Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Direct Talks Begin with the TTP; Afghan Presidential Candidate Withdraws from Race

Topline

  • Government negotiators have arrived in North Waziristan to begin direct talks with Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan leaders. Sardar Mohammad Nadir Naeem, a presidential candidate in the upcoming Afghan elections, has withdrawn, endorsing Zalmay Rassoul instead. The death toll from yesterday’s attack on Afghan Independent Election Commission offices in Kabul has rise to five, including a provincial council candidate and two police officers. Pakistani Finance Minister Dar says the government does not plan to increase government salaries or pensions in its next budget.


Pakistan — Security

  • TTP Talks Begin: A team of government negotiators and Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan intermediaries arrived in North Waziristan on Wednesday where they have reportedly begun direct talks with a committee of TTP leaders at an undisclosed location. The Nation reports that the government negotiating team, primarily comprised of civil service bureaucrats, will be accompanied by a senior ISI officer, at the insistence of the TTP. Details of the discussions are currently limited, but the government is reported to have demanded an indefinite ceasefire and the release of high-profile prisoners. [ET] [BBC]
  • Missing Persons: The Balochistan provincial government told the Supreme Court that they will transfer cases against two intelligence service officers, accused of involvement in the extrajudicial abduction of missing persons in Balochistan, to a military court for trial under the Pakistan Army Act. [Dawn]


Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Opposition Politics: The PPP, ANP, and PML-Q have reportedly reached an agreement to work together for a “joint strategy on national issues” in parliament, criticizing the PML-N for ignoring the senate and expressing continued concern over reports that Pakistani plans to intervene in the Syrian civil war at the behest of Saudi Arabia. The PTI and JI did not participate in the opposition meetings. [Dawn]


Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Budget Planning: Finance Minister Dar told the national assembly that the government was not considering an increase of salaries or pensions for government employees in its upcoming budget. Separately, Federal Board of Revenue officials acknowledged that less than 3,000 people have taken part in a tax amnesty program intended to broaden registration, generating only Rs 88 million.
  • Thar Crisis: The Sindh High Court has ordered increased relief efforts in Tharparkar district after officials acknowledged that more than 22,000 families are still without food and relief supplies, and has summoned the commissioners responsible for overseeing the effort. UNICEF has sought $11.67 million in donations to expand its relief programs in the area. Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah continues to deny that the child deaths reported in Tharparkar are due to drought or famine.


Pakistan — Remainders

  • Inquiry into Islamabad Court Attack Concludes Proceedings [ET]
  • Election Tribunal Overturns Results Of PP-136 Punjab Assembly Seat, Orders Re-Elections [Dawn]
  • Government Pledges to Recover Circular Debts Through Consumer Price Increases [ET]
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Chief Minister Meets with DFID Head to Discuss Bilateral Aid [Dawn]
  • Public Accounts Committee Accused of Lax Oversight Over Previous PPP Term [Dawn]
  • Parliamentarians Clash with Council of Islamic Ideology Over Child Marriage [ET] [ET]
  • Polio Vaccinator’s Murder Raises Health Worker Fears [Guardian]
  • Finance Minister Emphasizes Price Stability [ET]
  • Pakistan Fails to Contract Cheaper LNG from US [ET]
  • Central Government to Assist Punjab in Construction of Coal Power Plants [Dawn]
  • Commentary: Four Pakistani Conspiracy Theories That Are Less Fictitious Than You’d Think – “U.S. policies in Pakistan often strengthen—and validate—anti-American narratives that Washington would much prefer to undercut.” [Michael Kugelman, War on the Rocks]
  • Commentary: MQM Eyeing Power Again – “[The MQM] has often used a revolving door approach to its partnership with the PPP, exiting (or threatening to exit) the government and then returning.” [Abbas Nasir, Dawn]


Afghanistan — Security

  • Kabul IEC Attack: Updated news reports indicate that yesterday’s reported attack on an Independent Election Commission office in Kabul killed at least five people, as two Taliban gunmen detonated suicide vests and three surviving attackers engaged in a multi-hour gun battle. The dead included a provincial council candidate and two policemen. The IEC’s chief electoral officer, Zia-ul Haq Amerkhel, said afterwards that the commission was “committed to conducting the elections, and the Afghan people are committed to participating in these elections”. [Reuters]


Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Another Candidate Withdraws: Sardar Mohammad Nadir Naeem, one of the nine remaining candidates for president, became the third to withdraw from the race on Wednesday, announcing that he would back Zalmay Rassoul instead. The AP notes the challenges for foreign election observers in the upcoming polls, who will maintain a limited presence of around 200 or less throughout the country; Afghan observer groups and candidates will instead field more than 100,000 poll observers. Abdullah Abdullah campaigned in Takhar on Tuesday, criticizing Pres. Karzai’s attempts at rapprochement with the Taliban; Zalmay Rassoul visited Kunduz, where he pledged to combat militancy and corruption. Abdul Rassoul Sayyaf pledged to establish “an Islamic system” during remarks to supporters in Herat, while Ashraf Ghani emphasized plans for economic development in Paktiya. Meanwhile, the WSJ notes the uncertainty about Pres. Karzai’s future role in the next government, which is expected to be greatest in a Rassoul administration. [Pajhwok]


Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Separate Attacks in Kunar, Kunduz, and Khost Kill at Least Ten [WAPO] [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • New Pakistani Ambassador to Afghanistan Presents Credentials [ET]
  • Female Police Officer Killed in Helmand [Khaama Press]
  • 7.7 Million Children Have Received Polio Vaccination, Ministry of Public Health Reports [TOLO]
  • Commentary: Nine Key Questions for the Afghan Presidential Elections – “Whether this election will be a more democratic affair than Afghanistan’s previous elections depends less on any administrative reforms that may have been implemented and more on whether Afghanistan’s electoral authorities can manage a contentious process and how the politics pan out.” [Jed Ober, South Asia Channel]
  • Commentary: When the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban Unite – “Given the widespread legitimacy accorded Mullar Omar by both the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban, there’s little reason to think such internal fractures would prevent the two groups from banding together-though for each of them, such a move would likely spawn more splinter groups and intra-organizational violence.” [Michael Kugelman, South Asia Channel]
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