Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: 17 Killed in Peshawar Bus Bombing; U.S. Afghanistan Troop Levels Fall to 54k

Topline

  • Seventeen people have been killed in an attack on a bus carrying government employees in Peshawar. In a WSJ interview, Prime Minister indicates militant groups “will have to renounce terrorism” and will have to disarm in any negotiations. Disaster relief efforts continue in Balochistan, where military personnel continue to come under small arms attack. U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan have fallen to around 54,000, with further cuts to take place through the fall and winter. Prime Minister Sharif and Pres. Obama will meet in Washington on October 23. Mullah Baradar remains under effective house arrest in Pakistan, Reuters reports. Pres. Karzai is in China, skipping the UN General Assembly session in New York this week.

Pakistan — Security

  • Peshawar Bus Bombing: At least seventeen people have been killed and more than forty injured in a bomb planted in the back of a bus carrying government employees home from work in Peshawar to the town of Charsadda. No claim of responsibility for the attack has yet been reported. [AJE] [BBC]
  • Taliban Talks: Following meetings between Secretary Kerry and PM Sharif at the UN General Assembly on Thursday, U.S. State Department officials reported that Sharif had conveyed that the Pakistani government was “also looking at alternatives” to negotiations with the Tehreeke-e-Taliban Pakistan “including more vigorous police and military action, should those negotiations fail”. In a wide-ranging WSJ interview on Thursday, Sharif said that militants engaging in talks with the government “will have to renounce terrorism” and “will have to abide by the constitution of Pakistan, adding that “if we agree on addressing this terrorism, they will have to be disarmed, lay down their arms.” Sharif also warned that continued U.S. Predator drone strikes could “break the talks, which must be avoided at all costs”. Separately, the Express Tribune reports that Gen. Kayani briefed Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif on plans for a new “Rapid Deployment Force” of military and civilian security personnel on Thursday. [ET]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Sharif in New York: Following Thursday’s meetings between Sec. Kerry and Prime Minister Sharif, White House officials announced that Pres. Obama would hold bilateral talks with Sharif in Washington on October 23. Speaking at the UN General Assembly meeting on nuclear disarmament on Thursday, Sharif argued for an “end to nuclear discrimination”, saying that Pakistan required civil nuclear technology to overcome its domestic energy crises and warning of the consequences of a nuclear arms race in South Asia. Despite attacks on a police station and army base in Indian-administered Kashmir on Thursday, a planned meeting between Sharif and Indian Prime Minister Singh is expected to take place. [Dawn] [ET]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Earthquake Disaster Response: The death toll from Tuesday’s earthquake in Balochistan has risen to 359 as of Friday, officials report; aftershocks have continued in recent days. Al Jazeera sources suggest that the toll could exceed 500; residents complain of slow responses from government relief agencies. Pakistani military officials say they are continuing relief efforts despite attacks on their personnel yesterday by suspected Balochistan separatist groups; a spokesman for the provincial government appealed to those groups to halt attacks, and on the national government to allow international humanitarian organizations to take part in relief efforts. Small arms attacks on two helicopters carrying supplies in the Awaran district were reported on Friday, but there were no injuries. [NYT]
  • Saudi Arabia Loans for Dam Project: Pakistan signed an agreement with Saudi Arabia for a $100 million loan to support the completion of the Neelum Jhelum Hydropower Project, which has increased in cost fourfold since it was originally approved; total foreign funding costs are estimated at $1.6 billion, of which the government is still seeking $475 million in financing. [ET] [APP]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Sweep Arrests Continue in Karachi [Dawn] [APP]
  • 23 People Killed in Swat Dengue Outbreak [AFP]
  • PML-N Balochistan Chapter Leader Killed in Khuzdar [The Nation]
  • Prime Minister’s Office to Establish ‘Public Affairs Unit’ [ET]
  • Supreme Court Warns of Restoration of Old Local Government System if Elections are Not Held [ET]
  • New Election Ordered After Khyber Paktunkhwa Provincial Assembly Member Disqualified for Fake Degree [ET]
  • Supreme Court Rejects Musharraf Request for Release in Bugti Murder Case [Dawn]
  • Government Nears Choice on Pakistan Telecom Authority Appointments [ET]
  • Interview: Transcript of Remarks by Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif [WSJ]

Afghanistan — Security

  • U.S. Troop Levels Fall: As part of the ongoing drawdown of forces, the Pentagon has withdrawn around 12,000 troops from the Afghan theater over the past several months, leaving around 54,500 there as of late September, the Army Times reports. Troop levels will fall to less than 34,000 by February. American trainers will be withdrawn from Afghan units below the brigade level later this fall.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Baradar Under House Arrest: Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar remains under “virtual house arrest” in Pakistan, with Pakistani officials still in control of access to him, Reuters reports. A Pakistani intelligence source says that “Baradar has been instructed by security personnel guarding him to make calls to try to persuade the Taliban to bring an end to the bloodshed and enter into meaningful dialogue”; a spokesman for the Afghan Taliban said he could not confirm any contacts with Baradar since his release.
  • Karzai in China: Pres. Karzai spoke at the 2013 Euro-Asia Economic Forum in China on Thursday, where he expressed support for the reopening of the “Silk Route” between East and Central Asian states. TOLO quotes anonymous “political parties” who attribute Karzai’s decision to skip the UN General Assembly as an effort to pressure the United States to make concessions on the stalled bilateral security agreement.
  • Elections: Mahmoud Karzai tells the BBC Persian service that his elder brother, Qayyum Karzai, will run for the presidency. Separately, Independent Election Commission officials have expressed concerns over continued low voter registration by women; an Oxfam International survey in Kabul and Balkh found that almost 90% of men are opposed to women’s participationi n the political process.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Social Media ‘Proliferating Rapidly’ Among Afghan Youth [Guardian] [TOLO]
  • Commentary: Families of Disappeared End a 30 Year Wait for News – “The publication of the death list by the Dutch is the first publicly available evidence of the fate of some of those who were forcibly disappeared in 1978 and 1979.” [Kate Clark, AAN]

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