Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: India-Pakistan Tensions Remain High; Afghan Opposition Parties Plan to Nominate Joint Presidential Candidate

Topline

  • Border tensions continue with India in Kashmir amid fresh reports of cross-border firing; after two years of slow-moving talks, Pakistan’s Finance Minister Ishaq Dar says that most-favored nation trading status for India “is not under immediate consideration”. Afghan opposition leader Ahmad Zia Massoud claims that a coalition of half a dozen opposition parties has agreed to nominate a single candidate for the upcoming presidential elections. Prime Minister Sharif meets with Interior Ministry officials to review the government’s draft counterterrorism policy. The IMF has agreed to increase the size of its loan to Pakistan to $6.6 billion, Pakistani finance ministry officials say. Punjab Taliban groups warn of attacks against the PML-N if Lashkar-e-Jhangvi prisoners are executed later this month.

Pakistan — Security

  • Counterterrorism Policy: Prime Minister Sharif met with Interior Ministry officials again on Tuesday, noting that terrorism was a problem faced by all of Pakistan’s provinces and saying that “concerted efforts” would be taken to combat it. The government’s draft counterterrorism policy, which may be unveiled before parliament as soon as today, reportedly rules out peace agreements with militant leaders but allows for the reintegration of low-level fighters willing to accept state authority. PPP Senator Raza Rabbani called on the government to revive the parliamentary committee on national security and “stop relying on bureaucracy” to formulate its policies. Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif announced plans to hire 4,000 more police officers, including a special force tasked with protecting foreigners in the province. [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Punjabi Taliban Group Warns Against Prisoner Execution: Following the withdrawal of the government’s moratorium on executions, Punjab officials have scheduled four executions, including two former Lashkar-e-Jhangvi members, for August 20, 21, and 22nd. A letter distributed by the Tehreek-e-Taliban’s Punjab chapter warned of reprisals against the PML-N government if the executions proceed. [ET] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Indian Border Tensions: Indian and Pakistani border forces again accused each other of artillery attacks violating the Line of Control on Tuesday, for the third consecutive day. No injuries were reported on either side. Pakistan summoned India’s deputy ambassador on Monday to formally protest the death of one civilian in “unprovoked firing”. India’s Defense Minister, AK Antony, told reporters on Monday that Indian border forces “have the freedom to respond to developing conditions on the border appropriately,” without elaborating. Indian intelligence officials tell Reuters they believe that Lashkar-e-Taiba and other Pakistani militant groups are preparing for intensified attacks on Indian interests around the region after the U.S. withdraws from Afghanistan in 2014; Pakistani foreign ministry officials dismiss the suggestion that they would support such a move. Prime Minister Sharif repeated his desire for a “new beginning” in relations with India on Monday, but Finance Minister Dar told an interviewer on Monday that most-favored nation trading status for India, which has been under discussion since 2011, “is not under immediate consideration”. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon arrived in Islamabad on Tuesday for a trip focused on girls’ education issues in Pakistan; he offered to mediate between India and Pakistan “if both sides think this is useful”. [BBC] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Elections: The Election Commission has issued polling station plans for upcoming by-elections scheduled for August 22. PML-N’s last-minute nominee for the NA-48 Islamabad by-election, Anju Aqeel, was cleared to contest the seat by the Election Commission on Tuesday. On Monday, the Sindh cabinet reviewed a new provincial local government law, which the MQM has announced its opposition to. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • IMF Agrees to Larger Loan Agreement: Pakistani finance ministry officials tell Reuters that the IMF has agreed to increase the size of its prospective loans to Pakistan to $6.6 billion, from a preliminary $5.3 billion package that Pakistan had subsequently sought to increase to $7.2 billion. Final IMF board approval will take place in September.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Supreme Court Orders Action Against Military Intelligence Official in Missing Person Case [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Major General Amir Riaz Appointed Director General of Military Operations [Dawn]
  • Two Killed in Quetta Bombing [ET]
  • PML-N Shelves Plans to Create New Provinces [Dawn]
  • Pakistan Railways Managing Director Accused in Land Scam [Dawn]
  • Commentary: Despite Rising India-Pakistan Tensions, Little Planning for the Next Big Crisis – “What should worry people in South Asia and beyond is that the relative calm in India-Pakistan relations during the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan may turn out to have been the exception rather than the rule.” [Myra MacDonald, Reuters]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Attacks: Sayed Azizullah, a local tribal elder who had been aligned with Afghan security forces in Jawzjan province, was assassinated by unidentified gunmen on Tuesday; no claim of responsibility was reported. In Uruzgan, two civilians were killed in a bombing near the home of an unidentified provincial security official on Tuesday.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Opposition Coalition Plans for Single Candidate: National Front party leader Ahmad Zia Masood tells TOLO that a coalition of opposition parties – including Jamiat-e-Islami, Hezb-e-Islami, Hezb-e-Wahdat, Junbesh-e-Milli, the National Coalition Party, the National Front Party, and the Green Movement Party — have all agreed to collectively nominate a single presidential candidate for the upcoming 2014 elections. The candidate himself does not appear to have been agreed to, however.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • What an Afghan Murder Mystery Reveals About Chinese Censorship [New Yorker]
  • Anti-Corruption Monitoring Committee Blocks Transfer of Government Land to Investment Agency [TOLO]
  • Afghanistan’s Amelia Earhart [Daily Beast]
  • Commentary: Lessons from Afghanistan’s Tribal Elders – “From the perspective of these elders, it’s as though two groups that don’t represent them are fighting each other – one being the government and the other, the Taliban, fighting that government. The majority of ordinary Afghans are indifferent to both.” [Shahmahmood Miakhel, AfPak Channel]
  • Commentary: Afghanistan 2014: Better Late Than Never – “Regardless of what the election commission decides – single-day voting or a phased election -it is crucial for both Afghans and international observers to realize that some level of irregularity and fraud is inevitable.” [Hamid Saboory, AfPak Channel]
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