Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Negotiations Continue as Protests Persist; Karzai Sets Presidential Inauguration for Sept 2

Topline

  • Protests continue in Pakistan; the PML-N has begun to stage its own smaller counter-rallies around the country in support of the government. Negotiations resumed with the PTI and the Pakistan Awami Tehreek over the weekend, but the opposition movements’ insistence on the resignation of Prime Minister Sharif and Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has left talks deadlocked. The National Assembly speaker has delayed accepting PTI legislators’ resignation as talks continue. Former Pres. Zardari met with PM Sharif, advising both sides to continue dialogue. Pres. Karzai announced on Saturday that the inauguration of the next president would be held September 2 and could not be extended. Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani met with Karzai and held talks on the formation of a national unity government on Saturday after calls from Pres. Obama the day prior. The Independent Election Commission has begun adjudicating audit results, and says that it aims to conclude the audit process within ten days. At least four civilians and one Indian soldier were killed and six people were injured in renewed cross-border artillery fire along the Kashmir border between India and Pakistan. Afghan officials continue to accuse Pakistan of cross-border artillery fire in Kunar. Heavy fighting is ongoing between the Taliban and Afghan security forces in Helmand’s Sangin district. Pakistan State Oil is again on the verge of defaulting on dues to international suppliers, and is owed Rs 200 billion from power producers.

Pakistan — Security

  • Cross-Border Fire in Kashmir Kills Four: Indian and Pakistani border exchanged fire for several hours on Saturday across the Line of Control in Kashmir, leaving at least two civilians dead on each side of the border; some media sources report that three Pakistani civilians were killed. Both sides allege that the other initiated the exchange, which follows the cancellation of foreign secretary level talks that were due to have been held on Monday. Continued firing on Sunday wounded another Pakistani civilian, and an Indian soldier is reported to have been killed in clashes with militants near the border. Five more people, including two Pakistani border guards, were injured on Monday. Pakistani Foreign Advisor Sartaj Aziz tells Dawn that a meeting should be held of the Directors General of Military Operations from each side. [ET] [NYT] [Reuters] [AJE]
  • FATA Clashes: Clashes on Saturday between a tribal militia and TTP fighters in Orakzai left five militants dead and three injured, local officials report. Separately, a former Lashkar-e-Islam spokesman was killed by unidentified gunmen in Khyber Agency. LeI militants killed a local man  accused of spying in Khyber’s Tirah Valley on Friday.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Islamabad Security Tightened: Citing the threat of terrorist attack on the ongoing sit-in of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and Pakistan Awami Tehreek activists, the Interior Ministry cut off mobile phone services in the ‘red zone’ on Saturday, doubled security personnel deployments, and closed government offices on Sunday; PAT leader Tahirul Qadri accused the government of “planting terrorists to target the marchers”. In Multan, 19 PML-N activists received bail on Saturday after attacking PTI vice president Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s residence; 72 PAT activists held in Lahore were also granted bail separately on Saturday. 400 PTI activists were charged with violating bans on public assembly in Faisalabad; a Gujranwala court judge has reissued arrest warrants against Qadri and 71 supporters in connection to disruptions during the party’s march to Islamabad.
  • Protests Continue: The NYT offers an overview of the ongoing protest movements. The sit-ins in Islamabad continue, with press reports suggesting that PTI crowds swelled over the weekend, in part due to improved weather and the festival atmosphere of the sit-ins. On Friday, PTI and PAT representatives filed responses with the Supreme Court over petitions challenging their protests. On Sunday, the PML-N staged counter-rallies against the PTI and PAT, held in Islamabad, Faisalabad, and Karachi; PML-N supporters also rallied in Lahore on Friday and in Rawalpindi on Saturday. In a TV interview on Sunday, Muhammad Afzal Khan, a former Election Commission secretary, endorsed rigging allegations against the government, implicating former Chief Justices Iftikhar Chaudhry and Tassaduq Jillani as well as the election commission in the matter. Retired Judge Riaz Ahmed Kiyani, a former provincial election commissioner from Punjab and one of those accused of collusion, rebutted Afzal Khan’s allegations on Monday. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Negotiations Resume: Talks between the PTI and government negotiators resumed on Friday, and continued Saturday, but without resolution; the PTI’s Shah Mehmood Qureshi suggested afterwards that Prime Minister Sharif step down for thirty days to allow for an impartial investigation into the party’s election rigging charges. Dawn reports that the PTI remains internally divided over whether to continue to push for Nawaz Sharif’s resignation as prime minister or to accept compromise reforms; Khan is said to be determined to hold out for Sharif’s exit, but other PTI sources suggest that the party is prepared to “show some flexibility”. Opposition party mediators have suggested that an investigation should first be held before any resignation. Talks were also held on Saturday with the Pakistan Awami Tehreek, with the PAT reiterating its demand for a criminal investigation against the prime minister and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif in connection to the deaths of PAT activists in Lahore in June. At a meeting of senior PML-N leaders on Sunday, both Sharif brothers reiterated their resolve not to resign; on Monday, however, Shahbaz Sharif is reported to have agreed to allow the initiation of police investigations into the Lahore clashes. The Lahore High Court rejected the provincial government’s report on the incident on Monday. [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • PTI Parliamentary Resignations Stalled: National Assembly speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq convened a meeting of all political party leaders in the assembly for Monday, to discuss the resignation of PTI legislators from parliament. Sadiq will seek individual confirmation from each legislator of their intent to resign, he tells Dawn, suggesting that processing the resignations could take up to two weeks. An anonymous PTI parliamentarian claims that a dissident group of 13 legislators – nearly half of the 34-member delegation – has resolved not to resign, citing the decision of Khyber Paktunkhwa provincial assembly members not to do so. The News reports that the group is in talks with the JUI-F to form a “forward bloc”. Jamaat-e-Islami leader and mediator Sirajul Haq told reporters on Sunday that “there was still room for talks” and called on the government to delay the acceptance of the PTI parliamentarians’ resignation. [Dawn]
  • Zardari and Sharif Hold Talks: Former Pres. Zardari met with Prime Minister Sharif at the latter’s residence in Raiwind on Saturday; in a press conference afterwards, Finance Minister Dar said that “Zardari has fully supported PM Nawaz … for the supremacy of Constitution and democracy”. Zardari also met with Sirajul Haq of the JI and Chaudhry Shujaat and Chaudhry Parvez Elahi of the PML-Q. Speaking to reporters on Saturday evening, Zardari said that he had urged Prime Minister Sharif to continue dialogue, and cautioned against street demonstrations that could “derail the system”. Meanwhile, the Paktunkhwa Milli Awami Party called for the formation of an alliance to defend the constitution and parliament, with leader Mehmood Khan Achakzai announcing plans to rally in support of the PML-N government in Balochistan. A spokesman for former Pres. Musharraf’s All Pakistan Muslim League issued a statement on Saturday that it was “compulsory for any discussion concerning an end to the current national political crisis to include the immediate withdrawal of the politically-motivated treason trial against Musharraf”.[ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Pakistan State Oil Again Verging on Default: Pakistan State Oil will default on payments to international creditors on Monday if the government fails to immediately release Rs 32 billion, officials warn; in total, the oil importer is owed Rs 200 billion from power producers. Meanwhile, Pakistan has begun low-volume exports of ultra light crude oil from fields in Sindh and Khyber Paktunkhwa, generating $60.7 million in the past two months’ export.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Displaced Waziristan Residence Protest Neglect in Bannu [ET] [ET]
  • Sixteen Killed in Kech District Clashes [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • One Killed, 15 Wounded in Quetta Hand Grenade Attack [Dawn]
  • Government Preparing Loyalist Appointment for Auditor General [ET] [ET]
  • Current Account Deficit Worsens in First Month of Fiscal Year [ET]
  • Deaths from Rainstorms Continue in Peshawar; Power Cut [Dawn]
  • Rawalpindi Teachers Refuse to Take On Polio Vaccination Campaign [ET] [Dawn]
  • OGRA Backs Plan to Divert Some LNG to CNG Stations [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Karzai Pushes for Sept 2 Inauguration: The NYT overviews the ongoing dispute over the levels of fraud in the presidential runoff elections. Pres. Karzai met with UN Special Representative Jan Kubis on Saturday; afterwards, the presidency issued a statement indicating that Karzai had set September 2 as the swearing-in date for the next president, a date that he said could not be further extended. Karzai met with Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani on Sunday to reiterate the message, which places renewed pressure on the ongoing ballot box audit. Pres. Obama also spoke by phone with the two candidates on Friday, urging them to “finalize a deal as soon as possible”. Although Ghani spokesmen echoed the call for an “end to the uncertainty that is going on right now,” an anonymous Abdullah aide tells the WSJ that “we believe it is also important that people of Afghanistan get a legitimate president who can form a strong and legitimate government… timing is not our first concern.” Both Abdullah and Ghani met in person on Saturday to further discuss the formation of a national unity government; on Friday, negotiators were said to have reached agreement on the role and means of appointing the new chief executive position, although the matter does not appear to have been resolved as of Saturday. Independent Election Commission officials reported that they have audited 70% of all ballot boxes as of Sunday. On Saturday, the IEC’s chief spokesman said that they hope to announce final results within ten days; the process of adjudicating audit findings began on Monday. [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Candidates Pledge to Welcome Back Expelled NYT Reporter [NYT]
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