Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Sharif Makes National Address; Afghan Negotiating Team Ready for Bilateral Security Agreement Talks

Topline

  • Prime Minister Sharif addresses the nation, expressing a willingness to use dialogue or force to resolve the threat of domestic terrorism and pledging continued efforts to revive the energy sector and the economy. Negotiations on a bilateral security agreement with the U.S. may resume soon, a spokesman for Pres. Karzai hints. Presidential spokesmen deny yesterday’s media reports that Afghan Attorney General Mohammad Ishaq Aloko was fired. Despite recent flooding in some areas and security concerns, by-elections in Pakistan will proceed as scheduled this Thursday. The Sindh government has passed a new local government law, over MQM objections. A new arrest warrant has been issued for Hakim Shujaee, a Hazara commander in Uruzgan accused of multiple abuses. Pakistan’s portion of the Iran gas pipeline may not be finished for another two years, petroleum ministry officials acknowledge. Former Pres. Musharraf was indicted in the Benazir Bhutto murder case.

Pakistan — Security

  • Islamabad Standoff: Muhammad Sikandar, the gunman in Friday’s standoff in Islamabad, began speaking with police after coming out of critical condition for bullet injuries on Monday; he is now said to have been “ashamed of what he had done”. Arrests were made of two men involved in his purchase of a gun. In parliament, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan suggested that “some officials and sensitive institutions and international mobsters” were acting as “handlers” to Sikandar, although he did not offer further substantiation of those charges. [ET]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Sharif Makes National Address: On Monday evening, Prime Minister Sharif made his first nationwide address to the country since taking office in June. In wide-ranging remarks, he said that the government wanted to end domestic terrorism “whether it is through the process of dialogue or heavy use of the state force” but “wisdom demands that we follow a path where we minimise the loss of innocent lives”. Sharif focused much of his address on current efforts to revive the energy sector, saying that the government plans an “aggressive campaign” against theft and poor management, and touting Chinese investment in the Gwadar corridor and elsewhere as a means to boost power generation and the economy. Sharif met with Gen. Kayani before giving his speech, where they discussed relations with India and the ongoing border tensions along the Line of Control; Sharif called for resolving those disputes through dialogue. In New Dehli, India’s defense minister, AK Antony, warned that “our restraint should not be taken for granted” and called on Pakistan to take action against military officials who it says were responsible for the death of five Indian soldiers in an incident earlier this month. Privately, diplomatic sources tell Dawn that PM Singh is still interested in meeting with PM Sharif in New York in September. [BBC] [ET] [Dawn]
  • By-Elections: Despite security concerns and recent flooding, Election Commission officials announced that polling for 42 constituencies will continue as scheduled on Thursday, with army personnel stationed outside 2,686 polling stations and inside another 1,840 stations. The campaign period for the by-polls officially concludes at midnight on Tuesday; Dawn overviews some of the key contests. [Dawn] [ET] [APP] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Sindh Passes Local Election Law: Over opposition from the MQM, the PPP government pushed through new legislation for local government bodies in the Sindh assembly on Monday. Elections will be held on a partisan basis, and Karachi has been divided into five municipal corporations in five districts. MQM leader-in-exile Altaf Hussain denounced the law as an effort to create a divide between Sindhi and non-Sindhi residents of the province and vowed that “the downfall of the PPP’s government has just begun”. [ET] [Dawn]
  • Musharraf Indicted in Benazir Murder Case: The Rawalpindi anti-terrorism court hearing charges in the 2007 death of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto formally indicted former Pres. Musharraf on Tuesday on charges of murder and conspiracy to commit murder. Musharraf, making a rare appearance in court since entering house arrest earlier this spring, pled not guilty; prosecution evidence against Musharraf appears to center on statements from the late Ms Bhutto accusing him of failing to provide security to her. Hearings are set to resume August 27. [BBC] [AJE]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Iran Pipeline Delayed: Minister of State for Petroleum Jam Kamal Jan told parliamentarians that completion of Pakistan’s portion of the Iran gas pipeline will take at least two more years, likely incurring penalties under the original gas sales purchase agreement that called for the project to be finished by December 2014.
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Curriculum: After meetings with provincial coalition partners Jamaat-e-Islami, the PTI-led education ministry in Khyber Paktunkhwa has pledged to “rectify the mistake” of the previous ANP government of removing Quranic verses on jihad from the elementary school curriculum.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • More Than 20 Arrested in Connection to Attack on Gilgit Climbers [Dawn]
  • At Least Four Killed in Karachi Violence [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Lahore High Court Dismisses Capital Punishment Appeal in 2009 GHQ Attack Case [ET]
  • Panel Tasked with Reviewing Foreign Postings [ET]
  • Prime Minister Sharif Orders Flood Relief as More Rain is Forecast [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Chinese Engineers Visit Gwadar Port [Dawn]
  • Sui Northern Gas Pipeline Incurs Rs 2.15 Billion Loss in Nine Months [ET]
  • PTI Provincial Assembly Member’s Degree Declared Fake [The Nation]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Bilateral Security Talks: A spokesman for Pres. Karzai tells the Guardian that he has formulated a negotiating team led by national security advisor Rangin Dadfar Spanta and transition leader Ashraf Ghani, raising the prospect that bilateral security talks with the U.S. that were frozen in June might be restarted soon. Although a start to negotiations has not been announced, Karzai’s spokesman said that a national jirga to approve a final draft of the document could take place within two months.
  • Arrest Warrant for Uruzgan Commander: The Ministry of Interior has announced an arrest warrant for Hakim Shujaee, a Hazara militia commander in Urzugan whose abuses have been the subject of local and international press reports for more than a year. Local politicians allege that Shujaee has the backing of Vice President Karim Khalili and the Afghan Local Police program. His arrest was previously ordered in November 2012.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Karzai Spokesman Denies Firing Attorney General: A spokesman for the presidency denied yesterday’s media reports that Attorney General Mohammad Ishaq Aloko had been fired for unauthorized meetings with the Taliban in Dubai; a spokesman for Aloko denied that any such meeting took place. [Pajhwok]

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Oil Project Halted: The China National Petroleum Corporation has halted oil drilling projects in the Amu Darya basin and withdrawn as many as sixteen employees from Afghanistan, after an apparent delay in reaching a transit agreement with Uzbekistan for the shipment of oil.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Afghan Finance Minister Meets with Tajik Officials to Discuss Gas Exports [TOLO]
  • Afghanistan Celebrates 94th Independence Day [TOLO]
  • Sentencing Phase for Robert Bales for 2012 Kandahar Massacre to Begin Tuesday [AP]
  • US Soldier Faces Corruption Charge for Diverting Fuel at Jalalabad Base [AP]
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