Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Haqqani Role Reported in Pushing TTP to Talks; IEC Seeks Action Against Paktia Governor

Topline

  • Afghan security officials tell Reuters that the Pakistani Taliban’s decision to agree to a ceasefire and enter into talks with the government was prompted by the Haqqani network and the Afghan Taliban, but accounts of the first direct talks between the government and the TTP on Wednesday suggest that the two sides remain divided, and the question of an extension in the ceasefire agreement remains unclear. The Afghan Independent Election Commission has recommended Pres. Karzai take action against the Paktia governor for the misuse of funds to support Zalmay Rassoul’s presidential candidacy. A Lahore district court has sentenced a Christian man on blasphemy charges.


Pakistan — Security

  • Little Progress in TTP Talks: Reuters, citing Afghan government officials and anonymous Taliban commanders, reports that the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan agreed to enter into a ceasefire agreement and peace talks with the government over the past month at the urging of the Haqqani network and the Afghan Taliban, which has criticized the group’s focus on attacking Pakistani state and military targets in the past and instead sought to refocus its activities across the border in Afghanistan. Afghan security officials have reported a spike in attacks since the ceasefire was announced at the start of March. The ceasefire is due to expire Monday, however, and anonymous sources tell Dawn that direct talks held between the Pakistani government and the TTP earlier this week made little progress in resolving their competing demands. The TTP reiterated demands for a withdrawal of military forces from areas of South Waziristan and the freeing of alleged noncombatant prisoners, but made no commitments to freeing senior officials held by the Taliban. [The Nation] [ET] [Dawn]


Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Death Sentence in Blasphemy Case: A Lahore district court has issued a death penalty conviction on blasphemy charges against Sawan Masih, a resident of the Josephy Colony Christian community, which was the target of riots in 2013 that destroyed more than 100 homes, after the case was first reported. Masih has denied the charge that he defamed the prophet and says the case is motivated by a property dispute; his lawyers say they will file an appeal with the Lahore High Court. [NYT] [AFP]


Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Reserve Inflows: Pakistan will conduct an international bond offer in mid-April and is expected at least $1.7 billion in World Bank loans for construction of the Dasu Hydropower Project by May, Finance Minister Dar said on Thursday, speaking at the launch of a new government debt security on the Islamabad Stock Exchange. The third $550 million tranche of the IMF loan program, approved for disbursal earlier this week, was received by the State Bank of Pakistan on Thursday. [ET] [APP]
  • Polio Cases: Three new polio cases were reported in North Waziristan on Thursday, bringing the total number of reported cases so far this year to 39, of which 33 have been located in the FATA.


Pakistan — Remainders

  • Suspect Arrested in Murder of Top Karachi Cop [ET]
  • Bilalwal Bhutto Reports Threats from Lashkar e Jhangvi [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Special Court Rejects Musharraf Petitions, Reiterates Arrest Order [ET]
  • Opposition Walkout Over $1.5B Saudi ‘Gift’ [Dawn]
  • Pakistan Tightens Rules on Islamic Banking Windows [Reuters]
  • Government Reportedly Reversing Stance on Rental Power Projects [ET]
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Cabinet Reshuffled [Dawn]
  • PPP Allowed to Join Case on NAB Appointment [Dawn]
  • Commentary: Pakistan and the United States: Frenemies Forever? – “There are many changes afoot in the region — among them, civil-military developments in Pakistan, elections in India and Afghanistan, and the ongoing drawdown of U.S. forces in Afghanistan — that have the potential to bring about a shift in Pakistan’s relationship with the United States.” [Joshua White, South Asia Channel]
  • Commentary: Pakistan’s Solar Solution? – “Given that Pakistan receives almost 320 days of sunshine, for an average of eight hours a day in most parts of the country, some experts believe there is a potential of producing between 1 and 2.9 million MW of electricity through solar power alone.” [Salman Haqqi, Newsline]


Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Election Campaign: The Guardian reports that Independent Election Commission officials have recommended that Pres. Karzai take action against Paktia governor Juma Khan Hamdard for using government resources to support the campaign of Zalmay Rassoul, believed to be a favored candidate to replace Karzai.  A spokesman for the president said that an IEC complaint had been received but that it included no identifying details, adding that “if there are names, with evidence, the president is ready to take action.” Rassoul campaigned in Balkh on Thursday, vowing to combat corruption and land theft.
  • Nowruz Celebrations: Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain, visiting Kabul along with other regional leaders for Nowruz celebrations, reiterated Pakistan’s support for “peaceful dialogue” and “the centrality of a political solution” to the current conflict. In his remarks at the gathering, Iranian president Hassan Rouhani referred to Afghanistan as a victim of “two occupations” and said that his government would continue to help the country during the current period of American intervention. [TOLO]


Afghanistan — Remainders

  • No Transfer of Excess MRAPs to Pakistan, ISAF Says [ISAF Statement]
  • Surviving Child of Slain Afghan Reporter Making ‘Rapid Recovery’ [AFP]
  • Commentary: Afghanistan’s First Lady – “At least one woman — the woman who will become the first lady as a result of the 2014 elections — will have the chance to play a prominent role in working for women’s rights in Afghanistan.” [Malali Bashir, South Asia Channel]
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