Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Government and Opposition Gear Up for PTI Protests; Afghan Audit Moves Forward Fitfully

Note: A summary of the past several days’ events in Pakistan and Afghanistan follows bellow; apologies again for the recent interruption in service and resulting length of this brief. Due to upcoming international travel obligations and the possibility of irregular internet access during that time, updates may be more sporadic or delayed through mid-August; however, whenever possible the goal will be to continue daily updates as usual. Thank you for reading.

Topline

  • With the conclusion of Eid, Pakistani political leaders are gearing up for the planned protest rallies to be led by the PTI and the Pakistan Awami Tehreek; PTI legislators say they have prepared resignations from the national assembly, to be delivered on August 13 before their march begin. Some PTI leaders suggest that the party plans an extended sit-in; PML-Q efforts to broker an agreement between Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri have yet to reach a deal. After multiple previous delays, the Afghan presidential run-off election audit resumed, belatedly, on August 3; Abdullah Abdullah campaign officials boycotted the process to seek additional criteria for ballot disqualification, which they are reported to have reached agreement on with the UN yesterday. Information from North Waziristan continues to be limited, with military officials claiming to have cleared both Miram Shah and Mir Ali of militants. Afghan and Pakistani military officials continue to trade accusations that the other party has failed to secure the border from militant attacks.

Pakistan — Security

  • Waziristan Operations: On August 4, Pakistani military spokesmen claim to have cleared the towns of Miram Shah, Mir Ali, Boya and Degan, although continued pockets of resistance were reported in several villages located between the two major towns of Miram Shah and Mir Ali. Two soldiers and seven militants, identified as Uzbeks, were reported to have been killed in clearance operations along the Miram Shah-Datta Khel road. Further airstrikes reported on August 5 are said to have killed another thirty militants. On July 31, Germany announced one million euros in aid for Waziristan residents displaced in the operation. [Dawn]
  • Islamabad Security: Five army companies were reportedly deployed around Islamabad beginning August 1, after the government called on the military to provide additional security assistance in the capital. Military spokesmen denied that additional troops were being deployed, saying that army personnel had been in position since the start of Operation Zarb-e-Azb in mid-June. Government officials continue to maintain that the deployment order is unrelated to the PTI’s planned march on Islamabad scheduled for August 14; opposition leaders criticized the orders in parliamentary sessions today. [Dawn] [ET]
  • New Defense Secretary Appointed: Retired Lt. Gen. Yasin Malik, the defense secretary, retired on July 31, completing a two-year contract. On August 4, retired Lt. Gen. Alam Khattak, a former Quetta Corps Commander, was appointed to the position. [Dawn]
  • Religious Leader Killed in Dera Ismail Khan: Faqir Jamshed, a local Sufi religious leader and former PTI Khyber Paktunkhwa provincial assembly candidate, was killed in a roadside bombing in Dera Ismail Khan on August 4, along with two guards. No claim of responsibility has been reported. [Reuters]
  • Arrests Near MQM Leader’s Residence: On August 4, the paramilitary Rangers briefly detained security guards working for MQM leader Farooq Sattar and cordoned off an area near his residence, afterwards announcing the arrest of three individuals nearby. One of the men detained subsequently confessed to carrying out 12 murders, according to a Rangers statement, which linked him indirectly to the MQM. Sattar subsequently led a protest walkout by his party in parliament. [ET]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Government Plans Response to Protests: Prime Minister Sharif returned from his trip to Saudi Arabia on July 30, holding meetings with Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif to strategize on the upcoming protest rallies being planned by the PTI and the Pakistan Awami Tehreek. A larger strategy meeting of PML-N leaders was held the following day, and again on August 4. The government’s planned 30-day long independence day celebrations officially began on August 1. In a Radio Pakistan interview on August 3, PM Sharif downplayed any threat to his government from the rallies, and suggested that he was “ready to listen to the opposition”. Press accounts that Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan had been tasked to reach out to Imran Khan in order to forestall the PTI march  were subsequently refuted by the interior ministry and the PTI. Although government officials have indicated they do not plan to use force to halt the rally, on August 3, Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid warned that Khan and the PTI would be responsible for any violence that occurred. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
  • PTI Leaders Maintain Hard Line: Imran Khan continues to reiterate that “there will be no negotiation or a deal with the government”, vowing on August 3 that the rally would “end the Sharif monarchy”. Khan reportedly warned senior party officials to prepare for arrests, and threatened to “shut down the whole country” if the government attempted to detain him. On August 4, the PTI national assembly delegation submitted their resignations to Khan, who has announced that he will submit them to the speaker of the assembly on August 13, prior to the rally’s kick-off. Information Minister Parvaiz Rashid countered that the resignation will result in by-elections, not a dissolution of parliament, where the PML-N holds a majority. Asad Umar, a PTI legislator from Islamabad, tells Dawn that the party is now considering an extended sit-in at the D-Chowk plaza in front of parliament, rather than a one-day rally; he offered no details on what concessions the PTI would accept in order to disperse, although other party officials say that the part will push for early elections. PTI organizers allege that they have come under harassment from Islamabad police in advance of the rally, which police deny. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Other Parties Position: The PML-Q is reportedly continuing to attempt to broker an agreement for cooperation between the PTI and the Pakistan Awami Tehreek, which plans to hold its own “revolution march” and rally in Lahore, a date for which has not yet been announced. PAT leader Tahirul Qadri has instead set August 10 as a “martyr’s day” to mark the death of party activists killed in June clashes with Lahore police. The MQM has demurred on participating in Qadri’s rally after being invited to do so in meetings on August 2; in a statement on August 3, however, Altaf Hussain called on Prime Minister Sharif to step down “in order to save the country” and defuse the protest movements. The Jamaat-e-Islami has rhetorically backed the PTI’s planned march, but has opposed the any assembly resignations, and does not appear set to join in the actual rally. Several other opposition parties, including the PPP and ANP, also endorsed the PTI’s right to protest but cautioned against moves that might upset the democratic system. Former Pres. Zardari reportedly sought, but failed, to convince former coalition partner Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain of the PML-Q to drop out of the PAT and PTI rallies, but the PPP says it will take part in the PAT’s “martyr’s day” commemoration on the 10th. [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Energy Crisis: On August 4, Finance Minister Dar directed the Ministry of Power and Water to renew its efforts to collect outstanding dues from the provincial governments within the next 60 days. Dawn notes that the Power and Water ministry failed to notify electricity rate cuts approved by the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority in April, resulting in continued higher rates that generated around Rs 15 billion during the intervening period.
  • Foreign Loans: Provisional figures for the previous fiscal year indicate that Pakistan received $6.67 billion in foreign funding, 93% of which was received in the form of loans. Although this was higher than the levels projected by the year’s initial budget, the World Bank and UK were the only countries to meet projected pledges. Pakistani finance officials and IMF representatives will meet for the next quarterly review talks in Dubai from August 6-14.
  • Polio Crisis: Two new cases of polio were reported on August 2 in Peshawar and the Khyber Agency, bringing the total number so far this year to 104. [Dawn] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Chinese President Due to Visit Pakistan this Month [Dawn]
  • Chief of Army Staff Visits Australia [ET]
  • Musharraf Treason Trial to Resume Proceedings August 5 [ET]
  • Balochistan Launches Investigation Into Dumping of Mutilated Bodies [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • New Indian Army Chief Warns Pakistan Over Line of Control Clashes [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Rs 24 Billion in Misused Funds Reported in Sindh [Dawn]
  • Islamabad High Court Order Barring Direct Appointees Goes Un-Implemented [Dawn]
  • PPP Sindh Assembly Member Disqualified for Holding Fake Degree [ET]
  • Money Supply Shrinks in July as Government Borrowing Falls [ET]
  • China Delivers 20 Train Locomotives [Dawn]
  • Saudi Airlines Postpones Resumption of Peshawar Service [Dawn]
  • Last Crown Prince of Swat Dies [Dawn]
  • Commentary: Return of the Gamekeeper – “Sharif, the most powerful and dominant actor six months back, has now been sized up and boxed.” [Babar Sattar, Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Border Tensions with Pakistan: On July 31, Kunar police officials accused the Pakistani military of firing more than 100 artillery shells into the province over the preceding week. Pakistani military officials in turn reported that a Frontier Corps soldier was killed by cross-border sniper fire in Bajuar on August 1, prompting the second formal protest to Afghan foreign ministry officials within the week over its failure to curtail such attacks. Afghan foreign ministry officials refuted the charges, saying they were “in reality an effort to cover up violations from the other side of the Durand line”, and an August 3 meeting of the Afghan National Security Council laid blame for recent Taliban offensives in Helmand and Nangarhar on the Pakistani ISI. [Khaama Press]
  • Insider Attack: An Afghan soldier has reportedly opened fire on ISAF soldiers at the Camp Qargha training facility on August 5; the BBC reports at least three Afghan soldiers were injured, but Khaama Press reports that as many as four international military personnel may have been killed. ISAF has not confirmed any casualty figures and says it is still investigating.
  • Other Attacks: One civilian was killed and nine injured in a roadside bombing in the Charparhar district of Nangarhar province on August 3. Four Afghan army soldiers were killed in a bombing in southern Kabul on August 4; the Taliban have yet to claim responsibility. [TOLO] [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Audit Moves Forward Fitfully: In a TOLO News op-ed published on July 30, Sec. Kerry urged “both teams to work cooperatively on the critical issues facing their country even as the audit continues”. The Independent Election Commission announced on July 30 that it had accepted the UN’s proposed criteria for recounting and invalidating disputed ballots; at a press conference the following day, IEC Chairman Yousaf Ahmad Nuristani said that “the candidates must accept the criteria” and that “this time the process will continue and we will not stop.” UN Special Representative Jan Kubis, who appeared alongside Nuristani, echoed the message that “it’s high time to complete the process of the elections.” The audit recount was due to resume on August 2 after the conclusion of the Eid-ul-Fitr holidays, but was delayed until the following day after Abdullah Abdullah’s campaign team boycotted the proceedings, demanding additional consultations with the UN on ballot disqualification criteria. The audit resumed on August 3, but without Abdullah campaign observers participating. Meanwhile, Abdullah supporters released another audio recording on August 3 that they said showed evidence that Vice President Karim Khalili had encouraged vote-rigging in Ghani’s favor by the electoral administration agencies; Khalili’s chief of staff, and the Ghani campaign, challenged the recording’s veracity, as did Pres. Karzai’s chief spokesman. Despite statements from Abdullah’s campaign manager describing the audit process as “a charade,” a UN statement on August 3 indicated that subsequent meetings with Abdullah representatives reached an agreement on adjudication procedures. TOLO summarizes five additional criteria proposed by his campaign, which Ghani officials are said to object to. Abdullah observers rejoined the process on August 4.  [NYT] [WAPO] [Reuters] [TOLO] [TOLO] [Reuters]

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Banking Transactions: TOLO reports that relations between Afghan banks and a number of international banks in Turkey, China, and elsewhere, remain suspended — despite the earlier passage of new anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing legislation — holding up an unspecified amount of money transfers into the country.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Incoming ISAF Commander Downplays Taliban Activity [Stars and Stripes]
  • Bergdahl to Be Read Rights During Army Questioning [WSJ]
  • Karzai Meets New Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan [TOLO]
  • Presidential Candidates Attend Funeral Service for Hashmat Karzai [TOLO] [Pajhwok]
  • Congress Approves Additional 1,000 Visas for Afghan Interpreters [WAPO]
  • Report: Quarterly Report to Congress, July 2014 [SIGAR (pdf)]
  • Report: Rethinking Afghan Local Governance Aid After Transition – “It is time for donors to rethink their approaches to local governance and development. Three areas are key: delivery of services, links between citizens and the government, and measuring progress.” [Frances Brown, USIP]
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