Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: ECP Seeks Punjab and Sindh Local Election Delays; Bagram Detainee Cases Still Under Review

Topline

  • The Election Commission of Pakistan has sought a delay of local elections in Punjab and Sindh until mid-March and late February, respectively, citing ballot printing delays; Supreme Court hearings on constituency delineation processes have been set for January 27. The U.S. and National Directorate of Services are providing additional details to the special review board on 88 high-risk detainees whose release from Bagram prison they are seeking to block. A new memoir by former Defense Secretary Gates is critical of Obama administration policymaking on Afghanistan. Pakistani Defense Secretary Yasin Malik told reporters on Tuesday that the Pakistani military had “no connection” to the trial against former Pres. Musharraf; a ruling on his fitness to stand trial is expected tomorrow.

Pakistan — Security

  • Peshawar Shootings: One policeman was killed and four were injured in separate shooting incidents in Peshawar on Wednesday; in both incidents, the gunmen were not identified. On Tuesday, Sardar Waqarul Hassan, a bank manager, was killed in what police describe as a likely sectarian killing.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Local Elections: Testifying before the Supreme Court on Wednesday, Election Commission officials expressed their inability to hold local government elections in Punjab and Sindh on schedule, and asked for a delay until March 13 and February 23, respectively, to allow for the printing of ballot papers. Hearings on the delimitation of constituencies in Sindh have been set for January 27. Despite the postponement, Imran Khan rallied PTI supporters in Karachi on Tuesday for the upcoming polls. Separately on Tuesday the Senate unanimously passed a bill calling for local government polls to be held within 45 days of the expiration of a previous local government’s term; the last local government elections in Pakistan were held in 2005. [ET]
  • Musharraf Trial: A leaked copy of former Pres. Musharraf’s medical report shows few apparent signs of immediate health problems, although doctors consulted by Express Tribune say that he may be in need of bypass surgery; the special court hearing treason charges against him is due to rule Thursday on his fitness to stand trial. Defense Secretary Yasin Malik told reporters on Tuesday that Pakistan’s army had “no connection” to the trial against Musharraf, rebuffing his claims of continued military backing and allegations that his stay at the Army Institute of Cardiology had been engineered by the military. Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, who concluded a two-visit to Pakistan on Tuesday, also publicly denied any role in brokering a deal. [NYT] [Dawn]
  • Opinion Polling: A new Pew Research Center report on attitudes towards the U.S. indicates that Pakistani respondents who viewed the U.S. as an “enemy” declined from 74% to 64% between 2012 and 2013; at the same time, Pakistan held the least favorable views of the U.S., at 11% of respondents.

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • State Bank Borrowing: New data from the State Bank of Pakistan indicates that net government borrowing totaled approximately Rs 600 billion from July through December. Currency in circulation has increased 11.8% from the end of the previous fiscal year.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Saudi Arabia and Pakistan Pledge Regional Cooperation [Dawn]
  • Eight Months on, PTI Promises of Change in Khyber Paktunkhwa Slow to Materialize [ET]
  • Zardari May Appear Before Accountability Court on Thursday [Dawn]
  • Sindh Government Calls for Amendments to Anti-Terrorism Ordinance [Dawn]
  • Nine Killed in Karachi [Dawn] [ET]
  • Seven Injured in Kurram Agency Bombing [ET]
  • Imran Khan Asked to Reply to Defamation Charges by Sacked Quami Watan Party Minister [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Detainee Releases: Abdul Shakoor Dadras, told Stars and Stripes on Tuesday that the special review board examining detainee cases at Bagram prison was still reviewing the case of 88 detainees whose release the U.S. has objected to, despite earlier statements indicating that they would be released. A U.S. official provides additional details on the alleged crimes of four specific individuals and tells the paper that “we continue to strongly oppose release of these 88 detainees without processing through the Afghan justice system.” The National Directorate of Security intelligence service reportedly sent files on 55 of the detainees to the review board on Tuesday and plans to send another 23 reports shortly; Afghan government officials suggest that releases will now not be possible without NDS approval.
  • Gates Criticizes Afghan Policymaking in New Memoir: Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’ new memoir will be published next week, and the major papers’ reporting all focuses on his criticisms of the Obama administration’s policymaking process on the Afghan war during the 2009-2011 period. According to a Post excerpt, Gates says that by early 2010 he had concluded that President Obama “doesn’t believe in his own strategy, and doesn’t consider the war to be his. For him, it’s all about getting out.” However, he also concludes that on the overall Afghan war policy, “Obama was right in each of these decisions.” The WSJ publishes a fuller excerpt; the book releases Jan 14.
  • Taliban Sanctions: The U.S. Treasury department formally designated Qari Saifullah, the Taliban shadow governor for Zabul, as a specially designated global terrorist on Tuesday.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • White House Reiterates Call for Quick Signature of Bilateral Security Agreement [TOLO]
  • Attack Plot on NDS Deputy in Kabul Foiled [TOLO]
  • Officials Raise Concerns Over Continued Mining Law Delay [TOLO]
  • Taliban Deny Sending Girl to Attack Afghan Police [AP] [TOLO]
  • Parliament Summons Officials to Talk Violence Against Women [TOLO]
  • Commentary: Innocent, Guilty, Useful? What’s Behind the US-Afghan Clash Over 88 Prisoners at Bagram – “A major reason for the releases was pressure by influential tribal leaders who have been queuing in the president’s palace in Kabul for years to plead for the release of close relatives held in Bagram prison.” [AAN]
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