Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Afghan Presidential Candidates Register; Gen Kayani Says He Will Retire in November

Topline

  • Several high-profile Afghan presidential candidates file their registrations on Sunday, including Qayum Karzai, former defense minister Abdul Rahim Wardak, and former foreign minister Zalmay Rassoul. Gen. Kayani rules out further extensions to his service and says he will retire at the end of his tenure in November. U.S.-Afghanistan bilateral security agreement talks remain deadlocked, and U.S. officials warn that absent a breakthrough in the next month, they will begin preparations for the total withdrawal of U.S. forces from the country. The Pakistani Taliban’s chief spokesman denies involvement in last month’s attack on Peshawar’s All Saint’s Church, but supports it as being done “according to the Sharia”. Jamaat-e-Islami’s conference on counterterrorism policy repeats calls on the government to open talks with the TTP. The Pakistani government has temporarily suspended its recent consumer electricity price hikes, pending a new regulatory from NEPRA that is likely to be backdated to the start of the month.

Pakistan — Security

  • Kayani Announces Retirement: Following further media speculation that Chief of Army Staff Kayani was being considered for appointment as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, with expanded powers, after current CJCS Wynne’s tenure expires on October 6, Kayani issued a statement on Sunday announcing that he would retire as scheduled at the end of his tenure on November 29. Kayani’s statement said that “it is time for others to carry forward the mission of making Pakistan a truly democratic, prosperous and peaceful country that embodies the finest dreams our founding fathers had envisaged for us”. Prime Minister Sharif had met with Kayani and Wynne on Friday during visits to some of the country’s nuclear command facilities, although details of his discussions have not been publicly disclosed; Lt. Gen. Haroon Aslam, the seniormost army officer after Kayani, is considered to be the top choice to take the CJCS posting. Anonymous Pakistani government officials tell the WSJ that an appointment as defense advisor or ambassador to Washington is still possible after his retirement, however. [NYT] [Dawn]
  • TTP Denies Responsibility, but Endorses, Peshawar Church Attack: In an interview with the BBC’s Urdu service on Friday, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan’s main spokesman, Shahidullah Shahid, denied that the group or any of its affiliates had carried out the September 22 bombing attack on Peshawar’s All Saints Church. He acknowledged that individual TTP commanders were free to take their own initiative to carry out attacks, however, and said that the church bombing was done “according to the Sharia”. The AP reports that Shahid also spoke with a group of reporters in Waziristan on Saturday, telling them that “yes, we are terrorists, but we are against the system of the infidels,” and claiming support from the Afghan Taliban. The Sunni Ittehad Council issued a joint statement of clerical leaders on Saturday rebutting the TTP’s justifications of attacks, noting that “Islam forbids damaging the places of worship of all religions” and saying that the Taliban “don’t deserve any leniency” from the government. On Friday, Jamaat-e-Islami hosted an all-parties conference in Peshawar; the PPP, ANP, PML-Q, and JUI-S and JUI-F attended, but PML-N and PTI did not. The session’s joint statement called on the federal government to “start talks without further delay” and “ensure [the] presence of every armed group in the peace talks.” On Sunday, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said that the government would support offers by an association of Deobandi madrassa leaders to mediate talks with the Taliban; he gave no further details, but said that dialogue had the “full backing” of both the prime minister and the military leadership. [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET]
  • India Tensions: Also speaking on Friday, Indian President Pranab Mukherjee said that India “wants to have good relations with Pakistan”, but that “terrorist activities must be curbed. And state-sponsored terrorism can never be accepted”. Pakistani Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jillani responded that “levelling allegations against Pakistan in the media is mere propaganda” and told reporters on Saturday that Pakistan had also shared evidence of Indian interference in the Balochistan conference “at all forums”. Pakistani officials accuse Indian artillery fire across the Line of Control of killing a child and wounding five civilians in Kashmir on Friday; another two people were reportedly injured in firing on Sunday.
  • Polio Campaigners Attacked: Two people were killed and at least thirteen injured in a bombing at a medical facility in the Peshawar outskirts on Monday; the attack took place as workers were distributing polio vaccination materials, and a second bomb in the area was found and defused. Al Jazeera reports that a police van providing security for the campaign was the target of the attack, while the BBC suggests that a local anti-Taliban militia force was targeted.

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Electricity Price Hike Suspended: Following Friday’s Supreme Court hearings, the government has announced the suspension of consumer electricity price hikes imposed at the start of the month, and, per the court’s prodding, will instead seek a formal regulatory order from the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority. Dawn reports that that process will likely to take two to three weeks for approval, and that the increase will be backdated to the start of October.
  • Fiscal Policy: On Friday, the Federal Board of Revenue imposed an additional 2% general sales tax on a number of manufacturing components and houseware items. Finance ministry officials tell the Express Tribune that the fiscal deficit for the first July-September quarter was equivalent to 1.1% of GDP, lower than IMF targets of 1.7% of GDP; officials and analysts express concerns that subsequent quarterly deficits are likely to rise, however.
  • Balochistan Quake Relief: Saudi Arabia has pledged Rs 20 million (~$188,000) in relief assistance for survivors of the Awaran quake in late September, the first tranche of which was delivered on Friday. UNICEF officials reported on Friday that the quake destroyed 191 schools in the area, depriving more than 10,000 students of education facilities. The government has yet to formally appeal for international assistance from the UN and other organizations. Military spokesmen said that relief efforts in the area were continuing despite attacks from Baloch militants, and that approximately 1,100 tons of food and 30,000 tents had been distributed. [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Visiting CENTCOM Chief Assures Pakistan of Continued Coalition Support Fund Payments [Dawn]
  • ANP Expels Azam Khan Hoti for ‘Violating Party Discipline’ [Dawn]
  • Former Interior Minister Rehman Malik Accused of Personal Use of Ministry Funds [ET]
  • PPP-PML-N National Accountability Bureau Appointment Negotiations Continue [ET] [ET]
  • North Waziristan Journalist Freed After Kidnapping [AFP]
  • Security Personnel Killed in Bannu Attack [Dawn] [ET]
  • Interior Minister Orders Cancellation of Over 2,000 Illegally Issued Passports [Dawn] [ET]
  • Punjab Governor Promulgates Right to Information Ordinance [Dawn]
  • Arrests Continue in Karachi Crackdown [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Terror Alert in Chilas Leads to Two Arrests [Dawn]
  • By-Poll Held in Dera Ghazi Khan [Dawn]
  • Family Members Bring Blasphemy Complaint Against Karachi Man [ET]
  • Interview: Malala Yousafzai [BBC]
  • Commentary: Don’t Do It, Prime Minister – “The military may need reorganising, the army may need a different set-up at the top, but necessary or desirable restructuring must never be tied to the fate of a single man.” [Cyril Almeida, Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Bilateral Security Negotiations at Impasse: Anonymous U.S. administration officials speaking to the NYT warn that absent a breakthrough in the stalled bilateral security agreement negotiations to establish the parameters of a post-2014 U.S. force in Afghanistan, “this fall, we are going to have to make plans for the future accordingly.” U.S. officials say agreement has been reached on legal immunity for U.S. forces in the country, but that Afghanistan is demanding a security guarantee that could potentially obligate U.S. action against Pakistan, and control over counterterrorism operations against Al Qaeda, both of which the U.S. has ruled out. Afghan officials have confirmed those sticking points and have suggested that they are in no hurry to conclude the agreement; several opposition presidential candidates have called on the government to sign the deal, but U.S. officials say they do not want to continue negotiations during the election campaign season, and that talks would likely be suspended at least until next summer if an agreement is not reached soon.
  • Civilian Casualties: Afghan officials say that five civilians, including three children, were killed in a NATO airstrike near Jalalabad on Friday; ISAF officials say they were investigating the reports and could not confirm any civilian casualties. [AJE]
  • Coalition Forces Killed: Four U.S. soldiers were killed while on joint patrol with Afghan forces in Kandahar’s Zari district on Sunday, the worst toll in a single attack for coalition forces since June. Details are limited, but Taliban spokesmen claimed responsibility and said that they had rigged a house to explode as soldiers were conducting a search. Separately, an American soldier was killed by an Afghan guard at Forward Operating Base Apache in Qalat, Zabul on Saturday.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Presidential Candidate Registration Concludes: Candidate registration for Afghanistan’s April 2014 presidential elections closed on Sunday night; in the final hours, several prominent political leaders filed their candidacies, including Pres. Karzai’s elder brother Qayyum Karzai, former defense minister Abdul Rahim Wardak, former foreign Minister Zalmay Rassoul, transition leader and former finance minister Ashraf Ghani, and former Nangarhar governor Gul Agha Sherzai. Former opposition leader Ahmad Zia Massoud has joined Rassoul’s ticket as a vice president; Uzbek leader Abdul Rashid Dostum has similarly joined Ghani’s campaign, and former Minister of Mines Wahidullah Shahrani has partnered with Qayum Karzai. The WSJ profiles Wardak and interviews Massoud. There does not appear to be any clear frontrunner among the diverse range of tickets, although most analysts indicate that Rassoul is Pres. Karzai’s favored successor. The NYT reports that Karzai is planning to move to a new residence adjacent to the presidential palace after his term ends, and that he holds aspirations to continue on as a “presidential advisor for life”; Karzai has made several appointment reshufflings in the run-up to the elections and is expected to continue to use his patronage powers in an attempt to sway the outcome. TOLO provides the complete list of registered candidates and their vice presidential tickets; an additional 2,327 candidates registered to contest provincial council elections, 240 of them women. The Electoral Complaints Commission is scheduled to begin reviewing candidate applications on Monday. On Friday, Pres. Karzai directed the country’s security agencies to take further steps to provide additional security for election workers, and for the Ministry of Interior to hire additional female police officers to provide security at womens’ polling stations. [WSJ] [WAPO] [AJE] [AP] [TOLO] [TOLO] [Pajhwok] [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Norway Cuts Aid: Citing a lack of progress on protecting women’s rights and combating corruption, Norwegian diplomats said that they would cut their annual assistance to Afghanistan by 50 million kroner (~$8.3 million), to around 700 million kroner (~$117 million) in aid.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Suspicion in Afghanistan Grows as Baradar Remains Out of Sight [ET]
  • Taliban Tactics: Stealing the Enemy’s Uniform [BBC]
  • Commentary: The Last Minute Frenzy of Afghanistan’s Candidate Registration – “The registration of presidential candidates for the 2014 elections has descended into a last minute scramble, with almost everybody who had even fleetingly considered running, finally making their way to the IEC.” [Martine van Bijlert, AAN]

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