- Pres. Karzai signs the electoral law, clearing the way for presidential election preparations. Afghanistan’s parliament has voted to dismiss Interior Minister Mujtaba Patang. The PML-N continues to debate nominees for the presidency and for the next chief of army staff. Generals Dunford and Allen have both publicly recommend against consideration of a “zero option” in Afghanistan for U.S. forces after 2014. Pakistani foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz visited Kabul to pledge Pakistani support for the Afghan peace process and extend an invitation to Pres. Karzai to visit Pakistan, receiving a cool welcome from his Afghan counterparts. A Chinese state-owned firm has pledged $6 billion in energy investments in Pakistan over the next five years. Bombings in Karachi on Saturday killed four people. Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has approved a draft local government law for the assembly to consider, which centralizes control over local bodies in the provincial government.
Pakistan — Security
- Karachi Attacks: Two separate bombings in Karachi on Saturday evening killed at least four people and wounded several more; the first attack targeted the convoy of Karachi metropolitan commissioner Matanat Ali Khan. Khan was injured; police were initially unclear on whether he, or a senior police official whose vehicle was following later on, was the intended target. The second bomb exploded shortly afterwards inside a residence in the Patel Para neighborhood, killing three suspected bomb-makers affiliated with Lashkar-e-Jhangvi; a survivor told police that the bomb had been intended to strike a Shia religious procession on Yaum-e-Ali. On Sunday, two people were killed and six injured in a bombing attack followed by gunfire at an ANP ward office in the Landhi neighborhood. Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan arrived in Karachi on Monday to review the city’s security situation. [Dawn] [ET]
- Security Policy Debate: Information Minister Pervaiz Rasheed told journalists on Saturday that the government would convene an all-parties conference after PTI chairman Imran Khan returns from the UK later this month. In a Dawn interview, Pakistan’s ambassador for the UN calls for “more intense, results-based engagement” with the U.S. over the cessation of drone strikes; the foreign ministry has reportedly advised Prime Minister Sharif to drop calls for the U.S. to transfer drone technology to Pakistan and focus on the curtailment of such operations ahead of Sec. Kerry’s visit later this month.
- Missing Persons Cases: Following a meeting of provincial officials at the Attorney General of Pakistan’s office on Thursday, the government is reportedly planning on releasing the names of all detainees held by the country’s intelligence services and granting family access rights. According to the report, inquiries on detainee status will be processed by the defense ministry rather than the security services.
- Supply Line Attacks: On Monday, one person was killed and six injured in a double bombing at the Chaman border crossing in Balochistan; the first attack was reportedly a suicide bombing. No claim of responsibility was reported. Two oil tankers were attacked and destroyed in Balochistan’s Mastung district on Sunday; the drivers escaped unharmed. [Dawn]
Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy
- Presidential Elections: The PML-N continues to debate its choice for the nominee to succeed Pres. Zardari as president. Dawn analysis suggests that the choice will likely be a party loyalist from outside of the Punjab, potentially former Sindh governor Mamnoon Hussain; the Express Tribune reports that Prime Minister Sharif is leaning towards retired judge Saeeduzzaman Siddiqui. Foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz is also mentioned as a possible choice. PML-N officials are reportedly still seeking to delay the elections, currently scheduled for August 6, until after the end of Ramadan, a request which the Election Commission has rejected. Election Commission officials have expanded qualification requirements applied for parliamentary candidates to include presidential nominees. The opposition PPP has nominated senator Raza Rabbani as their candidate; the PTI has nominated retired judge Wajiuddin Siddiqui, and the PML-Q has nominated Balochistan senator Saeedul Hassan Mandokhail. [Dawn]
- Other Nominations: The PML-N is also considering nominees to succeed Gen. Kayani as chief of army staff when his term expires later this fall; by seniority, the top three candidates would appear to be Lt. Gen. Haroon Aslam, Lt. Gen. Rashad Mahmood, and Lt. Gen. Raheel Sharif, which Dawn profiles. Further, the PML-N is reportedly considering nominating Chaudhry Mohammad Sarwar, a former UK member of parliament, to become the next Punjab governor; he arrived in Pakistan on Saturday.
- MQM-PPP Talks: Senator Rehman Malik renewed the PPP’s offer to the MQM to join in the Sindh provincial government during meetings with MQM officials in London on Friday. MQM leaders continue to protest media coverage of the London police investigations of their Altaf Hussain. [Dawn]
- Local Elections: Following a Supreme Court order to hold local government elections by September, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has approved a draft law for the local government system in the province. Civil society groups have criticized the law, which holds the elections on a non-party basis, elects mayors and council chairmen indirectly, and gives the chief minister powers to dismiss those officials. The PTI has vowed to oppose the law, although the PML-N retains a substantial majority in the Punjab assembly.
Pakistan — Economics and Development
- Energy Crisis: A planned national address by Prime Minister Sharif on general government policy, particularly focused on the energy crisis, has been delayed until mid-week, the Express Tribune reports. The federal-provincial Council on Common Interests has been called to meet on July 25 to review national energy policy. In a Reuters interview, Water and Power Minister Khawaja Asif vowed that the government would fix the energy sector within three years although doing so would involve “a lot of pain”; speaking to journalists on Friday, he confirmed that tariffs would be raised and that the government was considering the further privatization of energy generation. Khawaja Asif met with Khyber-Paktunkhwa Chief Minister Pervaiz Khattak on Friday in a bid to forestall threatened protests by the PTI over continued load-shedding in the province. Dawn suggests that Abid Sher Ali, a nephew to the Sharif brothers, may join the cabinet as a state minister for power. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
- Chinese Investment: Following meetings with the Pakistan Board of Investment, China International Water and Electric Corporation vice president Wang Shaofeng indicated that the state-owned company was planning to invest $6 billion in energy projects in Pakistan over the next five years; details of the project are minimal but $2 billion will reportedly be concentrated in Karachi.
- Development Planning: Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal announced Saturday that the government was restructuring the Planning Commission and would release a new five-year development plan by December. As part of the plan, a special unit within the ministry will be tasked with coordinating Chinese investment and the Gwadar-Kashgar economic corridor project touted during Prime Minister Sharif’s recent visit to China. [ET]
Pakistan — Remainders
- Forty Government Employees Reportedly on Terror Watch List [Dawn]
- No-Confidence Motion Against Azad Jammu and Kashmir Prime Minister [ET] [Dawn]
- Supreme Court Orders Freeze on Defense Housing Authority Accounts in Connection to Pension Scam [ET]
- National Accountability Bureau Investigating Tax Exemption Decisions [Dawn]
- Arrest Order for Balochistan PML-N Leader Sanaullah Zehir’s Bodyguards [Dawn]
- Fifteen Militants, Four Security Personnel Reported Killed in Khyber Military Operations [Dawn]
- Karak District Ulema Bar Women from Entering Markets Without Male Escort [BBC] [Dawn] [ET]
- Nominees Considered for Higher Education Commission [ET]
- Pakistan Renews Request for Asian Development Bank Support for Diamer-Bhasha Dam [ET]
- Pakistan Battles Polio, and Its People’s Mistrust [NYT]
- Punjab Registers Tax Collection Shortfall as Federal Disbursals Drop [ET]
- Police Suspect Political Rivalry Led to Poisoning Deaths [NYT] [BBC]
Afghanistan — Security
- Generals Caution Against ‘Zero Option’: In a WSJ interview, ISAF commander Gen. Joseph Dunford said that discussions of a total withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan after 2014 were “unhelpful” and that “we are not planning against the zero option”. His remarks were echoed by former ISAF commander Gen. John Allen, who told the Aspen Security Forum on Friday that Afghan leaders still “desperately want our presence after this war”.
Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy
- Karzai Signs Electoral Law: Pres. Karzai signed the general election law on Saturday, after previously signing the law governing the structure and authorities of the Independent Election Commission and Electoral Complaints Commission last week. Observer groups welcomed the move, which comes as donors have stressed the importance of the electoral transition as a condition for continued civilian assistance in the coming years. Presidential elections are due to take place in April 2014; candidate registration begins this September. [NYT] [AFP]
- Pakistan Envoy Visits Kabul: Pakistani foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz visited Afghanistan on Sunday, where he pledged that the Sharif government would support peace talks in Afghanistan and extended a formal invitation to Pres. Karzai to visit Pakistan at a later date. Aziz said that Pakistan “cannot guarantee success of the peace process”, which was “the duty of the stakeholders in Afghanistan”, and said that Pakistan would “only play facilitation roles that we are asked to play.” Aziz acknowledged that Pakistan had “some contacts with the Taliban in the past, but we don’t control them.” In a statement prior to Aziz’s visit, Prime Minister Sharif also stressed that Pakistan did not favor any single political group in Afghanistan. Karzai’s office said that he had accepted the invitation “in principle” but would visit only if “serious struggle against terrorism is at the top of the agenda.” [AP] [Reuters] [Dawn] [ET]
- Interior Minister Loses Confidence Vote: Protesting the country’s security situation Afghan parliamentarians abruptly called a no-confidence vote against Interior Minister Mujtaba Patang on Monday; he did not attend the proceedings after being summoned to testify on Saturday, and lost the vote 136 to 60. It was not immediately clear whether Pres. Karzai would accept the motion and dismiss Patang.
Afghanistan — Economics and Development
- Investment Incentives: Afghan Finance Minister Zakhilwal has announced a package of new incentives intended to spur foreign investment in the country, which has dropped to approximately $83 million, or .4% of GDP. The new incentives include tax exemptions and land grants for industrial projects, among other provisions.
Afghanistan — Remainders
- Despite Education Advances, a Host of Afghan School Woes [NYT]
- Afghan Army Seeks to Motivate Soldiers with Piety [NYT]
- Ulema Council Won’t Overturn Baghlan Clerics’ Edicts Against Women’s Movement [Reuters]
- ‘1400’ Youth Movement Seeks to Challenge Traditional Afghan Politics [Stars and Stripes]
- PRT Withdrawal Puts Panjshir Valley’s ‘Radio Khorasan’ at Risk [The Atlantic]
- A Quest to Save Afghanistan’s Snow Leopard [WAPO]