Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: IEC Disqualifies 16 Presidential Candidates; Sharif Reiterates Drone Critique

Topline

  • The Afghan Independent Election Commission has disqualified more than half of the initial presidential candidates; they have twenty days to appeal. U.S. and NATO security officials expressed some optimism that a bilateral security agreement with Afghanistan could be reached later this fall, but Pres. Karzai’s chief spokesman reiterated that the agreement remains unresolved and suggested that negotiations could continue into the next government’s term. The White House defended the Predator drone program against recent critical reports; speaking at USIP on Tuesday, Prime Minister Sharif reiterated calls for the strikes’ curtailment. India has accused Pakistan of a broad cross-border artillery attack on as many as fifty of its checkpoints in Kashmir. An IMF review team will arrive in Pakistan next week, ahead of the release of the next $550M tranche of its new loan program. Twenty-six Pakistani lawmakers have been suspended for failing to declare their personal assets.

Pakistan — Security

  • White House Defends Drone Strikes: Speaking on Tuesday, White House spokesman Jay Carney said that the U.S. government was “reviewing very carefully” the recent Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch reports alleging civilian casualties and violations of international law in drone strikes carried out in Pakistan and Yemen. Carney said that “to the extent these reports claim that the US has acted contrary to international law, we would strongly disagree.” Speaking at the U.S. Institute of Peace on Tuesdsay, Prime Minister Sharif reiterated that the drones were a “major irritant” in bilateral U.S.-Pakistan relations, and stressed “the need for an end to drone attacks”. He will meet Pres. Obama on Wednesday. [BBC] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Indian Border Tensions: Indian Border Security Force officials accused Pakistan of opening a broad cross-border artillery attack across the Line of Kashmir against at least 50 Indian border posts on Tuesday night. One guard was killed and six injured. Pakistan has in turned accused India of multiple ceasefire violations along the border in the past week. The Directors General for Military Operations on both sides spoke by phone earlier on Tuesday to discuss the border situation; an in-person meeting is said to still be “a few more weeks” away. Despite the tensions, Prime Minister Sharif told Tuesday’s Washington audience that he would “go the extra mile” to conduct peace talks with India. [Dawn]
  • Pakistani Taliban Talks: In a statement issued Tuesday, Khyber Paktunkhwa chief minister Pervaiz Khattak reiterated calls for the federal government to initiate peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban “without delay”, saying that its failure to carry out the recommendations of recent all-parties conferences was “allowing those who wish to sabotage dialogue and peace to indulge in increasing acts of terrorism.” [Dawn]
  • Afghan Border Clash: Two Frontier Corps personnel were injured in a cross-border rocket attack on a checkpost in the Bajaur Agency on Tuesday; it follows another such attack on Monday, which injured two children.
  • Kidnapping: Arbab Abdul Zahir Kasi, a local Awami National Party leader, was kidnapped in Quetta on Wednesday, local police officials report. No claim of responsibility has been reported. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Election Commission Suspends Lawmakers: On Tuesday, the Election Commission ordered the suspension from office of 26 sitting lawmakers for failing to comply with deadlines to submit declarations on their personal assets. Dawn offers a complete list.

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • IMF Review Team Visiting Next Week: An IMF delegation will arrive in Islamabad next week to hold review meetings with the Finance Ministry, a prerequisite for the release of the next $550 million tranche of Pakistan’s loan agreement, approved in September. The Express Tribune notes that Pakistan’s foreign currency reserves remain short of IMF targets, in part due to interventions by the State Bank to stem the depreciation of the rupee against the dollar. Assuming it is cleared for release, the next loan tranche is expected to be released in December.
  • Quake Relief Efforts: A UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs assessment of ongoing relief efforts in Balochistan after last month’s Awaran earthquake has warned that the area is in immediate need of additional food aid. An estimated 138,372 people have been affected by the quake, with more than 19,000 homes damaged or destroyed.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Supreme Court Seeks Record of NEPRA Public Hearings [Dawn]
  • Qatari Minister’s Balochistan Hunting Camp Attacked [ET]
  • Punjab to Merge Counter Terrorism Department with New Anti-Terrorism Force [ET]
  • Investigations Continue Into Khyber Paktunkhwa Law Minister’s Assassination [Dawn]
  • More Than 5500 Weapons Cases Stuck in Karachi Court Backlog [ET]
  • Election Commission Dismisses PTI Charge that NA-71 Mianwali Election was Rigged [ET]
  • Finance Ministry Approves Salary Hike [ET]
  • Interview: Hussain Haqqani on Pakistan and the United States’ ‘Magnificent Delusions’ [NYT]
  • Commentary: Let Pakistan’s Taliban Talks Fail Without Us – “President Barack Obama should use his October 23 summit with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to ensure that if Pakistan’s Taliban talks fail, they fail in ways that unite mainstream Pakistanis in the fight against violent extremism rather than creating new rifts between Washington and Islamabad.” [Daniel Markey, Reuters]
  • Commentary: An Incomplete Democracy – “The United States government can help reduce the dominance of the Pakistani military by strengthening key civilian institutions, particularly Parliament and the police.” [Michael Kugelman, NYT]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Bilateral Security Talks: Speaking to reporters while en route to a NATO defense ministers’ meeting in Brussels on Tuesday, Sec. Hagel downplayed previous administration statements suggesting an effective end-of-October deadline to finalize the U.S.-Afghan bilateral security agreement, saying instead that “I don’t think there’s any deadline that we have to have it by Thanksgiving… if we stay on track — that gives us plenty of time.” Anonymous U.S. officials tell the AP that Afghan Defense Minister Bismillah Mohammadi has assured them of his “strong confidence” that an agreement will be signed “soon”. NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told reporters in Brussels that he was “confident” that a deal would be reached, “because the Afghans know that such agreements are a prerequisite for [NATO’s] deployment of trainers” after 2014. However, Pres. Karzai’s chief spokesman, Aimal Faizi, tells Reuters that the document “is not finalized”, and suggested that further modifications to previously agreed-upon text could be made at the upcoming Loya Jirga convened to review the agreement in late November. Faizi reiterated that “we are not in a hurry to sign this document,” suggesting that talks could continue with the next government. [NYT]
  • Logar Security Officials Sacked: In a briefing for senators on Tuesday, Interior Minister Omar Daudzai and National Directorate of Security head Rahmatullah Nabeel said that they have fired the Logar provincial police chief and chief NDS officer on grounds of negligence, following the assassination last week of Logar governor Arsala Jamal.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • IEC Cuts Presidential Field to Ten Candidates: The Independent Election Commission announced on Tuesday that it had disqualified sixteen of the twenty-six initial presidential candidates from contesting the office. TOLO offers a complete list. Specific grounds for the candidates’ disqualification were not cited by the IEC in its announcement; candidates were required to renounce dual citizenships and secure 100,000 backing signatures from across 20 provinces in order to qualify. Those disqualified have twenty days to appeal the order; all of the highest-profile candidates thus far remain in the race, however. [NYT] [WSJ] [WAPO] [AJE]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Afghan Intelligence Agency Sacks 65 for Heroin Addiction [Reuters]
  • Senators Oppose Amended Media Law [TOLO]
  • Commentary: And Then They Were Ten – “Already accusations have begun that the Palace meddled in the list; most of those remaining are close to President Karzai.” [Kate Clark, AAN]
  • Commentary: Afghanistan’s Untold Success Story – “Despite having a GDP that was made up almost entirely of outside aid in 2011 and 2012, certain industries — including the Afghan telecommunications, agricultural, and mining sectors — have begun to demonstrate remarkable growth and potential, leading to the vital stability needed for a viable, diversified marketplace.” [Melissa Skorka, AfPak Channel]
  • Commentary: Fighting for Women’s Rights in Afghanistan – “Afghan women, increasingly aware of their rights, are reporting cases of violence in unprecedented numbers. However, this is just the beginning.” [Louise Arbour, AfPak Channel]

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