Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Prime Minister Sharif to Address Country; Amnesty Accuse U.S. Forces of Afghan War Crimes

Note: There will again be an interruption in service tomorrow, August 13. The next update will return Thursday, August 14. Apologies, and thank you for your understanding.

Topline

  • Prime Minister Sharif is expected to address the country Tuesday evening, as his government prepares to confront parallel protest rallies led by Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri from Lahore to Islamabad this Thursday. Khan reiterated allegations of judicially-backed election rigging during last year’s general elections; Qadri, who set the date for his own march to match the PTI’s, continues to call for a revolutionary overthrow of the current political system. Pakistani corps commanders met in Rawalpindi on Monday ahead of the showdown. A new Amnesty International report was released Monday, accusing U.S. military of failing to take effective action to investigate or prosecute those responsible, and alleges that some instances may have been war crimes. NATO officials reiterated the importance of a conclusion to Afghanistan’s drawn-out presidential election and the signature of a security agreement that will allow the international military alliance to remain in the country after the end of this year. The IEC is beginning data entry on audited ballot boxes this week, and will begin disqualifications “soon”. Afghan imports and exports have fallen by nearly a quarter so far this year, cutting into government customs revenues. India and Pakistani border forces traded fire on Monday, leaving two Pakistanis dead and three wounded, and four Indians; Indian Prime Minister Modi visited Kargil on Tuesday, accusing Pakistan of carrying out a proxy war in the region and announcing his intent to boost development assistance to the area. Afghanistan’s National Security Council has ordered Afghan security forces to “suppress all incursions” by Pakistan into Afghan territory.

Pakistan — Security

  • Border Clashes with India: Two Pakistanis were killed and three wounded in Monday in cross-border firing along the Line of Control in Kashmir on Monday; Indian border police in turn accuse Pakistani forces of wounding four people. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Kargil on Tuesday, the first Indian prime minister to visit the region since the 1999 conflict there, stressing a commitment to development in order to gradually shift the power equation in favour of India over Pakistan as people in the region become more integrated (with India) with development and progress.” [ET]
  • Corps Commanders Meet: Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif held a meeting of senior army corps commanders on Monday, the official agenda of which focused on reviewing Operation Zarb-e-Azb in North Waziristan.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Government Prepares for Standoff: Prime Minister Sharif will address the nation on Tuesday evening, following meetings with senior PML-N leaders in Raiwind on Monday as the government plans a response to the PTI and Pakistan Awami Tehreek protests demonstrations scheduled for August 14. Speaking on Monday at the launch of the government’s ‘Vision 2025’ planning agenda, Sharif dismissed both Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri, suggesting that their agendas had been “given to them”. Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid and Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal were more explicit, with the former alleging that former ISI Director Ahmad Shuja Pasha was advising Khan and the PTI, and the latter suggesting that “the whole drama is being staged only because of the government’s decision to try the former president [ Musharraf]”. Press accounts currently indicate that the government will not attempt to arrest opposition leaders; in a meeting with Imran Khan on Monday, Jamaat-e-Islami leader Sirajul Haq is reported to have conveyed a government offer to allow the PTI march to proceed, on the condition that they would disperse after a day. The Lahore High Court, hearing a petititon seeking to block the PTI’s march, called on the government to negotiate to avoid a clash. As many as 3,000 Frontier Constabulary soldiers have been called up to provide additional security in Islamabad, and police officials tell Dawn that they are preparing to seal road entry into the city beginning Tuesday evening. The Islamabad district administration has reiterated a ban on public gatherings, saying it had not received an application from the PTI or PAT for their rallies; PTI spokeswoman Shireen Mazari said that the party would not request permission to hold its march. Meanwhile, PPP leaders expressed concerns over the country’s political situation, while also criticizing the government’s response. [WSJ] [Guardian] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET]
  • PTI Prepares to Rally: Imran Khan chaired a meeting of senior party leaders on Sunday, emphasizing his commitment to proceeding with the August 14 “Azadi March” and ruling out negotiations with the government. The party called on activists to “make it to Islamabad at all costs” in order to participate in the rally. Speaking on Monday, Khan reiterated his intentions that his protest remain peaceful, and dismissed the idea that it would precipitate martial law. At the same press conference, Khan accused former Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, former judge Khalidur Rehman Ramday, and former caretaker chief minister Najam Sethi of facilitating election rigging during the 2013 elections in Punjab, claiming that ballot-stuffing inflated the PML-N’s vote count from 6.8 million to 15 million. Khan claimed to have eyewitness accounts, but offered no concrete proof; the Election Commission of Pakistan rejected Khan’s  accounts. Meanwhile, the special parliamentary committee on electoral reforms held its inaugural session on Monday. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Tahirul Qadri Announces Parallel March: On Sunday, Tahirul Qadri announced that he would lead his “revolutionary march” from Lahore to Islamabad in parallel with the PTI’s on August 14, adding that “if anything happens to me, avenge my death, blood must be repaid with blood”. Qadri, unlike Khan, has ruled out new elections under the current political system, without offering details on his proposed revolutionary changes. Imran Khan welcomed Qadri’s decision, saying that “we may have a different agenda and difference of opinion but we have invited different parties and welcome those who wish to join us.” The Express Tribune reports that the government is considering letting both Qadri and Khan lead their rally from the Grand Trunk Road in Lahore, on the presumption that both will spar over leadership of the movement. Punjab police have opened multiple criminal cases against Qadri and at least 372 supporters, including a murder case following the death of a police officer on Sunday; Dawn, however, reports that the officer in question had succumbed to injuries from a traffic accident, and not PAT rioters as reported by the police. As many as 2,000 PAT activists have reportedly been detained as of Monday, and police checkpoints and roadblocks have proliferated in Lahore, particularly around Qadri’s residence. [Reuters] [ET] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Killings Rise in Karachi as Taliban Target Police [NYT]
  • Shortage of Funds Hampering Polio Campaign [Dawn] [ET]
  • Over 100 Arrested in Quetta [Dawn]
  • Supreme Court Reinstates Acting PEMRA Chairman [Dawn]
  • National Assembly Censures Auditor General, Demanding His Removal [Dawn]
  • Fazlur Rehman Reelected Unpposed as JUI-F Leader [Dawn]
  • Divisions Within Khyber Paktunkhwa Government Over New Islamic Textbooks [Dawn]
  • Federal Minister Ghulam Murtaza Jatoi Disqualified by Karachi Election Tribunal [Dawn]
  • Commentary: Divided They Rule – “Opposition parties have hindered democracy in Pakistan by engaging in adversarial politics, instead of offering a credible alternative and holding the ruling party accountable.” [Mariam Mufti, Dawn]
  • Commentary: Revolutionary Expediency? – “[The PTI has gained] reason to rally and reorganise the party in Punjab merely a year after performing modestly in the province, staking a claim as key challenger to the ruling party, and bolstered personal standing of Imran as PM-to-be.” [Babar Sattar, Dawn]
  • Commentary: Is Pakistan’s Democracy Under Threat? – “At the present moment in particular, there is an enormous degree of polarization that can lead the country in very different directions.” [Ahmed Humayun, South Asia Channel]
  • Commentary: The Pakistan Army’s Facebook War – “A striking characteristic of military communication is its lack of detail about which groups the military is fighting.” [Paul Staniland, Political Violence at a Glance]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Amnesty Report Accuses US and NATO of Human Rights Abuses: A new Amnesty International report released Monday accused the U.S. and NATO military forces in Afghanistan of failing to take “prompt, thorough and impartial investigations” into instances of civilian casualties, “fall[ing] far short of what is needed to ensure accountability for alleged crimes against civilians”. The report, which evaluates ten incidents that occurred between 2009-2013, resulting in more than 140 deaths, focuses primarily on covert night raids and U.S. airstrikes. In two cases, in Paktia in 2010 and Wardak in 2012, Amnesty investigators concluded that there was “abundant and compelling evidence of war crimes”, including allegations of abuse and torture by Afghans detained by U.S. special forces units. Pres. Karzai, who has frequently criticized the NATO coalition for the use of tactics resulting in civilian deaths, welcomed Amnesty investigators to the presidential palace, saying that he was “very happy that you have focused on something that is the main point of disagreement between Afghanistan and the US… civilian casualties should never happen. Together with you, we should stop them.” ISAF officials responded that they were reviewing the report and were “committed to protecting the Afghan people”, noting a “significant reduction in ISAF-related civilian casualties” over the past year. [AP] [BBC] [Reuters] [Amnesty Report]
  • Border Clashes with Pakistan: At a meeting of the Afghan National Security Council on Sunday, officials ordered Afghan security forces to “suppress all incursions by Pakistan and its security forces inside Afghan soil”, following allegations by Afghan intelligence services that recent attacks in Nangarhar had been facilitated by Pakistani forces. Kunar officials reported continued cross-border artillery fire on Monday and Tuesday, injuring two civilians. [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Pressure on to Elect President: Both Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani are reportedly nearly finished finalizing representatives to a joint commission on the formation of a national unity government. U.S. Ambassador to Kabul James Cunningham met with both men separately on Monday, reiterating afterwards that the presence of a new president at the NATO summit in September would be crucial;. NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen echoed that message in a Reuters interview, saying that “time is now of the essence and that is why we urge the Afghans to find a rapid conclusion of the presidential election process and we urge the new president to sign the legal arrangements as soon as possible after inauguration” to allow for a continued U.S. and NATO military presence in Afghanistan. Otherwise, Rasmussen said, that NATO would soon “have to take tough decisions because if there isn’t a legal basis for our continued presence in Afghanistan, we will have to withdraw everything by the end of this year and to do that we will have to start planning”. Meanwhile, the Independent Election Commission’s spokesman said Monday that data entry of audited ballot boxes would begin this week, with decisions on vote invalidations to follow soon. Representatives of the Abdullah and Ghani campaigns have criticized the IEC for the slow-moving process, calling on them to increase the number of audit stations; the IEC in turn has laid blame on the campaigns for creating obstructions. Ghani campaign observers beat two local journalists at the IEC center on Sunday, accusing them of harassing a female observer.

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Trade and Revenue Drop: Afghan exports have fallen 20% so far this year, which export promotion officials attribute to uncertainty surrounding the presidential elections, and predict will be reversed once results are finalized. Imports have also reportedly declined by as much as 26%, from $3 billion in 2013. Separately, Ministry of Finance officials acknowledge cash flow and revenue shortages, curtailing agricultural development programs and other spending.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Senior Badakshan Officials Ambushed, Escape [Khaama Press] [TOLO]
  • Roadside Bombings in Ghazni Kill Six Police and Three Civilians [TOLO]
  • 20 Civilians Killed in Kunduz Clashes [Khaama Press]
  • Salang Tunnel Deteriorating Despite Repeated Repairs [TOLO]
  • Report: Despair or Hope? Opium Poppy Cultivation in Post-2014 Afghanistan – “With a contracting economy, increasing insecurity in rural areas, reduced international spending (and leverage) and a search for alternative sources of patronage among local power-holders, there are no obvious factors that would discourage expansion even beyond the current “unprecedented” levels.” [Paul Fishtein and David Mansfield, AREU]
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