Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Sayyaf and Sherzai to Run in Afghan Elections; Police Raid Local MQM Office in Karachi

Topline

  • Abdul Sayyaf and Nangarhar governor Gul Agha Sherzai both announce their intentions to resign from their current positions and contest the Afghan presidential elections. Karachi police and paramilitary Rangers announced arrests and raids on MQM offices, explicitly linking a number of party activists to recent murders in the city. Pres. Karzai repeats demands for bilateral security agreement with the United States. Pakistani Taliban sources claim to be willing to engage in peace negotiations but say the government must take the first steps. Nominees have been forwarded for appointment as Pakistan’s chairman of the joint chiefs of staff. An Afghan commission investigating detentions at Bagram facility has concluded over 400 inmates were imprisoned without sufficient evidence. Two Pakistani soldiers were killed in a landmine explosion during earthquake relief efforts in Mashkary on Wednesday.

Pakistan — Security

  • Karachi Police Make MQM Arrests: Karachi police officials have announced the arrest of Kazim Abbasi Rizvi in connection with Naimat Ali Randhawa, a lawyer investigating the January 2011 death of Pashtun journalist Wali Khan Babar; Rizvi has been linked to the MQM, and at least eight other targeted killings. Court officials placed him under judicial remand until October 18 on Wednesday. Separately, the paramilitary Rangers raided MQM party offices in the Landhi neighborhood on Tuesday, where they announced the seizure of “Indian-made” light machine guns; fourteen arrests were made. MQM officials denounced both actions and denied the charges. [Dawn]
  • Talks with Pakistani Taliban: Following yesterday’s statement from Deobandi clerical leaders calling for a “complete ceasefire” and the beginning of talks between the government and the Pakistani Taliban, the militant group’s chief spokesman tells Dawn that “there is no ill-will to the peace process among the Taliban leadership” but that the government would need to “take the lead” in halting the conflict. On Tuesday, the Khyber Paktunkhwa assembly passed a unanimous resolution condemning recent attacks in Peshawar but urging the federal government to “start process of dialogue under the guidelines of the APC to restore peace in the country including Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.” The Nation reports that the government has begun meetings with the Deobandi clerical leaders and that they will serve as intermediaries in outreach efforts. Maualana Fazlur Rehman reiterated his calls for a JUI-F-organized jirga on Tuesday.
  • Military Appointments: Three candidates – Admiral Muhammad Asif, Lt. Gen. Haroon Aslam, and Air Chief Marshal Tahir Rafique – have been forwarded to the prime minister’s office for consideration for the position of chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The position is officially the highest ranking military officer in the armed forces, although in practice the chief of army staff remains the most powerful of the three services; Aslam, the seniormost army officer after current Chief of Army Staff Gen. Kayani, is expected to receive the appointment. Current Joint Chiefs chairman Khalid Shameem Wyne will retire October 8.
  • Border Crossing Bombing: A suicide bomber detonated at the Pak-Afghan Customs House at the Chaman border crossing on Wednesday, killing eight people and wounding sixteen; the border was subsequently closed. No claim of responsibility has been reported.
  • Terror Suspect Freed: On Wednesday, the Lahore High Court ordered the release of Zubair, alias Nek Muhammad, who had been held since June 2009 for allegedly planning the attack on the visiting Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore, concluding that the government had offered “no solid proof of his involvement in the attack”.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Local Elections: Rebutting a GEO news report yesterday, the Election Commission released a statement on Tuesday that it was “totally incorrect” to say that it was unwilling to hold local government elections before the end of the year. The Exress Tribune reports that Balochistan provincial officials have decided to hold local elections on December 7, 2013, and that they will seek military and paramilitary assistance in securing the polls.

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Energy Price Hikes: As noted yesterday, opposition leaders from the PPP, PTI, and MQM all submitted adjournment motions in the national assembly to protest the electricity tariff increases instituted on October 1. The Supreme Court has warned that it may block the price increase on statutory grounds. The Nation notes that the additional increase in oil and fuel prices corresponds with the rupee’s ongoing depreciation against the dollar. [ET] [ET]
  • Balochistan Relief Efforts: Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Balochistan Chief Minister Abdul Qadir Baloch renewed a request for international assistance in the quake relief efforts in Awaran. Baloch acknowledged “difficulties” in organizing the relief effort but claimed to have conducted negotiations with local militant groups to secure access for relief supplies; on Wednesday, two soldiers were killed and two injured in a land mine explosion while carrying out relief work in the town of Mashkay, one of the worst-hit. No claim of responsibility was reported. Separately, the Express Tribune notes that survivors’ lack of national identity cards has limited their ability to access relief supplies. [Dawn] [ET] [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • State Bank Governor Estimates $9 Billion in Annual Currency Smuggling [ET]
  • The Potholes Facing Pakistan’s Mobile Courts [WSJ]
  • Army to Guard Polio Vaccinators in Khyber Paktunkhwa Campaign [Dawn]
  • Tilapia Fish in Frontline of Pakistan’s Fight Against Dengue Virus [Guardian]
  • Arrests Made in January Abbottabad Military Academy Attack [ET]
  • 264 Lawmakers Yet to File Asset Statements [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Bilateral Security Agreement Negotiations: Pajhwok reports that in a meeting with Afghan tribal elders on Tuesday, Pres. Karzai said that he would only sign a bilateral security agreement with the U.S. after coming to a common agreement on the need to protect Afghanistan from “foreign aggression”. Karzai added that “the US wants to continue their military action beyond 2014 in the name of war on Al-Qaeda and other groups allied with it, but we consider this a violation of our sovereignty.” Karzai’s spokesman repeated to reporters on Tuesday that “unilaterally having the right to conduct military operations is in no way acceptable for Afghans.” Karzai is now reportedly personally leading the Afghan side of the talks.
  • Detentions Investigations: The head of the committee appointed by Pres. Karzai to investigate prisoner cases at Bagram prison told reporters on Tuesday that 433 inmates had been found to have been wrongly imprisoned without any supporting evidence. Another 86 cases were referred to the Attorney General for further investigation.
  • Arrest in Insider Attacks Case: ISAF officials report that a former Afghan National Army sergeant linked to an attack on three Australian soldiers in Uruzgan last year had been arrested in Pakistan earlier in February and was deported this week back to Afghanistan to face trial. [BBC]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Presidential Candidates Announce: Additional reporting on Abdullah Abdullah’s presidential candidacy filing yesterday confirms that Muhammad Khan, the deputy head of Hezb-e-Islami, will join the ticket as first vice president and Muhammad Muhaqiq of Hezb-e-Wahdat will run as second vice president. Former parliamentary speaker Yunus Qanooni accompanied Abdullah and endorsed him, as did Jamiat-e-Islami leaders Atta Mohammad Noor and Salahuddin Rabbani. Herat commander Ismail Khan was absent; the WSJ suggests that he may instead join a ticket with Abdul Sayyaf. On Wednesday, Sayyaf announced his resignation from parliament and intention to file his candidacy. Also on Wednesday, Nangarhar governor Gul Agha Sherzai announced his resignation and intention to run.

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