Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Saqib Nisar Named Next Chief Justice of Pakistan; NYT Overviews Saudi-Afghan Tensions and Ties

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  • On Wednesday, Pres. Mamnoon Hussain announced the appointment of Justice Saqib Nisar as the next Chief Justice of Pakistan, taking office on Dec 31. Supreme Court hearings on the Panama Papers investigation continued on Tuesday and Wednesday; lawyers for Prime Minister Sharif’s family said Wednesday they could not fully document the money trail behind the purchase of a London apartment. The NYT overviews Saudi Arabia’s relations with Afghanistan, including past support for peace efforts and as a major fundraising source for the Taliban and other Islamist groups. One of the men whose military court conviction was announced Tuesday was a key suspect in the 2002 murder of Daniel Pearl and the 2014 attack on the Karachi airport, the WSJ notes. Chief of Army Staff Bajwa visited the Southern Command headquarters in Quetta on Tuesday. Special assistant Tariq Fatemi told a press conference in Washington on Monday that the readout of Prime Minister Sharif’s call with President-elect Trump had been approved by Trump’s office, and that Pakistan is “looking forward to meaningful engagement” with the US. Nangarhar’s governor told TOLO that Gulbuddin Hekmatyar may relocate to the province before moving to Kabul, after he is cleared from UN sanctions.

Pakistan — Security

  • Military Court Sentences: The WSJ notes that one of the men whose conviction in the military court system announced yesterday was Attaur Rehman, alias Naeem Bukhari, a former commander of a Lashkar-e-Jhangvi faction with links to Al Qaeda, who was involved in the kidnapping and murder of WSJ bureau chief Daniel Pearl in 2002. Military sources suggest his conviction was not related to that case; he was linked to the 2014 attack on the Karachi airport when the military announced his arrest in February of this year.
  • Army Chief Visits Quetta: Chief of Army Staff Bajwa visited the Southern Command headquarters in Quetta on Tuesday, where he pledged to provide “all necessary assistance for restoration of peace”, including “capacity building of the law enforcement agencies and by providing security for all projects in remote areas”. General Bajwa also met with the Chinese commander of the People’s Liberation Army’s western theater on Monday, and with the UK joint operations commander on Wednesday.
  • Movement Restrictions: The Khyber Paktunkhwa provincial assembly passed a resolution on Tuesday calling on the Interior Ministry to withdraw its requirement for foreign diplomats to receive a “no-objection certificate” in order to travel to the province.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Next Chief Justice Announced: On Wednesday, Pres. Mamnoon Hussain announced the appointment of Justice Saqib Nisar as the next Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan; he will take office following current Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali’s retirement on Dec 30. [Dawn]
  • Panama Papers Investigation: At Supreme Court hearings on Tuesday, lawyers for the Sharif family denied that Maryam Nawaz, the prime minister’s daughter, had been his dependent since her marriage in 1992. Awami Muslim League leader Sheikh Rashid appeared in court as well, accusing Prime Minister Sharif of receiving $300 million in kickbacks from the construction of motorways in 1992-93. At Wednesday’s hearings, those lawyers said they could not fully document the money trail behind the Sharif family’s purchase of a London apartment. PTI leader Imran Khan told reporters on Tuesday that the burden of proof was on the Sharif family to prove their innocence. [Dawn] [ET]
  • US Relations: Speaking at a press briefing at the Pakistani embassy in Washington on Monday, special assistant on foreign affairs Tariq Fatemi said that President-elect Trump’s office had approved the language of a readout of his conversation with Prime Minister Sharif released by the prime minister’s office. Fatemi also said that Pakistan “is looking forward to meaningful engagement with the USA in further improving bilateral relations and playing its role in the context of regional and international issues”. He also met with US Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday. [ET]
  • Other Political Activity: Speaking at the closing session of the PPP’s 49th Foundation Day celebrations in Lahore, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari vowed to launch a protest march against the government if the PPP’s demands for “democratic accountability” are not met by the PML-N, saying “the Bhuttos will show the government what true opposition is”. Bilawal also said that he would “become a resident of Lahore” in January to lead the PPP’s campaign. At a briefing on Tuesday, the Election Commission acknowledged that the gap between registered male and female voters has increased by 12.17% since the 2013 general elections, with 54.59 million men and 42.42 million women currently registered nationwide. [Dawn] [ET] [APP]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Shanghai Electric Plans K-Electric Investments: Shanghai Electric plans to invest $9 billion in the K-Electric distribution company to improve electricity transmission, distribution and generation in Karachi, the company said in a recent briefing for the Cabinet Committee on Energy.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • PIA Flight From Chitral Reportedly Crashes While En Route to Islamabad [Dawn] [ET] [Reuters]
  • Forests Along Line of Control Face Destruction from Shelling [Dawn]
  • Senate Debates FATA Reform Measures [Dawn]
  • Faisalabad Counter-Terrorism Department Arrest Two Ahmedi Men for Printing Literature [Dawn]
  • Nepotism Investigation Finds 50 Members of the Same Family Employed in Sindh Health Department [ET] [AFP]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Saudi Support: The NYT overviews Saudi Arabia’s conflicted ties to Afghanistan, which have at times in the past led to efforts to broker peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban – none successfully – but which also includes significant financial support through donations to the Taliban and other Islamist groups.
  • US and NATO Mission: Giving his final major national security speech as president on Tuesday, Pres. Obama said that “war has been a part of life in Afghanistan for over 30 years, and the United States cannot eliminate the Taliban or end violence in that country,” but “what we can do is deny al Qaeda a safe haven, and what we can do is support Afghans who want a better future, which is why we have worked not only with their military, but we’ve backed a unity government in Kabul”. In Brussels, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that the alliance would meet to discuss Afghanistan issues on Wednesday, where it would “reconfirm our strong commitment to Afghanistan’s security” and “get an update on the government’s reform agenda, which is essential for Afghanistan’s long-term stability and prosperity”. [TOLO]
  • Dostum Rival Still Detained: NDS sources tell TOLO that former Jowzjan governor and Dostum rival Ahmad Eschi will soon be released, but his family members say they are concerned for his safety and have received no information on his condition.
  • Attacks and Operations: Afghan Air Force airstrikes in Kunduz and Paktika killed at least 14 militant suspects, the Ministry of Defense announced on Wednesday.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Hekmatyar Expected to Relocate to Nangarhar: Nangarhar governor Gulab Mangal tells TOLO that a house has been allocated for Hezb-e-Islami leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar in Nangarhar, where he would “probably live temporarily” after being removed from the UN sanctions blacklist before moving to Kabul.

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Budget Debate: A spokesman for the ministry of finance defended the balance of security and infrastructure spending in the government’s draft budget for the coming fiscal year, which a number of parliamentarians said did not provide sufficient development spending.
  • Drug Addiction: Minister of Counter-Narcotics Salamat Azimi estimated that 3.5 million Afghans are addicted to drugs, including over a million young men and women.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Ahmad Zia Massoud Criticizes ‘Political Uncertainty’, Nepotism, and Corruption [TOLO]
  • Report: Afghanistan in 2016: A Survey of the Afghan People – “The national mood in Afghanistan is at a record low, and Afghans are pessimistic because of insecurity, corruption, and rising unemployment and slow job growth.” [The Asia Foundation]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Supreme Court Resumes Panama Papers Hearings; Islamic State Pushed Into Nuristan

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  • The Supreme Court of Pakistan resumed hearings on Tuesday over the Panama Papers and petitions for Prime Minister Sharif’s disqualification from office; lawyers for the PTI will reportedly seek a switch to daily hearings, as Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali is due to start retirement proceedings beginning Dec 15. Balochistan Home Minister Sarfraz Bugti announced on Monday that the “mastermind” of the August attack on the Quetta Civil Hospital had been killed in operations in the Pishin district. Reuters reports that Islamic State fighters are relocating to Nuristan and Kunar, where the provincial government is seeking to arm villages and recruit tribal support to block their encroachment. NATO foreign ministers are meeting in Brussels this week, and will meet with Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani on Wednesday. The Express Tribune reports that UN Special Representative Tadamichi Yamamoto met with Rabbani on Monday, and has recently met with Taliban representatives in Qatar. Vice President Dostum walked back earlier criticisms of Pres. Ghani in remarks on Tuesday, saying he “remains committed to the promises” he made to Ghani. Prime Minister Sharif honored Pakistan’s first Nobel laureate, Abdus Salam, by renaming the Quaid-e-Azam University physics department after him and establishing a new scholarship program in his name. The Shanghai Electric company announced on Monday it had received clearance for the purchase of the Dubai-based Abraaj Group’s ownership stake in the K-Electric utility in Karachi.

Pakistan — Security

  • Balochistan Forces Kill Suspect in Quetta Hospital Attack: Balochistan Home Minister Sarfraz Bugti announced on Monday that operations in the Pishin district had killed Jehangir Badini, who he identified as the “mastermind” of the attack on the Quetta Civil Hospital in August. Four other suspected militants were killed along with him. Bugti said that militant groups, including TTP, Jaish-ul Islam and Lashkar-e-Jangvi Al Alami, “have formed a symbiotic nexus [and] are being funded by India’s RAW and Afghanistan’s NDS” and were responsible for violence in the province, saying that the Islamic State “had tried to establish a foothold in Balochistan, but its cadres were killed in the border district of Nushki.” [Dawn]
  • Counterterrorism Operations: The Express Tribune reports that Monday’s meeting of Prime Minister Sharif and Chief of Army Staff Bajwa agreed to “scale up” existing counterterrorism operations around the country. [ET]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Panama Papers Investigations: The Supreme Court will resume hearings on Tuesday into the Panama Papers and the PTI’s petition for Prime Minister Sharif’s disqualification from office; the PTI’s legal team will petition for the hearing schedule to be accelerated to daily hearings, Dawn reports; the prime minister’s team has sought a Dec 12-19 recess, and Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali is due to begin his retirement process on Dec 15. A lawyer for the Sharif family suggested he would also seek daily hearings to clear the prime minister’s name. During Tuesday’s hearings, PTI lawyers pressed arguments that Maryam Nawaz, the prime minister’s daughter, was dependent on her father and that properties registered in her name were in fact owned on his behalf. The Election Commission is hearing a parallel disqualification petition against Imran Khan, who testified on Monday that his Bani Gala property was a gift from his ex-wife Jemima Khan, but that he had later her paid for it through the sale of a London apartment. Arguments in that case and in parallel cases against PTI leader Jahangir Tareen and the prime minister’s son-in-law Mohammad Safdar are due to conclude Dec 15. [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Science Center Named After Nobel Laureate: In an announcement on Monday, Prime Minister Sharif honored Abdus Salam, a physicist and the country’s first Nobel laureate, establishing a scholarship fund in his name and renaming the Quaid-e-Azam University physics department after him. Salam, who passed away in 1996, was also a member of the minority Ahmadi community. [NYT] [Dawn] [Reuters]
  • Other Political Activity: During remarks with supporters in Lahore on Monday, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari continued his criticism of Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, saying that “instead of targeting the terrorists against whom the National Action Plan had been devised, the interior minister abused the law for political victimisation by focusing more on opponents like [PPP leader] Dr Asim Husain, Ayyan Ali and others, than fanatics and extremists.” He also accused the PML-N of rigging election results in Azad Jammu and Kashmir. [ET] [ET] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Shanghai Electric Cleared to Purchase K-Electric: On Monday, Shanghai Electric announced that it had received approval from the Competition Corporate of Pakistan to purchase the Dubai-based Abraaj Group’s 66.4% ownership stake in K-Electric, at a cost of $1.77 billion.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Activist Wahid Baloch Returns Home to Karachi After Four Months’ Disappearance [Dawn] [ET]
  • Four Indicted in Murder of Social Media Star Qandeel Baloch [Dawn]
  • Former Chief Justice Unwilling to Surrender Armed Vehicle [Dawn]
  • Cotton Output Falls for the Season [ET]
  • Balochistan High Court Joins Others in Staying PakTurk School Staff Expulsion Order [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Islamic State Relocating to Nuristan: Reuters reports that Islamic State-affiliated fighters are relocating from Nangarhar to Nuristan and Kunar, and that the Afghan government there is providing weapons and ammunition to villages, and meeting with local tribal leaders in an effort to block their encroachment.
  • Attacks and Operations: At Monday’s Council of Ministers meeting, Chief Executive Abdullah praised the Afghan special forces, saying that the Taliban’s leadership “has suffered a major blow” as a result of ongoing operations. Security officials in Helmand claim to have killed 38 Taliban fighters in operations in the Garmser and Nahr-e-Saraj districts on Tuesday, but provided few details. In Kandahar, the Taliban launched a coordinated attack on positions in the Arghistan district on Tuesday; officials say they repelled the attack, and that one police officer was killed. [TOLO] [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • NATO Ministers Meet: NATO foreign ministers met in Brussels beginning Monday; Foreign Minister Rabbani will meet with the group on Wednesday; NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters on Monday that Afghanistan remained a priority for the alliance and that he was “looking forward to meet[ing] the new president (elect) Donald Trump” at a summit next year “to discuss a wide range of issues. I guess we will have ample opportunities to discuss Afghanistan which is NATO’s biggest military operation; we have been there for many many years”.
  • Taliban Talks: The Express Tribune notes a visit by acting Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Laurel Miller to Islamabad, which it links to a possible revival of peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban. UN Special Representative Tadamichi Yamamoto has reportedly recently visited with Taliban representatives in Qatar, and met with Foreign Minister Rabbani on Monday. The South China Morning Post suggests that the Taliban and the Afghan government may agree to a ceasefire in order to focus on operations against the Islamic State.
  • Dostum Pledges Support for Ghani: In a speech to Junbish-e-Milli party supporters on Tuesday, Vice President Dostum said that he “remains committed to the promises made to President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani for serving the Afghan nation”, walking back public criticisms he made in October.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Former NDS Chief Nabil Backs Ghani Stance Against Pakistan [Khaama Press]
  • Ministry of Women’s Affairs Launches New EVAW Implementation Strategy [TOLO]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Ghani and Modi Press Pakistan at Heart of Asia Conference; Qatari Prince Arrives in Lahore

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Topline

  • Pres. Ghani and Prime Minister Modi hosted the ‘Heart of Asia’ conference in Amritsar, India on Sunday; both leaders gave pointed remarks criticizing Pakistan for not cracking down on terrorist actors. Pakistani foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz, who was barred from giving a press conference after the event, said that it was “simplistic” to blame one country for Afghanistan’s problems. Ghani spoke by phone with President-elect Trump on Friday. Qatar prince Hamad bin Jassim arrived in Lahore on Saturday; a letter from the Qataris has been central to the PML-N’s legal defense in the Panama Papers case. The PTI reportedly plans to also petition for the disqualification of Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif. The Guardian reports high tensions between the UN and the US military command in Afghanistan over disputed reporting on casualties from a U.S. drone strike in Achin in September. The Taliban executed a university student in Wardak’s Chak district on Friday, linking him to the recent death of a Taliban intelligence figure. The Pakistani government reportedly plans to extend the deadline for registered Afghan refugees to leave the country until the end of 2017, at which point the government may announce a “second phase” deadline of the end of 2018. PPP leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardar met with party supporters on Friday and Saturday, telling them that he would contest future elections from his mother’s former parliamentary seat. The Pakistani government has released Rs 1.3 billion to the Interior Ministry to pay for security on China-Pakistan Economic Corridor projects.

Pakistan — Security

  • 21st Amendment Set to Expire: Dawn notes the upcoming expiration on Jan 2 of the two-year sunset clause for the use of military courts to try civilian terrorist suspects, quoting Minister of State for Interior Affairs Baleeghur Reh­man, who says that “since the situation is under control now, there is no need to extend such wartime legislation”. On Monday, Chief of Army Staff Bajwa approved death sentences for four terrorist suspects convicted in the military courts.
  • Prime Minister and Army Chief Meet: Prime Minister Sharif met with Chief of Army Staff Bajwa on Monday to discuss national security issues; no details over their conversation have been released.
  • Customs Officials Kidnapped: Three customs officials were kidnapped in Balochistan’s Gwadar district on Friday, district officials reported; on Saturday, they were reported to have been freed, without any further details on their kidnappers or the hostages’ release.
  • FATA Attacks and Operations: Airstrikes in the Khyber Agency’s Rajgal valley killed twelve militant suspects on Sunday.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Panama Papers Investigation: Qatari prince Hamad bin Jassim arrived in Lahore on Saturday; a letter from Jassim was cited by Prime Minister Sharif’s legal team as evidence that the Sharif family’s overseas real estate investments had been obtained through a debt settlement. The PTI is preparing new challenges seeking the disqualification from office of Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, although Dawn reports the party has not decided whether to file a petition with the Election Commission or the Lahore High Court; the Express Tribune suggests they will chose the latter forum. Meanwhile, the Federal Board of Revenue is preparing to issue penalties to individuals to failed to respond to inquiries about undeclared assets reported in the Panama Papers. In the Senate, the PML-N is preparing to lobby for the passage of a bill setting the terms for an inquiry into the Panama Papers, where it will need the support of all independent senators and at least three others to pass. Separately, PTI spokesman Naeem-ul Haque tells the Express Tribune that the PTI will file a Supreme Court petition seeking an investigation into leaked press accounts of civil-military tensions in October; other PTI sources suggest that the party is divided on whether or not to pursue the issue, however. [Dawn] [ET]
  • Tensions with India: In remarks to reporters on Friday, India’s navy chief Adm. Sunil Lanba dismissed Pakistani claims to have intercepted an Indian submarine near its coast last month, saying it was “totally bogus”. In remarks in Amritsar on Saturday, Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif suggested that Iran “stands ready” to mediate between India and Pakistan. [ET] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Afghan Refugee Repatriation: The Express Tribune reports the government may approve another extension to the deadline for Afghan refugees to leave the country, giving until December 2017 for registered refugees to leave the country and announcing a “second phase” of repatriation at that point through the end of 2018. As of Friday, the UN reports that more than 380,000 registered Afghan refugees had returned from Pakistan so far this year, the highest figures since 2007. The UN’s voluntary repatriation program has been halted due to the winter until March.
  • PPP Leader Criticizes Government: Speaking to party activists in Lahore on Friday, PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari criticized the government for failing to implement the National Action Plan against terrorism, calling again for Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan’s removal. At another gathering on Saturday, Bilawal vowed that the PPP would retake national office in the 2018 general elections, and said that he would enter parliament by contesting his aunt Faryal Talpur’s NA-207 constituency seat, previously held by his mother; he did not specify whether she might step down before the elections. [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Relations with the US: Special assistant to the prime minister Tariq Fatemi will visit Washington this week for meetings with Obama administration officials and members of the Trump transition team. [ET]
  • Karachi Politics: On Friday, Thai police arrested Abdul Rehman, a former MQM member who had joined the Pak Sarzameen Party, and who is a key suspect in the 2012 Baldia Factory fire arson case. PSP chairman Mustafa Kamal denied that Rehman was a member of his party at a press conference in Lahore on Saturday, where said the party was planning to expand through future organizing drives. On Sunday, the MQM-Pakistan announced that it was severing ties with lawmaker Ali Raza Abidi, calling on him to quit his national assembly seat. Also on Sunday, a prominent Karachi money exchange businessman, Javed Khanani, died from an eight-story fall from a building undergoing construction; his family has denied a police autopsy request and described the death as a suicide. [ET] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [ET]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • CPEC Project: The Express Tribune reports that the government has released Rs 1.3 billion to the interior ministry to support security for China-Pakistan Economic Corridor projects. PPP and PTI leaders continue to criticize the government for neglecting the needs of smaller provinces.
  • Tax Revenues: At a meeting to review revenue collection targets on Saturday, Federal Board of Revenue officials blamed government tax policies and the decision not to hike oil prices for the Rs 117 billion shortfall in collections during the July-November period.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Crisis Hits Bureaucracy as Litigation Holds Up Promotions [Dawn]
  • Prime Minister Approves Financing Plan for DIamer-Bhasha Dam [Dawn] [ET]
  • Pakistan State Oil Receivables Rise to Rs 250 Billion [Dawn] [ET]
  • Sindh Governor Remains Hospitalized [Dawn]
  • Islamabad Magistrate Dismisses Application for Reinvestigation Against Lal Masjid Chief [ET]
  • Sindh High Court Strikes Down Federal Expulsion of PakTurk Schoolteachers [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Senate Debates Blasphemy Law [Dawn] [ET]
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Government Seeks World Bank Loan [Dawn]
  • IHC Seeks Return of Former Chief Justice Chaudhry’s Armored Car [Dawn]
  • Commentary: The Last Diplomat – “As Robin Raphel worked for the State Department in Pakistan, her brand of traditional diplomacy ran into the new realities of covert surveillance.” [Adam Entous and Devlin Barrett, WSJ]
  • Commentary: The Next Phase – “The civilian attempts to elbow themselves back into foreign policy and national security debates — on Afghanistan, the US and the like — will continue. That means more friction.” [Cyril Almeida, Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Tensions Over UN Reporting: The Guardian reports that UN reporting on a U.S. drone strike in Nangarhar’s Achin district in late September has strained relations with the U.S. and NATO military command, with Gen. Nicholson reportedly considering (but ultimately not implementing) a ban on UN access to the military headquarters in Kabul. The UN reported that at least 15 civilians were killed in that strike, which the U.S. military maintains only killed Islamic State-affiliated fighters.
  • Russia Questions Shift in Helicopter Fleet: Russian special envoy for Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov told the Russian press on Monday that Russia was “doubtful” about the current U.S. plan to replace Afghanistan’s helicopter fleet with Blackhawks, saying that “there is not enough time available… that is why Afghanistan has no alternative to Russian arms”.
  • Attacks and Operations: Local officials report that the Taliban publicly executed a study of Kabul Polytechnic University in the Chak district on Friday, in Maidan Wardak province around 60 kilometers west of the capital, charging him with involvement in the death of a Taliban intelligence official. The Taliban’s spokesman declined to confirm the account. Officials in Jawzjan province claim to have killed an Islamic State-affiliated commander in the Darzab district, after an attack on a checkpost on Sunday. A drone strike in Nangarhar’s Achin district on Sunday killed at least two Islamic State-affiliated suspects. Three Afghan journalists were wounded in a roadside mine blast in the Shahr-e-Safa district on Zabul on Friday; on Monday, provincial governor Bismillah Afghanmal and mayor Karimullah Hakimi escaped an ambush in the Safa district. Four civilians were killed in a roadside bombing on Monday in the Khoshamand district in Paktika. [TOLO] [TOLO] [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • ‘Heart of Asia’ Conference Held in Amritsar: Delegations from around forty countries gathered in Amritsar, India for the sixth “Heart of Asia” conference on Afghanistan. Pres. Ghani had dinner with Prime Minister Modi on Saturday evening prior to the opening of the conference on Sunday; Reuters reports that India and Afghanistan are planning to announce a joint air cargo service. In his remarks, Pres. Ghani said that continued conflict and “undeclared war” in Afghanistan was “unacceptable. Modi echoed Ghani’s message, saying that action was necessary “not just against forces of terrorism, but also against those who support, shelter, train and finance them”. Pakistani foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz countered that it was “simplistic” to blame one country for Afghanistan’s problems. The conference joint statement called for “concerted regional and international cooperation to ensure elimination of terrorism, in all its forms and manifestations, including dismantling of terrorist sanctuaries and safe havens in the Heart of Asia region, as well as disrupting all financial, tactical and logistical support for terrorism.” It also called on Iran and Pakistan continue to host Afghan refugees “until their sustainable repatriation and reintegration in Afghanistan can take place in a voluntary, safe, gradual and dignified fashion”. Speaking to the Pakistani press upon his return to Islamabad, Aziz said that “we don’t need any pressure on counter terrorism because we have done more than any other country to eliminate it” and that “India’s efforts to divide [Pakistan and Afghanistan] will not go very far.” Aziz was reportedly denied security clearances by the hotel where he was staying to give a press conference while in India. Pres. Ghani also gave an interview to The Hindu, in which he said that “we did everything to ensure peace with Pakistan” and that “it’s their turn” to reengage. [TOLO] [TOLO] [TOLO] [Dawn] [Conference Statement] [Ghani Remarks] [Modi Remarks]
  • Ghani and Trump Speak: Pres. Ghani spoke by phone with President-elect Trump on Friday; the Trump transition team said that the two leaders “discussed the grave terrorism threats facing both countries and pledged to work more closely together in order to deal with the threats.” Khaama Press, quoting sources in the presidential palace, describes Trump as also pledging to “help unearth Afghanistan’s massive natural resources”.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Tail Rotor Failure Blamed for Badghis Helicopter Crash That Killed Corps Commander [TOLO] [TOLO]
  • IEC Commissioners Prepare to Staff Secretariat [TOLO]
  • Contractors Protest Ministry of Interior’s Failure to Pay Bills [TOLO]
  • In Afghanistan, a Cagney Searches for Her Lacey [WSJ]
  • Wolesi Jirga Members Debate Caliphate, ‘Extremism’ in Mosques and Universities [TOLO]
  • Bergdahl Lawyers Seek Pardon Before Trump Takes Office [NYT] [AP]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: India Downplays Trump-Sharif Call; Officials Warn of ‘Resurgence’ of Terrorist Groups in Afghanistan

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  • India’s foreign ministry spokesman downplayed the significance of President-elect Trump’s call with Prime Minister Sharif, saying that “the most outstanding of its outstanding issues” would be terrorism. They NYT reports concerns among U.S. and Afghan security officials about a possible “resurgence of regional and international militant groups” in Afghanistan following recent Taliban advances. The Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat’s candidate in the PP-78 Jhang provincial assembly by-election beat out his PML-N rival to win the seat on Thursday, by a margin of around 13,000 votes according to preliminary results. Dostum rival and former Jawzjan governor Ahmad Eschi is now under NDS detention, security sources report. A serial con man who was impersonating a member of the Afghan National Security Council was arrested in Mazar-e-Sharif, the NSC confirmed on Wednesday.

Pakistan — Security

  • Peshawar Police Attacked: A roadside bombing targeted the vehicle of the Deputy Superintendent of Police in Peshawar’s Chamkani neighborhood on Friday; he was unhurt. Another bombing targeted a police vehicle earlier in the day in the Karkhano Market area; no casualties were reported. No claim of responsibility has been reported. Separately, police in the Bannu district reported the arrest of Amjad Khan, accused of working as an extortionist for Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent.
  • Fourth Schedule Restrictions: A September order by the State Bank of Pakistan to banks froze the accounts of individuals listed as suspects under the ‘Fourth Schedule’ of the Anti-Terrorism Act; Dawn notes that a number of these individuals are government servants or members of the police.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Tensions with India: In response to a readout of a call between Prime Minister Sharif and President-elect Trump on Wednesday, India’s foreign ministry spokesman said that “we look forward to the President-elect helping Pakistan address the most outstanding of its outstanding issues ─ terrorism.” The Trump transition team, which has been conducting calls with foreign leaders largely without any advance briefings by State Department officials and which has in most cases not released its own records of those calls, said that Trump and Sharif “had a productive conversation about how the United States and Pakistan will have a strong working relationship in the future”, but offered few details. Dawn quotes an unnamed Trump advisor who said the Pakistani readout had “committed the president-elect to more than what he meant”.
  •  Chief of Army Staff Bajwa visited the Rawalpindi X Corps and troops posted along the Line of Control on Friday, saying that Pakistani soldiers would respond with “full force” any Indian ceasefire violations. In an interview with The Hindu, Pakistan’s ambassador to India Abdul Basit said that “Pakistan is not begging for dialogue” with India, and “we can always wait” but that talks were eventually “inevitable”. [ET] [WAPO]
  • Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat Candidate Wings Jhang Election: Maulana Masroor Nawaz Jhangvi, running as an independent candidate with the backing of the officially banned Sunni sectarian group Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat, won the by-election for Jhang’s PP-78 provincial assembly seat on Thursday by a margin of around 13,000 votes, according to preliminary results. Jhangvi is the son of the ASWJ’s founder, Maulana Haq Nawaz Jhangvi. The PML-N’s candidate, Haji Nasir, was the runner-up. In Karachi, the ASWJ’s spokesman accused the Rangers with detaining chapter president Allama Rabnawaz Hanafi on Thursday. [ET]
  • Panama Papers Investigation: The Post overviews the current state of the courtroom battles between the PML-N and PTI over the Panama Papers, interviewing Imran Khan, who charges that “all those who benefit from corruption want to preserve the status quo, but the young generation wants change and accountability.” At a press conference on Thursday, PML-N leaders Khurram Dastgir Khan and Amir Muqam said that the PTI had failed to provide evidence of wrongdoing by the prime minister or his family. Separately, the Election Commission has set hearings on Jan 16 for the PTI to provide financial documents in a petition charging it with violating campaign finance laws through the acceptance of foreign funding. [ET]
  • Other Political Activity: The prime minister has reasserted the power to dismiss the heads of public sector enterprises through a clause to the Companies Ordinance issued earlier in November, Dawn reports. Bilawala Bhutto Zardari met with leaders of the PPP’s Balochistan chapter in Lahore on Thursday, accusing the PML-N-led provincial government in Balochistan of “striking an underhand deal with Nawaz Sharif, sacrificing interests of the province for their personal ones”. In remarks on Thursday, Jamaat-e-Islami’s parliamentary leader in the Punjab assembly, Dr. Waseem Akhtar, invited former chief of army staff Raheel Sharif to join the party. Karachi mayor Waseem Akhtar (no relation), kicked off a citywide cleanliness campaign on Thursday, joined by MQM-Pakistan leader Farooq Sattar; the MQM London chapter called on the mayor to “dissociate with the people expelled from the MQM” but asked supporters not to hinder his activities. [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Government Defends Expulsion of PakTurk Schools Staff in Peshawar High Court [ET] [Dawn]
  • Interior Minister Briefs Prime Minister After Return from UK [ET]
  • Peshawar High Court Hears Please of Five Military Court Convicts, Staying Executions [Dawn] [ET]
  • Supreme Court Bench Continues to Press Government on Census Delay [Dawn] [ET]
  • China Launches Kunming-Karachi Rail-Sea Freight Link [Dawn]
  • Commentary: Getting South Asia on Track: Ideas for the Next President – “The only way to motivate change is by developing a coercive campaign that diminishes the advantages of Pakistan’s use of militant proxies under its nuclear umbrella while also increasing the costs of doing so.” [Christine Fair, War on the Rocks]
  • Commentary: Malnutrition and Stunting in Pakistan – “In Pakistan, malnutrition is widespread among all ages, and progress to address social determinants over the last several decades had been very slow.” [Zulfiqar Bhutta, Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Concerns Over ‘Terrorist Resurgence’: The NYT reports that U.S. and Afghan security officials are increasingly concerned that the Taliban’s seizure of territory over the past year has opened space for “a resurgence of regional and international militant groups”, estimating that between 10-15,000 foreign fighters supplement around 30,000 Taliban fighters. Al Qaeda and its Indian Subcontinent branch are believed to have fewer than 200 operatives in the country, although Afghan officials put the number at as many as 500. Afghan officials also suggest that the Islamic State and the Taliban had been cooperating outside of the east, and that these groups “all have symbiotic relationships”.
  • Dostum Rival Still in Detention: TOLO quotes an anonymous security source who says that former Jawzjan governor and Dostum rival Ahmad Eschi is under detention by the NDS intelligence agency, not Dostum’s men; his son say that he was only recently transferred by Dostum to the NDS.
  • Attacks and Operations: Kandahar police chief Gen. Abdul Raziq told the AP on Friday that Taliban fighters had killed 23 civilians in attacks in the Nash district over the preceding 48 hours, without providing further details. Security officials in Badakhshan said they plan to clear the province of militants in operations through the winter. [Pajhwok]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Arrest in Balkh for National Security Council Impostor: The NYT reports on the case of a man, identified as Sardar Zmarai but likely using a false name, who was arrested in Mazar-e-Sharif within the past two weeks on charges of impersonating a member of the National Security Council; the NSC confirmed his arrest on Wednesday. Zmarai is described as a serial con artist with a history of smaller-scale fraud, who most recently met with top officials in Baghlan and Kunduz. [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Russian Rail Link: A deputy spokesman for the ministry of public works said Thursday that the ministry was holding discussions on a possible rail link between Afghanistan and Russia, saying that Russian officials had “shown interest” in such a project after the inauguration of a rail link with Turkmenistan earlier this week.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Afghan Visa Program Extended Despite Opposition from Immigration Foes [WAPO]
  • High Office of Oversight and Anti-Corruption Continues to Criticize New Anti-Corruption Center [TOLO]
  • Commentary: ISIS, Afghanistan’s Accidental Broker? – “Thanks partly to the popular reaction to the Islamic State, the Taliban may have come to realize that, to be a legitimate part of modern Afghanistan, they must make space for the country’s Shias, too.” [Sune Engel Rasmussen, NYT]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Sharif Speaks with President-Elect Trump; UN Reports 500,000+ Afghans Internally Displaced

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Topline

  • Prime Minister Sharif spoke by phone with President-elect Trump on Wednesday, who professed a willingness to “play any role that you want me to play to address and find solutions to the outstanding problems”. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports that more than half a million Afghans have been internally displaced so far this year, a record high. Chief of Army Staff Bajwa visited Peshawar and North Waziristan on Tuesday for briefings on operations in the FATA. Pres. Ghani attended the funeral in Herat on Thursday of the Afghan National Army corps commander killed in a helicopter crash earlier this week. In Wednesday’s national assembly session, the PML-N government passed legislation setting the parameters for an investigation commission into the Panama Papers and introducing a new tax amnesty program for real estate. Russia and Pakistan have reportedly finalized a pricing agreement for a prospective Karachi-Lahore LNG gas pipeline. Afghanistan’s finance minister presented the government’s draft budget for FY 2017 before parliament on Wednesday; members of parliament warned that they would reject the budget if the government did not accept the dismissal of cabinet members earlier this month.

Pakistan — Security

  • New Army Chief Takes Command: Chief of Staff Qamar Javed Bajwa visited the Peshawar Corps Headquarters and North Waziristan on Tuesday, where he received a briefing on operations in the FATA; the military’s public relations wing quoted him saying that “we will continue to move ahead of the gains already made so far” and “no terrorists of any hue will ever be allowed to come back”. [ET]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Prime Minister Speaks with Trump: Prime Minister Sharif’s office released a readout of a phone call with U.S. president-elect Trump on Wednesday, quoting Trump praising Sharif and Pakistan and professing a desire to visit Pakistan in the future. Trump was also quoted saying that he is “ready and willing to play any role that you want me to play to address and find solutions to the outstanding problems”; a Thursday press briefing, the Pakistani foreign ministry said it would welcome mediation by Trump in the India-Pakistan dispute. [Dawn] [ET] [ET]
  • Tensions with India: Foreign ministry officials say no meetings are currently planned with Indian officials on the sidelines of foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz’s visit to Amritsar for the Heart of Asia conference beginning Sunday, saying “the ball is in their court”. India’s Border Security Force chief, K.K. Sharma, told reporters on Wednesday that India would construct a “smart fence” along the border with Pakistan by the second half of 2017. [Dawn] [ET] [ET]
  • Panama Papers Investigation: After several earlier attempts failed due to lack of quorum, on Wednesday, PML-N national assembly legislators passed a draft bill setting the terms for an inquiry commission into the Panama Papers, over continued object from the opposition. Dawn has more details from Wednesday’s Supreme Court arguments by PTI lawyers against the Sharif family’s alleged overseas business holdings. In separate Supreme Court hearings regarding a disqualification petition against Imran Khan brought by PML-N leader Hanif Abbasi, the PTI sought the dismissal of the case, arguing that it had been brought to complicate the Panama Papers case. At a press conference on Wednesday, Minister of State for Information Marriyum Aurangezb denied that there was any connection between the government’s proposed constitutional amendment allowing for an appeal of suo moto Supreme Court decisions and the Panama Papers investigations. [ET] [ET] [ET]
  • Lawyers Boycott IHC: Lawyers groups boycotted Islamabad High Court proceedings on Wednesday and staged a demonstration outside the Supreme Court building, demanding the resignation of IHC chief justice Mohammad Anwar Khan Kasi and threatening broader protests if he did not step down within a week.
  • Other Political Activity: After being cleared to contest the PP-78 by-election in Jhang, Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat leader Maulana Muhammad Ahmed Ludhianvi withdrew his candidacy in favor of Masroor Jhangvi, who had been put forward as an independent candidate by the ASWJ in Ludhianvi’s absence. Karachi mayor Waseem Akhtar met with PTI leaders in Karachi on Wednesday, saying he wanted “to carry out uplift works in all of [Karachi’s] areas without any political consideration.” Momin Khan Momin, an MQM leader affiliated with the party’s London faction, was released on bail on Wednesday after nearly 40 days in jail on weapons charges. [ET]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Real Estate Tax Amnesty: On Wednesday, the National Assembly passed new tax amnesty legislation covering the real estate sector, allowing filers to pay a 3% penalty on previously undeclared assets instead of the current 100% penalty.
  • Oil Prices Hiked: At a press conference on Wednesday, Finance Minister Dar announced that the government had authorized a Rs 2 per liter price increase on petroleum products for the month of December, the first increase in seven months, albeit lower than that recommended by the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority. [ET]
  • Gas Pipeline Negotiations: The Express Tribune reports that Pakistan and Russia have finalized a pricing agreement for gas through a LNG pipeline to be constructed between Karachi and Lahore, at 85 cents per million British thermal units, matching existing pipeline transmission pricing.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Interior Minister Returns from UK [Dawn]
  • Council of Common Interests to Assuage Provincial CPEC Concerns [ET] [Dawn] [APP] [Dawn]
  • Two LeJ Militants Remanded to Police Custody in Karachi [ET]
  • Ahmadis Barred from Teaching Islamic Studies, Punjab Assembly Assured [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Record High Number of Displaced: The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported that as of the end of November, 515,815 Afghans had been newly displaced within the country this year, surpassing last year’s total figure of around 471,000 internally displaced persons. 198 out of 399 districts reported conflict-related displacement. An additional 600,000 or more refugees have been repatriated from Pakistan so far this year. OCHA reports that it has received 54% of the $152 million in funding it needs to provide immediate assistance to the displaced. [Reuters]
  • Ghani Attends General’s Funeral: Pres. Ghani and other top military officials attended the funeral ceremony in Herat held for General Mohiuddin Ghori, the commander of the 207th Afghan National Army Corps. The ministry of defense’s spokesman said Wednesday that investigations were ongoing into the “technical failure” that caused the crash on Tuesday in Badghis in which Ghori died. [TOLO]
  • Attacks and Operations: Security officials in Nangarhar report that they have retaken control of the Pacher Agam district from local Islamic State-affiliated fighters, and that they killed a Daesh commander in operations in Achin district on Wednesday. Two rockets struck near the diplomatic district in Kabul on Wednesday; no casualties were reported.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Acting SRAP Visits: Acting Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Laurel Miller visited Kabul on Thursday and met with Pres. Ghani; Ghani’s office quoted him saying that “our people, the original victims of terrorism, do not have patience for terrorist attacks and wars organized and imposed on them from the outside”.

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Draft Budget Presented: Finance Minister Eklil Hakimi presented the government’s draft budget for Fiscal Year 2017 in the Wolesi Jirga on Wednesday, totaling Afs 288 billion for the operational budget and Afs 178 billion for the development budget. TOLO quotes Hakimi saying that the budget will allocate 36% of expenditures to security, 21% to infrastructure, 13% to education, and 6% to agriculture, although the report does not provide specific figures or clarify if this refers to total or development budget expenditures. Members of parliament warned that they would reject the budget if the government did not accept the dismissal of cabinet ministers who failed confidence votes earlier this month.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • China Denies Indian Reports its Patrols Entered Afghanistan [Pajhwok]
  • Ahmad Wali Massoud Protests Ghani’s Description of King Amanullah as ‘National Hero’ [TOLO]
  • Commentary: Afghan Exodus: Notes from a Belgrade Squat – “The Afghans and other migrants in Serbia find themselves in limbo, unable to go on and, with winter coming on hard, soon not able to even stay in a squat which at least keeps them out of a system they do not trust.” [Martine van Bijlert and Jelena Bjelica, AAN]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Supreme Court Resumes Panama Papers Hearings; Helicopter Crash Kills Afghan Army Corps Commander

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Topline

  • Hearings resumed in the Supreme Court on Wednesday on the Panama Papers and the Sharif family’s overseas business holdings; they will resume again next week. Afghan army corps commander General Muhayuddin Ghori was killed in a helicopter crash in Badghis on Tuesday. Reuters confirms that Pakistan has unofficially halted cotton imports from India in recent weeks. Vice President Dostum’s office issued a statement Tuesday evening denying that he had kidnapped a former rival in Shiberghan, saying that the man had been detained on security charges. Pres. Ghani made his first visit to Balkh province since taking office, meeting with governor Atta Mohammad Noor. The PPP will begin a weeklong 50th anniversary celebration of its founding day in Lahore on Wednesday. The Sindh and Lahore High Courts issued orders staying the expulsion of Turkish nationals teaching in the PakTurk schools system.

Pakistan — Security

  • Tensions with India: The death toll from Tuesday’s attack on an Indian army base in Nagrota, Kashmir, rose to at least seven soldiers; the four gunmen were killed, after briefly taking a group of hostages. Elsewhere, three militants wearing suicide vests were killed by security forces in the town of Ramgarh. The AFP reports a spike in the construction of underground bunkers in villages along the Line of Control, given the recent nearly-daily exchanges of cross-border fire. The National Assembly passed a resolution on Wednesday condemning “the deliberate targeting of a civilian bus carrying women and children” in the Neelum valley last week. Reuters picks up earlier reports that Pakistan has unofficially suspended cotton imports from India; Pakistan was India’s largest customer for cotton imports last year, although Indian exporters suggested they had other market options. [AFP]
  • New Army Chief Takes Command: New Chief of Army Staff Qamar Javed Bajwa began his first full day on the job at General Headquarters in Rawalpindi on Wednesday. The Express Tribune reports that “Gen. Qamar considers the homegrown militancy as the main threat rather than the danger posed by arch-rival India”, although it does not source this assessment. A spokesman for the PPP said that former Pres. Zardari called Bajwa by phone to congratulate him on his posting.
  • FATA Operations: Eight people were reportedly killed in an airstrike in the Tirah Valley of the Khyber Agency on Tuesday; no further details on the targets were disclosed.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Panama Papers Hearings Resume: The PTI’s new lead counsel presented more arguments before the Supreme Court’s hearing on disqualification petitions against Prime Minister Sharif and his family; judges noted that investments by the Sharif family in Qatar in 1980 were apparently made despite outstanding debts to the Bank of Commerce and Credit International, and questioned the validity of a signature by Nawaz Sharif’s cousin Tariq Shafi on a court affidavit attesting to the money trail behind the Sharif family’s investments. Hearings have been adjourned until Dec 6. [ET] [Dawn]
  • Other Political Activity: The PPP will begin a weeklong celebration of its 50th foundation day anniversary in Lahore on Wednesday; over the next week, party chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari plans to hold interviews with prospective party cadres for the provinces and northern areas. The MQM-Pakistan faction has sought the return of a retainer paid to the UK law firm defending Altaf Hussain against money laundering cases in London. The Khyber Paktunkhwa chapter of the PML-N is “in disarray”, the Express Tribune reports. [ET]
  • High Courts Stay Turkish Teacher Expulsion: The Sindh High Court and Lahore High Court issued separate orders on Tuesday, staying the expulsion by the interior ministry of Turkish teachers working for the PakTurk schools network as it hears a challenge against that move. The orders come a week after the Peshawar High Court made a similar ruling; many teachers are already reported to have left the country. [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Police Seek to Drop Azizabad Weapons Cache Investigation [Dawn]
  • Sindh Chief Minister Demands Finalization of National Finance Commission Award [Dawn]
  • ‘Pakistan Can’t Afford Bullet Trains’, Railways Minister Tells Parliament [Dawn]
  • Five Militants Killed in Sibi District [Dawn]
  • Iran Arrests 10 Pakistani Fishermen [Dawn]
  • OGRA Proposes Petroleum Price Hike [Dawn] [ET]
  • Chief Justice Expresses ‘Alarm’ Over Sindh Health Department Appointments [Dawn]
  • Commentary: An India-Pakistan Crisis: Should We Care? – “No other issue risks causing as much damage to the world, and to America’s credibility as its effective leader, as the prospect of an India-Pakistan nuclear exchange.” [Moeed Yusuf, War on the Rocks]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Corps Commander Killed in Helicopter Crash: General Muhayuddin Ghori, the corps commander for the Afghan National Army’s 207th Corps, was killed when his helicopter crash-landed in the Bala Morghab district in Badghis on Tuesday, the Ministry of Defense reported. The Taliban claimed to have shot down the helicopter, but officials blamed a “technical fault” and said there were no militants in the area at the time of the landing. At least ten other people were injured in the crash, including the provincial intelligence chief and the provincial council chairman. [TOLO]
  • Dostum Denies Holding Rival: In a statement on Tuesday, Vice President Dostum’s office denied that he had beaten or kidnapped a rival last week in Shiberghan, saying that Ahmad Ischi had been “arrested by the security officials after reports received by different sources for his involvement in insecurities in Jawzjan province and funding oppositions”. [TOLO]
  • Attacks and Operations: Pres. Ghani visited Balkh on Tuesday, where he told an audience of security personnel to “take an offensive stance” against militants in the north. Governor Atta Mohammad Noor told the same audience that the number of Quick Reaction Force and Police Special Unit commandos should be increased. The Ghazni police chief reports that at least sixteen Taliban fighters were killed after attacking checkposts on the border between the Ab Band and Muqor districts on Wednesday. A would-be suicide bomber was arrested in the Paktika provincial capital of Sharan on Wednesday. [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Ghani and Noor Meet: Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor hosted Pres. Ghani during his visit to Balkh on Tuesday, part of what TOLO describes as increasingly closer ties between the two leaders, reversing an initial rivalry; it was Ghani’s first visit to the province since taking office.
  • Taliban Talk to Reporters: The Express Tribune reports that the Taliban’s Qatar office invited a group of Afghan journalists for a briefing in Doha, including a TOLO TV anchor who survived a Taliban bombing attack in January; the report is unclear on the timing of the meeting.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Government Dimisses Taliban Claim to Protect National Infrastructure Projects [Khaama Press]
  • 162 Arrested in Kabul Sweep [Khaama Press]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: General Bajwa Takes Pakistan Army Command; Taliban Face Donation Drop and Opium Revenue Disputes

Topline

  • Chief of Army Staff Qamar Javed Bajwa official assumed command at a baton-passing ceremony on Tuesday; outgoing army chief Gen. Raheel Sharif made a warning to India not to “take our policy of patience for weakness” in his farewell remarks. Pakistan’s ambassador to India suggested that Pakistan would be open to talks with India on the sidelines of the Heart of Asia conference in Amritsar next week. The Guardian reports that the Taliban are facing a “cash crisis” as donations from abroad have declined following the withdrawal of U.S. forces, and the top Taliban military commander in Helmand has reportedly refused to share opium taxation proceeds with Mullah Haibatullah Akhunzada’s central leadership. The Pentagon is seeking $814 million in funding for the refurbishing and transfer of more than 50 Black Hawk helicopters for the Afghan Air Force fleet. The PPP retook the NA-258 constituency in an election on Monday. Former Pres. Zardari is expected to return to the country before Dec 27. At Monday’s meeting of the National Finance Commission, Finance Minister Dar proposed the creation of a “National Security Fund” from the pool of federally-collected tax revenues; he offered few details as to the breakdown of federal and provincial contributions to that fund.

Pakistan – Security

  • New Army Chief Sworn In: New chief of army staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa assumed command from outgoing chief General Raheel Sharif at a baton-passing ceremony on Tuesday in Rawalpindi. In his remarks, Gen. Sharif stressed the need for “all institutions [to] work together against external threats and internal threats” and to “follow the National Action Plan in letter and spirit”. He also warned India not to “take our policy of patience for weakness”, and said that “rising state terrorism in [Kashmir] and India’s aggressive steps have put regional peace at risk.” The AP quotes Bajwa telling reporters after the ceremony that “the situation at the Line of Control will hopefully improve soon”; he is not otherwise reported as having given remarks. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [AFP] [LAT]
  • Tensions with India: Two Indian soldiers were killed in an attack on an army base in Nagrota near the Line of Control on Tuesday; fighting appears to still be underway as of this writing. In an interview with an Indian TV channel on Monday, Pakistan’s ambassador to India said that “if there was an offer for talks from the host nation” during next week’s Heart of Asia conference in Amritsar, “it would be accepted by Pakistan”, saying that “ultimately, a solution to the problems between India and Pakistan can only come through dialogue, and therefore, both nations must sit and discuss all the issues that confront them.” Foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz will represent Pakistan at the conference. [AP] [ET]
  • Peshawar Police Officer Killed: A member of a new city police patrol unit was killed in Peshawar by unidentified gunmen on Monday.

Pakistan – Politics and Diplomacy

  • Panama Papers Investigation: A continued lack of quorum in National Assembly on Monday due to opposition walkouts again prevented the government from introducing its preferred legislation on an investigation into the Panama Papers. The PTI plans to introduce more documents before the Supreme Court seeking to establish overseas real estate holdings by Prime Minister Sharif and his family when hearings resume on Wednesday. PPP parliamentary opposition leader Khurshid Shah called on Sharif to resign in remarks to reporters on Monday. Meanwhile, PML-N leaders are seeking court action against PTI leaders Imran Khan and Jahangir Tareen, which the PTI has sought to dismiss. [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Elections and Other Political Activity: After elections on Monday, Abdul Hakeem Baloch has reportedly re-taken the NA-258 constituency in Karachi, which he had surrendered after quitting the PML-N to join the PPP. The PTI and MQM boycotted the polls. PPP sources tell Dawn that former Pres. Zardari will return to the country before Dec 27; PPP Punjab president Qamar Zaman Kaira denied that his return coincided with the departure of Chief of Army Staff Sharif. Eleven new Punjab government ministers were sworn in on Monday. On Monday, the Lahore High Court ruled that Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat leader Maulana Mohammad Ahmad Ludhianvi could contest a PP-78 Jhang by-election, after the government failed to file a response to his challenge of his disqualification by an election officer. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]

Pakistan – Economics and Development

  • Tax Revenues: At Monday’s meeting of the National Finance Commission, the federal finance ministry proposed the creation of a “National Security Fund” to meet security expenditure needs, which would amount to three percent of the total divisible pool of tax revenues collected by the federal government. Finance Minister Dar did not clarify whether funding would come from the federal or provincial shares of the total pool; further discussions are planned for the next meeting of the commission in late December. Separately, Dawn reports that real estate tax amnesty legislation currently under consideration in parliament would potentially deprive the Federal Board of Revenue of billions in anticipated revenue. [ET]

Pakistan – Remainders

  • Supreme Court Hears Contempt of Court Case After Report of Meeting Between Judge and PML-N Senator [Dawn]
  • North Waziristan Elders Protest Miram Shah Market Demolition, Call for Compensation [Dawn]
  • Special Assistant Fatemi Complains US Unwilling to Release CSF Funds [Dawn]
  • Russia Denies Report of ‘Secret Negotiation’ with Pakistan on CPEC [Dawn]
  • ‘Growing Vacuum’ in Top Civil Service Ranks [ET]
  • PakTurk Schoolteachers Depart [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • PIA Raises $130M in Financing [AFP]
  • Commentary: The Myth of the Dovish General – “If PM Sharif has appointed General Bajwa because he thinks there is such a thing as a docile, dovish, pro-civilian dominance three-star general, in Pakistan, or anywhere in the world, he is about to learn, for at least the fourth time, that there isn’t.” [Mosharraf Zaidi, The News]

Afghanistan – Security

  • Taliban Facing ‘Financial Crisis’: The Guardian, interviewing former Taliban leader Mullah Rahmatullah Kakazada, reports that the Taliban are increasingly facing a “cash crisis” as overseas donations to the group have dropped with the withdrawal of international military forces from the country and the rise in civilian casualties. Revenues from opium taxation have also reportedly been disrupted by a dispute between Mullah Haibatullah Akhunzada and military council chief Mullah Ibrahim Sadar, who is reported to have stopped sending funds from Helmand to the central leadership over the summer and to have challenged the legitimacy of leaders based outside the country. In a statement on Tuesday, the Taliban said that they would protect projects “which are in the interest of the people and result in the development and prosperity of the nation”, including the Mes Aynak copper mine and the TAPI gas pipeline.
  • Pentagon Seeks Funding for New Air Fleet: After halting the procurement of parts from Russia for Afghanistan’s existing helicopter fleet, the Pentagon is seeking $814 million in funding to refurbish 53 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, replacing the existing Afghan fleet beginning in two years. The request also includes money for 30 MD-530 attack helicopters, six A-29 close attack aircraft, and five AC-208 aircraft.
  • Attacks and Operations: On Tuesday, a spokesman for the Badakshan provincial governor said that Afghan security forces had retaken control of the Tagab district, which fell to the Taliban nine months ago. Provincial police officials in Farah say twelve Taliban fighters were killed in operations in the Balablook district on Tuesday.

Afghanistan – Politics and Diplomacy

  • Electoral Reforms: At a press conference on Monday, the new leadership of the Independent Election Commission said the IEC was preparing voter lists and voting center lists, and was conducting an assessment of “the vulnerabilities of the commission and to find what type of election fraud, rigging and violations are threatening the commission”. [TOLO]

Afghanistan – Remainders

  • MPs Urge Government to Accept Parliament Decisions on Ministers’ Impeachment [TOLO]
  • EU Launches New Afghan Trade Initiative [TOLO]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Qamar Javed Bajwa Named Next Chief of Army Staff; Taliban Leadership Reportedly Relocating

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Topline

  • On Saturday, the Pakistani government announced the appointment of Lt. Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa as the next Chief of Army Staff, and Lt. Gen. Zubair Mahmood Hayat as the new chairman of the joint chiefs of staff; Hayat took office on Monday and Bajwa will be sworn in on Tuesday. An Afghan Taliban spokesman claimed that the group’s leadership had largely relocated from Pakistan to Afghanistan; Afghan government officials said they had no intelligence to confirm that account, and Helmand’s governor denied that the Quetta leadership shura had shifted to the province. TTP leader Maulana Fazlullah has named Hajid Daud Mehsud, a former police officer and member of the Hakimullah Mehsud faction, as the group’s new Karachi chief. The TTP Jamaat-ul-Ahrar attacked a Frontier Corps base in the Mohmand Agency on Saturday, killing at least two soldiers. Six Pakistanis working for a Polish oil exploration firm were kidnapped near Dera Ismail Khan on Saturday. Bodyguards for Vice President Dostum are accused of kidnapping a local rival in Shiberghan on Saturday. India delivered the fourth of four Mi-24 helicopter gunships to the Afghan Air Force in Kabul, and is reportedly planning to enter into a longer-term agreement with Russia to supply repair parts for Afghanistan’s Russian-made helicopter fleet. Pres. Ghani and Prime Minister Sharif met on the sidelines of a conference on transportation infrastructure in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan. PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi suggested on Sunday that the PTI might back the PPP if it launches a protest movement against the government in December. The Afghan government has formed two committees, headed by Second Vice President Danish and former NDS chief Amrullah Saleh, to vet potential appointees for political and military positions. The Afghanistan Independent Election Commission chose Najibullah Ahmadzai as Chief Election Commissioner on Sunday.

Pakistan – Security

  • New Chief of Army Staff Appointed: On Saturday, Prime Minister Sharif’s office announced the appointment of Lt. Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa as the next Chief of Army Staff, and Lt. Gen. Zubair Mahmood Hayat as the new chairman of the joint chiefs of staff. Hayat took office on Monday and Bajwa will be sworn in on Tuesday; outgoing Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif’s move to step down at the end of his three-year tenure makes him the first army chief to do so in twenty years. Gen. Sharif met with the prime minister and chaired a final corps commander’s conference on Monday. Gen. Bajwa was previously serving as the Inspector General for Training and Evaluation, and had not been among the top names previously named as likely candidates for the posting; Dawn notes neither he nor Gen. Hayat have active combat experience. The Express Tribune reports Defense Minister Khawaja Asif had lobbied for Bajwa’s appointment, and suggests that his “apolitical nature” was a factor in his selection. The Guardian notes that Bajwa’s selection came despite a “vilification campaign on social media” of unidentified provenance that suggested some of his family members were members of the Ahmadi minority sect. Bajwa previously commanded the Rawalpindi X Corps and a UN peacekeeping force in the Congo, where he served alongside former Indian army chief Bikram Singh; Hayat previously led the nuclear Strategic Plans Division. [WSJ] [Reuters] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • New TTP Karachi Chief: The News reports that Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan leader Maulana Fazlullah has appointed Haji Daud Mehsud, a former police officer who is a member of the TTP faction formerly affiliated with Hakimullah Mehsud, as the group’s new Karachi chief; he is reported to have previously fled the city in response to the ongoing Rangers-led crackdown.
  • Mohmand Base Attacked: At least two Frontier Corps soldiers and four would-be suicide bombers were killed in an attack on the Mohmand Rifles headquarters in the Mohmand Agency on Saturday; the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan Jamaat-ul-Ahrar claimed responsibility for the attack. At least fourteen soldiers were wounded. [Reuters] [Dawn]
  • Oil Workers Kidnapped: Six Pakistanis working for a Polish oil and gas exploration company were taken hostage on Saturday near Dera Ismail Khan, local officials report; a Polish national working for the company was previously kidnapped and beheaded by the Pakistani Taliban in the Attock area in 2008. No claim of responsibility has been reported for the current kidnapping.
  • Balochistan Attacks: Two security guards for an oil exploration company were killed in an attack on their vehicle in Gwadar district on Saturday; no claim of responsibility was reported. In the Mastung district, security officials report killing two suspected Lashkar-e-Jhangvi militants and to have arrested another man on Saturday.
  • Karachi Crackdown: On Friday, the Sindh Rangers arrested a man charged with working for the MQM’s London faction and India’s RAW intelligence agency, seizing an arms cache and linking him to several instances of targeted killing. On Saturday, Karachi police dropped weapons charges against former PPP senator Faisal Raza Abidi. [ET] [Dawn]

Pakistan – Politics and Diplomacy

  • Tensions with India: PTI leader Imran Khan released an open letter to the UN Secretary General on Saturday, criticizing the UN’s failure to stop “brazen Indian aggression” in Kashmir. Low attendance was reported at a Friday national assembly session dedicated to the Kashmir situation. Pakistan’s Department of Plant Protection has halted the import of cotton, tomato, and other vegetable crops from India. [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Judicial Protests: A coalition of lawyers’ groups in Islamabad reportedly plans to hold protests outside the Supreme Court on Nov 30, seeking the resignation of Islamabad High Court chief justice Mohammad Anwar Khan Kasi, after he was found to have violated appointment practices in a September Supreme Court judgement. [Dawn] [ET]
  • Other Political Activity: Speaking at a press conference on Saturday, Imran Khan suggested that the PTI would begin mobilizing for 2018 elections if the party was unable to oust Prime Minister Sharif through the current Supreme Court case on the Panama Papers. At a meeting on Sunday, PTI leadership reportedly decided to end a boycott of national assembly committee proceedings. PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi suggested on Sunday that the party may join the PPP if it launches a protest movement against the government on Dec 27. The Express Tribune reports that the government is considering forming a new anti-corruption commission to replace the National Accountability Bureau. Dawn reports that the Jamaat-e-Islami-PTI coalition in Khyber Paktunkhwa is on the verge of a breakdown, with a number of demands on the Jamaat’s part going unmet. The Punjab government added eleven new members to the provincial cabinet on Sunday. Rival public gatherings by the MQM London and Pakistan factions on Dec 9 are likely to spark intensified conflict between the two groups, the Express Tribune reports. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn]

Pakistan – Economics and Development

  • China Pakistan Economic Corridor Projects: During his visit to Pakistan on Friday, visiting UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson expressed interest in the CPEC project, saying he “would like UK firms to participate in the construction of this fabulous venture”. In a meeting with Turkmenistan Pres. Berdimuhamedov on Friday in Ashgabat, Prime Minister Sharif said that Pakistan would “welcome any country” interested in investing in the project. [ET] [ET]
  • National Finance Commission Meets: Finance Minister Dar will chair a meeting of the National Finance Commission on Monday; Dawn reports that most of the provincial finance ministers and the chief ministers of Balochistan and Sindh will not attend. [ET]

Pakistan – Remainders

  • Ahmadi Man Killed in Karachi [Dawn] [ET]
  • State Bank Governor Criticizes ‘Extreme’ Indian Demonetization Initiative [APP]
  • Supreme Court Acquits Death Row Prisoner Held for 20 Years [ET]
  • Sindh High Court Orders Shift of Focus from Primary to Secondary Education [ET]
  • No Response from Iran on Free Trade Area Proposal [ET]
  • Census Plans Remain Stalled [Dawn]
  • Edhi Foundation Seeks to Continue Mission Despite Drop in Donations [Dawn]
  • ADB Approves $325M Off-Grid Electricity Loan in Khyber Paktunkhwa and Punjab [ET]

Afghanistan – Security

  • Taliban Leadership Relocating: Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid and other insurgent sources tell the AP that the Taliban’s main leadership shura has relocated to Afghanistan, as have its justice, recruitment, and religious councils; Mujahid offered few details, but one source suggest the group had moved to Helmand. A spokesman for the government said it could not confirm the report and believed the group to still be operating from bases in Pakistan; Helmand governor Hayatullah Hayat denied that the leadership shura was based in the province. Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Ministry of Interior and Wolesi Jirga first deputy Abdul Zahir Qadir separately alleged that Taliban and Daesh fighters were entering the country under the guise of refugees from Pakistan. [Khaama Press]
  • Dostum Accused of Abducting Rival: Family members of Ahmad Ischi, a local tribal elder and former Junbesh-e-Milli party member, allege that bodyguards working for Vice President Dostum kidnapped the man in Shiberghan on Saturday. The NYT provides further details, reporting that Ischi and Dostum engaged in a fistfight at a buzkashi game on Friday, and that protestors mobilized for his release outside the vice president’s palace in Shiberghan over the weekend.
  • Indian Military Assistance: The fourth of four Indian Mi-24 helicopter gunships pledged for the Afghan Air Force last year was delivered in Kabul on Saturday, with the delay attributed to the need for spare parts from Russia. The Hindu reports that India plans to begin paying for long-term spare parts and assistance for Afghanistan’s Russian-made helicopter fleet, in conjunction with Russia.
  • Attacks and Operations: In a statement on Sunday, the Ministry of Interior said that border police had seized a truck from Pakistan carrying more than 9,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate, a potential component in the construction of improvised explosive devices, arresting the driver. On Monday, the NDS announced that it had detained six militants who had infiltrated the Afghan National Police and Afghan National Army in Kandahar. Four border police officers were killed in an attack on their checkpost in Zabul’s Shamlzai district on Monday. Nangarhar provincial police officials say five Islamic State-affiliated fighters, including two Pakistani nationals, were killed in joint operations in the Pacher Agam district on Saturday; on Monday, officials said that operations over the past 24 hours had killed as many as 37 Daesh fighters. [TOLO] [TOLO] [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan – Politics and Diplomacy

  • Regional Diplomacy: Prime Minister Sharif met with Pres. Ghani on the sidelines of a conference on transportation infrastructure in Turkmenistan on Saturday; a readout from the prime minister’s office said the two discussed peace prospects and the recent peace agreement with Hezb-e-Islami. At the conference, Sharif announced Pakistan’s intention to join the Ashgabat Agreement and Lapis Lazuli corridor, and Ghani inaugurated a new rail link between Afghanistan and Turkmenistan. Outgoing Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif spoke by phone with Chief Executive Abdullah on Saturday, Abdullah announced via Twitter; no details of their conversation were offered, but a call to Pres. Ghani is also reportedly planned. Afghanistan’s foreign ministry has protested a plan by the Balochistan Frontier Corps to begin regular flag-lowering ceremonies at the Chaman border crossing, saying “such action could further deteriorate relations and increase the mistrust”. [TOLO] [TOLO] [TOLO]
  • UK Foreign Secretary Visits: UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson made a stop in Kabul on Saturday, meeting with Pres. Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah. Johnson told reporters that the UK remained committed to Afghanistan “for the long haul,” and that the Brexit vote in June was not indicative of “the western world … withdrawing or turning in on itself”. [Khaama Press] [TOLO]
  • Appointment Process: TOLO reports that the government has formed two committees, chaired by Second Vice President Mohammad Sarwar Danish and former NDS chief Amrullah Saleh, tasked with identifying people for appointment to top political and military positions, respectively; representatives of both Pres. Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah are on both committees.
  • Electoral Reforms: On Sunday, newly-appointed members of the Independent Election Commission chose commissioner Najibullah Ahmadzai as Chief Election Commissioner, Wasima Badghisi as operational deputy, and Abdul Qadir Qurashi as administrative deputy of the commission. TOLO reports that Pres. Ghani has appointed all former election commissioners replaced last week as presidential advisors, keeping their privileges and salaries intact. [TOLO]
  • Hezb-e-Islami Seeks Taliban Prisoner Release: A Hezb-e-Islami delegation headed by negotiator Karim Amin recently visited Pul-e-Charki prison to identify Hezb-e-Islami prisoners for release under the peace agreement with the government, some of whom Amin said had been arrested and identified as Taliban members.

Afghanistan – Remainders

  • IDPs Appeal for Help as Winter Looms [TOLO] [TOLO]
  • Supreme Court Ruling Possible This Week on Dismissed Ministers [TOLO]
  • New Anti-Corruption and Justice Center Targets High-Level Corruption [WAPO]
  • Kabul Police Crack Down on Shisha Cafes [Reuters]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Prime Minister Hosts Farewell Dinner for Outgoing Army Chief; 5 ANP Officers Killed in Clash

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Topline

  • Prime Minister Sharif hosted a farewell dinner for outgoing Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif on Thursday, praising his tenure in office; he will reportedly appoint General Sharif’s replacement at the start of next week. In remarks on Friday, Indian Prime Minister Modi said that “water that belongs to India cannot be allowed to go to Pakistan” and said India would “do everything to provide enough water to our farmers”. As many as five Afghan National Police officers were killed and four wounded in a clash amongst each other in Kandahar on Thursday; details of the dispute are minimal. A bombing in Jalalabad on Friday killed the head of the Nangarhar provincial police headquarters detention center. An opposition boycott on Thursday prevented a quorum in the Pakistani national assembly, delaying debate on a government bill setting terms of reference for an investigation into the Panama Papers.

Pakistan – Security

  • Military Leadership Transition: Prime Minister Sharif hosted a farewell dinner for outgoing Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif on Thursday evening, praising his “sense of duty and unconditional dedication and commitment” to Pakistan and describing him as “one of the finest military leaders of his generation”. The prime minister will reportedly decide on General Sharif’s successor following his return from a two-day trip to Turkmenistan over the weekend. Speaking in Khyber on Thursday during a meeting with local tribal leaders, General Sharif praised the Pakistani army’s work to “eliminate terrorism from Pakistan’s tribal areas”, which he said had “woven us eternally in an unbreakable bond.” General Sharif also reiterated refutations of the Indian army’s claims to have carried out a “surgical strike” across the Line of Control in September. [ET] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Tensions with India: In remarks on Friday, Indian Prime Minister Modi said that “water that belongs to India cannot be allowed to go to Pakistan… The government will do everything to provide enough water to our farmers”. Speaking in the National Assembly on Friday, foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz said that the government’s diplomatic campaign over Kashmir would continue, and that “indigenous struggle” would ultimately resolve the conflict. On Thursday, Azad Jammu and Kashmir Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider called on the UN to investigate Indian “war crimes” in Kashmir. The Express Tribune reports that permits for Indian cotton import have been unofficially halted for the past three days. [ET] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Gwadar Security: The Express Tribune reports the Pakistan Navy is considering the purchase of between four to six fast warships from China and Turkey to provide maritime security around Gwadar port; no details on the ships or purchase are provided. China will also reportedly deploy its own ships to provide security for the port.
  • FATA School Attacked: A government-run boy’s school in the Mohmand Agency was damaged in a bombing over Thursday night; there were no casualties. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan Jamaat-ul-Ahrar faction claimed responsibility for the attack. [Dawn]

Pakistan – Politics and Diplomacy

  • Panama Papers Investigation: An opposition boycott of national assembly proceedings on Thursday prevented a quorum, forcing the government to adjourn without taking up a government-backed bill that sets the terms of reference for an inquiry into the Panama Papers, which had been passed out of committee without opposition support. Meanwhile, the Federal Board of Revenue is investigating PTI chief Imran Khan for charges of tax evasion. [Dawn]
  • Other Political Activity: Bilawal Bhutto Zardari is expected to formally announce his intention to contest a special election for an open parliamentary seat from Sindh and Punjab, either at the party’s foundation day anniversary on Nov 30 or on the death anniversary of his mother on Dec 27. Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah departed for Dubai on Thursday for consultations with former Pres. Zardari for consultations on Bilawal’s candidacy and on the recent Sindh High Court ruling regarding the appointment of advisors to the chief minister. [ET]

Pakistan – Economics and Development

Pakistan – Remainders

  • Swabi Counter Terrorism Department Officer Killed [ET]
  • Nine of Ten Levies Guards Were Absent at Shah Noorani Shrine Prior to Bombing [ET]
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Considers Mandating Polio Reporting [ET]
  • PIA Borrows $130M in Working Capital [ET] [ET]

Afghanistan – Security

  • ANP Officers Killed in Clash: A clash amongst Afghan National Police officers in Kandahar city on Thursday left as many as five officers dead and four wounded; details of the dispute are limited, and a spokesman for the provincial governor did not confirm the number of casualties.
  • Attacks and Operations: A bomb in Jalalabad on Friday outside the home of Hakim Khan, the head of the Nangarhar police headquarters detention center, killed him and one of his children. A U.S. airstrike in Nangarhar’s Achin district on Wednesday evening killed two suspected Islamic State militants, provincial security officials reported. Fighting between Afghan forces and the Taliban in Nangarhar’s Hesarak district on Thursday left at least four militants dead. In a TOLO interview, Zabul police chief Mirwais Khan Noorzai says that militant groups have established positions “in Khak-e-Afghan area including Dai Chopan and some other remote regions, Al-Qaeda or Daesh operatives, whatever you call them, foreigners exist there”. [TOLO]

Afghanistan – Politics and Diplomacy

  • Electoral Reforms: Following the appointment of new election commissioners, critics of the government called for an explanation for the dismissal of the former commissioners; a spokesman for Chief Executive Abdullah said that “now that the reforms have been set, it is the time to tell Afghan people who have been betrayed with their votes how it happened”.

Afghanistan – Remainders

  • Former NDS Chief Saleh Criticizes UN for Failing to Bring Peace to Afghanistan [TOLO]
  • Ghani Meets Kazakh Foreign Minister [Pajhwok]
  • Attorney General’s Office Signs Agreements to Stop Violence Against Women [TOLO]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Prime Minister Reviews Kashmir Situation; Afghan Intel Say Warning Provided of Bagram Attack

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Topline

  • Prime Minister Sharif discussed the situation in Kashmir with top military and civilian advisors on Thursday. Visiting UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson urged an end to the current cycle of violence in Kashmir, but said that “it is for India and Pakistan to find a lasting solution” to the conflict. Afghan intelligence officials tell Reuters they warned the U.S. of a potential infiltration of Bagram Airbase by a local employee prior to the attack there earlier this month, and say their efforts to review employee records were blocked. An anonymous Qatar-based Taliban source tells the Express Tribune that the Taliban “are now exploring the options for talks with foreign stakeholders, as well as with the Afghan side”, and are conducting “grassroots level” consultations with Taliban field commanders. Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif visited Karachi on Wednesday and Khyber Agency on Thursday. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari will contest an available special election seat or the next general elections, PPP officials say, in order to join the national assembly opposition. Wednesday’s cabinet meeting approved a 146% increase in salaries for Pakistani national lawmakers. Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal told a Reuters interview that China had pledged an additional $8.5 billion in rail and LNG infrastructure investments, on top of previous China-Pakistan Economic Corridor plans. The U.S. State Department pledged an additional $39 million in assistance to the UNHCR and World Food Program to support the repatriation of Afghan refugees.

Pakistan – Security

  • Tensions with India: Prime Minister Sharif met with his top foreign and security advisors on Thursday, including the head of the ISI, to review the security situation in Kashmir after recent clashes left at least 16 people dead on both sides, including six Indian and Pakistani soldiers; Sharif was quoted saying that “we cannot tolerate deliberate targeting of innocent civilians” by India. Speaking at the ongoing IDEAS defense expo in Karachi on Thursday, Pakistan’s Chief of Air Staff Marshall Sohail Aman said that “we are not worried about India at all” and that Pakistan was prepared for escalation of the conflict, urging restraint on India’s part. UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson arrived in Islamabad on Thursday; speaking at a joint press conference with foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz, Johnson called for an end to the current cycle of violence but said that “it is for India and Pakistan to find a lasting solution to the situation in Kashmir taking into account the wishes of the Kashmiri people” [Dawn]
  • Military Leadership Transition: On Wednesday, outgoing Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif visited Karachi, where he touted the effects of the paramilitary crackdown in the city for the past three years, saying “any designs of enemies of Pakistan to keep the metropolitan on the boil have been blunted and the gains cannot be allowed to reverse”. Separately, Prime Minister Sharif hosted a farewell dinner for outgoing chairman of the joint chiefs of staff General Rashad Mahmood on Wednesday. General Sharif visited the Khyber Agency on Thursday, where he inaugurated a new stadium with cricket star Shahid Afridi. [ET] [Dawn]
  • Polio Vaccinator Shot: A female polio vaccination campaign worker was shot in Bannu on Thursday after parents objected to the vaccination of their children, police report.

Pakistan – Politics and Diplomacy

  • Elections and Other Political Activity: Dawn reports that PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has decided to contest an available special election or the next general elections in order to become a member of the National Assembly opposition. Bilawal met with PPP leaders in Khyber Paktunkhwa on Wednesday, saying he would visit the province after the party’s foundation day celebrations in Lahore on Nov 30. On Wednesday, the PTI appointed Fawad Hussain as the party’s spokesman, working in tandem with chief spokesman Naeemul Haque. A meeting between Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah and Karachi mayor Waseem Akhtar failed to resolve MQM requests for greater municipal-level authority over the city, the Express Tribune reports. [ET] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Lawmaker Salary Hike: Wednesday’s cabinet meeting approved a 146% increase in parliamentarians’ salaries, from approximately Rs 61,000 per month to Rs 150,000, Minister of State for Information Marriyam Aurangzeb announced. Those salaries still remain lower than some provincial assembly members. [Reuters]

Pakistan – Economics and Development

  • Infrastructure Investments: In a Reuters interview on Wednesday, Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal said that China had pledged an additional $8.5 billion in investments to rail and liquefied natural gas infrastructure, on top of the $46 billion previously pledged as part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project. The Ministry of Finance has offered a 20% equity stake in the Pakistan Development Fund Ltd to the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation in exchange for a $500 million investment, the Express Tribune reports; it is unclear whether the IFC will accept the offer, as it was reportedly seeking a majority stake.
  • Privatization Plans: Privatization Commission chairman Mohammad Zubair told Reuters in an interview on Wednesday that the government was planning investor roadshows in Lahore and Karachi next week for Chinese and Iranian companies who had expressed interest in a long-term lease deal for Pakistan Steel Mills.

Pakistan – Remainders

  • Sindh Assembly Passes Legislation Against Forced Conversions [Dawn]
  • Lahore Police Target 12,000 Street Crime Offenders [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Rs 14.7 Billion Raised from Direct-to-Home License Auction [Dawn] [ET]
  • Commentary: The Vagaries of Pakistan’s Cybercrime Laws – “The new Pakistani law has granted the government overwhelming powers to control and block information on the Internet, examine and retain users’ data, and punish with fines or jail terms anything that offends ‘the glory of Islam’ or ‘friendly relations between states’.” [Bina Shah, Al Jazeera]

Afghanistan – Security

  • Bagram Bombing Investigation: Reuters reports that Afghan intelligence officials had provided at least two warnings of a possible infiltration of Bagram Airbase by an employee planning an attack prior to the Nov 12 suicide bombing that killed four U.S. soldiers and contractors. Afghan intelligence sources say their efforts to obtain information on locals employed on the base were rebuffed. The bomber, Qari Naib, had previously been a member of the Taliban before undergoing a reconciliation program, and had been using a fake name while working as a mechanic on the base.
  • Attacks and Operations: The Ministry of Defense announced on Wednesday that it had freed a group of 12 soldiers who had been taken captive in Faryab’s Ppashtunkot district after their helicopter made an emergency landing there last year. Details of the release were limited. Two female teachers were kidnapped in Ghor’s Shahrak district on Tuesday evening; local officials blamed the Taliban. One person was wounded when a magnetic bomb was planted on a private vehicle in Kabul on Wednesday evening; no claim of responsibility has been reported. [Pajhwok] [TOLO] [TOLO]

Afghanistan – Politics and Diplomacy

  • Taliban Talks: An anonymous Afghan Taliban leader based in Qatar tells the Express Tribune that the Taliban “are now exploring the options for talks with foreign stakeholders, as well as with the Afghan side”, and that Taliban field commanders had been consulted on the prospect of talks in a “grassroots level” process. The source criticized the government’s efforts to add Taliban leader Haibatullah Akhunzada to the UN sanctions list, saying such moves were “aimed at creating hurdles in the way of peace”

Afghanistan – Economics and Development

  • Refugee Repatriation: On Wednesday, the State Department announced an increase in funding for the resettlement of Afghan refugees, pledging an additional $39 million for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the World Food Program. [Dawn]

Afghanistan – Remainders

  • Election Observers Question New Electoral Commissioners [TOLO]