Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Karzai Visits Islamabad, Signals Movement on U.S. Bilateral Security Agreement

Topline

  • Pres. Karzai arrived in Islamabad on Monday to hold meetings with Prime Minister Sharif focused on the Afghan peace process. At a press conference on Saturday, Karzai suggested that negotiations on the bilateral security agreement with the U.S. were effectively concluded and that a loya jirga would review the document before he would agree to sign. Three more Pakistanis were killed, including one soldier, in cross-border artillery firing along the Line of Control with India. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan said that it had removed Punjabi Taliban commander Asmatullah Muawiya from command after he endorsed peace talks with the government; Muawiya says his group is independent from the TTP command. The committee to provide nominees for the Afghan Electoral Complaints Commission met on Saturday to begin deliberations; a representative from civil society on the committee has not been appointed. A court martial jury sentenced Robert Bales to life without parole for the murder of sixteen Afghan civilians last March. Re-polling in two Khyber-Paktunkhwa constituencies after last week’s bye-polls will likely take pace next week, Election Commission officials say; PTI protestors rallied in Lahore over allegations of rigging in a Punjab Assembly race there.

Pakistan — Security

  • Indian Border Tensions: Two people were killed and at least seven villagers wounded in cross-border shelling by Indian military forces on Sunday, local officials report; firing continued on Monday. Another Pakistani soldier was reportedly killed in an exchange of fire on Saturday. Pakistani government offices have been closed in the area of the shelling. Despite the ongoing tensions, Prime Minister Sharif told the Telegraph on Friday that the arms race between India and Pakistan “must come to an end” Sec. Kerry spoke with Sharif on Friday to discuss regional security concerns and Pres. Karzai’s upcoming visit to Islamabad; during the conversation, Sharif again stressed a commitment to a “policy of restraint”.
  • Taliban Divided Over Talks: The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan’s main spokesman said that the group’s central leadership council had taken “serious notice” of a press interview by Asmatullah Muawiya, a leader of the Punjabi Taliban faction, in which Muawiya had welcomed government proposals for peace talks. Muawiya is “respectable for us, but he has no relation with the TTP”, according to spokesmen, who said a new leader of the TTP’s Punjab chapter will be chosen at a future meeting. On the government talks offer, the TTP spokesman said that “if the government shows flexibility, we will show flexibility … asking us to disarm before peace talks is ridiculous and unacceptable, however”, a condition endorsed by the Defence Cabinet Committee at a meeting on Wednesday. Muawiya tells the AP that his group is separate from the TTP and they have no power to remove him. [AJE] [Dawn]
  • Sectarian Violence: Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat supporters holding a protest on Friday against the death of one of their members clashed with members of the Shia community in Bhakkar, leading to eleven deaths. An indefinite curfew was imposed in the area on Saturday, and at least 29 people were arrested in search operations on Sunday. Separately, three people were killed in a driveby shooting at a Deobandi madrassah in Islamabad, including the curator, Qari Mohammad Arif; no claim of responsibility was reported. On Sunday, an ASWJ spokesman was killed in Karachi. [Dawn] [ET] [ET]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Bye-Elections: Re-polling at several polling stations in the NA-5 Nowshera and NA-27 Lakki Marwat constituencies where women were barred from participating in Thursday’s vote will likely be held next weekend, Election Commission officials say. The JUI-F has called for re-polling to be held in 90 polling stations in Lakki Marwat; unofficial results indicate that the PTI’s candidate is in the lead there. PTI supporters held protests against alleged vote rigging in the PP-150 Lahore seat on Saturday; police cleared their camp, arresting several party activists, who were subsequently released on the order of Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif. Prime Minister Sharif intervened on Sunday, ordering punishments for any public official who used force to halt protests. [ET] [ET]
  • Appointments: On Monday, the Senate will hold a debate on the procedure for nominating high court judges; on Friday, Senator Raza Rabbani resigned from the parliamentary committee to review judicial nominees, and was replaced by Farooq Naek. PPP opposition leader Khursheed Shah acknowledged that it was “very difficult” to find an appropriate nominee to head the National Accountability Bureau but said he hoped to reach agreement with the government on a choice soon. In the Senate, senators protested the expiration of appointment quotas on a provincial basis earlier this month; government ministers suggested that the quota would be reviewed within the next ten days. Prime Minister Sharif visited the Intelligence Bureau on Friday, and lifted a ban on new recruitments for the agency. Nasir Mahmood Khosa, a former chief secretary for Punjab and Balochistan and currently Prime Minister Sharif’s principal secretary, will reportedly be appointed as Pakistan’s executive director at the World Bank. [ET] [ET] [ET]
  • Musharraf Cases: The Balochistan High Court has rejected a plea from former Pres. Musharraf to have the case against him in connection to the 2006 death of Nawab Akbar Bugti moved to Rawalpindi, which he had sought due to security concerns. Political parties endorsed a general strike across the province on Monday to mark the anniversary of Bugti’s death. [AFP]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Florida Imam Receives 25-Year Sentence for Pakistani Taliban Support [AP]
  • Nawaz Sharif to Review Case of Expelled NYT Journalist Declan Walsh [Telegraph]
  • Strike Across Balochistan Towns Against Alleged Extrajudicial Killings [Dawn]
  • Four Killed, Two NATO Fuel Tankers Destroyed in Balochistan Attacks [Dawn]
  • Peshawar Police Seize 500 Kilos of Explosives in Khyber [AFP]
  • Sharif to Attend Commonwealth Summit in Sri Lanka in November [Dawn] [ET]
  • Challenge Filed in Lahore High Court Against New Local Government Law [Dawn]
  • Sindh Assembly Yet for Form Committees; Balochistan Yet to Form Cabinet [ET] [Dawn]
  • Sharif Plans Farewell Ceremony for Zardari [Dawn]
  • Swat Battles Dengue Outbreak [ET]
  • Gas Prices Increased for Captive Power Plants [ET]
  • Report: Apolitical or Depoliticized? Pakistan’s Youth and Politics – “Opinion polls show that most young people hold political institutions in an unfavourable light and are generally apathetic towards political participation.” [Jinnah Institute]
  • Commentary: A Dream Gone Sour – “The PML-N had plenty of time — including a one-month post-election transition period — to get much of its homework done. Instead, it has allowed the terrorists to seize the initiative.” [Arif Rafiq, Foreign Policy]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Bilateral Security Agreement Talks: At a Kabul press conference on Saturday, Pres. Karzai suggested that the draft of the US-Afghan Bilateral Security Agreement was effectively finished and that it would be signed after being reviewed by a Loya Jirga gathering, which presidential spokesmen previously suggested could take place within two months. Opposition groups have denounced the jirga plan. [TOLO]
  • Bales Receives Life Sentence: A court martial jury deliberated for less than two hours on Friday before returning a sentence of life without the possibility of parole for Staff Sgt Robert Bales, who pled guilty to the murder of 16 Afghan civilians in Panjwai, Kandahar, in March 2012. Some survivors of the attacks said the sentence was “inadequate” and that Bales should have been executed. [NYT] [TOLO] [AP]
  • Militant Attacks: Kapisa governor Mehrabuddin Safi warns TOLO that militant groups have established control over large sections of his province and that a major military operation is being planned to clear them. Five suicide bombers attacked an Afghan army base in Kapisa’s Tagab district on Monday, killing one soldier and injuring three; all the attackers were killed. A bomb targeted the home of a local schoolteacher in Helmand’s Sangin district on Saturday, killing two of his children; the Taliban reportedy claimed responsibility. [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Karzai Visits Pakistan: Pres. Karzai arrived in Islamabad on Monday to meet with Prime Minister Sharif, who “assured President Karzai that Pakistan will continue to extend all possible facilitation” of an “Afghan-owned and Afghan-led” peace process. The two held a joint press conference afterwards but took no questions, and no Taliban prisoner releases were announced, which High Peace Council officials had previously indicated was on their agenda. Prior to Karzai’s arrival Afghanistan’s finance minister, Omar Zakhilwal, met with his Pakistani counterpart Ishaq Dar on Sunday; they held discussions on options to boost bilateral trade, and the establishment of a cross-border water management commission. [BBC] [ET]
  • Election Preparations: In his press conference on Saturday, Pres Karzai said that it would be “good for the country” if only two to four major candidates contested the upcoming presidential elections; he named Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, Abdullah Abdullah, and Ashraf Ghani as possible candidates but did not explicitly endorse any of them. Afghanistan’s ambassador to Pakistan and former Karzai chief of staff Umar Daudzai is also a possible candidate; he gave an interview to TOLO over the weekend, as did former Interior Minister Ali Ahmad Jalali. The committee to produce nominees for the Electoral Complaints Commission held its first meeting on Saturday; the committee continues to operate without representation from civil society groups. The Independent Election Commission will hold a meeting to review security for the elections soon. [TOLO]
  • Taliban Talks: Speaking to a meeting of the Afghan Ulema Council on Friday, Pres. Karzai said that “everyone knew the Taliban had lost their independence” in Qatar but that the government “would press ahead” on reconciliation.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Years Later, Taraok Kolache Village Reflects on U.S. Bombardment [WAPO]
  • ANP Officials Report Progress on Law Enforcement [TOLO]
  • Karzai Orders Investigation into Alleged Oil Price Manipulation by Ghazanfar Group [TOLO]
  • Commentary: Déjà Vu All Over Again: The Af-Pak Rollercoaster and a Possible New Taliban Office – “Kabul’s attempts at wooing Islamabad to open talks with the Taleban have been a diplomatic roller coaster, rendering chances for serious cooperation dim.” [Borhan Osman, AAN]
  • Commentary: Dances With Warlords: Karzai’s Latest Grist for the Presidential Rumor Mill – “That Karzai may be privately floating different candidates to gauge internal and external reactions, or that his opposition is simply intent on discrediting him, are both possible explanations.” [Mara Tchalakov, ISW]
  • Commentary: Karzai’s Most Dangerous Game – “While endorsing Sayyaf may seem like a harmless tactic for Karzai to extract guarantees for his future, if he doesn’t dispense with it soon, it could become destructive.” [Jeffrey Stern, AfPak Channel]
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