- Allegations of civilian deaths in the Pakistani military’s response to last week’s attack in North Waziristan have continued, with local commander Hafiz Gul Bahadur threatening retaliation if military operations are not halted. The PTI held rallies in Lahore to protest inflation and other government policies. Afghanistan and NATO have begun negotiations on a post-2014 status of forces agreement, but NATO Secretary General Rasmussen cautioned that no agreement would be finalized without the completion of the U.S.-Afghan bilateral security agreement. India has agreed to allow Afghan special forces to joint commando exercises in Rajasthan. Pres. Karzai formally nominated five new ministers and two new Supreme Court justices for Afghan parliamentary confirmation. Another polio vaccination campaign worker has been killed in Khyber Paktunkhwa.
Pakistan — Security
- Waziristan Clashes: Chief of Army Staff Sharif visited the Peshawar Corps Headquarters on Saturday, where he met with commanders and afterwards issued a statement that “terrorist attacks will not be tolerated”. Sharif’s visit follows an attack on a military checkpost in North Waziristan earlier in the week and subsequent clashes between military personnel and local militants; locals estimate over 50 people have since been killed, with conflicting accounts as to their identities or affiliations. A military curfew has been imposed near Mir Ali and local accounts suggest a large-scale use of artillery, tanks, and helicopter gunships within the town. North Waziristan commander Hafiz Gul Bahaudr has threatened a “full scale counter offensive” against military positions if attacks on civilians were not halted by Monday. Imran Khan criticized the operation in a statement on Saturday, saying that “we cannot regard our women and children of the Federally Administered Tribal Area with the callousness and unconcern that is presently being displayed towards them by the state of which they are citizens.” JUI-F leader Fazlur Rehman said the operations were being carried out “for purposes of exacting revenge.” On Sunday, the Difa-e-Pakistan Council issued a statement reiterating calls for talks with the Pakistani Taliban and a halt to all military operations in the FATA. [Reuters] [Dawn]
- Polio Worker Killed: A polio vaccination campaign worker was shot and killed in the Khyber Agency on Saturday, the fourth such incident this month. Imran Khan, who PTI leaders say has begun receiving militant threats after endorsing polio vaccination efforts earlier last week, reiterated his support for such efforts on Saturday. Vaccination campaign officials say that as many as 600 campaign volunteers have quit after the latest killing. [ET]
- Military Promotions: Six senior military appointments were announced on Sunday, including the elevation of Balochistan Frontier Corps command Obaidullah Khan, who had come under Supreme Court investigations in connection to alleged extrajudicial detentions, to the army’s Strategic Forces Command.
Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy
- PTI Rallies in Lahore: Imran Khan headlined a rally of supporters in Lahore on Sunday, denouncing the government for failing to curtail inflation and of accepting “slavery to America” and the IMF. The Lahore Parks and Horticulture Authority hosted three free concerts at the same time as the rally, in an apparent attempt to draw away attendance. Provincial police provided security for the demonstration, although Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah suggested afterwards that a police report would be filed against the PTI for holding the rally illegally. JUI-F leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman said that his party would hold a rally against the PTI in Khyber Paktunkhwa on Jan 26. [Dawn]
- Local Elections: The PPP-led Sindh Assembly passed amendments to the Sindh Local Government Act on Friday that would allow for a slate of candidates to jointly contest a union council, over objections from the opposition MQM. The Sindh High Court is hearing legal challenges against recent constituency delimitations; arguments from the provincial law officer will take place Monday. [ET] [Dawn]
- Court Hearings: The Express Tribune reports that new Supreme Court Chief Justice Tassaduq Jillani has, since taken office, cut back on meetings with lawyers and on making public statements during case hearings, and has also rescheduled daily court procedures to hear regular listed cases first, before suo moto cases initiated by the court itself.
Pakistan — Economics and Development
- Aid Conditions: The new 2014 defense authorization bill, passed by Congress on Thursday evening, extends the Coalition Support Program for reimbursements to Pakistan by a year, capping such funds at $1.5 billion, and adds a certification requirement by the defense secretary that Pakistan is not blocking supply routes to Afghanistan.
- Emigration: The Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis recently released figures estimating that 2.7 million citizens have left the country over the past five years.
- Iran Gas Pipeline: Anonymous officials tell the Express Tribune that the Pakistani government is considering converting their agreement to construct a gas pipeline with Iran into a bilateral treaty in a bid to evade U.S. sanctions on the project, on the theory that as a sovereign act such an agreement would be outside the scope of commercial sanctions.
- Spectrum Auction: Consultants hired by the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority under the previous PPP government whose contracts were subsequently voided by the Supreme Court say that they plan to sue to block the conclusion of a new consultancy contract reached by the new government.
Pakistan — Remainders
- National Accountability Bureau Prepares to Reopen Over 300 High-Profile Cases [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn]
- Pakistan to Seek Greater UN Observe Role in Kashmir [ET]
- Rawalpindi Clerics Arrested Ahead of Chelum Processions [Dawn]
- Asghar Khan Reiterates Calls for Investigations Into Military Interventions [ET]
- Musharraf Renews Islamabad High Court Challenge Against Treason Trial [Dawn] [ET] [AFP]
- Two Killed, 15 Injured in Attack on Karachi Police [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [ET]
- Voting Irregularities Found in NA-202 Polling [Dawn]
- Electricity Dues Pile Up [Dawn]
- Government Reviews Tax Efforts After IMF Warnings [ET]
- Petroleum Price Increase Expected in January [Dawn]
- Commentary: Serious Politics Eludes Bilalwal – “Hard at work the heir-apparent of the PPP may be, but what exactly is he doing?” [Cyril Almeida, Dawn]
Afghanistan — Security
- Bilateral Security Agreement Negotiations: Afghan and NATO representatives began formal negotiations over a status of forces agreement that would allow NATO forces to remain in Afghanistan after 2014; Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen welcomed the start of talks but said that no deal would be finalized until the U.S. and Afghanistan concluded their own bilateral security agreement. Germany’s defense minister, Urusla von der Leyen, visited German forces in Mazar-e-Sharif on Sunday and echoed calls for the completion of the U.S.-Afghan agreement. In a BBC interview, the head of Afghan army ground forces, Lt. Gen. Murad Ali Murad, expressed concern that “without the foreign forces we will have challenges and problems when it comes to the equipping and training of the Afghan national army.” [TOLO]
- Indian Military Training: Reuters reports that India has agreed to allow approximately 60 visiting Afghan special forces officers to take part in joint exercises in Rajasthan alongside Indian commandos this month. India has offered training programs for Afghan forces for several years, but this is reportedly the first live exercises carried out between the two countries’ special forces.
Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy
- Election Preparations: Speaking on Friday, Independent Election Commission head Ziaulhaq Amarkhail said that the IEC was seeking polling station security assessments by the Afghan security forces before February 5. Plans are also underway to print 28 million ballots. Coalition officials express optimism that the Taliban are “struggling” to determine a strategy for disrupting elections without alienating the majority of the population. [TOLO]
- Cabinet Nominations: First Vice President Fahim formally introduced five ministerial and two Supreme Court nominees before the Wolesi Jirga on Saturday; Zarar Ahmad Osmani was nominated to be foreign minister, Mohammad Akbar Barakzai as minister of mines and petroleum, Mohammad Aref Noorzai as minister of water and energy, Din Mohammad Mobarez Rashedi as counter-narcotics minister, and Mohammad Shakar Kargar as commerice and industries minister.
Afghanistan — Remainders
- Former Panjshiri Militiamen Await Next Fight with the Taliban [LAT]
- NATO Soldier Killed in Eastern Afghanistan [AP]
- Fahim Security Guards Allegedly Beat Senate Staffer [TOLO]
- Commentary: Not a Promising Start: The Vetting of the Presidential and Provincial Council Candidates – “The very first part of the election process has been marked by such muddle and obscurity that alarm bells should be ringing about the capacity of the IEC and the IECC to act as the impartial, transparent arbiters of the election which voters need them to be.” [Kate Clark and Gran Heward, AAN]
- Commentary: Inside the Taliban Media Machine – “In an age of satellite technology and the Internet, insurgent media operations have reached a level of technical maturity that often outpaces their adversaries.” [Nang Durrani and L. Yousafzai, Afghanistan Today]