Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: US and Taliban Meet in UAE; Afghan, Chinese, and Pakistani Foreign Ministers Meet in Kabul

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Topline

  • US and Taliban representatives will meet in the UAE on Monday for talks that will also include representatives from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Pakistan; PM Khan said earlier that Pakistan had facilitated the talks. Afghan National Security Advisor Hamdullah Mohib held quadrilateral talks earlier with US, Saudi, and UAE representatives on Sunday.
  • The foreign ministers of Afghanistan, China, and Pakistan met in Kabul on Saturday for trilateral talks on the Afghan peace process and economic cooperation. Speaking afterwards, Afghan Foreign Minister Rabbani said that he had yet to see “tangible progress” from Pakistan “in the fight against terrorism”; Pakistani Foreign Minister Qureshi said that “we have to stop pointing fingers at each other”.
  • At least six Frontier Corps soldiers were killed and 14 injured in an attack on their convoy in the Kech district in Balochistan on Friday; although no claim of responsibility has been reported, Pakistan summoned Iran’s ambassador to formally protest the incident.
  • On Monday, Pakistan’s foreign ministry announced that it would repatriate Hamid Nehal Ansari, an Indian man convicted in 2015 of spying and entering the country illegally.
  • Provincial council sources in Kunar province report as many as twenty Afghan civilians were killed in a joint US-Afghan operation in the Shegal district on Thursday evening last week; investigations are under way, but a spokesperson for the US and NATO mission denied that civilians had been killed.
  • Speaking at a rally on Saturday, former Pres. Zardari criticized the military and judicial establishment, saying that “no one has this right to decide the destiny of people … especially those who serve fixed tenure of only three years”.
  • A spokesman for Vice Pres. Dostum said that he had been asked by Pres. Ghani to rejoin his re-election campaign, but said that Dostum had yet to decide on whether to do so.
  • In a ruling on Saturday, Chief Justice Nisar ordered that senior government employees must relinquish any dual nationalities or quit government service, and also ordered the government to review and notify former army chief Raheel Sharif’s service with the Saudi Islamic Military Coutner Terrorism Coalition.
  • The IMF has set new revenue targets and fiscal deficit targets as conditions for a loan package for Pakistan; the two sides have reportedly still yet to resolve disagreements over electricity price increases and further devaluation of the rupee.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • Balochistan Attacks: Six Frontier Corps soldiers were killed and as many as 14 injured in an attack on their convoy as it was traveling in Balochistan’s Kech district on Friday. No public claim of responsibility was reported, but on Saturday Pakistan’s foreign ministry summoned the Iranian envoy to register a formal protest over the incident, and urged Iran “to carry out effective operation against the terrorist group responsible for the attack on its side of the border”. Separately, a Frontier Constabulary soldier was killed in landmine blast in Sibi on Sunday. [Reuters] [AP] [ET] [ET] [ET] [The Nation]
  • Indian Man Repatriated: On Monday, Pakistan’s foreign ministry announced that Hamid Nehal Ansari, an Indian man jailed on charges of spying and illegally entering the country from Afghanistan in 2015, would be repatriated to India following the completion of his three-year sentence. [ET]
  • Military Courts: On Sunday, the Pakistani military announced that Chief of Army Staff Bajwa had approved death sentences for 15 men convicted under the military courts system, all of whom are reported to have confessed to the charges against them. According to military reports, in total, 717 cases have been referred to the military court system since its inauguration, of which 546 have been concluded, resulting in 310 death sentences. [AP] [Dawn]
  • Border Fencing: In a statement on Saturday, the Pakistani military’s chief spokesman claimed that a fencing project along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border would be completed by the end of 2019, saying that work had been completed on 802 kilometers of the 1,200 kilometer-long border and 233 out of 843 planned fortifications.
  • Arms Licensing: On Saturday, the interior ministry reversed a ban on certain “prohibited bore” weapons that was imposed last year.

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Zardari Criticizes Military: Speaking at a rally in Hyderabad on Saturday, former Pres. Zardari indirectly criticized the military and judicial establishment, saying that “no one has this right to decide the destiny of people … especially those who serve fixed tenure of only three years”. Interior Minister Fawad Chaudhry countered that “no matter how many philosophies you can talk about, the nation knows who had looted the exchequer”. At a press conference on Sunday, Zardari brushed off his legal challenges, saying “jail is our second home”, and claimed that the PPP would be positioned to form the next government after midterm polls. [The Nation] [ET]
  • Dual Nationality Restrictions: In a ruling on Saturday, Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar ordered that senior government employees holding dual nationality must relinquish their nationalities or their position. At least 1,116 current government employees reportedly hold second nationalities. The ruling also included reporting requirements on government permissions for former government employees to take jobs with foreign governments or agencies, including former Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif’s position as head of the Saudi-sponsored Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition. [ET] [The Nation]
  • Other Corruption Investigations and Legal Battles: Dawn reports that the Federal Investigation Agency is planning a “massive crackdown” against Pakistani nationals who have purchased real estate properties in Dubai through alleged money laundering. The National Accountability Bureau has reportedly opened a new investigation against former Punjab law minister and PML-N leader Rana Sanaullah. On Saturday, Chief Justice Nisar ordered investigations into charges of land theft by PML-N legislators Afzal Khokar and his brother Saiful Mulook Khokhar. Defense lawyers for Nawaz Sharif continued their arguments in court on Friday. On Monday, former PPP senator Faisal Raza Abidi was indicted on charges of insulting the chief justice. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET]
  • FATA Reforms: On Friday, PM Khan chaired a meeting to review the implementation of reforms for the former FATA districts; he reportedly recommended the formation of implementation committees for each of the districts. Election Commission officials said Friday that a final constituency delimitation for the new Khyber Paktunkhwa constituencies in the former FATA districts would be announced on March 4.
  • Other Political Activity: At a special cabinet meeting at his residence on Saturday, PM Khan conducted further performance reviews of ten government ministries, after an earlier review session last week. Speaking to the Khyber Paktunkhwa provincial cabinet during a visit to Peshawar on Friday, Khan emphasized that the ministers should attend their work offices daily. Following the resolution of the dispute over the chairmanship of the Public Accounts Committee in the national assembly, opposition parties have begun nominating members for other committees. Separately, former senate chairman Raza Rabbani called for the formation of a joint parliamentary committee on national security. The PML-N staged a walkout in the assembly on Friday as former railways minister Khawaja Saad Rafique was not paroled to attend the session. On Sunday, the JUI-F and BNP-M agreed to nominate JUI-F leader Malik Sikandar as assembly opposition leader. After a recount on Friday in some polling stations, the PTI candidate for the PP-168 Lahore by-elections was confirmed the winner. [The Nation] [The Nation] [ET] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • IMF Talks: Dawn reports that the IMF has asked Pakistan to generate Rs 160 billion in new tax revenues for the current fiscal year and progressively higher increases in the tax-to-GDP ratio for the following years of a prospective loan program in order to reduce the fiscal deficit. The Express Tribune reports that disagreements over further currency devaluation and increases in electricity prices are the main points of unresolved dispute in negotiations thus far, and that the Pakistani finance ministry has agreed to cut development spending and raise tax targets in order to meet the IMF’s deficit criteria. Another report provides further details on the planned conditions and benchmarks for the IMF program. Speaking to reporters on Monday, Finance Minister Umar said that Pakistan had submitted details on Chinese loans to Pakistan under CPEC as part of its IMF loan application. The deadline for tax filing for the previous fiscal year is due to close Monday; the Express Tribune reports that around 1.4 million taxpayers have filed returns. [Dawn] [ET]
  • Energy Crisis: Speaking at a press conference on Saturday, Petroleum Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan pledged that gas supply would be restored to Karachi that evening, and portions of the Sindh industrial sector within the following day. Sarwar and Power Minister Umer Ayub met with the Sindh provincial government earlier on Friday. PPP activists held protests in Karachi on Friday over the suspension of gas supplies earlier in the week. [ET] [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • CPEC Projects: Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal met with China’s ambassador to Pakistan on Thursday to discuss complaints over the distribution and type of CPEC projects in the province. Dawn reports that Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar will not travel to China this week as previously planned in order to instead focus on preparations for a ceremony highlighting accomplishments during the first hundred days of his tenure. [ET]
  • Dam Projects: At a hearing on Friday, Chief Justice Nisar recommended an out-of-court settlement through the Council of Common Interests to resolve boundary disputes between Khyber Paktunkhwa and Gilgit-Baltistan at the site of the planned Diamer Bhasha dam project.

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Leaders Mark Anniversary of Peshawar Army Public School Attack [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • Chief of Army Staff Visits Egypt [ET] [The Nation]
  • Rangers Conduct Crackdown at Karachi Central Jail [ET]
  • Foreign Minister Condemns Violence in Indian Kashmir [Dawn] [ET] [ET]
  • Locked Away, Forgotten: Muslim Uighur Wives of Pakistani Men [AP]
  • In Pakistan, Public Education Suffocates Under Surging Population [Dawn]
  • Jirga to Hold Talks with ‘Miscreants’ Who Burned Diamer Schools [Dawn]
  • Balochistan Government Plans Crackdown on ‘Ghost’ Teachers [Dawn]
  • PM Considering Formation of ‘Poverty Alleviation Cell’ [ET]
  • PKMAP Senator Azam Musakhel Passes Away [The Nation]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • Civilian Casualties: Kunar provincial council sources reported Friday that as many as 20 Afghan civilians, including a dozen children, were killed in an airstrike during a joint operation targeting a senior Taliban commander in the Shegal district on Thursday evening; a spokesperson for the US and NATO Resolute Support mission denied that civilians had been killed, and the provincial governor’s office said that some civilians had been wounded but there had been no civilian deaths. The Afghan defense and interior ministries have launched investigations into the incident; the UN has also initiated its own investigation. [AP] [TOLO]
  • Trump Intervenes in Murder Investigation: Following a Fox news broadcast covering the case of Maj. Mathew Golsteyn on Sunday, Pres. Trump announced that he “will be reviewing” charges against Golsteyn stemming from his admissions that he had killed an Afghan man in 2010.
  • Other Attacks and Operations: In a statement on Friday, the Afghan defense ministry announced that the Afghan Air Force had conducted an overnight airstrike targeting militants in Uruzgan, the first such overnight operation by the AAF. On Sunday, the defense ministry said that it was planning to continue “large-scale operations” throughout the winter months. On Sunday, Helmand provincial officials claimed that a Taliban military commander was killed in an airstrike in the Gereshk district; military officials in Jawzjan also claim to have killed the Taliban shadow district governor for the Faizabad district in an AAF airstrike on Saturday. [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [Khabarnama] [Pajhwok]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Taliban Talks: Speaking during a visit to Peshawar on Friday, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said that Pakistan was facilitating a meeting between US and Taliban representatives on Monday. In a statement on Sunday, the Taliban confirmed that they would be holding talks with representatives from the U.S., Pakistan, UAE, and Saudi Arabia in the UAE, but provided no further details. U.S. officials have declined comment; Special Envoy Khalilzad reportedly met with the UAE foreign minister earlier on Sunday. Reuters identifies two of the participants on the Taliban side as brothers-in-law of Mullah Yaqoub, Taliban founder Mullah Omar’s eldest son. TOLO reports that Afghan National Security Advisor Hamdullah Mohib will also attend the meeting; in a statement on Sunday, he said that he had participated in quadrilateral talks with US, UAE, and Saudi officials on Sunday. Separately, the “Advisory Board for Peace” formed by Pres. Ghani last week held its first official meeting in Kabul on Monday, reasserting that “only the government has the constitutional authority to indulge in peace negotiations”. [The Nation] [TOLO]
  • Trilateral Talks: The foreign ministers of Afghanistan, China, and Pakistan met in Kabul on Saturday for talks on regional economic cooperation and the Afghan peace process; they signed a memorandum of understanding on anti-terrorism cooperation at a ceremony that was also attend by Pres. Ghani. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that China “is willing to provide support and help for Pakistan and Afghanistan to improve their ties”. Speaking after the meetings, Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani said that he had yet to see “tangible progress” from Pakistan “in the fight against terrorism”; he also expressed a desire for greater Chinese investment in Afghanistan. Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that “by blaming, no one moves ahead… we have to stop pointing fingers at each other”. Dawn reports that Qureshi was planning to raise allegations of Indian and Afghan support for the recent attack on the Chinese consulate in Karachi. [Dawn] [Khaama Press] [Khabarnama] [Khabarnama] [The Nation]
  • Elections: A spokesman for Vice Pres. Dostum’s Junbesh-e-Milli party tells TOLO that Pres. Ghani has reached out to Dostum to ask him to join his reelection campaign, but said that Dostum had yet to make a decision. The Independent Election Commission will begin registering presidential election candidates on Dec 22. Speaking at a press conference on Sunday, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar said that his party would not nominate its own presidential candidate and would coordinate on a choice with other parties; he also called for the invalidation of votes cast with biometric verification in the parliamentary elections in October. The IEC continues to release preliminary results in tranches for the parliamentary elections. [Khaama Press] [TOLO]

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Afghan President Slaps Aide After Elite Guards Assault Petitioner [NYT] [TOLO]
  • Female Mayoral Appointee for Maidan Shah Barred from Taking Office [Khaama Press]
  • Ghani Address Conference of District Governors [TOLO]
  • Ghani Meets Visiting Italian Defense Minister [Khaama Press]
  • KamAir Flight Makes Emergency Landing in Herat [Khabarnama]
  • Attorney General’s Office Investigating 15 Afghan Football Federation Staff Over Abuse Charges [Khaama Press] [Khabarnama]
  • Commentary: Looking Back at the Taliban Attack on Ghazni – “While the Taleban were ultimately pushed out – or withdrew – from the city, they remain in the suburbs and have extended their grip over nearby districts.” [Fazal Muzhary, AAN]

 

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Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Pakistan Receives New Tranche of Saudi Aid; Ghani Says Peace Deal Would Be Approved by Parliament

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Topline

  • Pakistan received a new $1 billion tranche of Saudi aid on Friday, boosting State Bank of Pakistan foreign exchange reserves to $9.24 billion. Previous SBP data for the week of Dec 7 had indicated that reserves had fallen to $7.26 billion. The Asian Development Bank has proposed a $7.5 billion, three year lending program for Pakistan, of which $2.4 billion would be budget support; the loans would be a mix of concessional and commercial rates, and would be contingent on policy reforms and an as-yet unresolved agreement on an IMF reform program.
  • Pakistani police have arrested the late JUI-S leader Sami-ul Haq’s personal secretary as part of investigations into his assassination last month; he was reportedly previously in intelligence service custody.
  • Speaking during his visit to Herat on Thursday, Pres. Ghani pledged that “no peace deal would be concluded behind the doors and in the absence of the will of people”, saying that any future peace agreement “would be approved by the parliament and people of the country”.
  • The US Army Special Operations Command confirmed Thursday that murder charges were being against US Green Beret Maj. Matthew Golsteyn in connection to the murder of an Afghan man during operations in Marjah, Helmand, in 2010; a decision on a court martial is expected within 120 days.
  • In a joint statement on Thursday, a delegation of European and other donor countries expressed “deep concern” over the Pakistani government’s NGO registration policy.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • JUI-S Leader’s Secretary Arrested: Police in Rawalpindi have reportedly arrested Syed Ahmed Shah, the personal secretary of the late JUI-S leader Maulana Sami ul-Haq, as part of ongoing investigations into his murder last month; The Nation reports that Shah had been in the custody of Pakistani intelligence and was subsequently transferred to police custody. [ET]
  • NGO Crackdown: In a joint statement on Thursday, an EU delegation and the heads of the diplomatic missions of Australia, Canada, Japan, Norway, and Switzerland expressed “deep concern” over the government’s NGO registration policy.
  • Corps Commanders Meet:  Chief of Army Staff Bajwa chaired a meeting of army corps commanders on Thursday, which “attached hopes for success of ongoing Afghan reconciliation process while supporting all stakeholders to bring Afghan war to a peaceful logical conclusion”, according to a statement released afterwards. [The Nation]
  • Military Courts: The current two-year term authorizing the use of military courts to prosecute terrorism suspects will conclude in March 2019, and 185 cases remain pending before the courts, according to a response from the defense ministry to a question raised in parliament on Wednesday.

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: During hearings on Thursday, an accountability court judge complained over the National Accountability Bureau’s delays in filing charges against Shehbaz Sharif after his arrest the Ashiana housing development project scandal; investigating officers pledged to file their case within two weeks. Speaking on Thursday, PML-N spokeswoman Marriyum Aurganzeb accused the NAB of committing “contempt of court” by leaking reports of an investigation against her to the media before charges had been filed. The Supreme Court accepted the apology of PTI legislator and televangelist Aamir Liqauat on Thursday and dismissed contempt of court charges against him. On Friday, the court ordered former Khyber Paktunkhwa chief minister Pervaiz Khattak to reimburse the provincial government for the cost of advertisements featuring his picture. The Federal Investigation Agency conducted a raid and arrested two senior managers accused of money laundering at a currency exchange outlet in Karachi on Tuesday this week. [ET] [ET] [The Nation] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Other Political Activity: The PTI’s candidate for the PP-168 by-election in Lahore on Thursday won the seat by a narrow margin in a low turnout race, provisional results indicate. In parliament, government and opposition negotiators remain deadlocked over the terms of reference for the parliamentary committee tasked with investigating allegations of vote fraud during the general elections in July. Former PPP Punjab assembly member Shaukat Basra defected to join the PTI on Thursday. On Friday, PM Khan visited Peshawar to chair a meeting of the provincial cabinet. State Minister for Communications Murad Saeed has been elevated to full federal ministerial status. [ET] [ET] [ET] [The Nation] [Dawn] [Dawn]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Financial Crisis: Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves fell to $7.26 billion for the week of December 7, new State Bank of Pakistan data indicates. The global credit rating agency Moody’s suggested it might downgrade Pakistan’s credit rating further in a report on Thursday. Fitch, another ratings agency, projected that dropping international oil prices would help Pakistan “regain some of its footing”. On Friday, the SBP announced that it had received a second $1 billion tranche of Saudi aid, boosting reserves to $9.24 billion; a third tranche is expected in January. On Thursday, the Asian Development Bank proposed a $7.5 billion lending program over the next three years for Pakistan, including a mix of commercial and concessional loans, of which $2.4 billion would be budget support, conditional on policy reforms and an agreement on an IMF loan package. Testifying before Congress on Wednesday, US Undersecretary of Treasury for International Affairs David Malpass reiterated that the US would seek to avoid an IMF agreement that that would be used to repay Chinese loans. Finance Minister Umar traveled to the UAE on Friday to meet with officials and participate in a conference. [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Energy Crisis: Speaking on Thursday, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah demanded that the federal government immediately restore gas supplies to the province. Sui Southern Gas has pledged to restore supplies to compressed natural gas stations in the province by Saturday.

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Pakistan and Italy Agree to Defense Cooperation [ET] [The Nation]
  • Pakistan and Iran Sign MOU on Border Security [ET]
  • PM Khan Chairs Meeting on Investment Support [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • JUI-F Leader Arrested in Attock for ‘Provocative Speech’ [The Nation]
  • Supreme Court Forms Commission On Balochistan Water Shortage [Dawn] [ET] [The Nation]
  • PIA Debt Surpasses Rs 247 Billion [ET]
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Govt Prepares Five Year Development Roadmap [ET]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • Murder Charges Against Army Major: The US Army Special Operations Command confirmed on Thursday that it would bring murder charges against Maj. Matthew Golsteyn in connection to the 2010 death of an Afghan man in an operation in Marjah, Helmand; a decision on a court martial will be made within 120 days. [Reuters]
  • Attacks and Operations: A NYT tally for the December 7-13 period estimates as many as 152 Afghan security personnel were killed in attacks around the country. On Friday, the US military announced the death of an American servicemember in Afghanistan in a “non-combat-related incident”; investigations are underway and no details have been released. TOLO notes that ten Afghan Air Force helicopters have crashed in the past nine months; ministry of defense officials attribute the crashes to mechanical issues with the aging fleet of Mi-17 helicopters. Pajhwok notes that the Ghazni-Paktika highway has remained closed to public traffic by a Taliban blockade over the past six months. [Khaama Press] [Ariana News]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Peace Talks: Speaking during his visit to Herat on Thursday, Pres. Ghani pledged that “no peace deal would be concluded behind the doors and in the absence of the will of people”, saying that any future peace agreement “would be approved by the parliament and people of the country”. [TOLO]

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Disqualified Lawmaker Fawzia Kofi Files Complaint [TOLO]
  • Families of Afghan-Turk School Teachers Seek Their Release from House Arrest [TOLO]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: PTI Concedes Oversight Committee Chairmanship to Shehbaz; Kabul Vote Counting Resumes

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Topline

  • After several months of deadlock, on Thursday the PTI government announced that it would concede the position of chairman of the Public Accounts Committee to PML-N opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif.
  • The websites for the Voice of America Urdu and Pashto-language services have been blocked in Pakistan after its coverage of the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement; Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry confirmed the action.
  • Vote counting resumed after a week-long freeze after the Independent Election Commission and Electoral Complaints Commission reached an agreement on a procedure for counting and scrutinizing the Kabul parliamentary results.
  • Special Envoy Khalilzad is visiting Brussels on Thursday for meetings with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
  • PM Khan has ordered the dissolution of the boards of the Sui Southern and Sui Northern gas companies after shortfalls and outages around the country this week, and has ordered negligence investigations against their managing directors.
  • On Thursday, Pres. Ghani inaugurated the ‘Lapis Lazuli Route’ for Afghan exports through Turkmenistan and Turkey to Europe.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • PTM Crackdown: VOA reports that its Urdu- and Pashto-language services’ websites have been blocked in Pakistan and one of its reporters charged by police after he attended a rally of the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement in Dera Ismail Khan on Saturday; Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry confirmed the block, saying that “the stories they were doing were only projecting a particular narrative without any impartial view”. [Dawn]

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • PTI Concedes PAC Chairmanship: After several months of deadlock and no breakthroughs in talks earlier this week, on Thursday Foreign Minister Qureshi announced that the PTI government was now willing to concede the position of chairman of the Public Accounts Committee to PML-N opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif. PML-N and other opposition leaders welcomed the move. [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: At hearings on Wednesday, the senate committee on human rights sought further explanations from the Federal Investigation Agency over its procedure for barring individuals from traveling outside the country, in parallel to the interior ministry’s own Exit Control List. On Thursday, the Supreme Court ordered the formation of a Joint Investigation Team to investigation a land transfer scandal dating to the 1980s in which Nawaz Sharif is accused of approving land reserved for the Pakpattan shrine. The PML-N has demanded that former railways minister Khawaja Saad Rafique be allowed to attend national assembly sessions on parole after his arrest earlier this week; accusations over corruption charges dominated Wednesday’s session of the national assembly. Following a meeting of top PPP leaders on Wednesday, the party denounced the “witch-hunt” and “vicious victimization” carried out by the “puppet rulers” and the National Accountability Bureau, which it described as a “tool against the opposition”. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation] [The Nation] [The Nation] [The Nation] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET]
  • Other Political Activity: Voting is underway on Thursday for the PP-168 Lahore by-election. The PTI government plans to introduce a constitutional amendment to add a reserved women’s seat in parliament for the Islamabad capital territory. The Khyber Paktunkhwa government introduced legislation in the provincial assembly on Wednesday to extend provincial laws to the former provincially-administered tribal areas following their merger with the province.

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Energy Crisis: PM Khan chaired a meeting on Wednesday evening after a shortfall of gas supplies by the Sui Southern and Sui Northern gas companies produced shortages and outages around the country; Petroleum Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan blamed the companies’ management, and the prime minister ordered negligence investigations against their directors. On Thursday, the prime minister ordered the dissolution of the boards of both companies. [ET] [ET] [ET] [The Nation]
  • Financial Crisis: In remarks on Thursday, Finance Minister Umar criticized the PML-N government’s management of Pakistan’s foreign exchange rate, blaming it for a drop in Pakistani exports. Umar also claimed that Saudi Arabia was preparing to make what he described as “the biggest foreign investment in Pakistan history”, and indicated that further details would be announced after cabinet approval in the next week. Separately, Planning Minister Khusro Bakhtiar pledged that the government would protect “highly vulnerable segments of society” from the impacts of inflation. [ET] [ET]

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Upgraded Aircraft and Helicopters Inducted into Naval Fleet [Dawn]
  • Army Chief Observes Joint Air Exercises with China [ET]
  • BNP-Mengal Reiterates Demand for Action on Missing Persons [ET]
  • Balochistan Chief Minister Blames Predecessors’ Corruption for Underdevelopment [ET] [Dawn]
  • Tax Tribunal Throws Out FBR Claims Against PTI Leader Jahangir Tareen [ET]
  • Chief Justice Visits Thar [Dawn]
  • Supreme Court Orders Cut in Private School Fees [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Report: In the Dark: How Much Do Power Sector Distortions Cost South Asia – “Across the region, the economic cost of power distortions is equivalent to 4–7 percent of GDP a year, a range much higher than previous estimates.” [World Bank]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • Attacks and Operations: Farah provincial officials report that Afghan forces surrendered control of the Shebkoh district after a months-long Taliban siege of their positions. An Afghan National Army helicopter crash-landed in the Pashtun Kot district in Faryab province on Wednesday evening; no casualties were reported. Military officials in eastern Afghanistan report at least 15 Taliban fighters were killed in separate US drone strikes in Ghazni and Paktika provinces. [Khabarnama]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Parliamentary Elections: Vote counting for Kabul parliamentary election results resumed on Wednesday after a weeklong freeze as the Electoral Complaints Commission and Independent Election Commission reached an agreement on renewed scrutiny for 182 Kabul polling stations. ECC officials met with a delegation of foreign diplomats on Thursday, who welcomed the IEC and ECC’s agreement to review the invalidation of the Kabul votes. Khabarnama looks at the reelection rates for provincial parliamentary results announced thus far.
  • Peace Talks: Special Envoy Khalilzad is scheduled to meet with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Brussels on Thursday to discuss the Afghan peace process. Speaking at a meeting of district governors in Kabul on Monday, newly-appointed presidential advisor Umer Daudzai said that “we want a lasting peace, a reconciliation which should be fair and strengthen the national unity.” Deputy head of the High Peace Council Habiba Sarabi criticized the formation of the new High Advisory Board for Peace, saying it failed to adequately represent women. [TOLO]

 

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Ghani Inaugurates ‘Lapis Lazuli Route’: On Thursday, Pres. Ghani traveled to Herat to inaugurate the ‘Lapis Lazuli Route’ linking Afghanistan to Europe via Turkmenistan, the Caspian Sea, and Turkey. An initial shipment of 175 tons of cotton, dried fruit, and sesame was scheduled to depart on Thursday. [Khaama Press] [Khabarnama]

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • FIFA Suspends President of Afghan Football Federation Following Abuse Allegations [Khaama Press]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: US Censures Pakistan Over Religious Freedom; Afghan Govt Forms New Peace Advisory Board

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Topline

  • The US State Department has added Pakistan to a list of “countries of particular concern” for religious freedoms, but waived sanctions that would otherwise accompany the designation. Pakistan’s foreign ministry denounced the move, saying it was “unilateral and politically motivated”.
  • There are more details today on the Afghan government’s formation of a new ‘High Advisory Board for Peace’, which includes many top political figures inside and outside of government. Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, former NDS chief Rahmatullah Nabil said that “talks on peace can be held only with the continuation of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan”, and insisted that the Taliban must disarm as part of a peace process.
  • On Wednesday, an accountability court extended the arrest of PML-N leaders Khawaja Saad Rafique and his brother Salman Rafique.
  • Security officials in Helmand announced on Tuesday that they had retaken control of a village in Lashkar Gah’s fourth police district that had been under Taliban control for the past three years.
  • Following a meeting on Tuesday, Pakistani opposition party leaders reaffirmed their support for Shehbaz Sharif to chair the Public Accounts Committee in the national assembly; Shehbaz indicated afterwards that he would be willing to pledge to recuse himself from oversight hearings on the PML-N government’s tenure.

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • US Censures Pakistan Over Religious Freedom: On Tuesday, the US State Department announced that Pakistan had been added to a list of “countries of particular concern” that are accused of “systematic, ongoing, [and] egregious violations of religious freedom”. A US embassy spokesman said that Pompeo had simultaneously issued a waiver against accompanying sanctions for Pakistan that would otherwise follow the designation. Pakistan’s foreign ministry denounced the designation as “unilateral and politically motivated”, and human rights minister Shireen Mazarai said that it was a “brazen political tactic to pressure Pakistan to mitigate US failures in Afghanistan”. Separately, the AFP reports that Twitter has begun notifying some global users that their comments on the service violate Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, apparently in response to complaints by the Pakistani government, to include users with no obvious connections to Pakistan. [AP]
  • UK Relations: Foreign Minister Qureshi spoke by phone with UK Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Jeremy Hunt on Tuesday, discussing a prospective agreement on prisoner transfers, and other forms of cooperation. [Dawn]
  • PML-N Leaders’ Arrest: Following their arrest on Tuesday, an accountability court in Lahore on Wednesday extended the National Accountability Bureau’s custody of former PML-N minister Khawaja Saad Rafique and his brother Salman Rafique for a 10-day period. Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry denied that the government was involved in the brothers’ arrest, but welcomed the action. PML-N and PPP opposition leaders in parliament called for Saad to be released on parole to attend the current national assembly session, charging that “accountability is being used to suppress the opposition”. Nawaz and Shehbaz Sharif met on Wednesday to discuss the arrests and new travel restrictions on Hamza Shehbaz. Separately, around 20 PML-N activists were acquitted for their participation in protests in Rawalpindi July in support of Mohammad Safdar. [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation] [Dawn]
  • Other Corruption Investigations and Legal Battles: The Joint Investigation Team investigating money laundering charges against former Pres. Zardari and his associates will question former Omni group official Abdul Ghani Majeed and former banker Hussain Lawai in Adiala Jail, after they were transferred there from Karachi in late November. At a press conference on Tuesday, PPP leaders challenged the NAB to “prove its impartiality” and dismissed charges against party leadership. On Wednesday, the Islamabad High Court ordered the removal of aide to the prime minister Zulfi Bulkhari from the Exit Control List. [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation] [ET]
  • Other Political Activity: A meeting of all the opposition parties in the national assembly on Tuesday reaffirmed their support for Shehbaz Sharif to head the Public Accounts Committee, rejecting a compromise appointment of another PML-N candidate as floated by the PTI government. Speaking to reporters afterwards, Shehbaz indicated that he would be willing to recuse himself from oversight hearings on audits related to projects undertaken under by the PML-N’s tenure. Further talks between the government and opposition are planned for Wednesday. Dawn notes that Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar has sought to consolidate control over transfers and postings within the province, and reports separately that the government overruled the provincial police chief on the choice of appointment for a senior Lahore police post. On Tuesday, Yousaf Baig Mirza was appointed special assistant to the prime minister on media affairs. The Khyber Paktunkhwa government plans to appoint a special finance secretary to oversee the former FATA districts. [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET] [The Nation]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • CPEC Projects: A meeting of the Balochistan provincial cabinet decided to take a “strict approach with the center” on the inclusion of additional development projects for Balochistan under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor framework. [Dawn]
  • IMF Talks: In a BBC interview, Finance Minister Umar said that “the government has not waited for IMF sanctions and conditions to do what we think is required for the economy”, and said that the IMF and Pakistan were not in disagreement over “what needs to be done, however the difference lies in the path of reform”. Pakistan trade deficit during the July-November period contracted slightly, to $14.5 billion, amid slowing imports.

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Supreme Court Hears Petition Seeking Terror Designation for Turkish Opposition Leader’s School Network [ET]
  • Pres. Alvi Visits Saudi Arabia, Meets King Salman [The Nation]
  • Another Suspect Arrested in Diamer School Arson Attacks [Dawn]
  • Rangers Arrest MQM Activists [ET]
  • Chief Justice Orders 45-Day Eviction Notices as Part of Karachi Encroachment Drive [Dawn] [ET]
  • FBR Begins Issuing Notices to Agricultural Landholders [ET]
  • Sui Southern Gas Company Halts Supply to CNG and Captive Power Plants [Dawn] [ET]
  • Government to Launch Anti-Power Theft Project [ET]
  • Army Chief Pledges Support for Investors [ET]
  • Chief Justice Visits Thar [Dawn] [The Nation]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • Attacks and Operations: Security officials in Helmand announced Tuesday that they had retaken control of the Babaji village in the fourth police district in the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah, an area that had been under Taliban control for the past three years. At least ten police officers were killed in a Taliban attack on their checkpost in the Chardara district in Kunduz on Tuesday. Military officials in Ghazni claim to have killed 30 Taliban fighters in operations in the Waghaz district. A US airstrike in the Chaparhar district in Nangarhar reportedly killed seven ISIS fighters on Tuesday. An Afghan Air Force airstrike in the Uruzgan provincial capital of Tirin Kot reportedly killed eight Taliban fighters. [Pajhwok] [Khaama Press] [TOLO]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Peace Talks: Special Envoy Khalilzad met with Turkmenistan’s foreign minister on Tuesday, following earlier meetings in Uzbekistan and Russia. TOLO provides additional reporting and details on the structure of the ‘High Advisory Board for Peace’ announced by the presidency yesterday, which includes top government officials and many senior political figures from outside the government. Speaking at an event on Wednesday, Chief Executive Abdullah said that there were “no preconditions for start of peace negotiations with the Taliban”, but also said that there would be no changes to Afghanistan’s status as “an Islamic Republic, independent, unitary and indivisible state”. Speaking at a separate press conference on Wednesday, former NDS chief Rahmatullah Nabil said that “talks on peace can be held only with the continuation of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan as well as recognition and adhering to principles of an Islamic republic system”, and said that Taliban disarmament must be a component of peace talks. [Ariana News]
  • Devolution Proposals: Speaking at an event on Tuesday, Chief Executive Abdullah called for greater local authority and control over budgets for district governors. [TOLO]

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Afghanistan Preparing for First Shipment Under ‘Lapis Lazuli Route’ to Europe [TOLO] [Khabarnama]
  • Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran Meet to Discuss Counternarcotics Efforts [Khabarnama]
  • National Procurement Commission Approves Afs 11.9 Billion in New Contracts [Khaama Press]
  • New Irrigation Canal Planned for Jazjan, Balkh, and Kunduz Provinces [TOLO]
  • Commentary: In an Afghan District Verging on Collapse, ‘There Are Too Many Men with Guns’ – “Life under the shaky stability of the Western-backed Afghan government and life under the rule of armed insurgents can be decided by as little as a few miles or a few months.” [Ali Latifi, NYT]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Ghani Forms More Committees on Peace Process; PTM Leader Barred from Balochistan

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Topline

  • In addition to appointed a new negotiating team and naming former interior minister Umer Daudzai to head the High Peace Council secretariat, Pres. Ghani has also formed a new “High Advisory Board” to be led by the National Security Council to oversee peace negotiations. Meanwhile, Special Envoy Khalilzad held talks with Uzbekistan’s foreign minister on Monday.
  • The Electoral Complaints Commission reiterated it would not withdraw its order invalidating election results for Kabul if the Independent Election Commission did not cooperate with its demands for additional information.
  • Balochistan has followed Sindh in imposed entry restrictions on Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement leader Manzoor Pashteen; he was refused entry at the Quetta airport on Monday. Sindh has reportedly withdraw its earlier ban.
  • Former PML-N minister Khawaja Saad Rafique and his brother Salman Rafique were arrested by the National Accountability Bureau on Tuesday after the revocation of their bail. Separately, PML-N leader Hamza Shehbaz was barred from leaving the country on Monday after being placed on the Exit Control List.
  • As many as four security personnel and eight civilians were killed in a suicide car bombing attack that targeted an NDS convoy in Kabul’s Paghman district on Tuesday morning; the Taliban claimed responsibility.
  • Shehbaz Sharif and other opposition parties reiterated their insistence that Shehbaz be allowed to chair the Public Accounts Committee in parliament, rejecting earlier reports that the PML-N might be willing to compromise on the choice of PAC head.
  • Pakistan has postponed plans for a $3 billion Eurobond issue as it continues talks over a possible IMF program, but reportedly plans to issue new bonds aimed at the Pakistani diaspora within the next month. Overseas remittances to Pakistan fell in November, to $1.6 billion.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • PTM Crackdown: Following a similar action by the Sindh provincial government, the Balochistan provincial government has imposed a ban on Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement leader Manzoor Pashteen’s entry into the province; he attempted to travel to Quetta on Monday, but was denied entry at the airport and was returned to Karachi. The Sindh government has withdrawn its order following a complaint by PPP leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.
  • Sindh Apex Committee Meets: A meeting of the military-civilian provincial apex committee in Sindh on Monday agreed that street crime involving the use of guns would be prosecuted under the Anti-Terrorism Act; the meeting also terminated a public-private partnership for the deployment of surveillance cameras around Karachi, citing cybersecurity concerns, and decided to seek a partnership with the Pakistani army or a Chinese firm instead. [The Nation]

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: Former minister and PML-N leader Khawaja Saad Rafique and his brother Salman Rafique were arrested by the National Accountability Bureau on Tuesday, after a court rejected the extension of their bail; they face charges related to a housing development project. On Monday, PML-N leader Hamza Shehbaz was blocked from traveling to Doha, after being placed on the Exit Control List. On Tuesday, the NAB initiated an inquiry against PML-N spokeswoman Marriyum Aurangzeb. PPP sources say Bilawal Bhutto Zardari will not appear in response to a NAB summons on Dec 13. Khyber Paktunkhwa Chief Minister Mehmood Khan has been summoned by the NAB as part of a land lease investigation. [AP] [ET] [ET] [ET] [The Nation] [Dawn]
  • PAC Chairmanship: Speaking on Monday, PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal denied reports that the PML-N was ready to agree to the nomination of someone other than Shehbaz Sharif to head the Public Accounts Committee in the national assembly, saying that the PTI only wants to “hold the opposition accountable and not itself”. Shehabz attended a national assembly session on Tuesday and reasserted that he had the support of all opposition parties to take the position.
  • Other Political Activity: PM Khan held a meeting on Monday to review the performance of 26 out of 34 cabinet ministries; Dawn reports that “the prime minister did not express dissatisfaction over the performance of any minister, but spoke positively about some of the good performers,” including Finance Minister Umar. Future review meetings are planned to be held on a quarterly basis. The Khyber Paktunkhwa provincial government is scrapping a planned committee to oversee the FATA secretariat, which is being merged with the rest of the province. Two members of the Election Commission are scheduled to retire on Jan 26, 2019. [ET] [The Nation] [Dawn] [Dawn]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Financial Crisis: Finance ministry sources tell the Express Tribune that the government plans to launch a “diaspora bond” within the next month, but has postponed plans for a $3 billion Eurobond issue as negotiations are still underway with the IMF. Remittances dropped month-on-month in November, to $1.6 billion.
  • CPEC Projects: Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou held talks with Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua and agreed to “expand the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor to new areas of cooperation” and to “work together towards completion of the ongoing projects”. Kong also met separately with Chief of Army Staff Bajwa. Dawn reports that the Balochistan government was “shell-shocked” after a briefing on Monday, with no new projects planned outside of Gwadar for the province in advance of the Joint Cooperation Committee in Beijing taking place later this month. [Dawn]

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Supreme Court Retracts Ban on Construction of High Rises in Karachi; Railway Clearance Project Delayed [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET] [The Nation]
  • Chief Justice Inaugurates Quetta and Karachi Registry Buildings [Dawn] [ET]
  • Balochistan Considering Legislation to Declare Education ‘Essential Service’ [Dawn]
  • Defense Ministry Appeals Islamabad High Court Order on Missing Person [ET]
  • New Taxes on Foreign Visitors with Multiple Cell Phones [Dawn]

 

Afghanistan — Security

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Peace Talks: Deputy High Peace Council chairman Assadullah Zaeeri tells TOLO that the HPC is “considering changes in the peace strategy” following the appointment of former interior minister Umer Daudzai as head of the HPC secretariat and Pres. Ghani’s formation of a separate negotiating team for talks with the Taliban. On Tuesday, the presidency announced that a “High Advisory Board” led by the National Security Council would also be launched to oversee peace negotiations. Meanwhile, Special Envoy Khalilzad and US National Security Council deputy assistant Lisa Curtis met with Uzbekistan’s foreign minister on Monday. [Dawn]
  • Parliamentary Elections: A spokesman for the Electoral Complaints Commission accused the Independent Election Commission of not providing information on Kabul votes, saying the ECC would not reverse its decision invalidating the Kabul results unless the IEC cooperated. A spokesman for the IEC in turn said that “we expect the ECC to put an end to the hostage-taking and stoppage of this national process”. ECC provincial officials in Wardak have reportedly also ordered the invalidation of votes in Wardak province, although the national ECC has not confirmed this order, and IEC has already released provisional results for the province. Provisional results for five more provinces were reported by the IEC on Monday; nine provinces, including Kabul and the at-large Kuchi constituency, have yet to be released. [TOLO]

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Afghan Villagers Face Hunger as Fighting Cuts Northern Roads [Reuters]
  • German Man Who Fought for Taliban Convicted of Terrorism [AP]
  • Ghani Meets Sikh and Hindu Community Representatives [Khabarnama]

 

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: PTI Govt Seeks to Stabilize Markets; Khalilzad Meets Russian Counterparts

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Topline

  • PM Khan visited Karachi for meetings with local officials and members of the business community on Sunday, pledging efforts to “bring stability to the market” and boost investment. In a statement on Friday following meetings with the State Bank of Pakistan, the Pakistani finance ministry said that “short-term conditions on the exchange rate front are likely to normalize”.
  • Special Envoy Khalilzad met with Russian officials in Moscow on Friday as part of his continuing tour of the region. Foreign Minister Qureshi will visit Kabul on Dec 15 for talks on the peace process. Former interior minister Umer Daudzai has been appointed head of the High Peace Council secretariat. On Sunday, Pres. Ghani met with the government-appointed negotiating team to discuss the “guidelines and legitimate basic lines of the government regarding peace negotiations”.
  • Second Vice Pres. Danish brokered a meeting of the Independent Election Commission and Electoral Complaints Commission on Friday, at which the ECC agreed that it would “review” its ruling invalidating all parliamentary election results from Kabul; on Saturday, the ECC demanded access to “all the necessary information and data” from the IEC.
  • PM Khan has called a cabinet meeting for Monday to review ministers’ performance; earlier, Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid suggested that he might replace Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry, but later sought to walk back those comments.
  • Six people were wounded in a grenade attack on an MQM-Pakistan gathering in Karachi on Saturday; no claim of responsibility has been reported.
  • In a new ordinance, Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement leader Manzoor Pashteen has been barred from entering Sindh.
  • US military investigators are conducting separate investigations into the death of a US National Guardsman in Helmand and an Afghan gunman in joint US-Czech custody, the NYT notes; details are limited in both cases.
  • Planning Ministry and provincial officials are preparing for the next meeting of the Joint Cooperation Committee for CPEC in Bejing on Dec 20; a spokesman for Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal reiterated concerns over the distribution of CPEC projects, and said that his attendance would be contingent on commitments in the JCC agenda for additional investments in Balochistan.
  • The IMF Board approved a new $6.2 million loan tranche for Afghanistan at a meeting on Saturday, and extended the loan agreement through end-December 2019.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • Karachi Bombing: At least six people were injured in a grenade attack on religious gathering attended by several MQM-Pakistan leaders in Karachi on Saturday evening. No immediate claim of responsibility was reported; MQM leaders called for investigations into the attack. Anonymous police sources tell Dawn they suspect intra-MQM disputes could be a motive for the attack. [AP] [Dawn]
  • PTM Leader Barred from Sindh: The Sindh home department has issued a notification banning Pashtun Tahuffuz Movement leader Manzoor Pashteen from entering the province for the next 90 days.
  • Karachi Consulate Investigations: The Sindh police Counter-Terrorism Department submitted a report to the Sindh High Court on Saturday on the current status of investigations into the attack on the Chinese consulate in Karachi last month. Separately, a delegation of Chinese counterterrorism police met with Karachi police officials on Friday to review the investigation.
  • Border Tensions with India: Punjab Rangers officials report that a soldier was wounded in a cross-border exchange of fire with Indian forces near Sialkot on Friday.
  • Corp Commander Appointment: On Monday, the Pakistani military announced the promotion of Lt. Gen. Majid Ehsan to serve as Lahore Corps Commander; his predecessor, Lt. Gen. Amir Riaz, was appointed to his previous position as president of the National Defense University. [The Nation] [ET]

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Cabinet Reshuffle Rumors: In remarks on Saturday, Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid suggested that PM Khan was considering a cabinet reshuffle in which he would replace Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry; Chaudhry, who is currently on a trip to London, responded by professing a willingness to resign from his ministry, but Rashid sought to walk back his comments, saying he had no intention of taking the portfolio. Punjab governor Chaudhry Sarwar denied that any cabinet shakeup was being planned. PM Khan has called a cabinet meeting for Monday to review ministers’ performance. [The Nation] [The Nation] [ET]
  • PM Visits Karachi: PM Khan visited Karachi on Sunday, where he met with Governor Imran Ismail, Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah, and representatives from the business community; the prime minister was quoted expressing a desire to “bring stability to the market” and bring more investment to Pakistan. MQM-Pakistan leader Amir Khan warned earlier on Thursday that the party could reconsider its support for the PTI government if its concerns were not met. Karachi mayor Waseem Akhtar of the MQM held a press conference on Friday protesting the demolition of illegally-constructed houses as part of the current court-ordered “anti-encroachment drive”; the Sindh provincial government petitioned the Supreme Court on Friday to halt the drive. [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [The Nation]
  • Gilgit-Baltistan Reforms: At hearings on Friday, the Supreme Court ordered the creation of a new committee to be headed by the attorney general to consider proposals for governance reforms for Gilgit-Baltistan; Attorney General Anwar Mansoor Khan told the court that the territory could not be made a full province, but would be accorded “all powers like the others”. Members of the GB legislature objected to the proposals during a session on Saturday.
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: On Friday, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority issued warnings to 17 TV channels who had reported a meeting between PM Khan and the chairman of the National Accountability Bureau, Javed Iqbal; the prime minister’s office denied that that meeting took place. The NAB has summoned former Pres. Zardari and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari as part of an investigation into a Karachi real estate firm; on Monday, the Supreme Court gave a Dec 19 deadline for a separate investigation into alleged money-laundering. Bail was extended for Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur until Dec 21. PML-N leader Khawaja Saad Rafique accused the NAB of extracting confessions through drugs and torture in remarks on Sunday. In a report to the Supreme Court on Sunday, the NAB found the appointment by the PML-N government of the former managing director of Pakistan State Oil, Sheikh Imranul Haq, to be “illegal and not made in a transparent manner.” On Saturday, Karachi mayor Waseem Akhtar and other MQM leaders were indicted in additional cases related to May 2007 riots. The Pakistan Bar Council has sought a Supreme Court order for the suspension of Law Minister Farogh Naseem’s membership in the PBC as he now holds a federal ministership. [The Nation] [The Nation] [The Nation] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET]
  • Other Political Activity: The PML-N has sought action against police involved in a clash with party activists last week during a court hearing for Shehbaz Sharif, and has demanded the publication of a medical report for Shehbaz. He will again be allowed to attend a national assembly session on parole beginning Monday. Dawn reports that the PML-N is prepared to compromise over the appointment of someone other than Shehbaz Sharif for the chairmanship of the Public Accounts Committee in parliament. The Express Tribune notes efforts by the PPP to reorganize in Punjab. Provisional results indicate the Balochistan Awami Party candidate won the PB-47 Kech by-election on Friday; leaders of the Balochistan National Party-Mengal subsequently alleged “open rigging in favor of the ruling party”. The PPP has announced support for the PML-N candidate in by-elections in the PP-168 constituency scheduled for Dec 13. Speaking at a press conference on Friday, PPP leader Raza Rabbani suggested that the PTI “will be given the desired majority” through midterm elections. The PPP has raised criticisms after an audit found that most polling station-level results forms from the July elections were not signed by party polling agents. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [The Nation]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Financial Crisis: In a statement on Friday following a meeting of the Monetary and Fiscal Policies Coordination Board, the Finance Ministry said that exchange rate parity “should be at its competitive-enhancing level” and “following the latest adjustments, it is now more reflective of economy’s medium-term needs and market conditions”, adding that “short-term conditions on the exchange rate front are likely to normalize”. Dawn reports that in the meeting, Finance Minister Umar “expressed reservations over the timing of the recent monetary policy” moves to devalue the rupee and reiterated that the State Bank of Pakistan should “take the government on board” on future moves. Speaking to reporters on Friday, Nawaz Sharif criticized the government’s handling of the rupee devaluation. [ET]
  • CPEC Projects: On Friday, the cabinet committee on CPEC approved a draft agenda and delegation for the next meeting of the Joint Cooperation Committee of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which will take place in Beijing on Dec 20. The committee also approved an initiative to sign an agreement on Pakistan-China industrial cooperation during the trip. Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah chaired a separate meeting on Saturday to prepare for the Sindh government’s delegation to the meeting. A spokesman for Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal said that a “major share [for] Balochistan must be ensured in the projects to be approved in the JCC meeting” and that his participation would be contingent on the planning ministry’s agenda for the meeting. [Dawn] [ET]
  • Tax Revenues: At a briefing for PM Khan last week, Federal Board of Revenue officials sought support for the reversal of the Supreme Court’s suspension of taxes on mobile phone cards, and for an increase in sales tax on petroleum products. Speaking to business leaders in Karachi on Saturday, advisor to the prime minister Abdul Razak Dawood said that the government was preparing a five-year national tariff policy.

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Interior Ministry Reviewing Arms License Policy [The Nation]
  • Saudi Ambassador Meets with Chief Justice [The Nation]
  • Soldier Killed in Rawalpindi Shooting [The Nation]
  • Five TTP Suspects Arrested in Bahawalpur [AP]
  • Journalist Temporarily Detained While Covering MQM Rally [The Nation]
  • Two Killed, One Injured in Attack on DG Khan Cement Factory [Dawn]
  • Chinese Special Forces Contingent Arrives for Joint Exercises [ET] [The Nation]
  • Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Visits [The Nation]
  • National Assembly Speaker Visits Iran [The Nation]
  • FATA Disaster Management Authority Suspends Aid [Dawn]
  • Pakistan May Soon Clear K-Electric Sale [ET]
  • Pakistan Faces Asset Seizure Over Karkey Rental Power Arbitration Case [ET]
  • Pakistan Considering Indus Water Treaty Complaint over Indian Dam Construction [Dawn]
  • LNG Shipment Cancelled at Rs 12 Billion Loss [ET]
  • Rs 8.47 Billion Collected for Dam Donations Since July [Dawn]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • Military Investigations: The US Army National Guard has opened an investigation into the death of Specialist James Slape in a roadside bombing in Helmand on Oct 4, after NYT reporting that his unit deployed with out undergoing some training courses and equipment that are considered standard for active-duty counterparts. Separately, the NYT reports that the Army Criminal Investigation Division is conducting an investigation into the death in custody of an Afghan commando who opened fire and killed a Czech soldier in Herat on Oct 22. An American Green Beret unit is under investigation in connection to the incident, although details remain limited.
  • Militia Crackdown: Kabul police officials announced the arrest on Thursday of a group of ten “irresponsible armed individuals” linked with a commander identified as Sahib Gul, and accused of land theft and other abuses.
  • Attacks and Operations: Five Afghan soldiers were wounded in a helicopter crash in Kandahar city on Sunday; details are minimal. An ISIS commander in Nangarhar’s Bati Kot district was killed in a special forces raid on Sunday evening. The Afghan defense ministry claims to have killed 39 Taliban fighters in operations in Kapisa’s Tagab district. Three civilians were killed in a roadside bombing in the Guzra district in Herat on Saturday. At least eight Afghan army soldiers were reportedly killed and ten taken hostage in an attack on a checkpost in Farah province on Saturday evening. The ministry of interior announced Saturday that the Taliban shadow governor for Paktika had been killed in an operation in the Gomal district. Ghazni police officials reported that five insurgents were killed in a US airstrike in the Moqur district on Saturday. The Afghan defense ministry announced that army special forces rescued 11 civilians from a Taliban prison facility in the Sangin district in Helmand on Friday. A NYT tally for the Nov 30 – Dec 6 period estimates at least 50 Afghan security personnel and 14 civilians were killed. [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [Khabarnama] [Khabarnama] [Khabarnama] [TOLO] [TOLO] [TOLO]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Peace Talks: Special Envoy Khalilzad met with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov and Russian special envoy Zamir Kabulov in Moscow on Friday for talks on the Afghan peace process; no details of the meeting were reported. In a UN General Assembly meeting on Thursday, Russia’s permanent representative abstained from supporting the recurring resolution of support for Afghanistan, saying that “we are disappointed by reluctance of a number of delegations to reflect the rule and outcomes of the Moscow format of consultations”; the resolution passed. Pakistani Foreign Minister Qureshi will visit Kabul on Dec 15 for talks on the peace process, he confirmed on Saturday. On Sunday, former interior minister Umer Daudzai was appointed to head the secretariat of the High Peace Council. Pres. Ghani met with the government peace talks negotiation team at the presidential palace on Sunday evening, presenting the “guidelines and legitimate basic lines of the government regarding peace negotiations”. TOLO interviews Jamiat-e-Islami leaders on their own proposals for peace talks. In a TOLO interview, US Ambassador to Afghanistan Bass says that “we are not negotiating on behalf of the Afghan people, we are not negotiating on behalf of the Afghan government, we are not in negotiating period. We are talking to the Taliban and to every other representative of the Afghan society to see how we can help create those conditions for Afghans to sit down together.” [AP] [TOLO] [Khabarnama] [Khabarnama] [Khaama Press] [Dawn]
  • Parliamentary Elections: Representatives of the Independent Election Commission and Electoral Complaints Commission met on Friday together with Second Vice Pres. Sarwar Danish and representatives from the Supreme Court and attorney general’s office, and agreed that the ECC would “review” its decision to invalidate the parliamentary election results from Kabul. On Saturday, ECC officials said that they would not revise their decision “unless the IEC provides all the necessary information and data” for the Kabul results, and said that they would not reverse parts of their previous ruling that called for the removal of several senior IEC officials. [TOLO]
  • Herat Governor Resigns: Herat governor Mohammad Asif Rahimi announced his resignation on Monday.
  • Football Federal President Removed: On Saturday, the Afghan attorney general’s office ordered the removal of the head of the Afghan Football Federation, Keramuddin Karim, and five others members of the AFF staff following reports of sexual and physical abuse of the Afghan national women’s team by staff members. A presidentially-ordered investigation into the charges is continuing. [NYT] [Khaama Press] [TOLO] [Khabarnama]

 

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • IMF Loan: On Saturday, the IMF board approved the disbursal of $6.2 million under an Extended Credit Facility for Afghanistan, and agreed to an extension of the loan program through end-December 2019, as well as modifications to some of the performance criteria for the government.

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Ghani Marks International Anti-Corruption Day [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [Khabarnama]
  • Ghani Meets with Citizens Charter Program Members [Khabarnama]
  • Bodies of Victims of Farah Crash Recovered, Returned to Families [Khaama Press]
  • ILO Reports Afghanistan Has Highest Recorded Unemployement Rate [TOLO]
  • Higher Education Ministry Defends New Provincial Quota at Universities [TOLO] [Khabarnama]
  • Construction Resumes on Pashdan Dam in Herat [TOLO] [Khabarnama]
  • Commentary: Delivering Public Services in Insurgency-Affected Obeh District of Herat Province – “The dual nature of authority in Obeh is exemplified by public service delivery; it is always financed through and administered by the Afghan state but, in areas under Taleban control, it is the insurgents who supervise and monitor delivery.” [S. Reza Kazemi, AAN]

 

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: IEC and ECC in Standoff Over Kabul Results; Finance Minister Umar Renews Talks with IMF

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Topline

  • The Independent Election Commission responded to the Electoral Complaints Commission’s invalidation of parliamentary election results in Kabul on Thursday by rejecting the ECC’s authority to make the decision and stating it would continue with the certification of the results.
  • Finance Minister Umar met with the IMF country director for Pakistan on Thursday to renew talks on a prospective loan program for Pakistan; the Express Tribune reports that the two sides remain split on conditions for the bailout, and that agreement is unlikely to be reached in time for approval at the IMF’s January board meeting.
  • The Washington Post interviews PM Khan, who reiterates support for an Afghan peace process but denies that the Taliban are being supported or sheltered by Pakistan.
  • The Supreme Court of Pakistan has ordered a report by Dec 11 on recommendations for the extension of constitutional rights and other reforms for the Gilgit-Baltistan territory.
  • The PTI has reportedly proposed former national assembly speaker Ayaz Sadiq as a compromise choice to head the Public Accounts Committee, rather than PML-N opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • Suspect Arrested in Gwadar: Police in Gwadar arrested an unidentified man suspected of plotting an attack on Chinese engineers working on CPEC projects in the port city; several guns were seized in the raid.

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • US Relations: The Washington Post interviews PM Khan, who says of the relationship with the U.S. that “I would never want to have a relationship where Pakistan is treated like a hired gun — given money to fight someone else’s war”, adding that “our relationship with China is not one-dimensional. It’s a trade relationship between two countries. We want a similar relationship with the US.” Imran reiterates support for an Afghan peace process, but denies allegations that Pakistan is sheltering the Taliban and downplays Pakistani influence over the insurgency. Pakistan’s foreign ministry spokesman echoed that point in a separate press conference on Thursday, saying that “Pakistan has its limitations regarding the Taliban, however, we continue to make all possible efforts in this regard”. Speaking earlier on Thursday, the Pakistani military’s chief spokesman said that “as much as we can, we will facilitate” an Afghan peace process. [The Nation]
  • Gilgit-Baltistan Reforms: On Friday, the Supreme Court ordered the formation of a special committee, headed by the attorney general, to finalize recommendations on the extension of constitutional rights to Gilgit-Baltistan, ordering a report by Dec 11.
  • TLP Crackdown: At least 212 Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan activists have reportedly been released since arrests were launched against the group last month.
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: On Friday, the Supreme Court granted another extension in the deadline for the completion of hearings on corruption charges against Nawaz Sharif, through Dec 24. Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry met with UK parliamentarians in London on Thursday, calling for bilateral collaboration on anti-money laundering initiatives. A Supreme Court bench overturned the lifetime disqualification of PTI Balochistan chapter president Yar Muhammad Rind on charges of possessing a fake eduational degree. [The Nation] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET]
  • Other Political Activity: The Nation reports that the PTI has proposed former national assembly speaker and PML-N leader Ayaz Sadiq as a candidate for the Public Accounts Committee, instead of Shehbaz Sharif, and that other opposition parties may seek to convince the PML-N to accept the compromise. A meeting of the PML-N parliamentary delegation is planned for Dec 10 in Lahore. Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, the PPP accused the PTI of “imposing a presidential system” in the country. The Jamaat-e-Islami has proposed legislation that would eliminate requirements that voters register at the addresses on their NADRA-issued national ID cards. [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • IMF Talks: Finance Minister Umar and the IMF’s country director for Pakistan spoke by videoconference on Thursday for the first time since the conclusion of staff-level talks about a possible loan program; the Express Tribune reports that disagreements persist over the conditions for the bailout, and that Pakistan is unlikely to secure approval before the next IMF board meeting on Jan 15. Pakistan’s total debts and liabilities have risen to Rs 30.9 trillion as of end-September, driven in part by the devaluation of the rupee. State Bank of Pakistan-held foreign exchange reserves dropped for the week of Nov 30, to approximately $7.5 billion.
  • Polio Crisis: Three new polio cases were reported in Balochistan on Thursday, ahead of a vaccination drive scheduled to begin Monday.

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Weapons Cache Seized in Bajaur [The Nation]
  • Cabinet Approves Grants, Gas Supply for Export Industries [ET]
  • LHC Rejects Appeal for Suspension of Schizophrenic Man’s Death Sentence [Dawn]
  • Chief Justice Warns Bottled Water Companies Not to Pass on Costs to Consumers [Dawn]
  • Saudi Ambassador Meets Navy Chief [The Nation]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • Attacks and Operations: At least 14 Afghan soldiers were killed and 21 wounded in attacks on two checkposts in Herat province’s Shindand district over Thursday night. Police officials in Helmand tell TOLO that they have launched clearance operations in the Nad Ali and Nahr Saraj districts, as well as around Lashkar Gah, but that these are “moving forward slowly” so as to protect civilians. [Pajhwok]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Elections Dispute: In a statement on Thursday following an earlier order by the Electoral Complaints Commission invalidating all parliamentary election results for Kabul province, the Independent Election Commission rejected the ECC’s authority and said that it would continue with the certification of the votes. The ECC had also recommended fines and the removal of several top IEC staffers, which the IEC also rejected. [NYT] [TOLO] [Khabarnama] [Khaama Press]
  • Peace Talks: Representatives for the Jamiat-e-Islami, Junbesh-e-Milli, and Hezb-e-Islami parties tell TOLO they have formed their own separate negotiating teams to participate in talks with the Taliban, after the formation of a government team by Pres. Ghani in response to a proposal by US Special Envoy Khalilzad.

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Former Ambassador to India Floats Presidential Candidacy [Khabarnama]
  • Afghan Farmers Forced to Flee by Ongoing Drought [AFP]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: ECC Invalidates Kabul Parliamentary Elections; Minister Azam Swati Resigns

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Topline

  • On Thursday, the Afghan Electoral Complaints Commission invalidated all of the results of the parliamentary elections in Kabul, citing “serious outstanding problems”; the Independent Electoral Commission, which administers the elections, has yet to respond as of this writing.
  • Special Envoy Khalilzad traveled to Kabul on Thursday for meetings with Pres. Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah, and will travel on to Russia today. Afghanistan will reportedly host a meeting with the Pakistani and Chinese foreign ministers on the peace process on Dec 15. Japan’s national security advisor also visited Pakistan on Wednesday for meetings with top civilian and military leaders, including discussions on the Afghan peace process.
  • Federal science minister Azam Swati resigned on Thursday as he faces a Supreme Court investigation into his role in the removal of the Islamabad police chief.
  • PML-N activists clashed with police in Lahore on Thursday outside a court hearing, where Shehbaz Sharif’s detention was extended for another week.
  • A meeting of NATO foreign ministers affirmed continuing support for Afghanistan, and appointed former UK ambassador Nicholas Kay as the new NATO senior civilian representative for Afghanistan.
  • Balochistan Information Minister Mir Zahoor Buledi said Wednesday that the province was planning to impose new taxes of foreign investment, to include CPEC projects. Separately, the head of the ruling Balochistan Awami Party expressed concern that “CPEC may not bring the expected results” and accused the planning ministry of neglected projects in Balochistan.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • Tensions with India: Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, Pakistan’s chief military spokesman accused India of deliberately targeted civilians in ceasefire violations along the Line of Control in Kashmir, saying that 55 civilians had been killed so far this year on the Pakistani side. [ET]
  • Balochistan Attacks: A Frontier Corps soldier was killed and two injured in a landmine explosion in the Kohlu district on Wednesday. An engineer for the Balochistan Rural Support Program was abducted in Chagai on Wednesday; no claim of responsibility was reported.

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Minister Resigns: On Thursday, federal science minister Azam Swati resigned from his position, saying that he “could not work under these conditions” as he faces a Supreme Court investigation over his role in the removal of the Islamabad police chief. [ET] [The Nation]
  • PML-N Legal Battles: Nawaz Sharif continues to refuse to offer a defense in his ongoing testimony in corruption cases against him, stating that the National Accountability Bureau had failed to prove its allegations again him and that the charges were politically motivated. On Thursday, special assistant to the prime minister Shahzad Akbar accused Nawaz of making private foreign trips using taxpayer funds during his tenure as prime minister. PML-N supporters clashed with police in Lahore on Thursday as Shehbaz Sharif’s detention was extended by another week. A medical board has suggested a range of tests in light of new complaints by the PML-N that Shehbaz is in need of medical treatment. Nawaz Sharif’s son-in-law Mohammad Safdar was hospitalized on Wednesday. [Dawn] [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • Other Corruption Investigations and Legal Battles: At hearings on Thursday, Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar accused the Federal Board of Revenue of “using delaying tactics” in its investigation of Pakistani citizens holding undisclosed foreign bank accounts and property, demanding a report by Dec 13. [ET] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Japanese National Security Advisor Visits: Japanese National Security Advisor Kenator Sonoura visited Islamabad on Wednesday, meeting with PM Khan, Foreign Minister Qureshi, and Chief of Army Staff Bajwa to discuss the Afghan peace process and Japanese investments in Pakistan.
  • TLP Crackdown: In response to Election Commission investigations into the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan’s registration, party chief Khadim Rizvi filed a reply in absentia on Wednesday saying he could not respond until he was freed from custody.
  • Elections: By-elections for the vacant PB-47 Kech constituency are scheduled to take place on Thursday. On Wednesday, the ECP removed PML-N legislator Mian Ziaur Rehman from the Khyber Paktunkhwa provincial assembly after he was found to hold a fake educational degree. [The Nation] [Dawn]
  • Other Political Activity: PM Khan has called a cabinet meeting for Thursday to discuss proposals for reforms for Gilgit-Baltistan, including potentially elevating it to provincial status. Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Nawaz Sharif said that the PML-N was prepared for early elections. The PML-N will hold a convention in Lahore on Dec 30 to commemorate the founding of its predecessor party the Muslim League, which Nawaz is expected to attend. [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [The Nation]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Balochistan Investments: Speaking on Wednesday, Balochistan Information Minister Mir Zahoor Buledi said that the provincial government was planning to impose new taxes on foreign investment, to include CPEC projects. Separately, Balochistan Awami Party leader Saeed Ahmed Hashmi expressed concern that “CPEC may not bring the expected results” and accused the planning ministry of neglected projects in Balochistan. Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan is on a visit to Russia to attend a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, where he touted the project.

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Clock Ticking on FATF Action Plan Implementation [ET] [The Nation]
  • Information Minister Again Denies Reports of Finance Minister’s Resignation [The Nation]
  • Senator Accuses NADRA of Issuing CNICs to Afghan Intelligence Personnel [Dawn] [ET]
  • Rangers Arrest Six Including Three Lyari Gangsters [The Nation]
  • Punjab Plans ‘Uniform Syllabus’ by 2020 [Dawn]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • NATO Ministers Meet: A meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels on Wednesday reaffirmed their “steadfast commitment to ensuring long-term security and stability” in Afghanistan, although Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg acknowledged that “the security situation in Afghanistan remains difficult”. On Wednesday, former UK ambassador Nicholas Kay was appointed to serve as the next NATO senior civilian representative in Afghanistan. [Khabarnama] [Khabarnama]
  • Attacks and Operations: In a WSJ interview, US and NATO commander Gen. Scott Miller says that the coalition is seeking to “turn the dial up” with increased special forces raids against Taliban leadership and opium production targets in order to “shape the political environment” for talks. Reuters also credits Miller with pushing Afghan security forces to “go on the offensive”, noting an uptick in Afghan Air Force airstrikes along with the United States’ own. The spokesman for US forces tells Reuters that “we’re near a political settlement … if the Taliban want to keep fighting, we will fight and ensure that they feel the pressure.” Afghan military officials in Ghazni claimed on Thursday that at least 40 Pakistani Taliban fighters were killed in operations across the Nawa, Khogyani, and Gilan districts. A US drone strike in Farah’s Bala Bulok district on Thursday reportedly killed eight Taliban fighters.

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • ECC Invalidates Kabul Results: On Thursday, the Electoral Complaints Commission ruled that “there were serious outstanding problems in Kabul that could hurt the fairness, transparency and inclusiveness of the election”, invalidating all results in the province, which elects the largest number of parliamentarians and saw the largest number of votes cast in the October elections. The Independent Election Commission, whose current operations director for Kabul is under investigation for fraud after his replacement of his predecessor last month, has not yet responded to the ECC order as of this writing. The ECC has also ordered fines and criminal investigations against IEC secretariat staff in Kabul. [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • Peace Talks: Special Envoy Khalilzad visited Kabul on Thursday for meetings with Pres. Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah, following meetings in Pakistan the day prior. He reportedly departed afterwards for meetings in Moscow. The Express Tribune reports that Afghanistan will host a meeting of the foreign ministers of China and Pakistan on Dec 15 to discuss the peace process. Pakistan’s PM Khan met with Chief of Army Staff Bajwa to discuss the Afghan conflict on Wednesday, and Khan briefed the federal cabinet on his meetings with Khalilzad on Thursday. In a remarks on Wednesday, former Pres. Karzai said that “peace efforts should not be carried out in secret from the eyes of the Afghan people”, adding that “if the US is serious about bringing peace in Afghanistan, then it should reach a conclusion with China and Russia and major countries”. [WAPO] [Ariana News] [Khabarnama]

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Head of Anham FZCO Charged with Iran Sanctions Violations on Contract to Supply US Forces in Afghanistan [NYT]
  • Kabul Police Seize Weapons from Tamim Shanshab’s Home [TOLO]
  • First Afghan Woman Appointed to Senior Interior Ministry Post [AP] [Khabarnama]
  • Government Urged to Finalize Child Protection Act [TOLO]
  • Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation Meets Scandinavian Delegation [Khabarnama]
  • Commentary: One Land, Two Rules: Service Delivery in Insurgent-Affected Areas – “Estimates of exactly how much vary, but in the vast majority of Afghanistan’s provinces, control is split between government and insurgency. What that means for local people in terms of services usually provided by a state is the subject of a new research project by AAN.” [Jelena Bjelica and Kate Clark, AAN]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Court Orders New Model Town Investigation; CENTCOM Nominee Says ANSF Casualties Unsustainable

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Topline

  • On Wednesday, the Supreme Court of Pakistan ordered the formation of a new Joint Investigation Team to investigate the 2014 Model Town clash between Punjab police and Pakistan Awami Tehreek activists, in which fourteen people were killed.
  • Testifying at a confirmation hearing on Tuesday, the nominee to head US Central Command, Marine Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, acknowledged high Afghan security forces casualties and said that “their losses are not going to be sustainable unless we correct this problem.” He also said that “if we left precipitously right now, I do not believe they would be able to successfully defend their country”, but did not give a timeline by which Afghan forces might be self-sustaining.
  • Special Envoy Khalilad met with Pakistani foreign ministry officials on Tuesday and PM Khan on Wednesday, who pledged support for the Afghan peace process.
  • The International Organization for Migration estimates more than 721,000 Afghan undocumented migrants have returned from Iran to Afghanistan during the first 11 months of the year, as the Iranian economy contracts.
  • Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar chaired a conference on population control on Wednesday, which PM Imran also attended, pledging to take action on the issue.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • Shakil Afridi Case: Following the merger of the former FATA districts with Khyber Paktunkhwa and the abolition of the FATA Tribunal, the case of Dr. Shakil Afridi, the former doctor accused of aiding the CIA operation to track Osama bin Laden, has been postponed until Jan 31 and has been transferred to the Peshawar High Court, the Express Tribune reports.

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Model Town Investigation: In an order on Wednesday, a Supreme Court benched headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar directed the Punjab government to constitute a new Joint Investigation Team to investigate the 2014 Model Town clash between Punjab police and Pakistan Awami Tehreek activists in Lahore; PAT leader Tahir-ul Qadri welcomed the verdict. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: On Tuesday Imran Shafique, the National Accountability Bureau special prosecutor in the case of Zulfi Bukhari, the prime minister’s aide facing investigations into his dual nationality, resigned from the case and the NAB. The Islamabad High Court reserved a verdict on Tuesday on the removal of Bukhari’s name from the exit control list. Nawaz Sharif gave further statements in the corruption cases against him in hearings on Wednesday. In other hearings on Wednesday, Chief Justice Nisar ordered a trial against minister Azam Swati for misuse of his authority. [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Chief Justice Hosts Population Growth Conference: Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar led a conference on population growth and control in Islamabad on Wednesday, expressing alarm over the issue; PM Khan also attended the conference, and pledged to take action on the issue.
  • Other Political Activity: Opposition critics denounced remarks by PM Khan in an interview earlier this week in which he suggested that the PTI government would make policy through executive ordinances rather than legislation in order to get around the opposition in the senate. In remarks on Tuesday, former Punjab law minister and PML-N leader Rana Sanaullah predicted that Imran would resign within six months. Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, PTI leader Jahangir Tareen denied any dispute between himself and Finance Minister Umar. The former general secretary of former chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry’s Pakistan Justice and Democratic Party announced that he had split from the party and joined with the PTI on Wednesday, dropping several legal cases against Imran Khan in the process. [ET] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • PM Discusses Polio Campaign with Bill Gates [Dawn] [ET] [The Nation]
  • No Progress in Sami-ul Haq Murder Investigations [Dawn]
  • PM Meets with Facebook Delegation [Dawn]
  • Mengal Leads By-Election Rally in Turbat [ET]
  • Rs 70 Million in Compensation Pledged for Family of Slain Pakistani Police Officer [ET]
  • Health Ministry Proposes ‘Sin Tax’ on Cigarettes and Sugary Beverages [Dawn]
  • Central Government Seeks Review of Supreme Court Order on Karachi Land Encroachment [Dawn]
  • Government to Propose Constitutional Amendment on Provincial Job Quotas [Dawn]
  • Inflation Slows in November [ET]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • ANSF Casualties ‘Unsustainable’: Testifying at a confirmation hearing in the Senate on Tuesday, the new nominee to head US Central Command, Marine Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, acknowledged that Afghan security forces casualties “have been very high,” saying that “they are fighting hard, but their losses are not going to be sustainable unless we correct this problem.” He also said that “if we left precipitously right now, I do not believe they would be able to successfully defend their country”, and said he did not know it would take for those forces to become self-sufficient. [TOLO] [SASC Hearing]
  • Attacks and Operations: At least one policeman and three civilians were killed in a Taliban attack on a police checkpoint in Herat on Tuesday. Unidentified gunmen kidnapped the head of Enakas Radio and Television Network in Jalalabad on Tuesday; no immediate claim of responsibility was reported. Ministry of defense officials claim to have killed as many as 97 Taliban fighters in operations across several districts in Ghazni. [Khaama Press] [Pajhwok]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Peace Talks: Special Envoy Khalilzad met with Pakistani foreign ministry officials on Tuesday and PM Khan on Wednesday, who pledged support for an Afghan peace process. At a separate briefing for foreign journalists in Pakistan, the Pakistani military’s chief spokesman said that “Pakistan wishes to see peace beyond its borders, especially Afghanistan”, but downplayed Pakistani influence over the Taliban. At a meeting in Kabul on Tuesday, UN Special Representative Tadamichi Yamamoto urged that “women must be ready to actively participate in and contribute to the peace process, and they must be represented in the negotiating team and consultative bodies on peace.” In separate remarks, Iran’s ambassador to Afghanistan, Reza Bahrami, said that “bringing peace in Afghanistan by using military force is not possible” and that “Afghans themselves should lead the peace process”. [Reuters] [AP] [Dawn] [The Nation] [TOLO] [TOLO]
  • Iranian Migrants Return: More than 721,000 undocumented Afghan migrants have returned from Iran this year through December 1, the International Organization for Migration estimates, with Iran’s economic contraction driving the return.
  • Parliamentary Elections: The Independent Election Commission reported the preliminary parliamentary election results for two more provinces on Tuesday evening.

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Ghani Meets Visiting Spanish Defense Minister [Khabarnama]
  • Appointment of Young Woman as Deputy Interior Minister Draws Response [Khaama Press]
  • National Procurement Council Approves Afs 11.7 Billion in New Contracts [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Imran Blames State Bank for Rupee Devaluation; Khalilzad Arrives in Islamabad

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Topline

  • In an interview on Monday, PM Khan said that the State Bank of Pakistan was autonomous and he had no advance knowledge of its move to devalue the rupee last week, but said that he had ordered the SBP to brief him in advance of any future moves of the currency. Separately, the prime minister’s office denied rumors that Finance Minister Umar had offered his resignation; speaking at a conference on Tuesday, he insisted that Pakistan was not facing an economic crisis and that the “financing gap for the current fiscal year has been met”.
  • Special Envoy Khalilzad arrived in Islamabad on Tuesday as part of his latest tour of the region; The Telegraph reports that a Taliban delegation from the group’s Doha office has also arrived in Pakistan this week for internal consultations. Pakistani and Iranian diplomatic officials held talks on Monday that included discussions on the Afghan peace process. Speaking during a meeting with his Indian counterpart on Monday, US Secretary of Defense Mattis said that “it’s time for everyone to get on board, support the United Nations; support Prime Minister Modi’s, President Ghani and all those who are trying to maintain peace and make for a better world here”.
  • PM Khan met with National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser on Monday to discuss the standoff over parliamentary committee appointments and the leadership of the Public Accounts Committee; Imran has reiterated opposition to Shehabz Sharif serving in the latter role, but has directed Qaiser to resume negotiations with the opposition over other possible candidates.
  • At least one police officer was killed in Kabul on Monday in a standoff with Tamim Wardak, identified as a relative of the former defense minister and private security company owner; Wardak was arrested along with his security guards on Tuesday.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • NGO Crackdown: Anonymous Western diplomatic sources speaking to Reuters estimate that at least 11 million Pakistanis will be affected by the government’s expulsion of 18 international NGOs last month.
  • Journalist Killed in Peshawar: Noor-ul-Hassan, a television journalist with a local channel from Nowshera, was killed in a drive-by shooting in Peshawar on Monday afternoon; a colleague was wounded in the attack. No claim of responsibility has been reported. [Dawn]

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Parliamentary Committee Negotiations: National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser met with PM Khan on Monday to seek a solution for the deadlock over the formation of parliamentary committees and the dispute over the chairmanship of the Public Accounts Committee; Khan reiterated his opposition to Shehbaz Sharif taking the position, but ordered new talks with the opposition on other possible nominees. Separately, the government shared its proposed terms of reference for the parliamentary committee to investigate allegations of election rigging. [ET] [The Nation] [Dawn]
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: On Monday, the National Accountability Bureau filed an interim corruption reference in the Punjab Saaf Paani Company case, alleging embezzlement and corruption in contracting for the project; at least 20 people were implicated, but former chief minister Shehbaz Sharif was not among the accused. NAB prosecutors concluded their arguments in the Al-Azizia corruption case against Nawaz Sharif on Monday. Nawaz appeared before the Supreme Court on Tuesday in response to a dispute over land allotment from the Pakpattan shrine during his tenure as Punjab chief minister in 1985. In other hearings, Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar sought a report on medical facilities in Khyber Paktunkhwa province within two months, and threatened to shut down private water bottling companies. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation] [The Nation] [ET] [ET] [ET]
  • TLP Crackdown: Lawyers for the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan petitioned the Peshawar High Court on Monday, seeking the release of at least 133 activists in the province.
  • Other Political Activity: During a meeting on Monday with the Planning Ministry, PM Khan ordered the formation of a dedicated South Punjab Secretariat by mid-2019. The Election Commission released a report on parliamentarians’ assets on Monday. Speaking at an event in Tando Allah Yar on Tuesday, former Pres. Zardari accused the PTI of “bringing back one-unit politics”, and suggested that the next prime minister “will send Imran Khan to jail”. [ET] [ET] [ET]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Financial Crisis: In a statement on Monday, PM Khan’s office denied rumors that Finance Minister Umar was planning to resign, and denied reports of disputes between Umar and Commerce Advisor Abdul Razak Dawood. In an interview on Monday, PM Khan insisted that the State Bank of Pakistan was autonomous and that he had no control over the recent devaluation of the rupee; the Express Tribune reports that Umar was in fact informed beforehand; Imran told reporters that he had ordered that “no decision shall be taken on currency movement [by the SBP] without first informing me”. Speaking at a conference on Tuesday, Umra insisted that the “financing gap for the current fiscal year has been met” and Pakistan was not in an economic crisis. [The Nation] [The Nation] [The Nation] [Dawn]

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Islamabad Police Arrest 42 Accused of Land Theft [Dawn]
  • Balochistan Chief Minister Meets with Dissident Baloch Leader in Moscow [The Nation]
  • Federal Government Aims to Recruit Baloch Youth Into Motorway Police [Dawn]
  • Six More Infants Die in Thar, Fatalities for 2018 Surpass 600 [Dawn]
  • Pakistan Hopes to Sign New CPEC Project Financing this Month [ET]
  • Petroleum Division Seeks Rs 25.5 Billion in Gas Subsidies [ET]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • Kabul Standoff: At least one police officer was killed in a standoff with security guards for Tamim Wardak, who was facing eviction orders; the confrontation ended on Tuesday afternoon after approximately 20 hours with his arrest along with at least 18 security guards. Reuters identifies Wardak, who other sources name as Tamim Shanshab, as the owner of a private security company and relative of the former defense minister Rahim Wardak. [TOLO] [Khabarnama]
  • Other Attacks and Operations: The district police chief for Sar-e-Pul’s Sayyad district, Abdul Malik Nezami, was killed in a Taliban attack on Monday evening along with at least five other officers. A magnetic bomb exploded on a vehicle at the Kandahar police headquarters on Tuesday; no casualties were immediately reported. A fourth U.S. servicemember succumbed to wounds suffered during a roadside bombing in Ghazni province last week, the Pentagon announced Monday. Afghan military officials in Helmand report that the Taliban shadow governor for Ghor province, identified as Abdul Qayoum, was killed in a US drone strike on Monday. [AP] [TOLO] [TOLO]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Peace Talks: Special Envoy Khalilzad arrived in Islamabad on Tuesday on his first stop in his latest tour of the region. The Telegraph reports that a Taliban delegation from the group’s Doha office also arrived in Pakistan earlier this week for an “internal summit” over the Taliban negotiating position. Pakistani and Iranian diplomats met separately in Islamabad on Monday and agreed to a “coordinated approach pertaining to [the] Afghan conflict”. Speaking during a meeting with his Indian counterpart on Monday, US Secretary of Defense Mattis said that “we’re looking for every responsible nation to support peace in the sub-continent and across this war in Afghanistan”, saying that “it’s time for everyone to get on board, support the United Nations; support Prime Minister Modi’s, President Ghani and all those who are trying to maintain peace and make for a better world here”. NATO foreign ministers will meet in Brussels on Tuesday and Wednesday this week for talks that include discussions of the Afghan peace process. [Reuters] [WSJ] [WAPO] [Dawn] [The Nation] [NPR] [TOLO] [TOLO]
  • Parliamentary Elections: A spokesman for the Independent Election Commission said Monday that it would complete the reporting of preliminary parliamentary election results for all provinces by the end of next week, to include Kabul.

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • ADB Pledges $2B Grant Over Three Years [TOLO] [Khabarnama]
  • Ghani Orders Investigation Into Allegations of Sexual Abuse of Female Athletes [AP] [Guardian]
  • Report: Afghanistan in 2018: A Survey of the Afghan People – “Now on its fourteenth edition, the Survey has gathered the views of more than 112,000 Afghans since 2004 on security, elections, governance, the economy, essential services, corruption, youth issues, reconciliation with the Taliban, access to media, migration, the role of women, and political participation.” [Asia Foundation]
  • Commentary: Getting to the Steering Wheel: President Ghani’s New Set of Peace Proposals – “These proposals represent an attempt to reassert the Afghan government’s role in a peace process that has barely commenced, not least due to the Taleban’s refusal to negotiate with Kabul, and when the process remains dominated by the US agenda.” [Thomas Ruttig, AAN]