- MQM leader Altaf Hussain has demanded “equal rights for Urdu speakers” in Sindh and has suggested that the province should be divided if his supporters are not “given due rights”. Afghan Taliban officials accuse Kandahar police commander Abdul Raziq of dispatching an assassination squad to target their leaders in Quetta. The head of the Afghan government detainee review board told reporters that they intend to release 88 high-risk detainees “as soon as possible”, over U.S. objections, as they lack evidence to convict them. There are conflicting reports as to whether the Election Commission has formally announced the delay of local government elections in Punjab; in Sindh, the government has appealed a Sindh High Court ruling invalidating constituency boundaries ahead of local elections officially scheduled for January 18. Afghan security agencies failed to deliver polling station security assessments to the Independent Election Commission on schedule on Sunday. The general secretary of the Sunni sectarian group Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat’s Islamabad chapter was killed in a drive-by shooting on Friday. Former Pres. Musharraf again missed court hearings on Monday, and his lawyers suggest he may leave the country for medical treatment; the court has ordered his medical records be produced tomorrow.
Pakistan — Security
- ASWJ Leader Killed: Mufti Muneer Muawiya, the general secretary of the Islamabad chapter of the Sunni sectarian group Ahl-e-Sunnat Wal Jamaat, was killed along with another ASWJ member in a driveby shooting in Islamabad on Friday. No claim of responsibility has been reported. [ET]
- Pakistani Taliban Talks: The Express Tribune reports that the government will seek assistance from visiting Saudi Arabian foreign minister Prince Saud al Faisal to help broker peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban. Separately, a gathering of the Sunni Ittehad Council, the Muttahida Majlis Wahdatul Muslimeen, and other groups met in Islamabad on Sunday to pledge sectarian harmony and call for action against the Pakistani Taliban, vowing to create “a council of patriots which would be a joint platform for all moderate political, religious and social entities” to pressure the government on the issue.
- Quetta Bombings: Mir Majid Abro, a Balochistan assembly member and advisor to the chief minister, was injured in a roadside bombing in Quetta on Saturday; there was no claim of responsibility. On Monday, a policeman was injured in a grenade attack on a police station in Quetta. [Dawn]
- Khyber Bombing: Nine people, including three children, were killed in a bombing attack on the home of Hakeel Khan Akhakhel, a tribal leader in the Tirah valley in Khyber on Monday. Officials say they are still investigating but suggest that three suspected militants – affiliation unspecified – were also dead in the blast. [BBC]
Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy
- MQM Leader Calls for Provincial Split: In remotely-delivered speeches to supporters in Hyderabad on Friday and Karachi on Sunday, MQM leader-in-exile Altaf Hussain demanded “equal rights for Urdu speakers” in Sindh and said that if the province’s urban population was not “given its due rights, then there should be a separate province for them.” Hussain said that he was “still ready for dialogue” with the ruling PPP to “make an agreement for a 50-50 division of power” but suggested that after him, urban residents may “just unleash violence to achieve their objectives. PPP leaders and other MQM rivals denounced Hussain’s remarks. On Saturday, the Sindh provincial government appealed the Sindh High Court’s verdict invalidating the process for drawing constituency boundaries for upcoming local elections, which the MQM had petitioned to block. [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET] [Dawn]
- Punjab Local Elections Postponed: The Express Tribune reports that the Election Commission announced Saturday that it has postponed local government elections scheduled to take place in Punjab on January 30, after the Lahore High Court voided the process of establishing constituency boundaries and ordered amendments to the local government law, a process estimated to take months, at least. A separate Express Tribune reports that polling preparations are still ongoing, however, and suggests that a delay decision has yet be officially made. The opposition PTI has called for polls to be held without a delay.
- Musharraf Not to Appear in Court: Lawyers for former Pres. Musharraf told the AFP on Sunday that he would not appear before the special court hearing treason charges against him on Monday; the court accepted that exemption but ordered the release of his medical reports from the Army Institute of Cardiology by Tuesday. The Lawyer Ahmed Kasuri insisted that “if the doctors advise to take him abroad for treatment then the doctors’ opinion will be carried out”. Musharraf’s wife has filed a petition seeking the removal of his name from the Exit Control List, which bars him from leaving the country; on Monday, the Islamabad High Court rejected a petition demanding that Musharraf be blocked from traveling abroad. Interior Ministry officials deny any plans to lift the restriction; Prime Minister Sharif told reporters on Saturday that “it is up to the court to decide whether he is innocent or guilty”. [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [Dawn]
- Judicial Appointments: PML-N senator Rafiq Rajwana confirms to Dawn that the parliamentary committee tasked with ratifying nominations to the senior judiciary is continuing to meet with bar association members and is considering amendments to the judicial nominations process. No time frame for the amendments has been suggested.
Pakistan — Economics and Development
- National Financial Commission Negotiations: Negotiations for the 2015 National Financial Commission agreement, which sets the revenue-sharing formula for the provinces and federal government, will begin in July, according to government reporting to the IMF released this week, which promises to “seek a new agreement that will ensure that the terms of fiscal decentralisation find a balance between devolution of revenue and expenditure responsibilities”. PML-N officials tell the Express Tribune that they may ask provinces to share a portion of national defense and police expenditures; under the 18th Amendment to Pakistan’s constitution, the provincial revenue share cannot be reduced below 57.5%.
- Sindh Government Rejects Karachi Nuclear Plan: Speaking at a federal-provincial forum on Saturday, Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah voiced strong opposition to the federal government’s planned expansion of the Karachi nuclear power plant, citing environmental risks.
- Circular Debts: Unpaid government dues to the power sector have added up to approximately Rs 500 billion after the first five months of the fiscal year, Pakistan Electric Power Company officials report. [Dawn]
- Polio Vaccination: The World Health Organization will meet in late January to consider travel restrictions on Pakistani nationals due to the ongoing endemic polio crisis and the government’s failure to conduct effective vaccination campaigns, Health Department officials warn the Express Tribune. India has extended the implementation deadline of a vaccination requirement for Pakistani visitors until mid-February. [ET]
Pakistan — Remainders
- Ongoing PTI Blockade Complicates NATO Plans for Afghan Withdrawal [WAPO]
- Government Reportedly Considering Reopening of Swiss Cases Against Zardari [Dawn] [ET]
- Over 2700 Killed in Karachi in 2013 [ET] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn]
- Balochistan Frontier Corps Cites 50-70 Militant Camps in Province [ET] [Dawn]
- Begum Nasim Wali Plans Breakaway ANP Faction [ET]
- Utah Gun Manufacturer Refuses Rifle Sale to Pakistan [KSL]
- Government Plans to Scrap 500 Development Projects Implemented Under PPP Govt [ET]
- Daring Investors Brave Pakistan Market [WSJ]
- South Punjab Senator Seeks Recruitment Quota [ET]
- Auditors Find PPP Spent Rs 3.15B in Benazir Income Support Program Advertising [Dawn]
- Report: Staff Report for the First Review Under the Extended Arrangement Under the Extended Fund Facility – “Discussions focused on progress in addressing the main macroeconomic challenges facing the country, with a particular attention on: (i) challenges on the balance of payments and corrective measures to address external vulnerabilities and rebuild reserves; (ii) enhancing tax revenues by broadening the tax net and improving tax administration; (iii) protecting the most vulnerable; (iv) implementing structural reforms to unlock Pakistan’s medium-term growth prospects, and (v) safeguarding the stability of the financial system.” [IMF]
Afghanistan — Security
- Taliban Targeted in Quetta: Taliban sources tell the WSJ that they believe Kandahar police chief Abdul Raziq is behind the late December deaths of two senior commanders inside Pakistan, claiming to have detained six members of an assassination squad who confessed to being tasked to target Taliban leadership inside Pakistan; Raziq declined to comment, and Afghan intelligence officials deny involvement. [The News]
- Detainee Releases: Abdul Shokur Dadras, the head of the special Afghan government review board for prisoners at Bagram, told reporters on Saturday that the board was continuing to review the cases of 88 detainees whose release U.S. security officials have objected to, but said that Pres. Karzai had not blocked their release process. On Sunday, Dadras told reporters that “the documents we have seen so far provide no reason to convict them,” and that “our decision is to release them as soon as possible if there is no incriminating evidence against them.” Karzai’s office has not publicly commented, and no date for their release has been reported.
- Kabul Bombing: A bomb exploded near NATO headquarters in Kabul on Saturday, which the Taliban claimed responsibility for; no casualties were reported. [TOLO]
Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy
- Election Preparations: Pres. Karzai met the eleven presidential candidates and their vice presidents for a lunch meeting on Sunday, during which he assured them that he would not use government resources to favor any one candidate. Separately, the Independent Election Commission warned that the delay by Afghan security agencies in delivering security assessments for possible polling station sites was causing delays in their process of delivering ballots; an interior ministry spokesman said that the report, originally due Sunday, would be completed “in the coming week”. [TOLO] [TOLO] [TOLO] [TOLO]
Afghanistan — Elections and Development
- Draft Budget Rejected: The lower house of parliament again voted to reject the draft 2014 budget, citing an imbalance of development funds between the provinces and complaints about spending priorities, among other complaints. [TOLO]
Afghanistan — Remainders
- Afghanistan’s Worsening Child Hunger Crisis [NYT]
- Outgoing UN Office on Drugs and Crime Official Warns Afghanistan May Transform into ‘Fragmented, Criminal State’ [Guardian] [TOLO]
- Three Nangarhar Policemen Killed in Roadside Bombing [TOLO]
- AIHRC Looks to Stem Bacha Bazi [TOLO]
- Karzai Media Advisor Accuses US of ‘Denying People Their Religion’ [TOLO]
- Commentary: How Hard is it to WIn Hearts and Minds in Afghanistan? Very Hard. – “ISAF victimization is associated with a large increase in support for the Taliban; harm by the Taliban, only a modest downturn in support for the Taliban.” [Jason Lyall, WAPO]
- Commentary: Armed, Disarmed, Rearmed: How Nahr-e-Seraj in Helmand Became One of the Deadliest Districts in Afghanistan – “Taleban insurgents, having captured much of northern Helmand over recent years, including Musa Qala, Kajaki and parts of Sangin, increased their pressure on Gereshk this year.” [Deedee Derksen, AAN]