Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Pakistan Defense Ministry Offers Lower Drone Casualty Estimate; Afghan High Peace Council to Meet Baradar

Topline

  • Three militant suspects were killed in a North Waziristan Predator strike on Wednesday; Pakistan Defense Ministry statistics provided to the senate offered a much lower estimate of civilian casualties from drone strikes over the past five years than previous estimates, drawing criticism from the opposition. The Afghan High Peace Council will meet with Mullah Baradar in Pakistan, Afghan officials say, but no date for their visit has been scheduled. Islamabad police have reported insufficient evidence to directly link former Pres. Musharraf to the death of Lal Masjid leader Ghazi Abdul Rasheed in the 2007 military operation at the mosque. Iran’s oil minister has said that the gas pipeline contract with Pakistan is “likely to be annulled”. Afghan Electoral Complaints Commission officials say they will begin deliberations on more than 400 complaints next week.

Pakistan — Security

  • Predator Strikes: At least three militant suspects were killed in a drone strike that reportedly hit a building near the Miram Shah bazaar in North Waziristan on late Wednesday evening, the first such strike since September 30; no further details on the targets have been reported. Pakistan’s foreign ministry spokesman protested the strike as a violation of Pakistani sovereignty on Thursday; Imran Khan reiterated threats to cut off NATO supplies through Khyber Paktunkhwa if drone strikes continue and disrupt the talks initiative with the Pakistani Taliban. On Wednesday, Ministry of Defense officials responding to questions from the senate reported that 317 drone strikes have been carried out in Pakistan since 2008, killing 2,227 people; they said that only 67 of these were civilians, a sharply lower civilian casualty estimate than past ones from the Pakistani foreign ministry and many other groups — although almost none of these have been based on direct observation or reporting, given the security threats facing researchers in the FATA. The report also indicated that no civilian casualties had occurred in 2012 or 2013. Opposition senators rejected the government figures as well as additional Interior Ministry figures on deaths from terrorism, with the PPP threatening a no-confidence motion against Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan. UN rapporteur Ben Emmerson, who is investigating the strikes, indicated that he would seek an explanation of the discrepancy. [BBC] [Guardian] [Dawn]
  • Quetta Bombing: Four people were killed and twenty injured when a bomb planted on a bicycle exploded in a crowd on Wednesday. No claim of responsibility was reported and the intended target of the attack is unclear from initial reporting.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Police Clear Musharraf in Lal Masjid Case: On Wednesday, Islamabad police testifying in the case against former Pres. Musharraf said that there was insufficient evidence of Musharraf’s direct involvement in the death of Lal Masjeed leader Ghazi Abdul Rasheed. A court verdict is now scheduled for Friday. [Dawn]
  • Local Elections: Election Commission officials continue to meet to discuss options for holding local government elections later this winter; they are reportedly considering dropping ballot printing security measures such as the use of special paper and inks in order to meet the fast-approaching election schedule deadlines. As part of the delimitation of constituencies ahead of the elections, Sindh is prepared to create a new district in Karachi. The delimitation process has been opposed in Sindh by the MQM and in Punjab by the PTI. [Dawn]
  • Corruption Investigations: National Accountability Bureau chairman Qamar Zaman Chaudhry has ordered the reopening of “all high profile cases”, including those against former Pres. Zardari and Prime Minister Sharif, a NAB spokesman said Thursday. A special committee has been established to review outstanding cases from the past three years.

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Iran ‘Likely to Annul’ Gas Pipeline: Iran’s Fars news agency quoted Iranian oil minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh on Wednesday that “the contract for supplying gas to Pakistan is likely to be annulled”; he did not elaborate. Pakistan has struggled to arrange financing for the construction of its portion of the pipeline, and in October indicated that it would seek $2 billion in assistance from Iran to do so. Pakistan Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid insisted that the gas pipeline project “remains intact” and that both countries were working towards its completion. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Polio Outbreak in Syria Originated from Pakistan, World Health Organization Officials Say [Reuters]
  • Shakil Afridi Seeks Release on Bail [Dawn]
  • Karachi Police Plan Operation to Recover Illegal Weapons [ET] [ET]
  • Polling Underway for Supreme Court Bar Association Leadership [Dawn]
  • Jang-GEO Group Files Defamation Notice Against Imran Khan [ET]
  • US Inspector General’s Report Critical of Jamshoro Power Plant Aid [ET]
  • Gas Price Increase Sought; Petroleum Price Reduction Expected [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Bilateral Security Agreement Negotiations: US Ambassador to Afghanistan James Cunningham held a press conference on Wednesday to reiterate the importance of concluding a bilateral security agreement.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Afghan Officials to Meet Mullah Baradar: As briefly noted yesterday, Pres. Karzai’s office announced following trilateral meetings in London that Pakistani officials have agreed to allow a delegation of the Afghan High Peace Council to travel to Pakistan and meet with Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the former deputy Taliban commander. No date for that visit has been announced; anonymous Pakistani foreign ministry officials tell the WSJ that the agreement for the High Peace Council’s visit was not supposed to have been publicly disclosed. The Taliban have not issued any public comment. [WAPO] [AJE] [APP] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Election Preparations: Electoral Complaints Commission officials say that they are continuing to gather information on complaints filed against presidential and provincial council candidates, and that deliberations will begin next week and would be open to the press. [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Island of Support in a Taliban Stronghold at Risk as US Forces Head Home [WSJ]
  • More Security Staff Fired After Logar Governor’s Assassination [Guardian]
  • Five Civilians Killed in ALP-Taliban Crossfire in Herat [TOLO]
  • Afghan Interpreter Wins Visa After Earlier Revocation [WAPO]
  • Report: 2014 Presidential and Provincial Council Elections in Afghanistan – “Success of the upcoming elections in Afghanistan hinges on the independence and effectiveness of electoral institutions, wide voter participation, and a strong antifraud strategy.” [Zekria Barakzai, USIP]
  • Report: Extractive Industries and Peacebuilding in Afghanistan: The Role of Social Accountability – “Mining operations in Afghanistan could be an important generator of economic growth for the country, but they also spark conflicts over environmental effects and perceptions that the economic benefits have been distributed unfairly.” [Sadaf Lakhani, USIP]

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