Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Sectarian Tensions in Rawalpindi; Ghani Praises Power-Sharing Deal

Topline

  • Ashraf Ghani held his first press conference since being confirmed as president-elect on Monday, praising the national unity agreement and stressing that his administration would address the country’s needs. Pres. Karzai held a final cabinet meeting on Tuesday, criticizing the U.S. and Pakistan for interfering in Afghanistan’s security. Police have arrested suspects in the murder of a prominent Sunni madrassah leader in Rawalpindi, whose deaths sparked riots and the destruction of a Shia worship center on Monday. A suicide car bomber targeted the deputy head of the Frontier Corps in Peshawar on Tuesday, who was lightly injured. Imran Khan announced intentions to lead another protest rally in Lahore this coming Sunday. Punjab governor Chaudhry Muhammad Sarwar visited MQM leader Altaf Hussain in London, but denied any differences with the Sharif brothers; Hussain called for the imposition of a two-year “technocratic government” to resolve the country’s problems. Chevron and ExxonMobil have dropped out as potential financing consortium leaders of the TAPI gas pipeline project, after Turkmenistan rejected requests for equity stakes in the project.

Pakistan — Security

  • Sectarian Clashes in Rawalpindi: Police have arrested six suspects on conspiracy charges in the murder of the deputy caretaker of the Taleemul Quran madrassah, Mufti Amanaullah, including the Shia Majlis Wahdat-i-Muslimeen leader Amin Shaheedi. Funeral services for Amanullah were held on Monday, as students at the madrassah and ASWJ activists rioted, burning a Shia worship center and forcing the closure of surrounding shops. Shia leaders say police ignored requests for security during the riot.
  • Peshawar Bombing: As many as four people were killed and six injured in a suicide car bombing in Peshawar targeting the Deputy Inspector General of the Frontier Corps, Brigadier Khaled Javed, who escaped with minor injuries. [Dawn] [BBC]
  • New ISI Chief: The NYT, Guardian, and Express Tribune offer additional reporting on yesterday/s announcement that former SIndh Rangers head Lt. Gen. Rizwan Akhtar will head the ISI. Akhtar previously served in South Waziristan in 2009, and the Guardian notes that his 2008 dissertation, while studying at the U.S. Army War College, argues that the army’s role in Pakistan “should be limited to ensuring the nation’s security from external threats and in waging war against terrorists.”
  • Waziristan Operations: The military announced on Monday that it had carried out helicopter airstrikes in the Ghulam Khan area of North Waziristan, killing 23 militant suspects. Strikes continued in the area on Tuesday, killing nineteen.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Protests Continue: At the protest rally on Monday, Imran Khan vowed to lead another demonstration in Lahore on Sunday; PAT leader Tahirul Qadri insisted that activists continue their participation in the sit-in. Punjab governor Chaudhry Muhammad Sarwar visited MQM leader Altaf Hussain in London on Tuesday, where Hussain called for the establishment of a two-year “technocratic government”, although he also suggested that this could be done “after the tenure of the current government ends”. Sarwar denied that he intended to resign from the PML-N following his return from the trip. On Tuesday, the government challenged a lower court requiring police register cases against the prime minister and other senior officials in connection to the deaths of three protestors during PAT and PTI activists’ march on parliament, arguing that police officers were doing their duty to protect state institutions. On Monday, the government reportedly constituted a joint investigation team to investigate charges against Khan and Qadri for their role in leading the protests. [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [ET] [ET]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Flood Relief: The Azad Jammu and Kashmir assembly passed a resolution on Monday calling for the UN to intervene and open the line of control between India and Pakistan in order to allow for the distribution of flood relief assistance on both sides of the border.
  • Recruitment Ban Lifted: On Monday, the federal cabinet lifted a ban on recruitments into government departments, although it said that new recruiting would be “merit-based”. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Election Commission Releases Post-Election Report, Laying Blame for Problems on Polling Staff [Dawn] [ET]
  • Prime Minister Sharif Departs for UN General Assembly [Dawn] [ET]
  • Suspects Identified in MQM Parliamentarian’s Murder [ET]
  • 11 Killed in Turbat Clashes [Dawn] [ET]
  • Judicial Panel to Consider Reappointment of Previously Dismissed Judges [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Helmand Fighting: At least ten police outposts in Helmand’s Sangin district have been lost to Taliban fighters amid intensified clashes, local military officials report; the Ministry of Defense denies the account.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Ghani Welcomes Unity Deal: At a press conference on Monday, president-elect Ashraf Ghani pledged to work with his former rival Abdullah Abdullah, saying that the national unity government would be a “sharing of responsibilities, not the sharing of power”. Ghani stressed the need for unity and said that “we will sacrifice anything for Afghanistan’s stability.” Ghani’s vice president, Abdul Rashid Dostum, was notably absent from the press conference; Abdullah did not give public remarks, but said in a CNN interview that the deal was in the “best interest of the country”. The Post provides excerpts of Sec. Kerry’s many recent calls with the two candidates, where he urged them to reach the unity government agreement and the need for Abdullah to concede. Election observers criticized the decision not to release final election audit results, and say that the audit itself failed to identify “industrial-scale fraud”. Inauguration ceremonies are scheduled for Monday; Pres. Karzai held a final cabinet meeting at the presidential palace on Tuesday, touting the consolidation of government authority over the course of his term and criticizing the U.S. and Pakistan’s impact on the country’s security, saying that Afghans were “losing our lives in a war of foreigners.” [AJE] [AFP] [BBC] [TOLO] [TOLO] [TOLO] [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • TAPI Financing: Chevron and ExxonMobil have withdrawn bids to act as consortium leaders in financing the TAPI gas pipeline, after Turkmenistan rejected their demand for an equity stake in the project. French and Malaysian oil companies are now said to be in discussions with Turkmenistan on the deal.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Afghanistan Lodges UN Protest Against Pakistani Shelling [Khaama Press]
  • Three Missing Afghan Soldiers Taken Into Custody at Canadian Border [NYT] [WSJ] [AP]
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