Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Ghani Inaugurated as Afghan President; PTI Protests in Lahore

Topline

  • Ashraf Ghani was sworn in as Afghanistan’s new president at a ceremony on Monday, which was attended by new chief executive officer Abdullah Abdullah, who was appointed and sworn in at the same ceremony. Abdullah had threatened to back out of the ceremony at the last minute amid disputes over palace office space and the IEC’s release of vote totals last Friday. In his inauguration speech, Ghani pledged to crack down on corruption and called for political negotiations with the Taliban. Imran Khan led a rally in Lahore on Sunday, reiterating calls for Prime Minister Sharif to resign. The Supreme Court of Pakistan has agreed to hear a PTI petition seeking Sharif’s disqualification from office. Prime Minister Sharif and Indian Prime Minister Modi addressed the UN General Assembly on Friday and Saturday; each put the onus on the other country to resume the currently suspended dialogue. The Afghan government will delay the payment of civil service salaries in October due to a shortage of treasury funds, finance ministry officials tell Reuters. Afghan security officials say that ANA commandos have repelled the Taliban from Ghazni’s Ajristan district. A Predator drone strike in South Waziristan, the first this year, is reported to have killed four militants, at least two of whom are said to have been Arab nationals.

Pakistan — Security

  • Drone Strike: A Predator drone strike near Wana, South Waziristan on Sunday killed at least four militant suspects, two of whom local sources say were Arab militants; they have not been identified. It is the first reported drone strike in South Waziristan so far this year, and the second strike in Pakistan within a week. [NYT] [AFP]
  • Waziristan Operations and FATA Attacks: The Pakistani military said Sunday that airstrikes it carried out overnight in the Shawal region of North Waziristan killed at least 21 militant suspects. Separately on Sunday, a bombing at a refugee camp in Hangu for families displaced from Orakzai killed eight people and injured 17 others; no claim of responsibility has been reported. In Bannu, a jirga of Uthmanzai Wazir tribal leaders has threatened to march on Islamabad in protest if they are not repatriated to their homes by October 10. On Friday, three anti-Taliban militia members were killed in a roadside bombing in the Mohmand Agency; the TTP splinter group Jamaatul Ahrar claimed responsibility. [ET]
  • Peshawar Flight Fired Upon: A PIA flight from Riyadh was fired upon as it approached the Khyber Paktunkhwa airport on Saturday evening, but was not hit. A PIA flight was previously struck by bullets in June, killing one passenger and wounding two flight attendants, temporarily halting a number of Gulf airlines’ service to the airport. Civil Aviation Authority officials and police say they are still seeking to confirm the firing report; no claim of responsibility has been reported. [ET] [ET]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • PTI Protests in Lahore: On Saturday, Pakistan Awami Tehreek leaders said they had approved supporters’ return home for Eid holidays, without specifying whether they will return to the Islamabad sit-in. On Sunday, Imran Khan headlined a PTI rally in Lahore, reiterating vows to continue protests until Nawaz Sharif resigns. Reuters estimates the crowd at around 100,000 people. PTI protestors also staged small rallies in New York around Prime Minister Sharif’s speech to the UN General Assembly on Friday, and heckled Hamza Shahbaz, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s son, at a speech on Saturday. On Friday, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a PTI petition, previously rejected by the registrar, seeking the prime minister’s disqualification from office on the grounds that he had committed perjury during a speech to parliament in late August. Hearings opened Monday and have been adjourned to Thursday. On Saturday, a lower court ordered that a police investigation report be filed against Sharif in connection to the deaths of three activists during clashes with police on August 31. Meanwhile, at a press conference on Friday the Election Commission of Pakistan sought to defend its requisition of ballot papers and magnetic ink used to register voter thumbprints during the 2013 elections, but said it had no written record on the specifications for the ink. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Sharif and Modi Address UN: In his speech to the UN General Assembly on Friday, Prime Minister Sharif said that Pakistan wished to “improve relations with its neighbors” and condemned “terrorism in all its forms”. Sharif said that he was “disappointed” by the cancellation of foreign secretary-level talks last month, saying it was a “missed opportunity”. Sharif reiterated Pakistan’s demands for a plebiscite to determine the status of Kashmir, which he said “we cannot draw a veil over”. Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry told reporters afterwards that the onus lay on India to revive the dialogue process; Foreign Advisor Sartaj Aziz defended the meeting with Kashimir separatist leaders that precipitated the cancellation by India of the talks, but acknowledged that the “timing [of that meeting] was probably not right”. Speaking on Saturday, Prime Minister Modi of India said that it was the “duty of Pakistan to come forward and create the appropriate atmosphere” so that talks could be held “without a shadow of terrorism”. Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif visited the Line of Control in Kashmir on Friday, where he said the Pakistani military was prepared to respond to “any provocation”. [ET] [ET] [Reuters] [Dawn]
  • Other Political Activity: In his latest address to followers on Saturday, MQM leader demanded answers as to the whereabouts of missing party workers allegedly detained extrajudicially by the Pakistani security services, among a list of other questions. He also reiterated his call for an administrative division of Sindh, while rebutting criticism that this would divide the province. Separately on Sunday, the head of the PML-Q’s Sindh chapter announced that he would quit the party and join the PTI, along with his brother, who heads the party young wing. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [ET]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Currency Pressures: Despite pressure on the rupee amid the ongoing political crisis, it has not dropped below Rs 103 to the dollar, which currency dealers attribute to State Bank of Pakistan controls that are preventing banks from exchanging currency. [ET]
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Education Programs: On Friday, the PTI government in Khyber Paktunkhwa agreed to its coalition partner Jamaat-e-Islami’s demands to remove “objectionable material” from primary school textbooks. Dawn reports that the party’s Tameer School Program drive to collect materials for under-resourced schools, launched on April 30, has been a failure, as the political leadership has refocused its attention on the Islamabad protests.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • As Many as Two Killed, 27 Injured in Sibi Bombing [Dawn] [ET]
  • Five Militants Killed in Tirah Bombing [Dawn]
  • Rangers Claim TTP Karachi Network ‘Destroyed Beyond Repair’ [ET]
  • Sindh Government Regularizes Over 25,000 Female Health Workers [ET]
  • Balochistan Chief Minister Says Local Bodies to Begin Work after Eid [APP] [Dawn]
  • Muzafarragah Flood Victims Sent Home as Relief Funds Dry Up [Dawn]
  • No Plan to Lay Off PIA Employees, Parliament Told [Dawn]
  • Three More Polio Cases Reported [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Islamabad Metro Bus Costs Revised Upwards to Rs 50 Billion [Dawn]
  • Bid-Free Chinese Solar Investment Project Challenge [Dawn]
  • Tourism Dips By 50% in 2014 [ET]
  • Commentary: Give Pakistan Back – “Those who accuse me of abandoning the Constitution are people who themselves have no moral, legal or constitutional authority to govern.” [Muhammad Tahir-ul Qadri, NYT]
  • Commentary: The Rise of Lashkar-e-Taiba: A Q&A with Arif Jamal – “While the Pakistan-based Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) may not be an immediate threat, it could in time emerge to be far deadlier than al Qaeda or the Islamic State, warns senior Pakistani journalist Arif Jamal in his latest book.” [Benazir Shah, Foreign Policy]
  • Commentary: The Sharif Family – “One can guesstimate that personal holdings for Nawaz Sharif alone might be around Rs 5-10 Billion, which is $50-$100 million, not $1.4 billion or $1.8 billion or $9.8 billion that fake lists would have you believe.” [Shahid Saeed, Five Rupees]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Ghazni Clashes: Ghazni provincial officials said Saturday that Afghan National Army commandos deployed to the Ajristan district on Friday evening had successfully freed a number of captive Afghan police officers, and had broken the Taliban’s hold over the district center. Provincial officials had previously said that the Taliban had beheaded as many as 15 people, including ANP and ALP family members, and alleged that some foreign fighters were displaying flags in support of ISIS. A Taliban spokesman denied that its fighters had killed any civilians, and insisted that the insurgency retained control of at least two villages; the two sides claims cannot be independently verified. A video sent to RFE/RL purports to show a group of militants endorsing ISIS leadership, although the group identifies themselves as members of the “Islamic Organization of Great Afghanistan,” and gives no concrete details on the scope of their support. On Saturday, provincial officials said that local residents had hung four Taliban fighters in retaliation as they were attempting to flee Afghan security forces. [TOLO] [TOLO]
  • Kabul Bombings: A magnetic mine attached to an Afghan army vehicle in Kabul exploded on Sunday, wounding the driver. No claim of responsibility has been reported. Another bombing was reported on Monday near the Kabul airport, which preliminary accounts indicate was a suicide bombing targeting Afghan intelligence service vehicles, killing at least four people. [TOLO] [AJE]
  • Paktia Offensive: A team of as many as eight Taliban suicide bombers attacked the Zurmat district headquarters in Paktia on Monday, killing at least four police officers, two intelligence staff, and two civilians working for the government. [AJE]
  • Prison Break: At least ten Taliban detainees reportedly escaped from a prison in Herat province on Sunday; security officials say they have re-arrested six during search operations.
  • Tensions with Pakistan: Speaking at the UN General Assembly on Saturday, Afghan foreign minister Zafar Ahmad Moqbel Osmani denounced cross-border Pakistani artillery fire into Afghanistan, saying the attacks were “unacceptable” and calling on the UN to take action. [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Ghani Inaugurated: Ashraf Ghani was sworn in as Afghanistan’s president on Monday, after which he issued an executive order appointing Abdullah Abdullah as chief executive officer, swearing him in as well. Abdullah’s participation came after earlier threats to boycott Monday’s inauguration ceremony, after his team accused the Independent Election Commission of violating the terms of the national unity government agreement by releasing figures indicating Ashraf Ghani’s final vote totals. The Abdullah team had also clashed with Vice President Dostum over office space in the presidential palace, and the inauguration speaking schedule. Those disputes appear to have been resolved in late-night negotiations on Sunday, which were attended by the American ambassador. In his inauguration speech, Pres. Ghani said that “security is a main demand of our people, and we are tired of this war,” calling on the Taliban and Hezb-e-Islami to “prepare for political negotiations”. Ghani and his first vice president Abdul Rashid Dostum spoke earlier at an event with senior members of Dostum’s Junbesh-e-Milli party at the presidential palace on Saturday; Ghani pledged to provide good governance and to crack down on corruption in order to boost national investment, but did not detail his plans. The Guardian profiles Ghani, and the transformation of his campaign between 2009 and 2014. Dostum endorsed talks with the Taliban. Rangin Dadfar Spanta, Pres. Karzai’s national security advisor, told a Herat conference on Saturday that the bilateral security agreement with the U.S. would be signed on Tuesday, after Ghani takes office. [AP] [AJE] [AFP] [TOLO] [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • Karzai Gives Farewell Address: Pres. Karzai gave a final address to the nation on Sunday evening, thanking the public for supporting him and saying that over the past thirteen years, “we have laid a great foundation for our future, a foundation our next generations can build on.” He said that he would “support the next president, the government and the constitution with all my strength”. The WSJ interviews a number of analysts for comment on Karzai’s legacy. In some of his final acts in office, Karzai approved the execution of five convicted rapists on Saturday and an organized crime leader, Habib Istalif, on Sunday. [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Government to Delay Salary Payments: Alhaj Mohammad Aqa, the director general of the treasury at the Afghan finance ministry, tells Reuters that the Afghan treasury now has less than the 6.5 billion Afghanis (~$116 million) needed to pay monthly civil servant salaries at the start of October. Revenue collections for the first nine months of the year are said to be 25% below target. Afghan military and police salaries are paid from separate donor-supported funds and are not affected. The government is seeking $537 million in emergency assistance from donors, and will be delaying salary payments in the interim. U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Cunningham is quoted that “there isn’t going to be new money,” but suggests that additional funds could potentially be borrowed from future years’ pledges. [TOLO]
  • Airspace Handover: As part of the ongoing military transition in Afghanistan, the WSJ notes that Afghan authorities are due to take over control of the management of Afghan airspace from the international military coalition this year. A $200 million, five-year airspace management contract bid is currently delayed over questions of how much will be paid for by the Afghan government and the selection of a winning bidder, however, and if not completed by October 15 may force international airlines to divert around Afghan airspace, risking $40 million in annual overflight fees.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • French Firm Total Seeks Lead Role in TAPI Project [AFP]
  • Jalalabad High Court Frees Pakistani Reporter [ET] [Khaama Press]
  • Taliban Execute Three Paktia Men Accused of Robbery and Kidnapping [Khaama Press]
  • Four US Governors Visit Afghanistan for Security Briefing [AP] [NYT] [WSJ]
  • Commentary: Afghanistan’s Triumph of Statesmanship and Compromise – “The tough decisions among Afghans did not end with the unity government or with this inauguration — in fact, they’re only beginning.” [John Kerry, WAPO]
  • Commentary: The Not Yet Officially Announced Results – “The results released by the IEC to the candidate teams do not tell us what happened during the audit.” [Thomas Ruttig, AAN]
  • Commentary: Constitutional Implications of a National Unity Government – “The Agreement commits the parties to amend the Constitution and create the post of an ‘Executive Prime Ministership’.” [Aruni Jayakody, AREU]
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