16,000 real estate investors who paid no taxes during the last two years. On Sunday, Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar ordered a “forensic audit” on the collection of donations at shrines in Punjab. [The Nation] [The Nation] [ET] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Other Political Activity: In a press conference on Friday, MQM leader Farooq Sattar called for new intra-party elections, threatening to split and form another new faction to challenge his rival Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui. ANP activists held a demonstration in Peshawar on Friday, criticizing the government over price hikes and its plans to seek an IMF bailout. [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • IMF Talks: Speaking at a press conference on Saturday, Finance Minister Umar said that Pakistan was prepared to provide the details of debts incurred as part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project, but denied that such debts were responsible for the country’s current balance of payments crisis. Umar said that an IMF team would arrive in Pakistan on Nov 7 for talks about the new bailout program, and said that the government was continuing talks with other allied countries for additional support. On Friday, PM Khan ordered the removal of registration requirements for Pakistani expatriates and called for efforts to reduce barriers to external remittances. In a separate Dawn interview, Umar denied reports in Geo suggesting that PM Khan was unhappy with his performance and the IMF bailout request; the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority warned Geo on Saturday that its reports violated conduct codes and demanded a response by Monday. Meanwhile, the Express Tribune reports that the IMF has projected that Pakistan’s inflation rate will rise to 14-15% by the end of the fiscal year, and has revised its GDP growth projections downward to below 3%; Pakistani finance ministry officials disputed those projections. [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation] [The Nation] [The Nation] [ET]

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Chief Justice Demands Affidavits from Law Enforcement Agencies on Missing Persons [Dawn] [ET]
  • Army Spokesman Denies Interference in July Elections [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Peshawar High Court Judge Tapped to Lead Army Public School Investigation [Dawn]
  • New Punjab Police Chief Takes Office [Dawn]
  • Pres. Alvi Expresses Hope for ‘Strategic Stability’ with India [Dawn] [ET]
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Government to Introduce Budget [ET] [The Nation]
  • PM Launches ‘Clean Green Pakistan’ Campaign [APP] [The Nation] [AP]
  • PM Khan Reiterates Government’s Resolve to Complete FATA Merger [Dawn]
  • Chinese Communist Party Delegation Holds Talks with PTI Leaders [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Musharraf Refuses Remote Testimony in Treason Case [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • State Bank of Pakistan to Extend Biometric Verification for Bank Account Holders [ET]
  • Pakistan Telecommunication Authority to Block Service for Unregistered Phones [Dawn]
  • Sindh High Court Issues Contempt Notice Against K-Electric Officials [Dawn]

 

Afghanistan — Security

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Khalilzad Meets Taliban Representatives: US Special Envoy Khalilzad met with Taliban representatives in Qatar on Friday, the second direct meeting between the U.S. and Taliban at Doha in the past four months. The Taliban released a statement on Saturday confirming the talks and identifying members of their delegation, saying that they had discussed “an end to the occupation and a peaceful solution to the Afghan issue” and that “both sides agreed to continue meeting in the future”. Anonymous sources tell the NYT that “the Taliban also said that the presence of foreign troops in the country would forestall any deal”. US State Department spokesmen did not confirm the meeting, but the U.S. embassy released a statement by Khalilzad that “the United States shares the aspirations of all Afghans for a peaceful Afghanistan where all Afghans see themselves included. All citizens of Afghanistan must be a part of this reconciliation process”. Khalilzad returned to Kabul on Saturday and met with Pres. Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah, briefing them on his meetings in Qatar, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia; a statement quoted Ghani saying that “we welcome any efforts to bring lasting peace in Afghanistan”. The High Peace Council also welcomed the meeting. Khalilzad also met separately with Hezb-e-Islami leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who reportedly pledged “all-out support” for a reconciliation process. [AFP] [AP] [TOLO] [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press]
  • Election Preparations: Speaking at a press conference on Sunday, a spokesman for the Independent Election Commission said that parliamentary elections would be held on schedule on October 20; the official campaign period will conclude October 17. The IEC spokesman also rejected reports of flaws in the biometric voter registration devices planned for use at the polling centers. More than 234,000 observers have been accredited for the polls. In remarks on Friday, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar alleged that “the decision on winners and losers will not be made by the election commission or based on the ballot boxes and people’s votes; the decision will be made by order and recommendation of influential foreign parties”. UNAMA Special Representative Tadamichi Yamamoto met with Afghan women’s civil society organizations on Monday to call for women’s participation in the elections. [TOLO] [TOLO]

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • The Kremlin’s Comeback [WAPO]
  • Abdullah and Chinese Premier Meet at SCO Summit [TOLO]
  • Outgoing Peshawar Consul Proposes Water Talks with Pakistan [ET]
  • Ghani Inaugurates Parwan Projects [Khaama Press]
  • Contract Signed for Kunduz Irrigation Project [Khaama Press]
  • Samim Arif Appointed New Deputy Presidential Spokesman [Khabarnama]
  • Commentary: A Lively Election Campaign Amid Growing Insecurity in Herat – “Riival political forces have brought supporters onto the streets to show their power and candidates have opened campaign headquarters and engaged in a range of heated campaign activities.” [S. Reza Kazemi, AAN]

 

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Judge Sacked Over Comments on ISI Interference; Taliban Restore Red Cross Protection Guarantee

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Topline

  • Pakistan’s Supreme Judicial Council, headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, ordered the removal from office of Islamabad High Court judge Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui on Thursday, after remarks he made in July accusing the ISI of interfering in court proceedings. Pres. Alvi ordered Siddiqui’s immediate dismissal shortly after the recommendations were made; he is only the second high court judge to be removed for misconduct in Pakistan’s history.
  • On Friday, the Taliban announced that they were restoring protections for the Red Cross after talks with their representatives in Qatar; those protections had been withdrawn in August after disputes over Red Cross assistance for Taliban prisoners in Kabul.
  • US Special Envoy Khalilzad held meetings with Saudi and Qatari leaders on Thursday and Friday.
  • PML-N legislators held protests outside the national assembly on Thursday against the arrest of opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif last week; the PPP did not participate. On Thursday, a Lahore accountability court ordered the seizure of assets of Shehbaz’s son-in-law, Imran Ali Yousaf.
  • Representatives from several Afghan political parties, including Hezb-e-Islami, announced the formation of the “Grand Assembly on National Unity” on Thursday. Speaking on the occasion Gulbuddin Hekmatyar criticized preparations for the upcoming parliamentary elections and called for a ceasefire to the conflict and the formation of an interim government.
  • An IMF delegation will visit Pakistan to begin talks on a bailout loan, but no date has been announced. On Thursday, Pakistan’s planning ministry defended the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, and said that repayments on CPEC loans were not due to begin until 2021.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • Waziristan Bombing: At least three Pakistani soldiers were killed and five injured in a roadside bombing in South Waziristan near the border with Afghanistan on Thursday; no claim of responsibility was reported.

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • IHC Judge Removed After ISI Criticism: On Thursday, the Supreme Judicial Council, headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, recommended the removal from office of Islamabad High Court judge Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui, who in July had come under scrutiny after a speech in Rawalpindi in which he accused the ISI of interfering in court proceedings. Shortly after the SJC recommendation, Pres. Alvi ordered Siddiqui’s removal; Dawn reports he is only the second judge to be removed from office by the SJC for misconduct in Pakistan’s history. Separately, the SJC dismissed a complaint against IHC chief justice Muhammad Anwar Khan Kasi. [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • PML-N Protests: PML-N legislators and their allies held a mock parliamentary session outside the national assembly on Thursday to protest the arrest of opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif last week. The PPP did not participate in the protest; speaking separately to reporters, PPP leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that his party would “support the accountability process; but political victimisation under its garb is not tolerable” and said that Shehbaz’s arrest was “a condemnable act”. Anonymous PML-N sources speaking to the Express Tribune express concern that Shehbaz and his allies within the party have failed to directly confront the military establishment over his arrest. On Thursday, a Lahore accountability court ordered the National Accountability Bureau to seize the assets of Shehbaz’s son-in-law, Imran Ali Yousaf. On Friday, the Supreme Court made another extension to the deadline to conclude corruption cases against Nawaz Sharif, until November 17. [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • Bajwa in UK: Chief of Army Staff Bajwa met with UK Chief of Defense Staff Gen. Nicholson Carter on Thursday, as well as with other British military and civilian officials. [The Nation]
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: The Supreme Court continued hearings on Thursday on a case related to the 2007 National Reconciliation Ordinance, at which Chief Justice Nisar made remarks suggesting he might drop the case against former Pres. Zardari, and reiterated demands for former Pres. Musharraf to testify. On Thursday, the Islamabad High Court dismissed protective bail applications by PML-N leader Khawaja Saad Rafique. Non-bailable arrest warrants were issued against former prime minister Shaukat Aziz, who has skipped all hearings in a corruption case against him. [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • IMF Loan: As noted yesterday, IMF Director Christine Lagarde said Thursday that a bailout agreement with Pakistan would require “absolute transparency” on its debt burden, including those debts incurred as part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project, which have not been made public. In a statement on Thursday the Pakistani planning ministry source defended the CPEC agreements and insisted that the project did not constitute a “debt trap”, and said that repayment on CPEC loans would not begin until 2021. An IMF team will visit Pakistan “in the coming weeks”; no date has been announced. On Thursday, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said that a cabinet meeting on Thursday had approved a proposal for the formation of a parliamentary committee to investigate the growth in Pakistan’s debts over the past ten years. The State Bank of Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves fell for the seventh consecutive week according to data released on Thursday, to $8.3 billion as of Oct 5. [AP] [Reuters] [ET]
  • Air Marshal Appointed PIA Chairman: On Thursday, Information Minister Chaudhry announced that the cabinet had appointed serving Air Vice Marshal Arshad Khan as the new chairman of Pakistan International Airlines. [The Nation]

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Supreme Court Judge Questions TLP Party Registration [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Civilian Injured in Cross-Border Firing in Kashmir [The Nation]
  • Pakistani Foreign Ministry Expresses Concern Over India-Russia Air Defense Deal [Dawn] [ET]
  • Balochistan Government to Amend Provincial Anti-Corruption Law [Dawn]
  • Chief Justice Orders Legislation on Mineral Water Extraction [ET]
  • Sindh Accuses IRSA of Violating Water Accord [The Nation]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • Taliban Restore Red Cross Security Guarantee: On Friday, the Taliban announced that it was restoring a security guarantee for International Committee of the Red Cross workers in Afghanistan, after announcing in August that it was dropped protections for the humanitarian agency over complaints that it had failed to provide adequate medical aid to Taliban prisoners in Kabul. A spokeswoman for the IHRC confirmed that the group had held talks with Taliban representatives in Qatar to “reach an understanding” on the group’s work.
  • Militia Commander Resists Arrest: Reuters reports on attempts by Afghan security forces to arrest Hazara militia commander Alipur, who fled arrest last week in Ghor province and held a rally in Wardak earlier this week.
  • Attacks and Operations: At least four Afghan soldiers and four civilians were reportedly killed in a Taliban attack on a military checkpost in the Archi district in Kunduz on Friday. A premature car bombing in a market in Faryab province reportedly killed at least ten Taliban fighters and five civilians.

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Meetings on Peace Talks: US Special Envoy Khalilzad held talks on the Afghan peace process with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman in Riyadh on Thursday and Qatari Deputy Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammad bin Abdulrahman Al Thani in Doha on Friday; details were not disclosed. Elsewhere, Pres. Ghani met with the secretary general of the Saudi-backed Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition, Gen. Abdulelah al-Saleh, in Kabul. [TOLO]
  • New Coalition Formed: Representatives from several political parties, including Hezb-e-Islami, the National Islamic Front, the Afghan Millat Party, and others, met in Kabul to announce the formation of the “Grand Assembly on National Unity”. Gulbuddin Hekmatyar called for a ceasefire and “unconditional talks”, and for the formation of an interim government and set schedule for the withdrawal of foreign military forces from Afghanistan; he also criticized preparations for the upcoming parliamentary elections.
  • Election Preparations: TOLO questions the accuracy of the new biometric voter registration devices planned for use in the upcoming parliamentary elections. The AFP notes that more than 800 candidates are contesting for the elections in Kabul province on a single ballot.

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Abdullah Addresses SCO Summit [TOLO]
  • Commentary: Voters Disenfranchised in Faryab – “In 2014, Faryab province had one of the highest audited turnouts in the country (and one of the highest proportions of women voters) … this election will be very different and the reason for that is the steady loss of territory to the Taleban in the last four years.” [Ali Yawar Adili, AAN]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Pakistan Formally Requests IMF Bailout; UN Releases Quarterly Civilian Casualty Report

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Topline

  • Pakistan formally requested a bailout from the IMF after Finance Minister Umar met with IMF Director Christine Lagarde in Bali on Thursday; Lagarde said earlier that Pakistan would need to disclose the details of its debts to China incurred through the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor program as part of the agreement. Dawn reports that Pakistan will seek between $8-12 billion in loans.
  • The UN released a quarterly report on civilian casualties in Afghanistan on Wednesday, finding 2,798 deaths and 5,252 injuries during the first nine months of the year, with insurgent attacks the cause of about two thirds of all casualties.
  • PML-N lawmakers held protests outside the Punjab assembly on Wednesday and will demonstrate again outside the national assembly on Thursday.
  • Afghan Independent Election Commission officials say that biometric voter registration machines will be distributed to all polling centers by the end of the week.
  • The Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan warned of “consequences” for judges if they accepted Aasia Bibi’s appeal against her death sentence for blasphemy; the group will hold protests on Friday in support of her execution.

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • PML-N Protests: PML-N lawmakers held a demonstration outside the Punjab assembly on Wednesday to protest the arrest of Shehbaz Sharif and will hold protests outside the national assembly on Thursday despite an agreement by speaker Asad Qaiser to hold a special session on Oct 17. Qaiser has ordered the National Accountability Bureau to allow Shehbaz to address the assembly.  [The Nation] [The Nation] [Dawn]
  • TLP Threatens Retaliation in Aasia Bibi Case: In a statement on Wednesday, leaders of the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan warned of “consequences” for the judges if the judicial panel hearing Aasia Bibi’s appeal against her death sentence for blasphemy acquits her; the party will hold a rally on Friday in support of her death. A separate Supreme Court bench questioned the TLP’s registration as a political party, but adjourned hearings until November. Meanwhile, JUI-F leader Abdul Ghafoor Haideri vowed to block any amendments to Pakistan’s blasphemy law.
  • External Relations: Chief of Army Staff Bajwa arrived in the UK on Thursday for an official visit. Separately, Foreign Minister Qureshi will attend a two-day Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Tajikistan beginning Thursday. [The Nation]
  • Elections and Other Political Activity: The ECP began distributing passcodes on Thursday for overseas Pakistani nationals who have registered to vote absentee in the by-elections taking place on Sunday. On Wednesday, the PML-N announced its support for PPP candidates in Sindh. Speaking on Wednesday, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry rebuffed an ECP notice blocking the removal of Punjab police chief Muhammad Tahir, saying it was illegal. [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: Shehbaz Sharif’s son Salman Shehbaz testified before the NAB on Thursday as part of its assets investigation. Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz have petitioned the interior ministry for the removal of their names from the Exit Control List; Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said that the government was “unlikely” to withdraw the restrictions. On Thursday, the Lahore High Court acquitted PML-N lawmaker Chaudhry Abid Raza in a 1999 murder case. The Islamabad High Court rejected an appeal by former PPP senator Faisal Raza Abidi seeking the dismissal of charges against him for criticizing the chief justice. On Wednesday, the NAB decided to launch new investigations against several former ministers, including Ishaq Dar and Khawaja Saad Rafique. [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation] [The Nation] [ET] [ET]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Pakistan Formally Seeks IMF Bailout: Finance Minister Umar and State Bank Governor Tariq Bajwa met with IMF Director Lagarde in Bali on Thursday and formally requested financial assistance from the Fund; Dawn reports that Pakistan will seek $8 billion in loans, and potentially up to $12 billion depending on the conditions placed on the package. An IMF staff delegation will visit Pakistan for further talks later this month. Speaking earlier, Lagarde said that a bailout package would need to be “fully transparent”, including providing details on debt incurred through the China Pakistan Economic Corridor. The Express Tribune reports that IMF officials have proposed cuts in the provincial share of revenues collected by the federal government. At a cabinet meeting on Thursday, PM Khan ordered the finance ministry to produce a report on Pakistan’s debt increase over the past ten years; speaking on Wednesday, Khan said that Pakistan was facing a “short but tough financial span and we will successfully go through it”. Pakistan’s imports contracted in the first quarter of the fiscal year, reducing the current account deficit, but export growth remained low. [WSJ] [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation] [Dawn]
  • Budget Planning: Khyber Paktunkhwa Chief Minister Mahmood Khan cancelled a budget session planned for Thursday; the Express Tribune reports it may be rescheduled for Oct 15. The Punjab government plans to hold a budget session on Oct 16.

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • FATF Delegation ‘Not Impressed’ with Progress on Counter-Terrorism Financing [Dawn]
  • PM Launches Housing Program [ET] [The Nation]
  • China Welcomes Saudi Investment in CPEC [Dawn]
  • Sindh Seeks Fresh Bidding for Yellow Line BRT Project [Dawn]
  • Supreme Court Orders Investigation Into Malnutrition in Thar [Dawn] [ET]
  • Interior Ministry and Minister Split on Choice for Islamabad Police Posting [Dawn]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • Civilian Casualties: In a quarterly report on Wednesday, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan found that at least 8,050 Afghan civilians had been killed or wounded during the first nine months of the year, roughly on par with the same period last year. Deaths rose, to 2,798, while injuries fell, to 5,252. The report attributed about two thirds of the deaths to insurgent activity, highlighting deaths from suicide and IED attacks as the largest source of casualties. [TOLO] [UNAMA Report (pdf)]
  • Attacks and Operations: Kunduz officials report at least 15 border police officers were killed in an attack on their checkpost in the Qala-e-Zal district on Thursday. NDS officials report at least 21 Taliban fighters were killed in airstrikes in the Syedabad district in Wardak province on Thursday. US airstrikes in the Ghormach district in Faryab province also reportedly killed at least ten Taliban fighters. At least three children were killed in an IED explosion in the Orgun district in Paktia. [TOLO]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Election Preparations: Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, a spokesman for the Independent Election Commission said that the process of transferring biometric voter registration devices to polling centers would be completed by the end of the week. [TOLO] [TOLO]
  • Ryan Visit: US Speaker of the House Paul Ryan visited Afghanistan on Wednesday and met with Pres. Ghani, as well as with the Afghan Special Operations Corps in Kabul. [Khaama Press]

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: PML-N Protests Shehbaz’s Arrest; Parliamentary Candidate Killed in Helmand Bombing

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Topline

  • PML-N legislators will hold protests in the senate and outside the Punjab assembly on Wednesday, and outside the national assembly on Thursday; the party leadership has reportedly decided not to seek mass demonstrations around the country, apparently for fear of low turnout.
  • Tuesday’s bombing in Lashkar Gah, Helmand, killed parliamentary candidate Saleh Mohammad Achakzai and seven other people; no claim of responsibility has been reported. He is reportedly the eighth candidate to have been killed in attacks since July.
  • On Wednesday, the Pakistani military announced the appointment of Lt. Gen. Asim Munir as the new director of the Inter-Services Intelligence agency, among other appointments.
  • The Pakistani rupee had its biggest single-day drop in value against the dollar in over a decade on Tuesday, following the news of the new government’s intentions to seek an IMF bailout. The State Bank said that it would “closely monitor the situation and stand ready to intervene in case of any unwarranted volatility”.
  • Pakistan has quit the counter-piracy Combined Task Force operating between the Middle East and Indian Ocean, reportedly after the U.S. halted reimbursement for fuel costs for Pakistani ships.
  • A spokesman for the Afghan High Peace Council said that it was preparing an “inclusive and authorized negotiating team” and that it was “waiting for the Taliban leadership to form their negotiating team for talks with the Afghan government”.
  • Two Afghan army officers were convicted of espionage for the ISI and sentenced to twenty-year prison terms on Tuesday in Nangarhar.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • New ISI Chief Appointed: On Wednesday, the Pakistani military announced the appointment of Lt Gen Asim Munir as the new director of the Inter-Services Intelligency agency; he will succeed Lt Gen Naveed Mukhtar on October 25. Other appoints were also announced; Dawn and the Express Tribune differ on whether Lt Gen Nadeem Zaki or Lt Gen Shaheen Mazher were appointed to head the Peshawar Corps. [AP]
  • Pakistan Quits Counter-Piracy Task Force: Al Jazeera reports that Pakistan has quit the counter-piracy Combined Task Force operating between the Middle East and the Indian Ocean, with anonymous Pakistani officials saying the decision was taken after the U.S. halted reimbursements for fuel costs for Pakistani ships. Pakistan remains part of the overall Combined Maritime Forces coalition, however.
  • Police Reforms Chairman Quits: On Tuesday, former Khyber Paktunkhwa police chief Nasir Khan Durrani quit his position as chairman of the Punjab Commission for Police Reforms; sources suggest the move was motivated by the government’s transfer of the Punjab police chief, Muhammad Tahir Khan. [ET]

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • PML-N Protests ‘Political Victimization’: PML-N legislators plan to hold protests in the senate and outside the Punjab assembly on Wednesday against the arrest of Shehbaz Sharif; anonymous party sources tell the Express Tribune that the party is not pursuing a mass protest strategy for fear of lack of public support. Protests together with other opposition parties are planned outside the national assembly on Thursday. On Wednesday, national assembly speaker Asad Qaiser agreed to call a special session on Oct 17 to discuss Shehbaz’s arrest, as demanded by the PML-N. The Punjab assembly leadership reportedly plans to delay a session until after budget debate concludes at the end of the month. Speaking to reporters after a court appearance on Tuesday, Nawaz Sharif accused the PTI government of “politically victimising the opponents in the name of accountability”. Meanwhile, Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar issued a new notice to Nawaz in a 33-year old case related to a land transfer in Pakpattan. [The Nation] [The Nation] [ET]
  • Former Punjab Police Chief Indicted: On Tuesday, a Lahore anti-terrorism indicted former Punjab police chief Mushtaq Ahmad Sukhera as part of a private complaint filed by the Pakistan Awami Tehreek over the 2014 Model Town clashes. [Dawn]
  • FATA Reforms: On Tuesday, Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar summoned responses from the attorney general and the Khyber Paktunkhwa government over the failure to establish police services or courts in the former FATA districts of Khyber Paktunkhwa; hearings have been set for Oct 15.
  • Elections and Election Complaints: In a senate hearing on Wednesday, Election Commission officials said that they had requested the assistance of the Federal Investigation Agency to identify the source of a phone call instructing them to halt the use of the results transmission system on election day in July. [Dawn]
  • Other Corruption Investigations and Legal Battles: Federal Investigation Agency officials told a senate hearing on Tuesday that they had expanded their investigations into alleged money laundering and fake bank accounts, some of which have been linked to former Pres. Zardari. FIA officials reportedly raided the offices of the Omni Group on Tuesday, whose leadership are close associates to Zardari and were arrested in August. Former PPP senator Faisal Raza Abidi was arrested after a Supreme Court appearance on Wednesday, and charged with contempt of court and criticizing the chief justice. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Rupee Depreciates: The Pakistani rupee made its largest single-day drop in value against the dollar in over a decade in trading on Tuesday, following the announcement that the government plans to seek a new IMF loan package, ending trading at around Rs 133 to the dollar, a 7.5% devaluation. The State Bank of Pakistan said that it would “closely monitor the situation and stand ready to intervene in case of any unwarranted volatility”. The devaluation has contributed to a rupee-denominated jump in Pakistan’s external debt liabilities, but is expected to lower imports and help contain the current account deficit. Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, the IMF’s chief economist said that Pakistan could benefit from Chinese infrastructure investments under CPEC but cautioned against “excessive debts which cannot be repaid”. A spokesman for China’s foreign ministry said Tuesday pointed to the IMF’s assessment that “the construction of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor will help promote the development of the Pakistani side in the long run”. PM Khan chaired a meeting of top party leaders on Tuesday to discuss the IMF bailout request and the need to “present a strong case of the government in the media”; Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry defended the move in a press conference, while opposition party leaders criticized the request. In remarks on Wednesday, PM Khan offered reassurances on the economy’s stability, saying that he would “steer you out of this difficult time”. [WSJ] [ET] [The Nation] [Dawn]

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Five Frontier Corps Soldiers Wounded in Chaman Bombing [The Nation]
  • NGO Groups Protest Crackdown [ET]
  • PIA Flights Delayed as PSO Halts Fuel Supply Over Non-Payment of Dues [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Balochistan Chief Minister Meets Chinese Ambassador [ET]
  • China and Pakistan Sign MOUs Worth $100M for Investment [The Nation]
  • Bureaucrats Rejected PM’s Proposed Civil Service Reforms Body [ET] [The Nation]
  • PM to Inaugurate Housing Project [The Nation]
  • PM Meets with Christian Leaders [ET]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • Election Violence: Tuesday’s bombing in Lashkar Gah killed parliamentary candidate Saleh Mohammad Achakzai as well as seven other people attending a campaign rally at his offices; no claim of responsibility has been reported. At least seven other parliamentary candidate have been killed since July. In remarks on Tuesday, Pres. Ghani denounced Taliban threats against the election process, pledging security for the polls. [TOLO] [Ariana News]
  • Army Officers Convicted of Espionage: On Tuesday, a court in Nangarhar convicted two Afghan army officers and sentenced them each to twenty years in prison on charges of spying for Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence. They denied the charges against them and retain a right of appeal.
  • Attacks and Operations: Military officials in Faryab claim that as many as fifty Taliban fighters were killed in an airstrike early Wednesday morning in the Qaisar district. Officials in Helmand report at least 27 Taliban fighters were killed in two airstrikes in the Nad Ali district on Tuesday evening. [Khaama Press]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Taliban Talks: Following remarks by US Special Envoy Khalilzad, a spokesman for the Afghan High Peace Council said that it was preparing an “inclusive and authorized negotiating team” and that it was “waiting for the Taliban leadership to form their negotiating team for talks with the Afghan government”. Anonymous Pakistani diplomatic sources speaking to The Nation following Khalilzad’s meeting with Pakistani foreign ministry officials that the U.S. and Pakistan “will try to placate Taliban and start a dialogue process for peace”.

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Afghan Teachers to Receive Salaries Through Mobile Phones [Khaama Press] [TOLO]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Pakistan to Seek IMF Bailout; IEC Says Biometric Verification Will Be Required for Votes

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Topline

  • On Monday, Finance Minister Umar announced that Pakistan would seek an IMF bailout program, vowing to undertake structural reforms but also to minimize the impact on Pakistan’s poorest citizens. Umar will meet with IMF leaders in Bali later this week; he did not specify how much money Pakistan would seek as part of the loan.
  • Following a meeting of top PML-N leaders on Monday, party leaders warned of protests on Wednesday if Shehbaz Sharif was not allowed to address parliament and defend himself from corruption charges after his arrest last week.
  • On Sunday, Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission said it would not accept votes cast without biometric registration of the voter — a demand of the main opposition parties — although the IEC spokesman said no decision had yet been made on what to do if the biometric machines malfunctioned or were not delivered to all polling centers.
  • A bombing struck the offices of a Helmand parliamentary candidate on Tuesday in Lashkar Gah, killing at least eight people; no claim of responsibility was reported.
  • Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad arrived in Islamabad on Tuesday for talks with Pakistani foreign ministry officials.
  • Pakistan reportedly plans to purchase 48 Chinese-made armed drones, as part of a deal that may ultimately result in co-production in Pakistan; the terms of the sale were not reported.
  • The Pakistani government appointed a new Punjab police chief on Tuesday, just two months after appointing his predecessor; shortly afterwards, however, the Election Commission suspended the move, citing restrictions on new postings during the campaign period before the by-elections next week.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • Pakistan to Purchase Chinese Armed Drones: China’s Global Times reported Tuesday that Pakistan plans to buy 48 armed Wing Loong II drones from China’s Chengdu Aircraft Industria Company, as part of a deal that may eventually result in co-production in Pakistan. Details of the contract price and a timeline for delivery were not reported.
  • New Punjab Police Chief: On Tuesday, the federal government appointed Amjad Javed Saleemi as the new Punjab police chief, replacing Muhammad Tahir, who had been appointed to the position two months prior after previously serving as Khyber Paktunkhwa police chief; no explanation was given for the replacement. Shortly afterwards, however, the Election Commission ordered the suspension of Saleemi’s appointment, citing restrictions on new postings and transfers during the campaign period prior to the by-elections on Oct 14. [Dawn]

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Shehbaz Arrest: A meeting of top PML-N party leaders chaired by Nawaz Sharif on Monday reportedly decided to challenge the “political victimization” of its leadership, blaming PM Khan for instigating the arrest of Shehbaz Sharif and directing party leaders to reach out to other opposition parties to form a united opposition against the PTI government. Speaking on Monday, former Punjab law minister Rana Sanaullah demanded that Shehbaz be released from National Accountability Bureau custody and allowed to attend parliament to “present his case before the people”. Sanaullah threatened protests outside the national and Punjab assemblies if demands for special sessions on Shehbaz’s arrest were not met by Wednesday. On Tuesday, the NAB began an inquiry into Shehbaz’s assets, and issued a summons to his son Salman Shehbaz. [ET] [ET] [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation] [Dawn]
  • Elections: Anonymous PPP sources tell The Nation they are prepared to cooperate with the PML-N to seek the ouster of the PTI provincial government in Punjab after the by-elections next week, in the event that the PML-N narrows the margin of control in the assembly; twelve seats are being contested in Punjab. BNP leader Akhtar Mengal reiterated warnings on Monday that he was prepared to quit the PTI-led government in Balochistan and at the center if the PTI neglected its alliance commitments. ECP secretary Babar Yaqoob will brief the senate on Wednesday on the apparent breakdown of the results transmission system during the general elections in July. [ET]
  • Press Censorship: Reuters interviews members of the Pakistani media who report “widespread self-censorship” on the part of journalists who are refraining from criticism of PM Khan, the military, or the courts.
  • Other Corruption Investigations and Legal Battles: Lawyers for Nawaz Sharif cross-examined NAB witnesses during corruption trial hearings on Tuesday. The Federal Investigation Agency reported to the Supreme Court on Tuesday that it had issued notices to 895 individuals inquiring about foreign property. Also on Tuesday, the Supreme Court rejected an appeal by PML-N leader Talal Chaudhry against his conviction on contempt of court charges. [Dawn] [The Nation] [The Nation] [The Nation]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Pakistan to Seek IMF Bailout: On Monday, Finance Minister Umar announced that the government had decided to open negotiations with the IMF for a new loan program; he vowed to undertake structural reforms as part of the move so that “this spiral of being in an IMF programme every few years is broken once and for all” and also pledged to minimize the impact on poor citizens. The IMF said Tuesday it had not received a formal request for assistance and Umar did not specify the size of the loan that Pakistan would seek, although analysts have estimated it may require as much as $11-12 billion; Dawn reports that the government will seek $7.5 billion over three years, and Umar indicated that the government was still seeking other means of support. Umar will attend meetings with the IMF leadership in Bali later this week at which he is expected to initiate formal talks. Following the announcement, the rupee depreciated to a record Rs 138 to the dollar in trading on Tuesday; stocks partially rebounded after several days of losses. [WSJ] [ET]
  • CPEC Projects: Speaking to reporters on Monday, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said that PM Khan had ordered a shift in the focus for the China Pakistan Economic Corridor away from highway infrastructure to “support the agriculture sector, create more jobs and attract other foreign countries like Saudi Arabia to invest in the country”. China suspended funding for road projects last year. Khan will visit China in the first week of November.
  • FATF Talks: A visiting delegation from the Financial Action Task Force urged Pakistani officials to “intensify actions against the non-profit organisations suspected of giving financial aid to terrorist groups” and to “bring more transparency in the steps it is taking over proliferation matters”. Plenary talks will be held in Paris on Oct 14 and will include a report on Pakistan’s progress in taking actions to curtail terrorism financing. [The Nation]

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Pakistan Conducts Ghauri Missile System Test [Dawn] [ET] [The Nation]
  • Supreme Court Forms Committee on Minority Rights [The Nation] [Dawn]
  • Judges Consider Musharraf Testimony by Skype [Dawn]
  • Supreme Court Questions PPP Government Over Thar Drought Crisis Response [ET] [ET] [The Nation]
  • IHC Judge Recuses Himself from Petition Over Presidential Pardon Powers [The Nation]
  • Curfew Relaxed in Mohmand After Killings [ET]
  • Minister for Water Resources Says Diamer-Bhasha Dam Construction to Begin in 2019 [Dawn]
  • PM Launches ‘Green and Clean Pakistan’ Initiative [ET] [The Nation]

 

Afghanistan — Security

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Parliamentary Elections: On Sunday, Independent Election Commission spokesman Sayed Hafizullah Hashemi said that the IEC would not accept votes from voters not registered by the new biometric verification system — a demand of the major opposition parties — although he said that they had not reached a decision on what to do if machines did not work or were not delivered to all polling centers. Hashemi said that the commission had decided that taking photos of female voters with the biometric machines “will be optional”. Pajhwok notes campaigning by agriculture minister Nasir Ahmad Durani and health minister Firozuddin Firoz, in violation of restrictions ordered by Pres. Ghani. [TOLO] [TOLO]
  • Khalilzad Visits Pakistan: US Special Envoy for Afghan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad visited Islamabad on Tuesday for meetings with Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua. In remarks earlier on Monday, Khalilzad called on the Taliban and the Afghan government to each form “authorized team[s] of negotiators” for peace talks. [Reuters] [ET]

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Afghan Women Still Jailed Alongside Murderers for ‘Failing’ Virginity Test [Guardian]
  • Afghan Chamber of Commerce Protests Pakistani Border Closures to Apple Exports [TOLO]
  • Commentary: Basic Facts About the Parliamentary Elections – “Afghanistan’s next parliamentary elections will be held on Saturday, 20 October 2018. The election campaign started on 28 September. There will be a 48 hour silence period on 8 and 9 October immediately before election day. Preliminary results are scheduled for the 10 November and the final results to be made known on 20 December 2018.” [Thomas Ruttig, AAN]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Shehbaz Sharif’s Custody Extended After Arrest; Taliban Threaten Parliamentary Elections

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Topline

  • Shehbaz Sharif was remanded to ten days custody by a Lahore accountability court on Saturday, following his arrest the day prior by the National Accountability Bureau. Nawaz Sharif chaired a meeting of top party leaders on Monday to discuss the PML-N’s strategy following the arrest, his first major political activity since his own conviction and subsequent release from prison. The action comes just over a week ahead of by-elections taking place on October 14; PTI government officials denied any involvement in the arrest decision but suggested more such actions could be forthcoming.
  • In a statement on Monday, the Taliban denounced the upcoming parliamentary elections and threatened to carry out attacks against security personnel guarding the polls. On Sunday, grenades were thrown at the home of the chairman of the Electoral Complaints Commission, although no injuries or claim of responsibility was reported.
  • Major Afghan political party representatives stated at a press conference on Saturday that they would not accept the results of polling centers where the Independent Election Commission did not use new biometric voter registry machines. Delivery of those machines began over the weekend; they will record fingerprints, faces, and voter registration cards, and the resulting voter code will be affixed to ballots cast. IEC officials suggested that the machines would likely not be able to connect to the internet to sync registration across the country and prohibit double voting.
  • In a statement on Friday, Pakistan’s finance ministry said that it shared the IMF’s assessment of the need for “decisive policy action” and was “committed to take further corrective measures to restore stability and inclusive growth”. PM Khan is reported to be resistant to a formal request for a loan application until after the by-elections.
  • US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad arrived in Kabul on Sunday where he began meetings with Afghan officials. Separately, CENTCOM commander Gen. Joseph Votel told reporters the U.S. was seeking action by Pakistan to “make absolutely sure that there are no instructions, direction, other things coming from Taliban leadership that remains in Pakistan to their fighters on the ground” in Afghanistan, and also to “use their influence with the Taliban to force the Taliban leadership to come to the table”.
  • A delegation of the Financial Action Task Force arrived in Pakistan on Monday for ten days of talks assessing Pakistan’s actions to curtail money laundering and terrorism financing.
  • On Friday, the Afghan government signed a contract with a British-American firm for the exploration of copper and gold mining sites in Badakhshan and Sar-e-Pul provinces; the company’s Afghan partner is led by Sadat Naderi, the former minister for urban development.
  • The Supreme Court of Pakistan held hearings on Monday on an appeal by Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy; the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan warned of “terrible consequences” if she were acquitted or allowed to leave the country.

 

Pakistan — Security

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Shehbaz Sharif Arrested: On Saturday, a Lahore accountability court remanded PML-N opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif to an additional ten days’ custody with the National Accountability Bureau, following his arrest the day prior on charges related to a housing development project. Speaking before the court, Shehbaz denied the charges against him; Nawaz Sharif reportedly chaired a meeting of party leaders on Saturday, and was quoted vowing to overcome the challenges facing the party. PML-N activists demonstrated outside the court, and were subsequently charged with rioting. Shehbaz’s arrest comes just over a week before by-elections are to be held; some PML-N sources tell the Express Tribune that his son, Punjab assembly opposition leader Hamza Shehbaz, will now head the party’s campaign activities, but others say that the party is divided over Hamza’s ascension. Hamza and Nawaz Sharif were allowed to meet with Shehbaz at the NAB offices in Lahore on Sunday. Nawaz chaired another meeting of top party leaders on Monday to discuss strategy, his first major political action since his conviction earlier this summer. The PML-N has petitioned the Election Commission against Shehbaz’s arrest, and has also sought a national assembly session on the issue. Speaking on Saturday PTI Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry suggested that “more major arrests are also expected in the coming days” but denied that the government had influenced the NAB’s actions, as did other government ministers. In remarks on Sunday, PM Khan said that “no matter how much they shout in parliament, stage sit-ins and demonstrations, we will not spare corrupt people … we’ll catch them one by one”. Leaders of the PPP, ANP, and JUI-F all expressed concerns over Shehbaz’s arrest ahead of the elections. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation] [The Nation] [The Nation] [ET] [ET] [ET]
  • External Relations: In remarks to reporters on Thursday, US National Security Advisor Bolton said that the US would “continue the conversation” with Pakistan, and that his discussions with Foreign Minister Qureshi last week had included “the suspension of security assistance and the importance that we placed on Pakistan renewing an effective campaign against the terrorists”. Qureshi briefed PM Khan on his meetings on Friday; in remarks on Saturday, he said that he “had made it clear on Washington that Islamabad wanted bilateral relations based on mutual respect and reciprocity”. PM Khan met with foreign ministry officials again on Monday in preparation for a trip to China planned for later this month. [Dawn]
  • Elections and Election Complaints: The Express Tribune reports that, despite apparent breakdowns during the general elections, the ECP will use the NADRA-developed Results Transmission System for the October 14 by-elections. Army personnel will be deployed inside and outside polling stations to provide security. Despite being coalition partners, the PTI and MQM will field rival candidates in two Karachi constituencies. The returning office for the PP-27 Jhelum constituency has issued notices against Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry and Petroleum Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan, accusing them of violating restrictions on campaigning by sitting government officials. On Friday, an election tribunal notified Imran Khan of a challenge to his electoral victory in the NA-95 constituency in the July elections. [The Nation] [The Nation] [Dawn]
  • Leaders Visit Balochistan: PM Khan and Chief of Army Staff Bajwa both visited Quetta on Saturday; Khan pledged more development assistance for the province, and received a security briefing from the military’s Southern Command. Khan also met with leaders of the BNP-Mengal; BNP leader Akhtar Mengal separately warned that he was prepared to quit the governing coalition if the PTI did not abide by its commitments. [The Nation] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET]
  • Aasia Bibi Appeal: The Supreme Court held hearings on Monday and reserved a verdict on an appeal by Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy in 2009. In a statement, the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan warned of “terrible consequences” if Bibi was acquitted or allowed to leave the country.
  • Other Political Activity: PM Khan met with the Punjab provincial cabinet on Sunday to discuss plans to reform the local government system in the province, although the final details of the plan were not reported; he also announced plans to introduce a whistleblower act. Dawn reports that the new government is continuing to reshuffle top bureaucratic appointments, and plans to withdraw the appointments of Pakistan’s ambassadors to the United States, UN, and Canada. National Party leader Hasil Khan Bizenjo suggested Sunday that a broad opposition coalition would be formed after the October by-elections and a “massive movement” launched against the PTI. On Friday, PPP senator Rehman Malik called for the enactment of a defamation law.
  • Other Corruption Investigations and Legal Battles: At hearings on Monday, the Lahore High Court withdrew an arrest warrant and travel restrictions on Dawn journalist Cyril Almeida for his role in a May interview with Nawaz Sharif, for which Nawaz is facing treason charges. Hearings were adjourned again until Oct 22. At a hearing on Saturday, Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar sought replies from the Punjab government and prosecutors over the possible constitution of a new Joint Investigation Team to investigate the 2014 Model Town clash between police and Pakistan Awami Tehreek activists. The Supreme Court will hold hearings on Monday on a petition seeking Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah’s disqualification on charges of lying about holding dual nationality. Karachi mayor Waseem Akhtar was indicted on Saturday on new charges related to May 2007 riots. [Reuters] [ET] [ET] [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation] [The Nation] [The Nation] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • IMF Talks and Economic Reforms: In a statement on Friday following the conclusion of IMF staff-level talks, Pakistan’s ministry of finance said that it shared the IMF team’s assessment of the need for “decisive policy action” and was “committed to take further corrective measures to restore stability and inclusive growth”. Dawn reports that PM Khan is resistant to formally requesting an IMF loan program until after the October 14 by-elections; he told reporters on Sunday that “we may go to IMF for a loan to handle the country’s financial issues” but that “first we will try to get assistance from other countries as we have requested three countries to deposit money in Pakistan’s State Bank that would help boost national reserves”. On Sunday, leaders of the MQM protested the recent rise in compressed natural gas prices, and said that “the government should avoid taking measures affecting the people only to please the IMF”. [ET] [ET] [Dawn]
  • FATF Review: A delegation from the international Financial Action Task Force arrived in Pakistan on Monday for a ten-day visit to review steps taken to curtail money laundering and terrorism financing. [ET] [Dawn]

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Supreme Court Accepts ‘Unconditional Apology’ After Punjab Chief Minister Challenges Report on Police Officer’s Transfer [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
  • ‘Perpetual Arrest Warrant’ Issued for Former Envoy Husain Haqqani [Dawn]
  • Government Forms ‘Asset Recovery Unit’ [ET] [The Nation]
  • Protests Held in Peshawar Over Continued Use of FCR Law [ET] [Dawn]
  • Supreme Judicial Council to Hear Another Disciplinary Case Against IHC Judge [ET]
  • Chief Justice Seeks Report on ‘Grey Traffic Networks’ [ET]
  • Army Chief Meets Turkish Ambassador [The Nation]
  • Police Officer Killed in Karachi [Dawn]
  • Money Laundering Case Against Altaf Hussain Shifted to Islamabad [Dawn]
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Government Prepares Budget [ET]
  • Inquiries Ordered into Karachi Power Outages [Dawn]
  • Supreme Court Orders Report on Boundaries of Diamer-Bhasha Dam [Dawn]
  • PM Approves Polio Emergency Program [ET]
  • Government Puts Road Infrastructure Projects on the Back Burner [The Nation]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • Taliban Threaten Elections: In a statement on Monday, the Taliban called on Afghans to boycott the upcoming parliamentary elections, saying that “people are given a deceptive feeling of having free right casting their votes for the malicious purpose of minimizing their resentment against the foreign occupation… the real solution of the ongoing Afghan crisis lies in the complete withdrawal of all foreign occupying forces and the restoration of a pure Islamic sovereignty.” The statement also warned that “people who are trying to help in holding this process successfully by providing security should be targeted”, though it called for “taking extensive and intensive care of civilian Afghan lives and their properties”. In a separate incident, hand grenades were thrown at the home of the chairman of the Electoral Complaints Commission in Kabul early Sunday morning; no injuries were reported, and there has been no claim of responsibility. On Monday, a female parliamentary candidate in Badghis province succumbed to injuries from a traffic accident three days prior.
  • Taliban Attacks Target Kabul Routes: Taliban fighters carried out attacks in several provinces south and east of Kabul over the weekend, destroying bridges along the main highway in Ghazni province linking Kabul and points further south, cutting a power line servicing Ghazni, Logar, Paktia, and Wardak provinces, and killing the district police chief in Wadrak province’s Sayeed Abad district, along with as many as thirteen other officers, in an attack that destroyed the district police headquarters. Afghan security officials claimed to have reopened the Kabul-Kandahar highway to traffic as of Sunday. [Khaama Press] [TOLO]
  • US Airpower: US forces in Afghanistan conducted 465 airstrikes in the month of September, American military officials reported on Saturday.
  • Other Attacks and Operations: The NYT puts the death toll from attacks around the country on Sunday — the 17th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan — at 54, including 19 civilians. At least 62 Afghan security personnel and 37 civilians were reportedly killed in the September 28 – October 4 period, according to NYT tallies. Two Afghan security personnel were killed in a double bombing in Kabul on Saturday; a city district police chief was among the wounded. U.S. airstrikes in Nangarhar’s Bandar and Khogyani districts on Saturday and Sunday reportedly killed as many as 42 ISIS fighters. Afghan military officials in Kunar reported that Taliban and ISIS forces clashed in the Watapur district on Friday. [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [TOLO] [TOLO] [TOLO]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Election Preparations: Speaking at a press conference on Saturday, members of the major political parties said that they would not accept the results from polling centers in the upcoming parliamentary elections if biometric voter registration was not used. A spokesman for the Independent Election System said that the biometric system, which records fingerprints, faces, and voter registration cards, would not be able to connect to the internet to sync registration across the country. TOLO notes that voter ID codes will be affixed to ballot papers to allow for their disqualification in the event of multiple votes cast; the procedure for taking photos of voter’s faces, including women who may be veiled, has not been finalized. At Saturday’s press conference, a member of Jamiat-e-Islami insisted that women’s faces should be photographed. Biometric scanners had been transferred to Nuristan, Uruzgan, Badakhshan, Faryab, Ghor, and Paktia provinces as of Sunday. [TOLO] [TOLO] [TOLO] [Reuters]
  • Khalilzad Visits Kabul: US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad arrived in Kabul on Sunday for talks with Afghan officials, at the start of a multi-week visit to the region. Initial meetings included Pres. Ghani, Chief Executive Abdullah, and mujahedeen veteran Abdul Rasool Rayyaf. He told TOLO that he would work in cooperation with “Afghan officials and other influential Afghans” to “make a peaceful Afghanistan where all tribes see themselves included, have the right to choose and will try to achieve a result that should deserve the sacrifices made during the years”. In separate remarks to reporters over the weekend, CENTCOM commander Gen. Joseph Votel said that the U.S. was seeking action by Pakistan to “make absolutely sure that there are no instructions, direction, other things coming from Taliban leadership that remains in Pakistan to their fighters on the ground” in Afghanistan, and also to “use their influence with the Taliban to force the Taliban leadership to come to the table”. [AP]
  • Pakistani Consulate Reopens: On Sunday, Pakistan’s foreign ministry announced that it would be reopening its consulate in Jalalabad on Monday; the consulate had been closed since August 30, after disputes over alleged intervention by Nangarhar provincial governor Hayatullah Hayat on behalf of visa applicants. [ET] [Khaama Press]
  • Ghani Visits Balkh: Pres. Ghani visited Balkh province on Friday and Saturday, where he inaugurated a new hospital facility and met with provincial leaders and military officials; speaking on Saturday, he ordered that security in several Balkh districts be made a top priority for the Afghan security forces. [Khaama Press]

 

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Mining Deal: On Friday, the Afghan government signed a contract at its embassy in Washington for the exploration of new copper and gold mines in Badakhshan and Sar-e-Pul provinces; the British mining group Centar partnered with former Afghan minister for urban development Sadat Naderi for the project, which had been given preliminary approval in 2012. Afghan law prohibits the involvement of cabinet ministers in mining contracts for five years after leaving government; Naderi resigned in June, but officials insisted that because the project was originally approved by the previous government, no wrong-doing was involved. [Reuters] [AP] [Financial Times]

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • US Soldier Killed in Helmand Last Week Identified [WAPO]
  • ALP District Commander in Achin Jailed Over Abuse Charges [Khaama Press]
  • Government Bans Saffron Import [Khaama Press]
  • Report: Increasing Harm to Afghan Civilians from the Deliberate and Indiscriminate Use of Improvised Explosive Devices – “IEDs cause almost half of the civilian casualties from conflict-related violence and are being increasingly used in attacks targeting civilians.” [UNAMA (pdf)]
  • Commentary: A Contested Disqualification of Candidates – “Comparing the twenty named as being members or commanders of illegal armed groups with those who only received warnings or ‘advice’ and with many other candidates, both sitting MPs and first-time nominees, it is clear that some egregious offenders have been allowed to run, well-known strongmen with links to armed groups” [Ali Yawar Adili, AAN]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Shehbaz Sharif Arrested on Corruption Charges; Afghan Govt Rejects Private Security Plan

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Topline

  • On Friday, the National Accountability Bureau arrested PML-N leader Shehbaz Sharif on corruption charges linked to a Lahore housing project; he will reportedly be arraigned in court on Saturday.
  • There is additional reporting today on the Afghan government’s rejection of Blackwater founder Erik Prince’s proposals for the replacement of U.S. forces in Afghanistan with private security contractors; Prince reportedly met with some Afghan opposition figures during a recent visit to Afghanistan. CENTCOM commander Gen. Joseph Votel rejected the Prince proposal in remarks to reporters on Thursday.
  • The State Bank of Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves have dropped below $8.5 billion, a four year low; in briefings with PM Khan on Thursday, Pakistani finance officials reportedly concluded that a new IMF loan package was “the only viable option” to restore Pakistan’s macroeconomic position and that “no major and continued financial relief was in sight from the friendly countries”.
  • On Thursday, spokesmen for the Afghan ministries of defense and interior announced that they had completed the delivery of electoral materials to all of Afghanistan’s provinces, ahead of parliamentary elections on October 20.
  • Pakistan has ordered the expulsion of eighteen international aid organizations after rejecting their appeals against removal.
  • The EU has pledged an additional €20 million in emergency assistance to help address drought across Afghanistan.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • NGOs Expelled: On Thursday, the charity ActionAid announced that it and 17 other international aid organizations had received orders from the ministry of interior to cease operations in Pakistan, after their appeals against expulsion were denied. [AP]
  • ASWJ Leader Killed in Peshawar: Maulana Ismail Derwish, the former chief of the Sunni sectarian group Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat for the Peshawar district, was killed along with a police guard in a drive-by shooting in Peshawar on Thursday. No claim of responsibility was reported. [Dawn] [AP]

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Shehbaz Sharif Arrested on Corruption Charges: On Friday, the National Accountability Bureau arrested PML-N leader Shehbaz Sharif, linking him to an ongoing investigation launched earlier this spring into alleged corruption in a Lahore housing development project; several associates of Shehbaz and Nawaz Sharif had previously been arrested as part of the inquiry. Shehbaz will reportedly be arraigned in court on Saturday; Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said that “the process of accountability will continue. There is a zero-tolerance policy against corruption”. [Reuters]
  • Qureshi Visit: In his remarks earlier this week during a speech at USIP, Foreign Minister Qureshi argued that Pakistan “cannot and should not be held responsible for the failures in Afghanistan”, even as he acknowledged the centrality of the conflict there for US-Pakistan relations. At a press conference on Thursday at the conclusion of his trip, Qureshi said that “there can be no progress in the Afghan peace process without involving Pakistan… pressures and blame-games worsen a situation, they do not improve it.” Qureshi also cautioned new US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad to “be more sensitive to opinion in Pakistan”, noting that Khalilzad had made “statements in the past which have not been, to be put it mildly, very friendly to Pakistan”.
  • Commission on APS Attack: On Friday, Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar ordered the formation of a judicial commission to investigate the 2014 Peshawar Army Public School attack, apologizing to petitioning families for delays in the investigation and pledging to visit the school himself in the coming weeks. [ET] [The Nation]
  • Public Accounts Committee: The Nation reports that the PTI has decided not to allow opposition members to chair the Public Accounts Committee and to retain the position for itself, with former national assembly speaker Syed Fakhar Imam reportedly chosen for the chairmanship. PML-N leaders have warned of protests if they are denied the committee leadership.
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: Irfan Naeem Mangi, a National Accountability Bureau director and former member of the Joint Investigation Team in the Panama Papers case, met with the accountability court judges presiding over Nawaz Sharif’s corruption trial on Thursday; he told reporters that his meeting was focused on “administrative issues”, and Judge Arshad Malik also denied that they had discussed the cases against Sharif. On Thursday, the Supreme Court removed former chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry’s son-in-law Murtaza Amjad from the Exit Control List, allowing him to travel abroad, but upheld continued NAB inquiries against him. The Lahore High Court is hearing a petition challenging PTI leader Jahangir Tareen’s reported chairing of a government meeting despite his disqualification from parliament. On Friday, the Supreme Court rejected a bail petition from two police officers jailed for negligence in the Benazir Bhutto murder case. [ET] [ET] [ET] [The Nation] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Other Political Activity: The Express Tribune reports that Shehabaz Sharif has appointed a three-member committee to investigate remarks by lawmaker Rana Mashhood suggesting a possible agreement with the military establishment for a return to power for the party; anonymous party sources suggest Shehbaz would prefer to “sweep the matter under the rug”, but that Nawaz Sharif is “very unhappy” over the situation. Six new federal cabinet members were sworn in at a ceremony on Friday. Protests were held in Gujranwala over plans for the amendment of the Punjab local government system. [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [The Nation]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Balance of Payments Crisis: State Bank of Pakistan-held foreign exchange reserves have fallen below $8.5 billion according to the most recent SBP data released Thursday, dropping more than $627 million from the previous week to a four-year low. On Thursday, the SBP announced plans to sell Rs 4.9 trillion in new bonds to pay back maturing debts. Pakistani finance ministry officials have reportedly briefed PM Khan that a new IMF loan package is “the only viable option” to restore Pakistan’s macroeconomic position and that “no major and continued financial relief was in sight from the friendly countries”. IMF officials are reportedly seeking a further devaluation of the rupee and increase in interest rates as a condition of a new loan package, as well as price hikes to reduce circular debts in the energy sector. In a statement following the conclusion of staff talks on Thursday, the IMF noted concerns that “Pakistan is facing an increasingly difficult economic situation, with high fiscal and current account deficits, and low international reserves”. [ET]
  • Economic Leadership: On Thursday, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry announced that a cabinet meeting on Thursday had ordered the removal of several senior officials in the government and banking sector that had been “illegally appointed” by former finance minister Ishaq Dar, including two deputy governors of the State Bank of Pakistan. Separately, Finance Minister Umar sought nominations from the provinces for the membership of the National Finance Commission. On Friday, the government formed the National Economic Council, and on Thursday formed a council of business leader advisors. [The Nation]
  • Saudi Investment: Speaking on Thursday, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said that the cabinet had approved a draft memorandum of understanding for a Saudi investment project to create a new oil refinery at Gwadar port, but did not provide further details.

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Police Chief Joins FATA Task Force [ET]
  • Several Injured in University of Peshawar Clash Between Police and Students [ET] [The Nation]
  • BNP-M Leader Warns Government Against Neglecting Balochistan [The Nation]
  • PTI and PML-N Activists Clash in Lahore [ET]
  • Joint Chiefs Chairman Hayat Meets PM Khan [ET]
  • Supreme Court Grills Property Developer Malik Riaz Over Karachi Land Swap [Dawn]
  • Supreme Court Sets Date for Aasia Bibi Hearing [ET]
  • Pakistan and Nigeria to Strengthen Military Cooperation [ET]
  • Rawalpindi Police Obtaining New Surety Bonds from ‘Fourth Schedulers’ [Dawn]
  • Gas Tariff Hike Goes Into Effect [Dawn] [ET]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • Private Security Plan: The NYT, Washington Post, and Reuters all follow on yesterday’s statement from the Afghan National Security Council rejecting a proposal backed by Blackwater founder Erik Prince to replace U.S. forces in Afghanistan with private military contractors; Prince recently gave interviews to the Afghan press as part of his ongoing promotion of the plan. The NYT reports that Prince “found a receptive audience among Afghanistan’s power brokers” and that aides to Pres. Ghani, who was publicly critical of the proposal earlier this week, see it as “a politicized threat to the Afghan president himself before next year’s presidential election”. Speaking to reporters on Thursday, CENTCOM commander Gen. Joseph Votel also rejected the idea of shifting to the use of private security contractors; a spokesman for the U.S. National Security Council said that “we are constantly assessing our strategies, and are open to new approaches that would help us achieve our strategic objectives”, but referred to statements by Pres. Trump earlier this summer that he was not reviewing Prince’s proposal.
  • Attacks and Operations: In interviews on Thursday, Gen. Votel acknowledged high casualties facing the Afghan national security forces, saying that the U.S. was still pushing Afghan forces to reduce their reliance on static defense positions. A U.S. servicemember was killed in a combat operation in Afghanistan on Thursday, officials said, but provided no further details; it is the seventh U.S. combat fatality so far this year. At least four people were killed and eight wounded in an Afghan airstrike on a wedding procession in Kandahar’s Maroof district on Thursday; provincial police chief Gen. Abdul Raziq blamed Taliban fighters fleeing Afghan security forces for intermingling with the group. Two women were also killed in a separate roadside bombing in the Zhari district in Kandahar on Thursday. [Reuters] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [TOLO]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Election Preparations: On Thursday, spokesmen for the ministries of defense and interior announced that they had completed the transfer of electoral materials to all provinces around the country, in partnership with the IEC. Around 54,000 security personnel will deploy to around 5,100 polling centers around the country to provide security; during a visit to Panjshir province on Thursday, US and NATO commander Gen. Austin Miller pledged support for the election’s security.
  • Indonesia Visit: Chief Executive Abdullah met with Indonesian Pres. Widodo in Jakarta on Thursday, who voiced support for the Afghan peace process.

 

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • The Many Dangers of Being an Afghan Woman in Uniform [NYT]
  • Highest-Ranking Female Officer in Afghanistan to Leave Training Command [Stars and Stripes]