Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Sharif and Singh Meet Amid Tensions; Afghan VP Fahim Endorses Abdullah Candidacy

Topline

  • Prime Ministers Sharif and Singh meet in New York amid high tensions; both sides agree to take efforts to maintain the Line of Control ceasefire in Kashmir, but no major breakthroughs in relations are announced. Another major bombing has struck a market in Peshawar, killing at least 42 people; the Pakistani Taliban have denied responsibility. Pakistani Taliban commanders have rejected government conditions on talks and accuse it of lacking the authority to engage in negotiations. Afghan First Vice President Fahim has announced support for Abdullah Abdullah’s presidential candidacy, and appears be seeking to join his as-yet unfinalized ticket as vice president in exchange for that endorsement. Another large earthquake hit Balochistan on Saturday, where unofficial reports indicate more than 500 casualties since last Tuesday; attacks by local militant groups against military relief efforts continue. Two Predator drone strikes were reported in North Waziristan on Sunday and Monday. Afghan government officials confirm they have yet to hold direct talks with Mullah Baradar.

Pakistan — Security

  • Peshawar Bombing: Another major bombing — the third in the past week — struck Peshawar on Sunday, when a car packed with explosives was remotely detonated near a police station in the historic Qissa Khawani market on Sunday, killing at least 42 people. Police investigators say they believe the market crowd, not the station, was the target; the blast took place only a few hundred meters away from last Sunday’s attack on the Peshawar All Saints Church. No immediate claim of responsibility has been reported for the attack, and the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan’s primary spokesman denies involvement in comments to Dawn. Prime Minister Sharif and PTI leader Imran Khan both condemned the attack; PPP opposition leaders accused the PML-N government of failing to form a strategy to confront terrorism, while JUI-F leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman called for the PTI government in Khyber Paktunkhwa to resign. On Sunday, the Khyber Paktunkhwa government announced that two special task forces led by city police officials would be established to tighten security in Peshawar and that a “targeted operation” would be undertaken. [NYT] [WSJ] [AJE] [WAPO] [Dawn]
  • Pakistani Taliban Commanders Criticize Peace Efforts: Omar Khalid, the head of the Pakistani Taliban’s Mohmand Agency chapter, released a statement on Friday saying that “we will not budge an inch from our demand for enforcement of Islamic Shariah in the country,” adding that “we will withdraw support from any Taliban commander who compromises on this demand”. Khalid insisted that there were “no rifts within the TTP”, however. On Saturday, Shahidullah Shahid, the group’s main spokesman, told reporters that the TTP “will hold talks with the government only when it gets the authority to take decisions,” refusing to accept talks preconditions, including disarmament and respect for the constitution, suggested by Sharif in a WSJ interview last week, which Shahid attributed to American interference. On Sunday, Swat Taliban commander Maulana Fazlullah released a video statement to Dawn claiming responsibility for the September 15 attack on senior Pakistani military officers in Upper Dir, and reiterated that “the government of Pakistan is a slave and not sovereign” and “has not fulfilled a single agreement in the past and has instead accused us of violating the agreements.” [ET] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Drone Strikes: As many as six militant suspects were killed near Miram Shah, North Waziristan, in a suspected Predator drone strike on Sunday. A second strike was reported in North Waziristan on Monday, in which at least two people were killed. No information on the targets’ identities or affiliations has been reported in either strike.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Sharif and Singh Meet: In his address to the UN General Assembly on Friday, Prime Minister Sharif called for a “new beginning towards peace in South Asia”, lamenting the “waste of massive resources” by the two sides in their nuclear and conventional arms buildups, and suggesting that the two countries can “prosper together”. An attack on an Indian army base in Kashmir killed ten security personnel last Thursday, heightening tensions; Pakistan’s foreign ministry condemned the incident. Prime Minister Singh met with Pres. Obama in Washington on Friday, and afterwards told reporters that “expectations have to be toned down given the terror arm which is still active in our subcontinent”. In his address to the UN General Assembly on Saturday, Singh said that he shared Sharif’s stated hopes for improved relations but that “for progress to be made, it is imperative that the territory of Pakistan and the areas under its control are not utilised for aiding or abetting terrorism”, reiterating a description of Pakistan as the “epicenter of terrorism in our region”. Anonymous senior Indian officials tell Dawn that they are doubtful that Sharif possesses “full control” over the Pakistani security apparatus. Indian Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid echoes the point in a WSJ interview, adding that Pakistan must take action to prosecute those responsible for the 2008 Mumbai attacks for peace to proceed. Pakistani Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan rejected Khurshid’s remarks on the role of the Pakistani military in a statement on Sunday. Speaking to supporters on Sunday, opposition BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi noted Singh’s meeting with Sharif and said that “the country doubts whether the prime minister has the courage to discuss the issue of terrorism unleashed on us by Pakistan”. Sharif and Singh finally met in New York on Sunday, where they agreed to take efforts to tighten the ceasefire along the line of control in Kashmir, according to the Indian national security advisor afterwards, who described the meeting as “useful”. No joint statement was issued; both sides exchanged invitations for the other to visit their respective countries, but no dates were fixed. [NYT] [ET] [ET] [AJE] [AFP]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Balochistan Hit By Another Quake: A second earthquake in less than a week hit Balochistan on Saturday; the 6.8-magnitude earthquake was independent of the continuing aftershocks from last Tuesday’s 7.7-magnitude quake, Pakistani seismological officials say. The second quake was also centered in the Awaran district; at least 15 people were killed. Official National Disaster Management Authority death tolls from the earlier quake stand at around 375, but Balochistan’s chief secretary told Reuters and other journalists on Friday that as many as 515 people had been killed. Minister for States and Frontier Region Abdul Qadir Baloch and Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan both visited Awaran on Friday, where they pledged support for relief efforts; the chief ministers of Punjab and Sindh have also offered financial assistance, and Prime Minister Sharif has established a special quake relief fund to collect donations. Survivors complain to the AP of slow government response, which has been complicated by attacks from local militant groups; thousands are reportedly without shelter and food, although local officials say supplies have begun to arrive. Allah Nazar, the leader of the Balochistan Liberation Front, alleges to the Express Tribune that army deployments in the area are being used as a cover to carry out attacks on Baloch separatist groups, and says that international or private civilian assistance in the area would be welcomed. On Monday, a convoy carrying Chief Minister Abdul Malik Baloch through Awaran was attacked by rockets; no injuries were reported. [AJE] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [ET]
  • IMF Repayment: Pakistan made a $146.6 million repayment to the IMF on Friday; to date, it has repaid over $5.2 billion on its $7.8 billion loan program, first agreed to in 2008. Central bank foreign currency reserves have fallen further to at least $4.9 billion, as the State Bank has reportedly intervened to halt the depreciation of the rupee of the dollar, in apparent violation of the new IMF program agreed to earlier in September. [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Pakistan Objects to Four More Indian Hydropower Projects [Dawn]
  • PPP Plans Organizational Overhaul [ET]
  • Suspected Militant Killed in Clash Between Rival TTP Factions in Karachi [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Former Police Officer Arrested in Death of Lyari Gang Leader [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • PTI Deadlocked Over Khyber Paktunkhwa Local Government Law [ET]
  • PPP Leaders Allege Rigging in NA-139 Kasur General Elections [ET]
  • Pakistan Misses Millennium Development Goal Targets But Pledges Continued Efforts [ET]
  • Meeting Planned on Deadlocked National Accountability Bureau Appointment [Dawn] [ET]
  • Five More Polio Cases Reporterd in FATA and Peshawar [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Pakistan International Airlines Goes from Success Story to Brink of Collapse [ET] [ET]
  • Supreme Court Calls for Expedited 3G Spectrum Auction [ET]
  • Malala Yousafzai Honored at Harvard [AP] [WAPO]
  • Commentary: Understanding Imran – “If the idea of talks and only talks was a scary enough position Khan had staked out, what was scarier was the realisation that Khan was only speaking to the TTP through his speeches and TV appearances.” [Cyrila Almeida, Dawn]
  • Commentary: Pakistan’s Next Chinese Reactor – “This Sino-Pakistan reactor deal isn’t any different from any other transaction anywhere else where a nuclear power plant exporter is selling his wares to a foreign client: Money talks, and each side will try to leverage its political assets to gain commercial advantage.” [Mark Hibbs, Arms Control Wonk]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Bilateral Security Agreement: The Afghan foreign ministry’s spokesman told reporters on Sunday that unofficial talks with the U.S. on the bilateral security agreement were ongoing, but that the U.S. would need to accept “the demands of the Afghan government” in order for it to be signed.
  • Attacks: Two police officers and three civilians were killed in an attack on a police checkpoint in Herat on Monday, officials report. On Saturday, two separate roadside bombings in Ghazni and Uruzgan killed five civilians. On Sunday, several Afghan senators accused the defense and interior ministries of failing to address insecurity in the country, particularly ahead of upcoming national elections; some senators alleged that local district security officials were falsifying reports on the situation in their areas. The Wolesi Jirga has summoned top officials to provide briefings within the next week on security preparations.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Election Negotiations: Less than a week remains until the deadline for presidential candidacy registration; so far, only one candidate has formally registered. On Saturday, spokesmen for First Vice President Mohammad Qasim Fahim announced that he would endorse Abdullah Abdullah’s candidacy, and suggested that he would do so in exchange for a continued vice presidential slot. Former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad met with supporters in Herat on Friday, who urged him to run. Separately, the Independent Election Commission announced plans to expand voter registration efforts to rural villages beginning Saturday, with a particular focus on recruiting women voters.
  • No Talks Yet with Baradar: Afghanistan’s foreign ministry spokesman, Janan Mosazai, told reporters on Sunday that the government has not yet made direct contact with former Taliban deputy commander Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar since Pakistan announced his release earlier this month, citing a “time crunch” and “unavailability of officials” taking part in the UN General Assembly session and Pres. Karzai’s trip to China. Mosazai said that “we are waiting for the Pakistani government to start working on the next step of the peace process”. [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Donor Oversight: Dragos Kos, the head of the international Monitoring and Evaluation Committee for Afghanistan aid, warns Reuters that donors are likely to cut their assistance to the government, citing the failure to fire or prosecute any high-ranking officials in connection to multiple corruption charges. Separately, Afghan journalists have alleged widespread corruption within the Ministry of Reconstruction and Rural Development, including reports of the sale of positions, embezzlement, and unauthorized money withdrawals; ministry spokesmen said that “ninety percent of these allegations are not true” and that the rest were under investigation.
  • Karzai in China: Pres. Karzai met with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang in Beijing on Friday; Karzai described China as an “anchor of stability for this region and the larger world”. The AP indicates the Chinese mining project at Mes Aynak was a focus of discussion in bilateral meetings, but provides no further details of those talks.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • At American University of Afghanistan, Anxiety About the Future as U.S. Pullout Nears [WAPO]
  • Wolesi Jirga Approves Amendments to Media Law [TOLO] [TOLO]
  • Ceremony Marks Death of Najibullah [TOLO]
  • Commentary: Mursi in Kabul: Afghan Islamists Scrutinize Democracy in the Wake of Egypt’s Coup – “A number of rallies in support of Egypt’s ousted president, Muhammad Mursi, and in solidarity with the Muslim Brotherhood recently brought together Afghanistan’s diverse Islamist groups in rare unanimity of opinion.” [Borhan Osman, AAN]
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