- Secretary Kerry and Pres. Karzai say they are near consensus on a bilateral U.S.-Afghanistan security agreement after intensive negotiations over the weekend, but details remain limited, and both sides acknowledge they are still divided over the question of legal immunity for U.S. troops serving in Afghanistan after 2014. Pakistan’s energy regulator NEPRA has approved consumer energy price hikes, allowing the government to reinstate tariff increases that were suspended by the Supreme Court at the start of the month. The Afghan Independent Election Commission has announced the disqualification of one presidential candidate, but has not indicated who or on what grounds. Gen. Kayani reiterated the Pakistani military’s support for negotiations with the Pakistani Taliban, with force as a “last option”. A Rawalpindi anti-corruption court has reopened case against former Pres. Zardari; former Pres. Musharraf has filed for bail in the Lal Masjid case. The Supreme Court of Pakistan has issued a contempt notice against the defense secretary for failing to carry through on plans for local cantonment elections. An American soldier was killed in an insider attack in Paktika on Saturday. Another mid-intensity earthquake struck Balochistan on Saturday, but no casualties were immediately reported.
Pakistan — Security
- Kayani Endorses Talks, But Says Force Remains an Option: Speaking to the Pakistan Military Academy in Kakul on Saturday, Chief of Army Staff Kayani reiterated calls for unity in support of the national leadership, and said that the military would be “more than happy” if calls for resolving conflict with the Pakistani Taliban through dialogue proved successful. Kayani dismissed what he called a perception that “failed military operations forced for the negotiations,” saying that this was “far from the truth”, and said that the use of force remained as a “last option”. Speaking separately on Saturday, Imran Khan argued that the Pakistani Taliban “are ready for ceasefire” and said that the government must take stops to halt U.S. drone strikes in order to allow for this to happen.
Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy
- Corruption Cases: As noted Friday, a Rawalpindi accountability court has taken the initiative to order the reopening of five corruption cases against former Pres. Zardari; the court has set hearings for October 29. New National Accountability Bureau chairman Qamar Zaman Chaudhry met with NAB staff for the first time on Saturday for briefings on current investigations. A NAB spokesman said afterwards that Chaudhry had committed to “across-the-board accountability” and would pursue cases against both Zardari and Prime Minister Sharif. [ET] [ET]
- Local Elections: Chief Justice Chaudhry issued a contempt of court order against Defense Secretary Yasin Malik on Friday for failing to carry through on plans to hold local government elections in Pakistan’s military cantonment districts, and has set hearings within ten days. The court has ordered representatives from the four provinces to testify on Monday on their plans to holder broader local government polls. [ET]
- Musharraf Cases: Speaking to reporters on Saturday, the anniversary of former Pres. Musharraf’s 1999 military coup against then-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said that the Federal Investigation Agency had been ordered to expedite its investigations into possible treason charges against former Pres. Musharraf in connection to his 2007 suspension of the constitution. Musharraf filed a bail application in the Lal Masjid case against him on Saturday; his party spokesman insisted that he intends to face all legal cases against him and will not flee the country.
- Relations with India: Speaking to reporters on Saturday, Indian External Affairs minister Salman Khurshid noted that India and Pakistan “have not reached a stage where we have done something like ‘so-called resumed talks’,” and said there was no clear schedule for regular dialogue between the two sides to resume. On Friday, Gen. Kayani issued a statement saying that recent allegations by Indian army chief Gen. Bikram Singh of Pakistani support for recent militant operations in Kashmir were “baseless”, and that the two sides, with UN mediation, should instead conduct an “impartial investigation” into cross-border clashes in Kashmir. The Express Tribune reports that the Directors General for Military Operations on both sides are expected to meet within the next month, but a precise schedule has not yet been established. [Dawn]
- Balochistan Cabinet Sworn In: Eleven ministers will be sworn into the Balochistan provincial cabinet on Monday, expanding its membership beyond three ministers from each of the major coalition parties who joined without portfolio immediately after the May general elections. The PML-N will gain six ministries, the National Party four, and the Paktunkhwa Milli Awami Party four. [ET]
Pakistan — Economics and Development
- Energy Price Hikes Reinstated: After a court order stayed the initial implementation of a government increase in consumer electricity tariffs, the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority issued guidelines affirming the increase on Friday, backdated to the start of the month. Prices were increased on average by approximately 30%. Following the ruling, the Ministry of Water and Power issued a new price notification, although Dawn indicates that the government has set lower prices than those proposed by NEPRA for those consumers using less than 200 units of power. A stay order from the Peshawar High Court has prevented the implementation of the rate hikes in Khyber Paktunkhwa, however. [ET] [ET]
- IMF-World Bank Conference Meetings: Finance Minister Dar held a range of meetings while in Washington for annual IMF-World Bank meetings this week, including with the U.S. Treasury Department, U.S. business investors, and with his Afghan counterpart, Omar Zakhilwal. In meetings with Iranian Finance Minister Ali Tayyebnia, Dar acknowledged Pakistan’s difficulty in funding its side of the construction of the natural gas pipeline linking the two countries, and asked Iran for additional assistance to complete the project. The IMF has projected that Pakistan’s debt-to-GDP ratio will rise to 64.1% for the current fiscal year, and has warned that Pakistan will face maturing debt payments equivalent to 29.9% of GDP.
- Balochistan Quake: A 5.1-magnitude earthquake hit Balochistan on Saturday, with an epicenter near Khuzdar; no casualties or property damage were immediately reported, although aftershocks were felt in nearby Awaran district, the site of a major quake last month. Chief Minister Abdul Qadir Baloch revisited Awaran on Friday, where he again appealed to local militant groups to halt attacks on military personnel providing relief supplies.
Pakistan — Remainders
- Obamas Meet With Malala Yousafzai; At Home, Disappointment, Relief, and Taliban Threats as She Misses Out on Nobel Prize [Dawn] [WAPO] [NYT] [ET]
- Dobbins in Islamabad to Prepare for Sharif Meetings [Dawn]
- Interior Ministry Refuses to Provide Spending Records for Secret Funds [ET]
- Two Soldiers Killed in South Waziristan Car Bombing [AFP] [ET] [Dawn]
- No Compensation for Homeowners in South Waziristan, Orakzai, and Kurram [Dawn]
- Additional Weapons Provided to Balochistan Police [ET]
- Local Journalist Killed in Khyber Paktunkhwa’s Karak District [Dawn]
- New Focus on Rape After String of Deadly Attacks on Children [WAPO]
- Limited Success in Karachi Voluntary Weapons Surrender Program [Dawn]
- Committee Establish to Investigate Polling Ink [ET]
- Ex-Servicemembers Associations Merge [APP]
- Industry Upbeat on Prospects of Wireless Spectrum Auction [ET]
- Sindh Creates New Administrative District of Sujwal, Splitting Thatta [ET] [The News]
Afghanistan — Security
- Karzai and Kerry Near Agreement in BSA Talks: Following 24 hours of intense negotiations, Pres. Karzai and Sec. Kerry announced on Saturday that they were near agreement on a U.S.-Afghan bilateral security agreement, talks on which had stalled earlier this year. Both sides said that they had yet to come to agreement on preserving American legal jurisdictions over U.S. service members who remain in the country after 2014, something Kerry publicly stressed was non-negotiable; Karzai said that the matter would be decided “by the Afghan people” in an upcoming loya jirga session. Kerry also indicated that the agreement would need to undergo “a very technical, internal legal review” on the U.S. side. Karzai said that “we have been provided a written guarantee for the safety of the Afghan people about invasion,” for which “a clear definition has been provided,” but did not elaborate further; U.S. officials had been reticent about providing a security guarantee that might obligate them to join an Afghan conflict with Pakistan. Karzai also said that the U.S. had agreed not to carry out “unilateral” counterterrorism operations within the country after 2014. Kerry departed afterwards on Saturday; full details of the negotiations or the draft text of the agreement have yet to be released. On Sunday, Taliban leader Mohammad Omar issued a statement timed to the Eid-al-Adha holidays, in which he warned “the invaders and their allies” that “the strategic agreement will be accompanied by grave consequences for them”, and said that the loya jirga to ratify the agreement would not be true representatives of the country. Omar also dismissed upcoming presidential elections, saying that “there are figures active in these elections who are catering only to personal interests and the interests of the invaders rather than the Islamic and national interests,” and calling on the public not to participate. [WAPO] [BBC] [AJE] [AP] [TOLO] [Karzai-Kerry Press Conference Transcript]
- Insider Attack: A man wearing an Afghan security uniform attacked a group of NATO trainers in Paktika province on Sunday, killing one American soldier; no further details on the incident, the third insider attack in the past month, have yet been released.
Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy
- Election Preparations: The Independent Election Commission announced on Sunday that it had rejected the candidacy of one presidential nominee, but did not identify the candidate in question and did not specify on what grounds their application had been rejected. A preliminary list of candidates is due to be finalized on October 19, and the list finalized by November 16. Election Complaints Commission officials say they have received 15 complaints against candidates thus far, eight of which were related to candidate qualification requirements, which include possessing 100,000 registered supporters and making an Afs 1 million registration payment. Former Afghan president Sebghatullah Mojadidi has called a jirga seeking to entice some of the 26 remaining presidential candidates to drop out, with the goal of reducing the field to five candidates or less. A TOLO poll asking for views on the “best candidate” found the greatest amount of support for Abdullah Abdullah, Ashraf Ghani, and Qayyum Karzai; the poll appears to have drawn heavily from urban areas, however, and fully half of respondents indicated that they did not have a top choice.
- Fazlur Rehman Visits: JUI-F party leader Fazlur Rehman visited Kabul on Friday at Pres. Karzai’s invitation, where he met with Karzai and representatives of the High Peace Council. HPC officials afterwards said that Rehman, who has historical links to the Taliban movement, “has assured of his cooperation in the peace process and political dialogue”. An anonymous Taliban spokesman tells the Express Tribune that they were “shocked and did not expect a senior religious leader like Maulana Fazl to visit Kabul at a time when the country has been occupied by infidel troops,” suggesting that Karzai had “trapped” Rehman into cooperating against the Taliban.
Afghanistan — Remainders
- Shutdown Creates Training Gap for Afghanistan-Bound Troops [Defense One]
- Nangarhar Car Bombing Kills Two Police Officers and Two Civilians [TOLO]
- Soccer Offers New Heroes in Afghanistan [WSJ]
- Commentary: Not Signed and Sealed Just Yet – “Negotiations on the deal have been long and painful, because of fundamental problems with the 12-year old intervention: how can a nation be both sovereign and dependent on foreign aid, and what exactly is the nature of the conflict?” [Kate Clark, AAN]