Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: PML-N Govt Prepares for Protest Showdown; Ghani and Abdullah Teams Dispute Power-Sharing Terms

Note: There will again be an interruption in news updates, tomorrow, August 15. Regular daily service should resume on Monday, August 18. Apologies again for the irregular pace of update, and thank you for reading.

Topline

  • Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has proposed a three-judge Supreme Court commission to investigate PTI allegations of vote-rigging in last year’s elections, but the PTI has rejected the measure as insufficient so long as Sharif remains prime minister. Islamabad, Rawalpindi, and Lahore are under heavy security lockdown as the PTI and the Pakistan Awami Tehreek plan to hold protest marches today; Sharif visited Quetta on Indepence Day, deferring a trip to visit IDPs in Bannu. The Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani campaigns have started work on their joint commission to discuss a national unity government, but in interviews this week Ghani suggested that the proposed chief executive position would be held at the discretion of the president, and Abdullah supporter Atta Mohammad Noor reiterated that he would not accept a Ghani victory as legitimate. Final results from April’s provincial council elections will be announced this Saturday, the Afghan Electoral Complaints Commission announced; the presidential runoff audit continues to progress slowly. There are unconfirmed rumors that Kandahar police chief Abdul Razi will resign from his position this week.

Pakistan — Security

  • FATA Attacks: An attack on two security checkposts in the Mohmand Agency on Thursday was repelled by Pakistani military forces, killing two attackers. In a separate attack in Swat, two security personnel were injured. Rockets were fired at an army camp in Miram Shah on Thursday morning; no casualties were reported.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Sharif Proposes Judicial Commission, Marks Independence Day: In his address to the nation on Tuesday, Prime Minister Sharif stated that “no one will be allowed to spread anarchy and toy with the constitutional setup”. He professed a willingness to dialogue with opposition leaders, and proposed the establishment of a three-member Supreme Court commission to investigate allegations of rigging during the May 2013 general elections, which Sharif defended as free and fair. The federal law secretary formally forwarded that proposal to the Supreme Court on Wednesday. PTI leader Imran Khan responded that he would accept any decision given by Chief Justice Nasirul Mulk, but said that a transparent investigation would only be possible after Sharif’s resignation. The PTI skipped a meeting of the joint parliamentary committee on election reform on Tuesday, after previously challenging the appointment of Senator Ishaq Dar as committee chairman. On Wednesday night, Sharif opened independence day celebrations with a speech calling on “every Pakistani to stand firm and united, and work diligently for a progressive, prosperous and peaceful Pakistan”. He was due to visit displaced Waziristan residents in Bannu later in the day, but this was postponed without explanation; instead, Prime Minister Sharif and Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif visited the former residence of Muhammad Ali Jinnah in Ziarat, Balochistan, which has been restored after an attack last June. [WSJ] [Reuters] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Security Tightened Around Capital: Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan reiterated demands that the PTI and Pakistan Awami Tehreek apply to the Islamabad district administration for permission to conduct their rallies; at a meeting the previous day with city officials, Nisar said that the government would not allow violent crowds. On Wednesday, the Lahore High Court issued an order barring both the PTI and PAT from holding marches “in an unconstitutional way keeping in view the sanctity of independence day and the chaotic and uncertain situation prevailing in the country.” The court’s order appears to allow for peaceful protest, however. The court proposed the establishment of a “special venue” for the PTI to conduct an extended sit-in, although it is unclear that this has been accepted; a separate petition calling for Tahirul Qadri’s arrest was rejected. Mobile phone service was suspended around Islamabad on Thursday, and several roads blocked in both Lahore and Islamabad with shipping container barricades. The army has assumed responsibility for security at parliament, near where the PTI plans to stage its rally. [Reuters] [AJE] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn]
  • PTI and PAT Launch Protest Marches: PTI and Pakistan Awami Tehreek leaders met on Tuesday and reached a four-point agreement on their parallel protest marches, with both committing to nonviolence and working to “bring in true participatory democracy”. PTI senior vice president Makhdoom Javed Hashmi will lead off the party’s march, which was due to begin this morning near Imran Khan’s residence in Lahore. Up to 10,000 police have been deployed in Lahore to control and block the PAT, towards whom the government has reportedly decided to take a “zero-tolerance” approach; in meetings with other political party leaders on Wednesday, Prime Minister Sharif indicated that he would not block the PAT’s march provided that Tahirul Qadri offered a guarantee that he would not incite violence. Qadri, for his part, maintains that his march will be peaceful. A separate account suggests that the government is considering imposing a ban on the PAT. Rawalpindi police sources report receiving contradictory orders as to whether or not they should round up PTI activists for arrest. The JUI-F has criticized the PTI’s march plans; the MQM and PPP have called on the government to allow the marches to proceed. On Tuesday, the National Assembly passed a unanimous resolution endorsing the constitution and democratic governance, before recessing. [BBC] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Pakistani Foreign Ministry Rebuffs Modi Criticism [NYT] [BBC] [Dawn] [NYT] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET]
  • Frontier Corps Soldier Killed in Quetta Bombing [Dawn]
  • Pakistan Air Force Drone Crashes Near Thatta [Dawn]
  • Sindhi Nationalist Activists Arrested Following Rail Bombing [Dawn]
  • Power Subsidy to Be Cut by Rs 60 Billion [Dawn]
  • Low Response to Tax Notices [ET]
  • Remittances Rise 17.45% During First Month of Fiscal Year [ET]
  • Prime Minister Sharif Overturns Removal of OGRA Member [ET]
  • Commentary: How Protests and the Military are Curbing Pakistan’s Democracy – “It is most probable that the present crisis will end, not with military rule, but with a tamed Sharif government remaining in office and Pakistan left with a diminished democracy.” [Marvin Weinbaum, South Asia Channel]
  • Commentary: Prepare for the Long Haul with Operation Zarb-e-Azb – “In spite of the information gap, a limited debate is underway in Pakistan on the contours and implications of the operation.” [ Ziad Haider, South Asia Channel]
  • Commentary: Beyond Dharnas: Twelve Proposals for Electoral Reform in Pakistan – “If we are to improve our electoral system, the narrative must be directed towards drawing upon our previous experience and building for the future.” [Furkan Ali, Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Raziq Resignation Rumor: Unidentified sources tell Khaama Press that Kandahar police chief General Abdul Raziq is preparing to offer his resignation, after alleged comments to his forces to execute Taliban detainees rather than take them captive. The account is unconfirmed.
  • Sherzai Campaign Manager Killed: The presidential campaign manager of former Kandahar and Nangarhar governor Gul Agha Sherzai, identified only as Malik in a Khaama Press account, was killed by unidentified gunmen in a shooting in Lashkargah, Helmand, on Wednesday evening.
  • Border Tensions with Pakistan: Kunar provincial officials report continued daily cross-border artillery fire by Pakistan; no casualties were reported. On Wednesday, National Security Advisor Rangin Dadfar Spanta accused Pakistani forces of crossing into Kunar, and had been “repulsed” by Afghan forces; Pakistani foreign ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam said that the report was “baseless”.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Unity Government Talks Begin: The joint thirty-person commission between the Abdullah and Ghani campaigns officially began work on Wednesday, and is expected to focus on issues surrounding the creation of a new chief executive position and the question of when the audit process will be concluded and a new president inaugurated. In an interview on Tuesday, Ashraf Ghani stated that the winner of the election would appoint the chief executive “by decree” and that the appointee would serve “at the discretion of the president”. Ghani also suggested that if the audit process could not be concluded by the end of the month, both he and Abdullah would attend the September 5 NATO summit in Wales. Abdullah spokesmen criticized Ghani’s remarks, saying that the two leaders had committed to “some parity and balance of power”. In a Post interview on Wednesday, Abdullah supporter Atta Mohammad Noor — who has maintained a low public profile since threatening to form a “parallel government” in the wake of Abdullah’s apparent loss after the announcement of preliminary results last month — warned that “if the vote recount is one-sided or fraudulent, we will not bow down and accept the results … we do not want a crisis, but we will defend the rights of our people. We will have a big civil uprising. . . . We will occupy government buildings and institutions. . . . We will boycott the process, and we will not recognize the next government because it will have no legitimacy.” The election audit process halted twice on Wednesday due to fights between rival campaign agents and a dispute between the campaign over a new UN and IEC proposal to allow for the selection by each campaign of 3,000 ballot boxes that will be placed into immediate recount. Separately, the Electoral Complaints Commission announced that it would issue final results for the April provincial council elections on Saturday, following a “reinvestigation” of results from Kabul and Nangarhar; a 24-hour window to file complaints will follow. [Reuters] [Guardian] [Khaama Press] [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Bombings Kill Three Policemen, One NATO Soldier, Four Civilians [AP] [TOLO] [AP]
  • Gunman Who Killed U.S. General Praised as Martyr [WSJ]
  • Badakshan Intelligence Chief Resigns After Attack [Pajhwok]
  • Ministry of Interior Acknowledges Value of Foreign Air Support [TOLO]
  • Two in Five Afghan Youths Suffer from Mental Illness, Officials Say [TOLO]
  • Afghan Ambassador Reports Tenfold Increase in Iran Trade Over Past Five Years [Khaama Press]
  • New Saudi Regulations Could Limit Afghan Airlines Flights [TOLO]
  • Commentary: Key Documents Underwriting the Electoral Agreement – “These include, first and foremost, the joint declaration agreed and signed by both candidates on 8 August 2014, as well as a series of UNAMA and IEC press statements in the period preceding the 8 August press conference, which document the rocky road of the electoral audit.” [Martine van Bijlert, AAN]
  • Commentary: Why the Afghan Election Still Isn’t Over – “With a couple assumptions, that Abdullah can reasonably believe that he can still win. As such, the parties will continue to fight over every vote and escalate when necessary, further threatening the stability of Afghanistan.” [Thomas Scherer, Monkey Cage]
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