Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: TTP Splinter Group Jamaatul Ahrar Announced; Abdullah Team Boycotts Audit Process

Topline

  • A group of former TTP commanders, including Mohmand TTP chief Omar Khalid Khurasani, have announced the formation of a new splinter group, Jamaatul Ahrar.  On Tuesday, the Lahore High Court upheld a lower court ruling ordering police to initiate a First Investigation Report against a number of senior government officials, including the prime minister and Punjab Chief Minister, in connection to the deaths of Pakistan Awami Tehreek activists in Lahore in mid-June. Prime Minister Sharif addressed parliament on Wednesday, thanking it for support, and vowing to preserve to democracy. Talks between the government and PTI continued, inconclusively, as protestors persist. Gen. John Campbell formally assumed commander of NATO and U.S. forces in Afghanistan on Tuesday, taking over for outgoing commander Gen. Joseph Dunford. Abdullah campaign observers boycotted the audit process on Wednesday. Pres. Karzai will not attend the NATO summit in Wales on September 4, his spokesman says.

Pakistan — Security

  • TTP Splinter Group Jamaatul Ahrar Announced: On Tuesday, a group of commanders led by Maulana Qasim Khurasani and represented by former Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan announced the formation of the Jamaatul Ahrar militant faction. TTP Mohmand chapter chief Omar Khalid Khurasani, who has previously clashed with the central TTP leadership and took a hard line against negotiations with the government earlier this spring, is among the leading commanders in the group. In announcing the formation of the new group, Qasim Khursani accused the TTP, led by former Swat Taliban commander Maulana Fazlullah, of being “a victim of narrow, personal objectives,” and in a NYT interview, Ehsan described the new group as “the real TTP”. [Dawn] [ET]
  • India and Pakistani Border Forces Seek to Defuse Tensions: The Indian and Pakistani directors general of military operations spoke by phone on Tuesday and “mutually agreed to reduce tension along the Line of Control and working boundary,” according to Pakistani military spokes officials. Some reports suggest that the two officers will meet in person for further talks, although Indian sources say Pakistani officials have not attended previous meetings and Pakistani sources say their request for a meeting went unanswered in the latest talks. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • High Court Orders Police Investigation Over Lahore Violence: On Tuesday, the Lahore High Court reaffirmed a lower court ruling directing police to file a First Information Report against twenty one people, including Prime Minister Sharif and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, in connection to the June 17 clashes between police and Pakistan Awami Tehreek activists in Lahore, which left at least 11 dead. Prime Minister Sharif convened senior aides to discuss the issue on Tuesday evening, which reportedly concluded that the government would likely let the investigation proceed. Copies of the Joint Investigation Team report into the incident leaked to the media on Tuesday; that report does not directly implicate senior officials, although it acknowledges inconsistencies in statements received by investigators. The Pakistan Awami Tehreek’s latest deadline for action by the government expires this evening. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Sharif Addresses Parliament: Prime Minister Sharif gave a rare address to parliament on Wednesday, the first such speech since the beginning of PTI and PAT protests in Islamabad earlier this month. Sharif thanked parliament for its resolutions of support, saying that “governments come and go, prime ministers come and go, but keeping faith in democracy and the constitution is what ensures that democracy survives.” Railways Minister Saad Raafique told parliament that the government had no intention of instituting a crackdown on protestors, who continue to block sections of the Islamabad ‘red zone’ and access to some government buildings. City sanitation staff have stopped collecting waste from the protest site. Talks between the government and the PTI continued on Tuesday and were due to resume again Wednesday, with no reports of a breakthrough. On Wednesday, 29 PTI legislators submitted their resignations from the Punjab Assembly; in the National Assembly, speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq has asked 26 PTI parliamentarians to appear in person to confirm their decision to resign. On Tuesday, former Pres. Musharraf gave a TV interview seeking to align himself with the protestors, who he said were seeking “real democracy”. An MQM delegation met with Prime Minister Sharif on Wednesday. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Electoral Reform Proposals: On Tuesday, the Election Commission of Pakistan submitted proposals to the parliamentary committee on electoral reforms, seeking a longer 120-day period between the end of a government term and the holding of elections, greater ECP control over polling staff deputed from other government branches, more resources for new electronic voting machines and absentee voting by overseas Pakistanis, and a new census and redistricting of constituencies. [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • TTP and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi Commander Killed in Dera Ismail Khan [Dawn]
  • Chief of Army Staff Sharif Visits Karachi [Dawn]
  • Senate Defense Committee Calls for Parliamentary Oversight of Defense Budget [Dawn]
  • Regulator Approves Tariff Rate Hike [ET]
  • Economic Coordination Committee Offers Sovereign Guarantee for Rs1 Billion in PIA Borrowing [ET]
  • Prime Minister Sharif Attends World Bank Dasu Hydropower Financing Ceremony [APP]

Afghanistan — Security

  • ISAF Command Change: Former Army vice chief of staff Gen. John Campbell formally assumed command of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan in a ceremony on Tuesday, telling soldiers that he would aim to “cement the gains made to date and ensure that Afghanistan never again becomes a safe haven for terrorism”. Outgoing commander Gen. Joseph Dunford, scheduled to become the next Marine Corps commandant, tells the AP that the current political stalemate in Afghanistan had given the Taliban space to launch an offensive in southern Afghanistan, but said that “if we have a good political transition, that will propel the Afghan forces into 2015”. [TOLO] [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Abdullah Boycotts Audit: Following yesterday’s ultimatum, Abdullah campaign observers and negotiators boycotted the Independent Election Commission audit process on Wednesday. UN officials describe it as a “temporary pause”; at the request of the UN, Ghani campaign observers also withdrew to allow for parity, leaving only IEC staff and international observers, although reports are unclear as to the pace of auditing today. Abdullah himself has yet to publicly comment on the issue, leaving it to deputies, who have accused the audit, now in the vote adjudication phase, of failing to effectively address fraudulent votes. An Abdullah spokesman said that “talks are ongoing with the UN. If that reaches an agreement, we will come back. If not, that is the end of it.” The deadlock comes despite a meeting brokered by Pres. Karzai between the two candidates on Tuesday. [Reuters] [WAPO] [AJE] [RFE/RL] [TOLO]
  • Karzai to Skip NATO Summit: NATO Supreme Allied Commander Gen. Philip Breedlove tells TOLO that the coalition is still hoping that an elected president will be able to attend the alliance summit in Wales beginning September 4; NATO officials are said to be considering options for the attendance of both presidential candidates, neither, or Pres. Karzai. A spokesman for Pres. Karzai said on Wednesday that he would not be taking part “because of his views and his position on the continuation of U.S. and NATO military presence beyond 2014”.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Afghan Forces Battle for Control of Kunduz [Reuters]
  • Former Miistry of Foreign Affairs Chief of Protocol Appointed Ambassador to Germany [TOLO]
  • Lawmaker Escapes Unhurt from Roadside Bombing in Herat [Khaama Press]
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