Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Parliament Backs Government Again; Abdullah Extends Deadline After Kerry Call

Topline

  • Opposition leaders in parliament backed the government and the continuation of the democratic system during speeches on Tuesday, criticizing its performance but condemning the PTI and PAT protest movement. PTI legislators appeared in parliament on Wednesday for the first time since the crisis began to deliver speeches announcing their resignations from the assembly and justifying their protests, in the face of heavy criticism. The PTI has indicated it will resume talks with Jamaat-e-Islami mediators; Reuters reports that protestor crowds have dwindled to only a few hundred people as of Wednesday. Sec. Kerry spoke with Abdullah Abdullah by phone on Tuesday and secured an extension of Abdullah’s Tuesday deadline for the acceptance of his demands related to vote disqualifications in the audit process. The IEC has continued to review audit results, and threw out results from 50 ballot boxes, out of 2,000 reviewed, on Tuesday. The NATO summit will open on Thursday, without an Afghan president in attendance. The Pakistani military announced Wednesday that 910 militants and 82 Pakistani soldiers have been killed since the start of Operation Zarb-e-Azb in North Waziristan in June. MQM leader Altaf Hussain has threatened his resignation and has demanded that party legislators submit their resignations, ahead of a meeting later this evening.

Pakistan — Security

  • Waziristan Operations: On Wednesday, Pakistani military spokesofficials issued a statement reporting that 910 militants and 82 Pakistani soldiers have been killed since Operation Zarb-e-Azb began in North Waziristan in June. Independent confirmation of these figures is not possible given military control over access to the area. The military said that it had taken control of the towns of Miram Shah, Mir Ali, Dattakhel, Boya, and Degan. [ET]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Parliament Backs Government Against Protestors: At Tuesday’s joint session of parliament, opposition parties mixed criticism of the PML-N government’s performance with support for the continuation of the democratic system and condemnation of the PTI and PAT protests and attacks on government facilities in Islamabad. Former PTI president Javed Hashmi tendered his resignation in the course of a speech criticizing Prime Minister Sharif for ignoring parliament until now and Imran Khan for “demolishing” the system. Senate Opposition Leader Aitzaz Ahsan of the PPP urged the government to “do some soul-searching” once the crisis had passed, saying that “we are supporting you because you support democracy but once this difficult time is over, we will continue criticising your policies.” Former Pres. Zardari is expected to travel to Islamabad on Wednesday, where he plans to act as an intermediary with other opposition parties. The JUI-F has announced that it will hold an all-parties conference in Peshawar on September 6 against the PTI and PAT.  There were no reports of violence on Tuesday, as the protest momentum appeared to slow; Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri spoke from the same stage yesterday evening for the first time since the rallies began in mid-August. Khan said that he “[did not] recognize a parliament like this”, and indicated that PTI legislators would appear in parliament on Wednesday to re-submit their resignations in person. PTI Vice President Shah Mehmood Qureshi and some other PTI legislators appeared in parliament on Wednesday, justifying the party’s protests in the face of heavy criticism from the assembled legislators. Earlier, he told reporters that the PTI had agreed to resume dialogue with the Jamaat-e-Islami-led negotiating committee. Prime Minister Sharif has attended the past two days’ sessions of parliament but has not spoken himself; Sharif will not attend this Thursday’s NATO summit in Wales, as planned. Reuters reports that the protest crowds have dwindled to “only a few hundred” people as of Wednesday; Dawn interviews a number of protestors who cite poor food, sanitation, and exhaustion. PTI activists blocked the Peshawar-Islamabad motorway on Tuesday in Charsadda. [Guardian] [AJE] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [Dawn]
  • MQM Leader Threatens Resignation: In a statement issued Wednesday, the MQM indicated that party leader Altaf Hussain has called a meeting of party supporters in Karachi this evening, at which he will request that they “relieve him of party leadership”. Hussain most recently “resigned” from his position before recanting after outpourings of support in June 2013. MQM legislators have also been asked to submit their resignations from the assemblies, although party sources said that the move was not intended to show support for the PAT.

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Economic Impact: Anonymous Pakistani finance ministry sources tell Reuters that Pakistan “will be in trouble” if the current crisis drags out beyond the next few weeks, but says the IMF program with Pakistan “is not in jeopardy at the moment”. The credit rating agencies S&P and Moody’s both say they are reviewing their ratings for Pakistan and that “political developments would have implications for Pakistan’s creditworthiness if they resulted in a derailment of the structural reform process”. The Karachi stock exchange has fallen more than 7% since the protests began, and the rupee has lost 3.4% against the dollar.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Anonymous-Linked Group Continues Hacks of Government Websites [Dawn]
  • Hand Grenade Attack on Karachi Police Checkpost Injures Four [ET] [Dawn]
  • Limited Production Resumes at Zarghun Gas Field [Dawn] [ET]
  • Commentary: Pakistan’s Biggest Loser – “Rigid in his demands and publicly launching personal attacks against the sitting government, Khan’s political career, by many estimates, is over — making him one of the biggest losers in this entire saga.” [Arsla Jawaid, South Asia Channel]
  • Commentary: Is There Any Hope for India-Pakistan Relations? – “Historically, bilateral relations have resembled a boomerang: Efforts toward reconciliation have proceeded in fits and starts, with steps forward and hopes raised –followed by steps back and hopes dashed.” [Allison Berland and Michael Kugelman, South Asia Channel]

Afghanistan — Security

  • NATO Summit: As previously noted, this Thursday’s NATO summit is expected to open without an Afghan president or president-elect in attendance. Around 17 countries in the NATO coalition in Afghanistan currently maintain 25 soldiers or less in the country, and the number of troop-contributing countries is expected to drop after the end of this year. The U.S. has — contingent on the completion of a bilateral security agreement — pledged to maintain 9,800 troops in Afghanistan as part of the Resolute Support training mission, along with around 4,000-5,000 NATO soldiers, primarily from the UK, Germany, Italy, and Turkey.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Abdullah Extends Deadline after Kerry Call: Sec. Kerry spoke with Abdullah Abdullah by phone on Tuesday; Abdullah afterwards agreed to extend his deadline for the acceptance of his campaign’s demands related to ballot invalidations. An Abdullah spokesman said that his team would still only accept election results once an agreement was reached on those demands, however. On Tuesday, the Independent Election Commission carried out a fifth round of audit results review, invalidating 50 ballot boxes out of 2,000 under consideration; another 498 were returned for recounting. The Electoral Complaints Commission upheld two out of sixteen complaints filed by the Ghani campaign over the invalidation process; the Abdullah campaign has not filed formal complaints thus far. US Assistant Secretary of State Doug Frantz arrived in Afghanistan on Tuesday, with a mission “to convey the Administration’s full support for a peaceful and democratic transfer of power and emphasize the priority Secretary Kerry places on an audit process that ensures a legitimate outcome and agreement on the details of a government of national unity.” [TOLO] [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Hezb-i-Islami Denies Report of Ties to Islamic State [ET]
  • Further Cross-Border Shelling from Pakistan Reported in Kunar [Khaama Press]
  • Three Kidnappers Arrested and Abducted Bank Employees Freed in Kabul [Khaama Press]
  • Commentary: How NATO Can Make Afghan Forces Sustainable – “The “support” role should strengthen the Afghan intelligence capacity and build a desperately needed air force with the aim of ensuring two goals: Nato not being forced to resume a combat role in the future and the Afghan forces gradually become self-sustaining by 2024.” [Lotfullah Najafizada, TOLO]
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