Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Hagel Visits Kabul, Bypassing Karzai; Chief Justice Chaudhry Presses on Missing Persons

Topline

  • Sec. Hagel visits Kabul and Islamabad over the weekend, skipping meetings with Pres. Karzai and meeting with senior Afghan defense officials instead. Karzai visited Iran, saying that Afghanistan would seek to negotiate a partnership agreement with Tehran in the near future. Outgoing Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Chaudhry continues to press for investigations into missing or extra-judicially detained persons in his last week in office. Balochistan held local elections on Saturday, with preliminary results suggesting that independent candidates picked up the most positions amid sporadic reports of poll violence and a boycott call from Baloch nationalist groups. Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission is preparing to start ballot printing for the April presidential and provincial council elections. The UN has warned that increased reporting of violence against women in Afghanistan has not been matched by an increase in prosecution of those crimes. PTI leaders insist they will continue protests against supplies for NATO forces in Afghanistan passing through Peshawar.

Pakistan — Security

  • Missing Persons Presented in Court: On Saturday, the defense ministry produced 14 men before the Supreme Court, who is investigating thirty-five cases of extrajudicial detention; only six of the men were identified, however. Media were barred from court proceedings. Of the thirty-five cases, which focus on prisoners taken from the Malakand Internment Center by army officials in 2011, defense ministry officials had testified on Friday that ten had been released and were living in Islamabad or Waziristan, nine had left the country for Afghanistan or Saudi Arabia, two had died of natural causes, and the remaining fourteen, who were produced on Saturday under court order, were either interned or ‘whereabouts unknown’. Court hearings continued Monday, during which Chief Justice Chaudhry stressed that the case would continue after his retirement on December 12; Chaudhry reiterated a summons for the acting Balochistan Frontier Corps Inspector General to appear in hearings on Tuesday. [ET] [Dawn] [BBC]
  • Hagel Visits: Sec. Hagel made a stop-over in Pakistan on Monday after visits to Afghanistan the day prior; it is the first visit by a U.S. defense secretary to Pakistan in nearly four years. Hagel said that he wanted to “deepen our defense partnership” and “tackle head on” existing frictions in the relationship. Hagel, accompanied by Ambassadors Dobbins and Olson, met with Prime Minister Sharif and new Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif, among other officials, for discussions that included regional security concerns, drones, and the status of NATO supply lines through Pakistan. [NYT] [AFP]
  • ASWJ Protests: Following the death of the Sunni sectarian group Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat’s Punjab president, Maulana Shamsur Rehman, in an assassination on Friday, protesting ASWJ supporters clashed with police in Lahore. Three other ASWJ members were killed in Karachi on Friday evening. ASWJ leaders called off a planned “nationwide protest” for Saturday afternoon after negotiations with Lahore police, who vowed to investigate the murder. Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan chaired a meeting of security officials on sectarian violence on Saturday and afterwards briefed Prime Minister Sharif on the situation. [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • NATO Supply Line Protests: An anonymous source tells the Express Tribune that the PTI and Jamaat-e-Islami were prepared to halt protests in Peshawar against NATO supplies passing through for Afghanistan, citing a recent Pentagon statement acknowledging the temporary halt of supplies as a victory for their demonstrations. Khalid Masood, the PTI’s general secretary for Khyber Paktunkhwa, denied the report and said that plans “to make the protest more effective and to force the US to end its drone strikes completely” would continue; at least one protest camp in Nowshera has reportedly been called off, although demonstrations continue in Peshawar and Dera Ismail Khan. Separately, two tankers carrying fuel for US forces in Afghanistan were attacked and destroyed in Balochistan’s Bolan district on Sunday evening; their drivers were wounded. No claim of responsibility for the attack was reported; NATO supplies have continued to pass uninterrupted through the Balochistan border crossing. [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Afridi Verdict: The FATA tribunal re-hearing charges against Dr. Shakil Afridi will announce its verdict on December 18, officials say; Afridi’s family members said that he was being persecuted and that they “did not expect justice from these courts.”

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Local Elections Held in Balochistan: Elections for local bodies in Balochistan were held on Saturday for around 4,600 seats across the province; another 2,507 candidates were elected unopposed, and around 500 seats remain vacant due to a lack of nomination filings. Army and police forces deployed to secure polling stations, but there are sporadic reports of polling station violence, and several reports of women voters being barred from taking part in the polls. Several Baloch nationalist groups had called for a boycott of the polls, but no major militant attacks have been reported. Turnout reports are uneven, with Pashtun areas reportedly voting in higher numbers than those primarily populated by Baloch. Official results will be announced December 10; preliminary results suggest that independent candidates won the most seats, followed by the National Party of Chief Minister Abdul Malik Baloch and the PML-N. In Quetta, the Paktunkhwa Milli Awami Party won a plurality of city council seats, and may now be in a position to elect the mayor. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Musharraf Treason Case: The government is reportedly preparing to file charges on Monday of abrogating and subverting the constitution against former Pres. Musharraf for his 2007 emergency rule order, but has not brought charges against any co-conspirators and does focus on his 1999 coup d’etat. Musharraf’s lawyers tell the Express Tribune that he took the action as chief of army staff and that his actions cannot be challenged in civilian court.
  • NADRA Chief Under Investigation: Government officials intent on moving ahead with his firing despite opposition protests and an Islamabad High Court stay order have prepared a 14-point charge sheet against NADRA chief Tariq Malik, the Express Tribune reports. Malik’s lawyers rejected suggestions that he was appointed improperly by the previous government. Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan has suggested a joint session of parliament to hear opposition allegations of election rigging and voter ID verification, which Malik’s office had been tasked with overseeing. [Dawn]
  • MQM Leadership Meets in London: MQM leader-in-exile Altaf Hussain has reportedly called a conference of senior party leaders in London over the weekend, the details of which have not been reported; the party denied that there were any internal splits. The meeting comes after a report that London police have arrested two MQM associates on suspicion of money laundering. [ET]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Deficit Indicators: The government’s budget deficit for the July-October period totaled Rs 418 billion or around 1.6% of GDP, within IMF guidelines to keep the deficit to 5.8% of GDP for the July-June fiscal year. An infusion of U.S. Coalition Support Funds, cutbacks in development spending, and savings by the provincial governments helped contributed to the lower deficits. Government domestic borrowing rose 3.8% over the same period. On Monday, the Express Tribune reported that the IMF had released details on other structural reform benchmarks included in its loan agreement with Pakistan, including the withdrawal of special tax exemptions and several changes for the energy sector.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Accountability Court Summons Zardari and Witnesses on Dec 23 [ET] [Dawn]
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Enacts Right to Information Law [ET]
  • Senate Passes Bill Barring Senior Civil Servants from Holding Dual Nationality [ET]
  • Sharif Announces Youth Loan Program [ET] [Dawn]
  • Imran Khan Suggests Joint India-Pakistan Civil Nuclear Power Project [Dawn] [ET]
  • Polio Vaccination Team Leader Kidnapped Near Peshawar [ET]
  • Bail Denied For Ahmedi Arrested on Blasphemy Charge [ET]
  • Only a Quarter of Election Petitions Resolved to Date [ET]
  • Government Struggles to Arrange $500M Oil Financing Agreement in Face of Low Reserves [ET]
  • Over 800,000 Pakistani Nationals Receive Visa Amnesty in Saudi Arabia [ET]
  • Dismissed Khyber Paktunkhwa Minister Files Defamation Suit Against Imran Khan [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Hagel Visits Kabul, Bypassing Karzai: Sec. Hagel arrived in Kabul on Saturday, where he held meetings with U.S. commanders as well as with Afghan Defense Minister Bismillah Mohammadi Khan and Deputy Interior Minister Mohammad Ayub Salangi. Hagel said that he had stressed ongoing American commitment to Afghanistan and had not sought a meeting with Pres. Karzai, saying that “there is not much I could add in a meeting with President Karzai to what’s already been said” on the bilateral security agreement and that “this trip is about the troops”. Hagel did warn that “some answers are going to be required” at a NATO defense ministers’ meeting scheduled for February. Karzai departed on Sunday for Tehran for a previously scheduled visit with his counterpart Hassan Rouhani; his office issued a statement suggesting that a “pact of friendship and cooperation” with Iran would be signed, but offered no details. Karzai’s spokesman, Aimal Faizi, said that “our relations with Iran will not effect our relations with the United States,” although Rouhani stated after the meeting that Iran was “concerned about the tensions arising from the presence of foreign forces in the region and believe[s] that all foreign forces should exit the region and Afghanistan’s security should be ceded to the people of that country”. [NYT] [WAPO] [TOLO] [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Election Preparations: The Independent Election Commission announced that it would soon begin the process of printing around 13 million ballots for the April presidential and provincial council elections. The Electoral Complaints Commission said that it had established a list of 10-11,000 individuals who would be barred from working in the elections, on charges of “dealings with powerful officials” or involvement in improprieties in the last elections. [TOLO]
  • UN Critiques Implementation of Elimination of Violence Against Women: A UN report released on Sunday assessing the Afghan government’s implementation of the 2009 Elimination of Violence Against Women ordinance found a 28% increase over the previous year in violent incidents reported by police and prosecutors, but only a 2% increase in actual prosecutions. [AP] [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • US Seeks $24M More to Complete Afghanistan Defense Ministry Headquarters [WAPO]
  • Afghan Parliamentarians Criticize Draft Budget [TOLO]
  • MPs Call for Better Oil and Gas Management [TOLO]
  • British Marine Jailed for Afghan Murder [BBC]

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