Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: PML-N Debates Taliban Offensive; Karzai Reportedly Convinced U.S. Backing Insurgent Attacks

Topline

  • A majority of PML-N parliamentarians have reportedly endorsed military action against the Pakistani Taliban, but no decision on an operation has yet been made. Sartaj Aziz and John Kerry opened U.S.-Pakistan strategic dialogue talks in Washington on Monday. Relations between Pres. Karzai and the U.S. continue to sour, as his government moved ahead with the release of Bagram detainees and as the Post reports he increasingly attributes insurgent attacks to the United States, who he sees as intent on undermining his government. Two petitioners have challenged recent amendments to the Protection of Pakistan Ordinance that allow the withholding of information about individuals detained by the security services.

Pakistan — Security

  • Taliban Talks: In a statement on Monday, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan denied carrying out attacks on mosques and marketplaces and accused the military of inflicting casualties in recent operations in the tribal areas. Prime Minister Sharif met with the PML-N’s parliamentary delegation on Monday, where a majority of legislators reportedly endorsed military operations against the Taliban; no formal decision in that regard has yet been taken, however, and in remarks to parliament Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said that the government was still consulting with its partners and the opposition to determine a way forward. Sharif had been scheduled to address the full parliament but did not attend the session under way; he met with Chief of Army Staff Sharif on Tuesday to discuss the security situation. In a BBC interview, Bilalwal Bhutto Zardari argued that “we have exhausted the option of talks” and argued that the country’s politicians were “confusing the nation on purpose because they are scared.”
  • Security Ordinance Challenged: Two petitioners have submitted a constitutional challenge in the Supreme Court against the recent amendment of the Protection of Pakistan Ordinance issued on Jan 22, which allowed the withholding of information about individuals detained without charge by the security services, arguing that it represented an “infringement upon the fundamental rights of citizens.”

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Strategic Dialogue Talks: Foreign Affairs advisor Sartaj Aziz met with Sec. Kerry in Washington for the opening of strategic dialogue talks on Monday. Aziz argued that the relationship needed to be deepened so that the United States “will not look at Pakistan from the two specific lenses of Afghanistan and terrorism”; Kerry echoed the need for a stronger partnership, and praised the government’s efforts to institute economic reforms and boost growth.
  • Musharraf Trial: In hearings on Monday, government prosecutors rejected the latest medical report under review for former Pres. Musharraf, saying it was “inconclusive and deliberately vague” and that his hospitalization was an “attempt to thwart the judicial process”. [ET]
  • Local Elections: After meetings on Monday the opposition ANP, PPP, and JUI-F have reached an agreement to field joint candidates in local government elections in Khyber Paktunkhwa.
  • Malala Book Launch Cancelled: The planned book launch of teenage education activist Malala Yousafzai’s biography in Peshawar was cancelled after the intervention of two Khyber Paktunkhwa provincial government ministers and what provincial police said were security concerns. PTI chairman Imran Khan professed to be “at a loss” to understand why the government had stopped the event.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • 11 More Bodies Discovered in Khuzdar Mass Grave [ET]
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Chief Minister Meets Sharif, Seems Replacement of PESCO Chief [Dawn]
  • Jamaat-e-Islami Leader Suggests Osama bin Laden ‘Alive in the Hearts of the People’ [ET]
  • Bomb Defused in Peshawar [Dawn]
  • New Aviation Advisor Denies Plans for Mass PIA Layoffs [ET]
  • Rawalpindi Initiates Planning for Bus Service [ET]
  • Report: Pakistan’s Urbanization: Urban Transport Planning – “The government should make provisions for a differentiated transit supply to meet the differentiated needs for public transit generated by the urban poor and middle class commuters.” [Murtaza Haider, Wilson Center]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Partnership Strains: The Post, citing anonymous senior Afghan officials, reports that Pres. Karzai is increasingly convinced that the United States has supported a number of recent insurgent attacks in an effort to undermine his government, including the Taliban attack on the Taverna restaurant in Kabul. U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan James Cunningham said that the notion was “a deeply conspiratorial view that’s divorced from reality” and ISAF commander Gen. Joseph Dunford described as “ludicrous”. The palace declined to comment and Afghan officials apparently acknowledged that they had no evidence to support the contention. The WSJ notes the strains in the partnership generated by Karzai’s decision to move ahead with the release of prisoners from Bagram, rejecting what U.S. officials say is detailed evidence of their involvement in attacks on Afghan and coalition forces.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Election Preparations: Independent Election Commission officials held a meeting for presidential election candidates and their deputies on Monday to review campaign law and regulations; the campaign period officially begins February 2 through April 2.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Report: Afghan National Security Forces: Despite Reported Successes, Concerns Remain about Literacy Program Results, Contract Oversight, Transition, and Sustainment – “The lack of defined requirements for classes and length of instruction resulted in one contractor billing for classes held for as little as 2 hours a month and for multiple classes at one site that could have been combined into one class.” [SIGAR (pdf)]
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