Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: US Intel Estimate Warns of Afghan Deterioration; Sindh Local Govt Law Overturned

Topline

  • A new U.S. national intelligence assessment warns that the Taliban and other militant powerbrokers are likely to erode the power of the Afghan central government as international forces withdraw. The Sindh High Court has voided recent amendments to the province’s local elections law and overturned constituency redistricting, calling into further question plans to hold local elections by January 18. Bilalwal Bhutto Zardari marked the anniversary of his mother’s death with a speech in Sindh on Friday, call for action against terrorism and accusing the PML-N and PTI of ignoring the threat of Taliban militancy. Three recent polls show Ashraf Ghani or Abdullah Abdullah in the lead in the Afghan presidential race. The Electoral Complaints Commission in Afghanistan has suggested that candidates might still be disqualified from contesting the elections. A polio vaccination campaign worker was killed in Peshawar on Saturday, and four more people wounded in a separate attack in Quetta th same day. In interviews with the international press, former Pres. Musharraf claims to have the army’s support in what he says is a “vendetta” against him; his lawyers have continued to file multiple challenges against the treason charges against him. Afghan Finance Ministry officials reported that KRU Capital submitted the highest bid for the assets of New Kabul Bank; the bid must still be approved by the council of ministers. Prime Minister Sharif has approved the devolution of the Peshawar Electric Supply Company to the Khyber Paktunkhwa provincial government’s control.

Pakistan — Security

  • Polio Workers Attacked: Unidentified gunmen entered the Peshawar’s Mattani hospital on Saturday and opened fire, killing a polio vaccination campaign worker and severely injuring two bystanders. No claim of responsibility has been reported; it is the fifth death associated with an attack on polio vaccinators so far this month. Separately on Saturday, health officials reported five new polio cases in North and South Waziristan. On Sunday, four people were wounded in an attack on a vaccination team in Quetta’s Pashtoonabad neighborhood. [NYT] [AFP]
  • Drone Protests: In remarks on Friday at the opening of a new block for the Foreign Ministry, Prime Minister Sharif cautioned that “we live in a globalised world where no-one can afford isolation at any level,” remarks that Dawn interprets as a critique of the PTI’s ongoing protests against NATO supplies through Peshawar in response to U.S. drone attacks. PTI chairman Imran Khan issued a statement on Saturday expressing “shock and disappointment” over Sharif’s remarks. PML-N officials tell the Express Tribune that the government is considering appointing a new governor for Khyber Paktunkhwa and taking other unspecified steps to “keep a check on the PTI in the province”. [Dawn]
  • Missing Persons: The Express Tribune reports that a classified defense ministry report was presented to the Supreme Court last week on the case of 35 missing persons whose location or transfer from military custody former Chief Justice Chaudhry had ordered before stepping down. Details of the report’s contents are minimal, although it reportedly concluded that “no headway was possible” in their cases and proposed the establishment of a “fact finding commission” instead.
  • Sectarian Violence: Two people were killed and one injured in an attack on a leader of the Shia group Majlis Wahdatul Muslimeen in the Gulistan-e-Jauhar neighborhood in Karachi on Saturday. On Monday, two police officers were killed when unidentified gunmen opened fire on a Shia mosque in Rawalpindi; three other officers and another bystander were wounded.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Local Elections: In comments to the Express Tribune, an anonymous Election Commission official denies that the ECP will be unable to hold local government polls on schedule, as reported on Friday. In a separate Dawn report, however, printing officials reportedly sought 22 additional days to allow for the printing of ballot papers for Punjab and 15 days for Sindh during meetings with ECP officials on Friday. On Monday, the Sindh High Court ruled that all amendments that have been made to the province’s 2013 local government law were unconstitutional, and also overturned new constituency redistricting, a decision welcomed by the opposition MQM. It is now unclear whether polls will continue to be held by January 18. No date for polls in Khyber Paktunhwa has yet been announced, which senior minister Sirajul Haq attributed to high costs; Dawn reports that the PPP, ANP, and JUI-F are considering a joint alliance for local government polls there. [ET] [Dawn]
  • Bilalwal Marks Benazir Death Anniversary: Bilalwal Bhutto Zardari marked the sixth anniversary of his mother’s death with a political rally at Garhi Khuda Bhakhsh, Sindh, on Friday. He argued that “the only way to save Pakistan is to battle terrorism … and the only party standing against terrorism is the PPP”, accusing the PML-N of “providing shelter to the Taliban in Punjab” and the PTI of “stopp[ing] NATO supplies to mourn Hakimullah Mehsud’s death”. PTI and PML-N officials criticized Bilalwal in turn for “political immaturity”. [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET]
  • Musharraf Claims Army Support: In interviews with international press reporters on Sunday, former Pres. Musharraf claimed that “the whole army is upset” due to his pending treason trial and that “the way this tribunal was formed, which involved the prime minister and the ex-chief justice, this itself smacks a little bit of a vendetta” against him. Musharraf did not indicate whether he would attend court hearings on Wednesday, but said he would face the charges against him and would not seek a pardon. On Monday, more explosive materials were found near Musharraf’s Islamabad farmhouse. Lawyers for Musharraf filed further legal petitions seeking a review of the Supreme Court’s July 2009 verdict overturning his 2007 imposition of emergency rule, a petition which was previously rejected by the Supreme Court registrar. On Monday, Musharraf’s lawyers filed a new petition arguing that he retained presidential immunity from prosecution. [NYT] [WAPO] [WSJ]
  • Voting Irregularity Investigations: National Database and Registration Authority chairman Tariq Malik defended his tenure in a letter to the interior secretary on Friday, saying that Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan’s allegations against him were “baseless”. Separately, the Express Tribune reports that election tribunal investigations in the NA-202 Shikarpur constituency found that one voter cast 310 ballots, which Election Commission officials cite as vindication for their use of magnetic ink.
  • PTI Protests: The PTI led a small rally in Karachi on Saturday against long-term road closures due to a security wall established outside the PPP’s Bilalwal House, with the two sides clashing briefly before police intervened to separate rival party supporters. [Dawn] [ET]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Electricity Devolution: Following calls from PTI leader Imran Khan to transfer control of the Peshawar Electric Supply Company to the Khyber Paktunkhwa provincial government, Prime Minister Sharif has approved PESCO’s devolution. KP Chief Minister Pervaiz Khattak welcomed the move but called for the further devolution of all federally-controlled power generation in the province as well. With cuts to gas distribution and high supply-demand gaps, loadshedding of 8-20 hours daily is now reported in most major cities. [Dawn] [ET]
  • Iran Electricity Project: Ministry of Water and Power officials are reviewing a draft memorandum of understanding that would allow for the import of 1,000 megawatts of electricity from a prospective new Iranian generator across the border from Balochistan. The prospective plan, and proposals to build Iranian generators inside Balochistan, remains stalled due to the threat of U.S. and international sanctions, however. Iran currently exports 74MW daily but has threatened to cut power supplies due to delayed payments, which Pakistan has not made since banking sanctions were imposed in June 2011.
  • IMF Loan Repayments: Pakistan repaid $147 million to the IMF as part of its 2008 Standby Agreement on Friday, the 25th installment to date since July 2011.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Supreme Court Orders Priority Distribution to Villages Near Gas Fields [Dawn] [ET]
  • Former CJ Chaudhry Requested Residential Plot Days Before Retirement [Dawn]
  • Tahirul Qadri Supporters Demonstrate in Lahore Against Government [Dawn] [ET]
  • Quami Watan Party MP Arrested on Charges of Interfering with Police [ET]
  • Three Killed in Charsadda Bombing [Dawn]
  • One Killed in Cross-Border Rocket Strike in Bajaur [Dawn]
  • Frontier Corps Seizes Weapons Cache Near Chaman Border [ET]
  • Government Forms ‘Public Affairs Unit’ to Facilitate PML-N Lawmakers [ET]
  • Prime Minister Streamlines Youth Business Loan Application Process [ET]
  • Rehman Malik, Khawaja Asif Top List of Debtor Politicians [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • National Intelligence Estimate Warns of Insecurity Following Withdrawal: The Post reports that a new U.S. National Intelligence Estimate has concluded that the Taliban and other local power brokers are likely to gain in influence after the withdrawal of most international forces in 2014 as the central government “loses purchase”, and that without a continuing international financial and military presence, “the situation would deteriorate very rapidly”. Previous leaked reports of NIEs on Afghanistan have been uniformly pessimistic; the White House declined to comment on details but said in a statement that “we will be weighing inputs from the [intelligence community] alongside those of the military, our diplomats and development experts as we look at the consequential decisions ahead of us, including making a decision on whether to leave troops in Afghanistan after the end of 2014.”

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Election Preparations: The NYT overviews several recent public opinion polls focused on the upcoming elections, including a State Department-commissioned Glevum Associates poll in which 85% of respondents said they would not take Pres. Karzai’s endorsement – yet to be given – into account when choosing how to cast their vote. That poll found 29% supporting the candidacy of former finance minister Ashraf Ghani; two other recent polls, by Democracy International and TOLO News, put Ghani in second place behind former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah. Separately, in a Sunday interview Electoral Complaints Commission head Abdul Satar Saadat acknowledged that “there are war criminals among the presidential candidates” and suggested that some candidates could still be barred from contesting elections. [TOLO] [TOLO] [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Kabul Bank Bids Awarded: The UAE-based Crow / KRU Capital Partners submitted a winning for the assets of New Kabul Bank, Ministry of Finance officials announced on Saturday. TOLO reports that Crow’s initial bid was reported at $8 million but that finance officials shortly afterwards announced that it had been “recorded wrong” and had come in at $28.5 million. The bid must still be approved by the council of ministers. CBGI LLC submitted an offer of $21 million. [Pajhwok]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Afghan Taliban Commander Noorullah Hotak Killed by Unidentified Gunmen in Quetta [ET]
  • Parliament Hears Testimony on Prison Overcrowding [TOLO]
  • Commentary: Some Things Got Better – How Much Got Good? A Review of 12 Years of International Intervention in Afghanistan – “Presently, the political transition process, with the presidential election in 2014, stands on a shaky foundation.” [Thomas Ruttig, AAN]

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