Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Karzai Denounces Helmand Civilian Deaths; Gen. Raheel Sharif Assumes Chief of Army Staff Post

Topline

  • Pres. Karzai accuses NATO forces of killing at least one child in a drone strike in Helmand, warning that he will not sign the US bilateral security agreement as long as such attacks continue. General Raheel Sharif formally assumed command as Pakistan’s chief of army staff on Friday. Another Predator drone strike in North Waziristan was reported late Thursday; PTI protests continue in Peshawar. Prime Minister Sharif will visit Kabul on Saturday to hold talks with Pres. Karzai on the Afghan peace process. The Afghan ministry of justice says it has dropped plans to introduce stoning as a punishment for adultery in the penal code. Pakistan Chief Justice-designate Tasadduq Jillani has resigned from his position as acting chief election commissioner. Prime Minister Sharif announced a new package of investment incentives on Thursday. Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves have fallen to $3.4 billion, a twelve-year low.

Pakistan — Security

  • Command Handover: General Raheel Sharif formally assumed command as chief of army staff from General Kayani in a baton-passing ceremony on Friday. In farewell remarks, Kayani paid tribute to the military, and said that he was certain that “the army will continue to play a role in the safety and betterment of the country” under Sharif’s command. The NYT offers a retrospective piece on Kayani’s many years in command, and the WSJ notes the challenges facing his successor. An anonymous-sourced Reuters account reports on Prime Minister Sharif’s decision-making process in choosing General Sharif for the position, with the source saying that “all agreed that it was time to show the world that this was no longer Kayani’s army” and that General Sharif was chosen for his apparent political quiescence. [Dawn] [AJE]
  • Drone Strike Hits North Waziristan: As many as three militant suspects were killed in a Predator drone strike near Miram Shah, North Waziristan late Thursday evening; no details on the identity of the targets have yet been reported. The strike comes amid weeklong PTI protests in Peshawar and activist efforts to block NATO supply trucks passing through the city for Afghanistan. Anonymous Pakistani security officials deny that the ISI provided the name of the CIA’s Islamabad station chief to the PTI, who accused a man identified as such in murder charges in connection to a drone strike in Hangu earlier this month, although Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah tells the Express Tribune that he suspects this could be the case. [Dawn] [AP]
  • Pakistan Halts UN Police Deployments: The Pakistani Interior Ministry has reportedly halted police contributions to UN peacekeeping missions, citing the country’s own internal security situation; additional sources suggest that foreign training missions of any kind have been barred. Pakistan has been the UN’s largest contributor of civilian, police and military personnel, at 8,285 men.
  • Taliban Talks: Maulana Fazlur Rehman chaired a tribal jirga including representatives from the FATA and the frontier regions at the JUI-F’s secretariat in Peshawar on Thursday; he told journalists afterwards that “a joint declaration of the grand jirga is the most effective tool for ending violence and restoring lasting peace” and repeated calls on the government to explain its strategy to advance stalled talks with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan. [ET] [ET]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Chief Justice-Designate Jillani Resigns as Chief Election Commissioner: On Friday, acting Chief Election Commission and Chief Justice-designate Tasadduq Hussain Jillani resigned from the former position. Dawn also notes that Jillani’s term as chief justice will be short: he reaches retirement age only seven months after assuming office on December 12. PPP opposition leader Khurshid Shah told reporters on Thursday that local elections should be managed by a confirmed Chief Election Commissioner, but gave no timeline for an agreement on an appointment, which must be made by consensus between the government and opposition. Neither Punjab or Sindh has completed preparations for the elections, now scheduled for January. [Dawn] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Sharif Launches Economic Revival Package: In a speech on Thursday, Prime Minister Sharif announced the establishment of a new business advisory council and agricultural advisory council as part of a broader package of incentives intended to boost investment and job creation. Sharif announced the extension of tax filing deadlines, and a waiver on income source scrutiny for industrial investments between Rs 10-50 million; the PML-N had opposed a similar proposal introduced under the previous PPP government, and PTI leader Imran Khan denounced the move as a means for the rich to “whiten their black money”. [ET]
  • Foreign Exchange Reserves Continue Fall: The State Bank of Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves have declined to their lowest level since November 2001, as new data indicates they now total $3.4 billion, less than one month’s worth of import cover. Those figures do not include a $396 million IMF loan repayment made on November 26.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Power Outages Hobble Pakistan’s Biggest Exporters [WSJ]
  • Government Pledges Action on Missing Persons Cases [Dawn] [ET] [ET]
  • Officials Say New Pakistani Nuclear Plants Under IAEA Safeguards, New Safety Regulations [ET]
  • Supreme Court Orders Task Force to Curtail Use of Illegal SIM Cards [Dawn] [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Karzai Accuses US of Killing Civilians: In a statement issued on Thursday, Pres. Karzai accused NATO forces of carrying out a drone strike on a home in the Garmsir district of Helmand, killing at least one child and wounding two women. Karzai had previously vowed to scrap the U.S.-Afghan bilateral security agreement if such operations continued, and in his statement said that “this attack shows that American forces do not respect the lives and security of the people of Afghanistan and the loya jirga decision”, adding that “for as long as such arbitrary acts and oppression of foreign forces continue, the security agreement with the United States will not be signed.” ISAF officials confirmed that they had carried out two strikes in the area, intended to target an insurgent suspect on a motorcycle, and vowed to investigate the incident. ISAF commander Gen. Joseph Dunford called Pres. Karzai on Thursday evening to apologize for the incident. [BBC] [TOLO] [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Sharif to Visit: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will visit Kabul on Saturday for a day of meetings with Pres. Karzai, the Pakistani foreign ministry confirmed on Thursday. It will be Sharif’s first visit to Afghanistan since taking office as prime minister, and follows trilateral talks brokered in London last month. [TOLO]
  • Stoning for Adultery Proposal Dropped: Responding to criticism from human rights activists and international donors, the Afghan ministry of justice issued a statement that it was dropping proposals to reintroduce death by stoning as a penalty for adultery in a broader review of the Afghan penal code. The statement indicated that “the legality of the crime and punishment is fully addressed and there is no need to regulate the issue in the new code.”

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Campaigners Warn Afghan Mining Sector Lacks Safeguards [Guardian]
  • Report: Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund Annual Report to Donors FY1392 [Second Quarter Report] [Third Quarter Report]
  • Commentary: Ignore Karzai’s Arrogant Insults – “It would be a mistake to let one man — increasingly detached from Afghan public and political opinion — determine the fate of the American role in South Asia.” [John Allen and Michael O’Hanlon, NYT]

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