Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Special Elections Held in Pakistan; Karzai Seeks ECC Nominees

Topline

  • Special elections are held to fill 41 national and provincial assembly seats in Pakistan. Another Pakistani soldier has been killed in cross-border fire in Kashmir. Pres. Karzai has sought nominees for the Electoral Complaints Commission within ten days. Afghan governors of seven northeastern provinces met to review security in Kapisa on Wednesday. A Pakistani Taliban commander with links to foreign fighters was killed in a roadside bombing near Wana on Thursday. Prime Minister Sharif has reportedly ordered the establishment of a new National Security Council, including representation from civilian and military leaders. The World Bank is willing to resume budget support, tripling aid to Pakistan to $1.5 billion, after the resumption of an IMF program in September.

Pakistan — Security

  • Indian Border Tensions: The Pakistani national assembly passed a resolution on Thursday condemning the ongoing exchange of artillery fire across the Line of Control, which resulted in the death of a Pakistani army officer on Wednesday. Express News sources indicate that Indian spy planes violated Pakistani airspace on Wednesday. On Thursday, another Pakistani soldier was reportedly killed in Indian fire, which Pakistani officials again say was “unprovoked”. [ET]
  • PTI Activists Killed: Separate attacks in Nowshera and Karachi killed two PTI party activists, on the eve of by-elections scheduled in both areas. No claims of responsibility have been reported.
  • Pakistani Taliban Commander Killed: Ghulam Jan, a Pakistani Taliban commander, was killed in a roadside bombing near Wana along with at least four other associates on Thursday, local officials report. No claim of responsibility has been reported, although Dawn suggests that Jan had clashed with the Mullah Nazir group over the hosting of foreign fighters.
  • Quetta Explosives Cache: Following the seizure of more than 100 tons of explosive and bomb-making materials in Quetta on Wednesday, Frontier Constabulary officials say they have arrested at least eleven people. Mir Maqbool Ahmed Lehri, the former city nazim during the Musharraf era and a PPP provincial leader, has been identified as the owner of the warehouse and is among those who have been arrested.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • By-Polls Held: Special by-poll elections to fill 41 open national and provincial assembly seats began on Thursday; polling is still ongoing as of this writing. As many as 522 candidates have registered to contest the seats, and 8.5 million registered voters are eligible to participate, making them the largest-ever by-polls in Pakistan’s electoral history; under the terms of the constitution, candidates in general elections are eligible to contest multiple seats, and most vacancies are due to their winning in multiple areas and choosing one seat to serve from. The Express Tribune reviews some of the major contests in Punjab, Khyber Paktunkhwa, Balochistan, and Islamabad. Women voters were reportedly barred from participating in the process in parts of Nowshera, Lakk Marwat, and Mianwali; in Hangu, the Pakistani Taliban issued leaflets warning women not to participate in the vote. Ahead of the vote, the PTI released a report of what it said were documented instances of election-rigging in the May 11 general elections, and called for an audit of those ballot papers. [Dawn] [APP] [PTI Report]
  • Committees Established: At the first meeting under the new PML-N government of the Defense Committee of the Cabinet on Thursday, PM Sharif reportedly decided to establish a National Security Council, including representation from the three military services, the defense minister, and his foreign affairs advisor. On Wednesday, after several weeks of delay, the parliament established membership for 34 committees; the JUI-F protested with a walkout, as party chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman was not given chairmanship of the Special Committee on Kashmir. [ET]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • World Bank Ready to Boost Aid: In meetings with PM Sharif and Finance Minister Dar, visiting World Bank vice president for South Asia Phillipe le Houerou indicated that the bank is prepared to triple its annual assistance to Pakistan to around $1.5 billion, following the resumption of an IMF program in September.
  • Energy Crisis: Reductions in circular debt have helped boost power generation by 1,700 Megawatts, State Minister for Water and Power Chaudhry Abid Sher told parliament on Wednesday. [ET] [Dawn] [ET] [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Senators Seek Intelligence Report on ‘Foreign Hand’ in Balochistan [ET]
  • Peshawar Madrassa Leaders Protest US Terror Designation [Reuters]
  • Court Acquits Three Alleged Pakistani Taliban Militants in 2009 Dera Ghazi Khan Attack on Shia Mosque [ET]
  • High Security Alert at Mansehra Jail [Dawn]
  • Opposition Walkout to Protest Punjab Local Government Bill [Dawn]
  • Interior Minister Continues to Defend Police Performance in Islamabad Standoff [Dawn] [ET]
  • Commentary: Conspiracy Nation – “This growing inability to engage in reasonable debates on contentious issues, taking certain facts to be commonly accepted, has very worrying implications for Pakistan.” [Fatima Mustafa and Sairah Yusuf, AfPak Channel]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Governors Conference on Security: The governors of Kunar, Nangarhar, Laghman, Nuristan, Kapisa, Panjsher, and Parwan provinces met in Kapisa province on Wednesday along with Defense Minister Bismillah Khan Mohammadi and Interior Minister Mujtaba Patang to discuss security in northeastern Afghanistan. Although Mohammadi said that “the ANSF has managed to foil the majority of [insurgent] plans”, officials expressed concerns about the role of illegal armed groups and “foreign governments looking to increase instability in Afghanistan ahead of the elections”.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Election Preparations: Pres. Karzai’s office has asked the special committee tasked with producing nominees for the Electoral Complaints Commission to submit a list of 15 nominees within the next ten days. After earlier disputes over the committee’s membership, Nader Nadery has been confirmed as the civil society representative on the panel. Speaking to a group from the Afghan Women’s Network on Wednesday, Pres. Karzai reiterated that he does not support any one particular candidate for the presidency. Opposition leader Ahmad Zia Massoud said that a ‘grand coalition’ of parties would announce their unification for the elections this Saturday, and that they will collectively choose a single nominee for the presidency.
  • Karzai Visit to Islamabad: Afghanistan’s ambassador to Pakistan, Omar Daudzai, tells TOLO that he is optimistic that Pres. Karzai’s upcoming visit to Islamabad would yield “positive results”, and said that “if Pakistan honestly contributes in paving the way for negotiations with the Taliban, the process will be an Afghan-led process”. Afghan and Pakistani officials met to discuss security protocols and the agenda for Karzai’s visit on Wednesday; he will arrive August 26.

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