Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Jamaat-e-Islami Demonstrates Against Drones; Pentagon Releases Biannual Afghanistan Report

Topline

  • Jamaat-e-Islami staged small protests in Peshawar and Lahore and threatened to block NATO supplies later this month; the Pakistani military spokesman’s office issued a highly critical statement of recent remarks by JI leader Munawar Hassan that had described former Pakistani Taliban commander Hakimullah Mehsud as a “martyr”. In the Pentagon’s biannual report to Congress on Afghanistan, released Friday, defense officials say that Afghan authorities have released more than 80% of the prisoners held at Bagram since the transfer of custody earlier this year. Nasiruddin Haqqani, a financier for the Haqqani network and son of Jalaluddin Haqqani, was killed in Islamabad by unidentified gunmen on Sunday. The Election Commission of Pakistan has filed another petition for delay on holding local elections in Punjab and Sindh. Afghan audit officials say that more than twenty ministries and agencies have failed to spend more than 50% of their budgets for the fiscal year. Voter registration drives for the upcoming presidential elections in Afghanistan concluded Monday. The IMF concluded its quarterly review and said that Pakistan was “broadly on track” with its economic reform plan. Pakistan energy ministers will arrive in Washington this week for talks, and will reportedly seek exemption from sanctions for the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline.

Pakistan — Security

  • Jamaat-e-Islami Rallies Against Drones: Jamaat-e-Islami staged a small rally of between 1,000-3,000 protestors in Peshawar on Friday to denounce the recent U.S. drone strike which killed TTP commander Hakimullah Mehsud; the road from Peshawar to the Afghan border was temporarily closed for the day. JI and Jamaat-ud-Dawa also staged smaller protests in Lahore and Karachi. The Peshawar rally issued a resolution that JI would “not allow a single container to pass through” after November 20, the date set by a previous provincial assembly resolution as a deadline for federal government action. JI leader Munawar Hassan’s description of Hakimullah as a “martyr” drew criticism from Pakistan’s military press spokesman, which issued a statement Sunday saying that Hassan’s remarks were “highly condemnable” and “an insult to the thousands of Pakistani civilians and soldiers killed”. Hassan stood by his statement after a party meeting in Lahore on Monday. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [AP] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Taliban Peace Talks: In an interview on Saturday, Pakistani Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan reiterated that after Hakimullah Mehsud’s death, “there can be no peace talks… it would be too generous to say that the possibility of peace talks is zero; the chances are, in fact, below zero.” In a Reuters interview, Imran Khan said that the U.S. had carried out the strike to “sabotage the peace process”. Opposition parties ended a weeklong boycott of senate proceedings on Friday, but threatened to begin one the national assembly, where PPP and PTI leaders demanded Nawaz Sharif appear to brief parliament on the status of talks with the Taliban. Anonymous officials tell the Express Tribune that Prime Minister Sharif has rejected calls for a broad review of U.S.-Pakistan relations in the wake of the Mehsud strike, and that he has no intention of “rocking the boat”. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Haqqani Leader Killed in Islamabad: Nasiruddin Haqqani, a senior financier for the Haqqani network and the son of the group’s founder, Jalalauddin Haqqani, was killed by unidentified gunmen in Islamabad on Sunday evening. His body has been returned to North Waziristan for burial; there is no information on his assassin’s identities. [BBC] [Dawn]
  • Karachi Operations: Prime Minister Sharif visited Karachi on Friday for meetings with the head of the paramilitary Rangers, where he reviewed the status of ongoing operations against criminal and militant groups within the city. Sharif said that “criminals will be dealt indiscriminately and according to law regardless of their political affiliation,” and that the operation “will continue until the last criminal is netted”. Sharif met separately with an MQM delegation and reportedly agreed to establish an “impartial monitoring committee” to oversee the operation. [ET] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Sectarian Violence: Three people were killed in an attack on a Shia community center in Gujranwala on Saturday; there was no claim of responsibility, although the attack comes during the middle of week of Ashura ceremonies. [ET] [ET]
  • Supply Line Attacks: Two trucks carrying supplies for NATO forces in Afghanistan were attacked on Saturday in the Jamrud area of the Khyber Agency; their drivers were injured.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Local Elections: On Monday the Election Commission again appealed the Supreme Court to allow for a delay in local government elections in Sindh and Punjab; Sindh elections are currently scheduled to take place on November 27, but on Friday the provincial government requested that polling be delayed until December 7, when Punjab and Balochistan are also scheduled to hold a vote. The Supreme Court granted the Election Commission authority to delay the Sindh vote until December 7 but has not ruled on the appeal for a longer delay. Printing of candidate nomination papers nonetheless began on Saturday; in Balochistan, over 20,000 nominations have already been received, and the deadline to file was extended by one day to Saturday. On Saturday, the Punjab law department issued an executive ordinance amending the local government law to allow for polls on a partisan basis, after the Lahore High Court struck down earlier non-partisan election requirements. Also on Saturday, the Sindh government transferred the provincial chief secretary, in violation of the Election Commission’s code of conduct barring such moves until after elections are completed; the ECP ordered the transfer suspended. [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Ambassador to US Appointed: Pakistan’s foreign ministry formally announced Friday that Jalil Abbas Jilani, the foreign secretary, would be appointed to serve as ambassador to the United States and would begin his tenure in December. [ET]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • IMF Concludes Quarterly Review: The IMF concluded several weeks of meetings with Pakistani finance officials on Friday, afterwards crediting the government with making “strong efforts” and saying that Pakistan was “broadly on track” with reforms linked to the new $6.7 billion loan agreement signed in September. The next $550 million loan tranche is contingent on quarterly reviews, and is likely to be disbursed after board approval in late December. IMF officials noted continued concerns over low foreign exchange reserves; controls on currency smuggling at airports will be tightened, State Bank officials tell Dawn. [Reuters] [ET] [IMF Statement]
  • Iran Pipeline: Pakistani officials tell the Express Tribune that they will seek exemption from U.S. sanctions for the proposed Iran gas pipeline project during meetings taking place in Washington beginning November 12, which will be jointly led on the Pakistani side by Petroleum Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Power Minister Khwaja Asif.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Military Helicopter Suppliers Appeal Ban Over Charges of Leaking Information to U.S. [Dawn]
  • Swiss Cases Against Zardari Cannot Be Reopened, Supreme Court Informed [ET] [Dawn]
  • Auditor General Fails to Comply with Court Order to Assess Ministry Secret Funds [ET]
  • Daunting Prospects for Pakistan Steel Mills Privatization [ET] [ET]
  • Danger Persists for Reporters in Pakistan, Despite Vow to Protect Them [NYT]
  • Kuwaiti Prime Minister Visits for Trade and Energy Talks [Dawn]
  • ANP Challenges Khyber Paktunkhwa Assembly Speaker’s Dual Offices [Dawn]
  • Former FIA Chief Alleges PPP Interference in NICL Investigations [ET]
  • Pakistan Private Schools Association Bans Malala Yousafzai Autobiography [AP] [AJE]
  • Lal Masjid Victims Plan Challenge Against Musharraf Bail [ET]
  • PIA Losses Continue; Aircraft Lease Delayed [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Detainee Releases: More than 80% of the ‘high-value’ Afghan detainees held in US military who were transferred to Afghan custody earlier this year have been released, the Post reports, in many cases against the recommendations of the US. The Pentagon’s semi-annual report to Congress acknowledges the disagreement but said that it would continue to support the custody transfer “as part of the transition of Afghan sovereignty.” [TOLO]
  • Bilateral Security Agreement Negotiations: In a Bloomberg interview, Interior Minister Omar Daudzai said that the negotiation of the bilateral security agreement with the U.S. has been delayed “to make sure that the details are such that all Afghans subscribe to it, both my generation and the next generation.” Daudzai said that the agreement would oblige the U.S. to “help us overcome any external threat, whether obvious and conventional or proxy and unconventional”; he says he is “optimistic” that an agreement will be signed but provides no time frame. A group of tribal elders gathered in Kabul on Sunday in opposition to the agreement.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Election Preparations: Electoral Complaints Commission officials announced Sunday that a “special delegation” would be assigned to review complaints from candidates who were disqualified by the Independent Election Commission for failing to meet the threshold of registered supporters. Voter registration in remote rural villages ends Monday; officials said Thursday that they had distributed 2.7 million new voting cards since June. TOLO continues its interviews of leading presidential candidates with an interview with former Nangarhar governor Gul Agha Sherzai. [TOLO]
  • Minister Rebuts Corruption Charges: Minister of Refugees and Repatriation Jamahir Anwary appeared before parliament on Saturday to defend himself against charges of corruption, escaping without a vote of no confidence against him. [Pajhwok]

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Budget Execution: The Afghan Supreme Audit Office announced that twenty government ministries and agencies have so far failed to spend more than 50% of their budget allocations for the fiscal year; officials refused to publicly identify which specific ministries, however.
  • Poppy Cultivation Rises: The Afghan Ministry of Counternarcotics and the UN Office of Drugs and Crime announced Saturday that poppy cultivation rose in Afghanistan between 2012 and 2013, despite crackdowns on drug traffickers. [TOLO] [UN Report (pdf)]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Interpreters Who Helped US in Afghanistan Denied Visas; US Says They Face No Threat [WAPO]
  • British Marine Found Guilty of Afghan Murder [BBC] [Guardian] [AJE]
  • Report: Report on Progress Toward Security and Stability in Afghanistan – November 2013 – “Afghan security forces are now successfully providing security for their own people, fighting their own battles, and holding the gains made by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in the last decade.” [US Department of Defense (pdf)]
  • Report: On Afghanistan’s Roads: Extortion and Abuse Against Drivers – “The average truck driver in Afghanistan has to go through numerous police checkpoints in addition to some checkpoints by other government organisations, and there is a fair chance of meeting bandits and occasionally insurgents along their routes.” [Mohammad Isaqzadeh and Antonio Giustozzi, Integrity Watch Afghanistan (pdf)]
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