Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Sharif Reportedly Considering Action on PTI Protests; Afghan Security Agreement Still Deadlocked

Topline

  • Following meetings with Pres. Karzai, visiting Amb. Dobbins says that there has been no progress on resolving the deadlock on the bilateral security agreement. Imran Khan leads a rally outside parliament; anonymous accounts suggest that Prime Minister Sharif has directed the interior ministry to begin to prepare for efforts to break PTI protests blocking NATO supplies through Peshawar. The Punjab president of the Sunni sectarian group Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat was killed in Lahore on Friday. Security preparations are underway for Balochistan local elections taking place on Saturday. In parliament, Pakistani Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan defended the government’s firing of NADRA chief Tariq Malik earlier this week. Pakistani finance minister Ishaq Dar has requested “early reimbursement” on $900 million in Coalition Support Fund claims, as Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves remain under pressure.

Pakistan — Security

  • PTI Drone Protests: Anonymous sources tell the Express Tribune that Prime Minister Sharif, who has not yet publicly commented on the PTI’s public anti-drone protests in Peshawar and attempts to block NATO supplies through Pakistan, has directed Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan to push the PTI to halt the protests, potentially through police action. At a press briefing on Thursday, Pakistan’s foreign ministry said that the federal government “has continued the arrangement for passage of NATO supplies in order to facilitate draw down of NATO forces from Afghanistan.” Imran Khan headlined a rally of PTI and Jamaat-e-Islami legislators in front of parliament on Thursday, reiterating that the PTI would not allow NATO supplies through Khyber Paktunkhwa and warning of retaliation if the PML-N attempted to engineer a challenge to its provincial government. Dawn reports that at least one Jamaat-e-Islami chapter in Peshawar has suggested calling off the protests.
  • Sunni Leader Killed in Lahore: Maulana Shamsur Rehman Muawiya, the Punjab president of the Sunni sectarian group Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat, has been killed by an unidentified gunman in Lahore on Friday. The ASWJ has announced a “country-wide protest” in response; no further details have been reported.
  • Chaman Bombing: A bomb planted on a motorcycle exploded in a roadside crowd after evening prayers on Thursday in Chaman, Balochistan, the major southern border crossing between Pakistan and Afghanistan; a child was killed and at least twenty people were injured. Officials suggest a nearby police checkpost was the target; no claim of responsibility has been reported. In a separate incident five militants and one security personnel member were killed in a clash in the Naseerabad district, amid ongoing search operations for thirteen employees of the Uch Power Plant who had been kidnapped earlier this week.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Balochistan Local Elections: Pakistani military officials said Thursday that they have deployed over 50,000 security personnel in Balochistan ahead of local government elections scheduled to take place on Saturday; 2,776 polling stations have been established in all. In the Kech district, where all candidates had already been elected unopposed, four members of the Balnagor union council were reportedly abducted by an unidentified group of militants.
  • Government Defends NADRA Chief’s Firing: During parliamentary debate on Thursday, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan defended the government’s removal from office of National Database and Registration Authority chief Tariq Malik, which opposition groups have alleged was done to cover up rigging investigations into the May general elections. Nisar alleged that Malik had been improperly appointed in the first place by the previous government, and accused him of “constant leaks” to the media over the course of his investigations into voter verification. In a Senate hearing, Malik, who has been reinstated by the Islamabad High Court under an appeal petition, alleged that he was receiving death threats.

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Dar Seeks CSF Disbursal: Finance Minister Dar met with U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Richard Olson on Thursday to urge the “early reimbursement” of $900 million in Coalition Support Fund claims, the disbursal of which has become increasingly urgent as Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves dipped to around $3.05 billion last week.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Chief Justice Reiterates Order to Produce Missing Persons [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET]
  • Government Seeking at Least $1.2B in 3G Spectrum Auction [ET]
  • Polio Raises Fear of Travel Curbs [ET]
  • Report: Authority Without Accountability: The Search for Justice in Pakistan – “The opacity surrounding how, and why, the Court prioritizes some human rights issues over others has led to criticisms of arbitrariness that question the Court’s actual, and perceived, impartiality and independence.” [International Commission of Jurists (pdf)]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Bilateral Security Negotiations Deadlock: Ambassador Dobbins met with Pres. Karzai on Thursday but told reporters afterwards that there had been no progress on resolving the deadlock on the bilateral security agreement, warning that “the longer we postpone this, the more [coalition] support we are going to lose,” but acknowledging that Karzai’s position was unchanged. Anonymous senior U.S. officials tells the WSJ that “it’s really up to President Karzai as to whether he’s ready to sign this. We’re ready. The Afghan people are ready” and that “the ball is in their court.” Another official suggests a softening deadline for the deal’s completion, saying that “things don’t fall off a cliff on Dec. 31st.” State Department officials suggest that domestic pressure from business groups in Afghanistan is likely to have more direct effect on Karzai’s calculations. [Pajhwok] [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Karzai Accuses Media of Undermining ‘National Unity’ [TOLO]
  • Afghan Policewoman Killed in Nimruz [NYT]
  • Report: Afghanistan in 2013: A Survey of the Afghan People – “In general, apart from the slow lead up to the presidential and provincial council elections that are scheduled to take place in April 2014, the context for most of the significant events in 2013 has been characterized by uncertainty.“ [Asia Foundation]
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