Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: India Protests Death of 5 Soldiers in Kashmir; Afghan Taliban Held Unofficial Talks in Dubai

Topline

  • India issues “strong protest” to Pakistan after allegations that five of its soldiers were killed in Kashmir on Monday. Afghan Taliban sources confirm that they held meetings with High Peace Council representatives in Dubai last month, but have refused to compromise on their use of ‘Islamic Emirate’ symbols. In his Eid message, Mullah Omar dismisses the upcoming Afghan presidential elections; Taliban negotiators reportedly sought for those elections to lead to an ‘interim’ presidency followed by further elections after international forces withdraw. Security remains high across Pakistan as Eid approaches. Election Commission of Pakistan officials say meeting the Supreme Court’s deadline to hold local government elections will be “almost impossible”. Electricity rate price hikes for Pakistani commercial and industrial consumers took effect on Monday, backdated to August 1.

Pakistan — Security

  • Kashmir Firing: India’s defense minister said it had made a “strong protest” with Pakistan, alleging that five of its soldiers had been killed near Srinagar in Kashmir on Monday by a group of “twenty heavily-armed terrorists, along with persons in Pakistani army uniforms”. A Pakistani military spokesman said the allegations were “totally baseless” and denied that any of its forces had cross the line of control. The incident follows statements from Indian and Pakistani officials last week that had suggested a willingness to resume bilateral talks.
  • Security Alerts: Military intelligence officials tell the Express Tribune that militant groups are planning attacks on several high-profile targets in Islamabad, including the parliament building and the Pakistani navy and air force headquarters. Currently, the Interior Ministry does not plan to suspend cell phone services on Eid ul Fitr. Security has also been tightened in Quetta, where police say they discovered a bomb planted in a rickshaw on Monday. In continuing operations following last week’s Dera Ismail Khan jailbreak, Lahore police and Rangers conducted a search operation at the Koth Lakhpat jail facility in Lahore on Monday, and Pakistani army soldiers have been deployed at the Peshawar Central Jail. Peshawar police announced Monday that they had arrested a ‘Punjabi Taliban’ commander, Mujahid Ahmed alias Faqeer Baba, in connection to the DI Khan attack.
  • Balochistan Attacks: Fourteen people, including three security officers, were killed after gunmen dressed in police uniforms established a checkpoint in the Mach district, detaining and executing passengers from two Punjab-bound buses and a Frontier Corps patrol vehicle. No claim of responsibility was reported, although officials blame Baloch separatist groups. [AP] [BBC]
  • Gilgit-Baltistan Attack: A senior policeman and two army officers were killed when gunmen opened fire on their vehicle near Chillas in Gilgit-Baltistan on Tuesday. No claim of responsibility was reported.
  • Kayani Meets Russian Counterpart: Gen. Kayani met visiting Russian General Vladimir Chirkin in Rawalpindi on Monday, where the two sides discussed the Afghan conflict and the U.S. role in the region. The visit follows a trip by Kayani to Moscow last year.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Local Government Elections: Anonymous Election Commission officials tell the Express Tribune that it will be “almost impossible” to meet the Supreme Court’s September 15 deadline to hold local government elections, given the lack of final legislation in most provinces. The PML-Q and PTI boycotted a committee meeting to review the Punjab local government bill scheduled for Monday, as did the PPP and Jamaat-e-Islami.
  • Opposition Politics: Prime Minister Sharif will meet with opposition leader Khursheed Shah after Eid to discuss appointments to head the National Accountability Bureau and to replace Chief Election Commission Fakhruddin Ibrahim. The PPP is also reportedly pushing for four parliamentary committee chairmanships.

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Energy Price Hike: The government imposed a Rs 2-6.59 per unit power price hike on commercial, industrial and bulk consumers effective August 1, a measure intended to generate an estimated Rs 169-175 billion. Domestic consumers will see their rates increase in October. [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Iran Trade: Anonymous Pakistani officials tell Dawn that they do not want to accept a $500 million Iranian loan to finance the construction of the gas pipeline linking the two countries; previous reports had suggested that the Pakistani government would seek Iranian financing of the entire $1 billion project. Remarks to reporters by PM Sharif that the project could incur sanctions – made while in Saudi Arabia, and contradicting the foreign ministry’s position that it would not – suggest that the government is seeking to abandon the project. Government officials say they plan to move ahead with the barter trade of 30,000 tons of wheat to Iran.
  • Monsoon Flooding: The death toll from monsoon flooding and heavy rains reached 58 people as of Monday, with more rain forecast. At least 80 people have been killed across the border in Afghanistan.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Provincial Saving and Development Spending Cuts Brings Down Revised Budget Deficit Estimates [ET]
  • ASWJ Demands Increased Protection for Karachi Leaders [ET]
  • President-Elect Mamnoon Hussain Calls for Improved Ties with Neighbors [ET]
  • Hearing Adjourned Until Aug 20 as Musharraf Again Cites Security for Failing to Appear in Court [Dawn]
  • IT Minister Plans to Filter ‘Objectionable Content’ on YouTube Before Lifting Block [ET] [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Senators Object to Helicopter Deal: A group of twelve Republic and Democratic senators, led by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), have written to Joint Chiefs Chairman Dempsey objecting to the purchase of 30 Russian Mi-17 helicopters for the Afghan security forces, citing the Russian firm Rosoboronexport’s shipments of weapons to Syria.
  • Jalalabad Bombing: One civilian was killed and two injured when a bomb planted on a police vehicle exploded in Jalalabad on Tuesday. No claim of responsibility was reported.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Taliban Talks: Afghan High Peace Council officials say that they have maintained unofficial lines of communication with Taliban leaders “on an individual basis”, although he did not offer further details. Pakistani foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz endorsed Taliban talks with the High Peace Council, saying he hoped they start “soon”. Another High Peace Council official confirms that new venues are being sought for peace talks. An anonymous Taliban commander tells the AP that Taliban negotiator Mullah Abbas Stanekzai met with a High Peace Council member in Dubai last month in an effort to open the way for official talks. In that meeting the Taliban reiterated their opposition to surrendering the use of their flag and moniker as the ‘Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’, which the Afghan government objected to after the unveiling of the movement’s Qatar political office earlier this spring, blocking that initiative. They also have reportedly objected to the role of Salahuddin Rabbani in leading the High Peace Council. The insurgency reportedly expressed a willingness to “discuss” retaining the constitution, with the exception of three unspecified clauses, and to accept womens’ education and female lawmakers. The Taliban indicated that they would not participate in the 2014 presidential elections, which they would seek to limit to an interim position, with further elections held after all foreign troops withdraw. Mullah Omar’s annual Eid statement, released on Tuesday, dismissed the upcoming elections as a “waste of time”, but reiterated past pledges that the Taliban would not seek to monopolize power in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • UK Marines Charged with Murder of Captured Afghan Appear in Preliminary Court Hearing [Press Association]
  • Afghanistan and Iran Sign MOU on Military Cooperation [Pajhwok]
  • Commentary: Close to a Deal: U.S., Afghans Agree on Single Text – “Sources familiar with talks on a bilateral security deal between Washington and Kabul that would formalize the post-2014 relationship say a deal is likely to come by the U.S.’s desired October deadline.” [Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, Defense One]

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