Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Hakimullah Mehsud ‘Open to Talks’; Pakistan Foreign Ministry Insists Baradar Freed

Topline

  • Pakistani Taliban commander Hakimullah Mehsud tells the BBC he is “open to talks” with the government and denies involvement in recent large-scale attacks on civilian targets around Peshawar. Pakistani foreign ministry officials insist Mullah Baradar is free to move on his own, although anonymous security officials contradict that claim. Pakistani Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani will reportedly be appointed ambassador to the United States. Pervez Musharraf may leave for Dubai today after making bail in the last major court case against him yesterday. Pres. Karzai has ordered security preparations for a loya jirga on the still-unfinalized U.S.-Afghan bilateral security agreement. A bomb in Lahore’s Old Anarkali market killed one and wounded a dozen people.

Pakistan — Security

  • Hakimullah Mehsud ‘Open to Talks’: In a rare interview, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan commander Hakimullah Mehsud tells the BBC that he is ready for “serious talks” but says that the government has not yet approached him. Mehsud denies involvement in attacks on civilian targets, suggesting that “the purpose behind those attacks is to move the masses against Taliban so that public support towards us is stopped” and saying that “we have targeted those who are with the infidels, America, and we will continue to target them.” Mehsud did not specify preconditions for talks, but said that for any ceasefire to be credible, “it is important for drone strikes to be stopped”; he also repeated calls for Pakistan to be governed under “an Islamic system”. Prime Minister Sharif visited Peshawar to meet with the survivors of recent attacks there, saying afterwards that he was “prime minister of every Pakistani irrespective of their religion and ethnicity” and vowing to stabilize the security situation in the country. [Guardian] [Dawn] [Reuters]
  • Lahore Bombing: One person was killed and a dozen wounded when a bomb exploded in the Old Anarkali market in Lahore on Thursday, the same site of a previous bombing that took place in early July this year. No claim of responsibility has been reported. [ET]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Ambassador to US Appointed: Anonymous foreign ministry officials report that Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani will be appointed Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States, filling a position that has been vacant since the May general elections. Jilani, a career diplomat, previous served as ambassador to the EU and Belgium. Abdul Basit, who formerly served as the foreign spokesman and is currently Pakistan’s ambassador to Germany, is said to be Jilani’s likely replacement as foreign secretary. Separately, Prime Minister Sharif and President Mamnoon Hussain met on Wednesday to consider appointments for the chief of army staff and chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, with Lt. Gen. Rashid Mahmood and Lt. Gen. Haroon Aslam reportedly the top candidates for the respective posts.
  • Musharraf Receives Bail: After being granted bail in the last major case against him on Wednesday, former Pres. Musharraf could leave the country as soon as today, his lawyer said. Ahmad Raza Khan Qasuri, the vice president of Musharraf’s APML party, suggested that he may depart house arrest for Dubai, to visit his 90-year old mother there. Other aides suggest that Musharraf might still attempt to fight the charges against him and remain in Pakistan, particularly as Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry’s tenure is due to end in December. [BBC] [AP] [Dawn]
  • Malala Yousafzai Wins EU Human Rights Prize: Teenage education activist Malala Yousafzai was awarded the European Union’s Sakharov prize for human rights on Thursday; the award will be presented in a ceremony in November. [BBC] [AJE] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Election Challenges: PPP leader Aitzaz Ahsan joined the PTI in calling for Supreme Court investigations into what he said was evidence of “massive rigging” in Punjab, which he suggested should focus on Election Commission returning officers. Election Commission secretary Ishtiaq Ahmad held a joint press conference with the head of the National Database and Registration Authority on Wednesday, cautioning that NADRA’s investigations in voting irregularities in the NA-256 Karachi constituency “should not be considered conclusive” and that the election tribunal investigating rigging allegations there should be given time to issue a verdict. [ET] [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Tremors Hit Quetta as Quake Relief Efforts Proceeds Slowly [ET] [ET]
  • Rangers Continue Karachi Arrests [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Prime Minister Appoints New Pakistan Steel Mills Board [ET]
  • Government Says No Final Decision Taken on Punjab CNG Shutdown [Dawn] [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Security Agreement Loya Jirga: Pres. Karzai’s office announced on Wednesday that he had appointed a committee, headed by Deputy Interior Minister Lt. Gen. Mohammad Ayub Salangi, to prepare security measures for a proposed loya jirga gathering in Kabul to debate the proposed U.S.-Afghanistan bilateral security agreement, negotiations on which remain stalled.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Pakistan Insists Baradar Freed: As noted yesterday, Pakistani foreign ministry officials rebutted a statement by the Afghan Taliban on Wednesday that had alleged that Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar remains under effective house arrest within Pakistan; Pakistan’s foreign ministry spokesman told reporters that “as far as we are concerned, he is free to meet and contact anyone to advance the cause of reconciliation.” Other anonymous Pakistani security sources acknowledge Baradar is in “protective custody” and cannot move or meet with anyone independently.
  • Election Campaign: A spokesman for the Electoral Complaints Commission said that it was reviewing eight formal complaints against presidential or provincial council candidates, but provided no details on the nature or target of those complaints. Spokesmen for the FEFA election monitoring group repeated warnings that poor security preparations could impact the vote and limit its ability to dispatch observers around the country.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Kabul Police Arrest Kidnapping Ringleader [TOLO]
  • Afghanistan’s ‘Five Thousand Martyrs’ [AJE]

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