Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Pentagon Confirms Supplies Through Peshawar Halted; Kerry Reiterates Need for Security Deal

Topline

  • Pentagon officials confirm that they have halted outbound shipments of supplies from Afghanistan through Pakistan’s Torkham gate amid ongoing PTI protests in Peshawar, but suggest they expect supplies to resume in the “near future”. Sec. Kerry reiterated the need for a signature of the bilateral security agreement at the NATO ministerial conference on Tuesday, suggesting that if Pres. Karzai was personally unwilling to sign the agreement, his defense minister or another government representative could do so. The head of Pakistan’s National Database Registration Authority was fired and subsequently reinstated on Tuesday, amid reports of pressure from PML-N leaders as NADRA conducts a review of ballot irregularities from the May elections in a Lahore constituency. The Afghan senate has approved the draft FY2014 budget.

Pakistan — Security

  • NATO Supply Lines Halted Through Pakistan: Pentagon officials confirmed on Tuesday that they have halted outbound shipments of materiel from Afghanistan through Pakistan’s Torkham gate amid the ongoing PTI protests in Peshawar attempting to block such routes. The southern crossing point at Chaman, Balochistan, appears to remain open, although Imran Khan, making his first visit to the protest camps since they began, said Tuesday that his party would consider efforts to block that border as well. U.S. defense spokesmen said they expected the supply routes to reopen in the “near future” and said that other more expensive transit options through Central Asia remained available. PTI spokeswoman Shireen Mazari hailed the announcement as a sign that the PTI’s protests were a “tactical success”, and said that they would continue. [BBC] [AP]
  • Karachi Violence: The deputy secretary general of the Shia group Majlis-e-Wahdat-e-Muslimeen, Allama Deedar Ali Jalbani, was shot and killed in a driveby shooting in Karachi on Tuesday. The MWM announced a three-day mourning period; funeral services were held on Wednesday. At least thirteen other people were killed in the city on Tuesday, including three members of the Sunni proselytizing organization Tableeghi Jamaat. Separately, journalists demonstrated outside parliament in Islamabad on Tuesday, following attacks on the Express media group’s Karachi offices the previous day that wounded three. [Dawn] [ET] [ET]
  • Balochistan Attacks: A group of unidentified militants kidnapped thirteen workers from the Uch Power Plant in Balochistan’s Naseerabad district on Wednesday, security officials report; search operations have been ordered but there has been no claim of responsibility. In the Khuzdar district, four people, including a schoolteacher and a paramilitary levies officer, were killed in separate attacks on Monday.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • NADRA Chief Fired, Reinstated: Tariq Malik, the head of the National Database Registration Authority, was abruptly fired on Tuesday; hours later, his appeal against the move was accepted by the Islamabad High Court and he was reinstated. The Express Tribune notes that NADRA has been tasked with reviewing allegations of ballot fraud in the NA-118 constituency, and alleges that he came under pressure from Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah to verify the PML-N’s victory there before his firing. Opposition leaders denounced the move as evidence of PML-N rigging.
  • MQM Challenges Karachi Constituencies: The MQM filed objections in the Sindh High Court on Wednesday against the delimitation of constituencies for local elections in Karachi, saying that the boundaries had been set “for political gain” and according to the constitution they should have been constructed on the basis of the 1998 census data rather than estimated population projections.

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Finance Minister Health Worries: Finance Minister Ishaq Dar remains in recovery following angioplasty surgery last month, and the Express Tribune reports that Prime Minister Sharif is considering reducing his workload by appointing a junior minister to take on some of his many responsibilities.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Ambassador Dobbins Meets with Foreign Advisor Sartaj Aziz [Dawn]
  • PTI Appoints Khyber Paktunkhwa Party Posts [ET]
  • Minister of State for Water and Power Says Neelum-Jhelum Hydro Plant Will Open By 2015 [ET]
  • PIA Lease of Five Aircraft Approved by Cabinet [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Bilateral Security Negotiations: Speaking to reporters at the NATO foreign ministers’ conference in Brussels, Sec. Kerry warned that a bilateral security agreement was “serious business”, saying that allied nations “have budget cycles; those nations have planning requirements. Those nations have equipment requirements; they have deployment requirements. All of those things are best managed through planning” that necessitated the signature of the agreement before the end of the year. Kerry suggested that if Karzai was personally unwilling to do so, “his minister of defense can sign it… The government can sign it. Somebody can accept responsibility for this.” Separately, Iran’s foreign ministry said Tuesday that it “does not consider the signing and approval of the pact useful for the long term expedience and interests of Afghanistan”; Pres. Karzai is scheduled to visit Iran next week. [Pajhwok] [AP]
  • Detentions: A report by the Independent Commission for Overseeing the Implementation of the Constitution released on Tuesday found more than 20,000 prisoners in Afghan detention centers, many of whom it said lacked access to healthcare and were living in substandard conditions. The ICOIC said it had received more than 8,000 complaints from prisoners, which it would investigate.

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Budget Review: Following clashes in the senate on Monday over questions of including ethnic identities on a new national ID card, reconciliation over which dominated most of the session, senators reportedly approved a new Afs 444 billion budget for the FY2014 fiscal year on Tuesday. The lower house of parliament had reportedly rejected the draft the day prior.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • IEC Says Human Rights Violation Allegations Against Candidates a Question for Courts [TOLO]
  • Afghanistan Among Topmost Countries in Annual Transparency International Index [TOLO] [Transparency International]
  • Afghanistan Signs Agreement for Purchase of 500,000 Tons of Russian Oil [TOLO]
  • Commentary: Meeting Mullah Baradar… Or Maybe Not – “There are simply no independent sources on Baradar’s condition, his whereabouts and whether he wants to meet Afghan officials or indeed has any independent say on this or any other matter.” [Kate Clark, AAN]
  • Commentary: Risking a Collapse – “In the event of a complete withdrawal of Western forces it is likely that the international community’s commitment to go on helping Afghanistan will rapidly disappear.” [Anatol Lieven, NYRB]
  • Commentary: Solving a Problem Like Hamid Karzai – “The sooner the Obama administration acknowledges that the conflict in Afghanistan is desperately in need of a negotiated end, the less need there will be to bet billions on propping up compulsive gamblers in Kabul.” [Candace Rondeaux, AfPak Channel]
  • Commentary: Hamid Karzai’s Labyrinthine Politics – “By increasing the public pressure, he is creating an environment that would allow him to sign the BSA, while claiming that he had no other choice but to yield to the public demand.” [Najib Sharifi, AfPak Channel]

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