Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: US-Afghan Bilateral Security Agreement Signed; Supreme Court Hears Petition Against Sharif

Topline

  • Former Afghan interior minister Hanif Atmar was appointed national security advisor on Monday, and signed the long-delayed U.S.-Afghan bilateral security agreement on behalf of Pres. Ghani at a ceremony on Tuesday, clearing the way for U.S. forces to remain in the country after the end of the year. The Supreme Court of Pakistan will hear arguments this Thursday regarding a PTI disqualification petition against Prime Minsiter Sharif, who downplayed the hearings’ significance. An ISAF statement downplayed reports over the past weeks of heavy fighting in Ghazni’s Ajristan district, saying that those reports had been “grossly exaggerated” and that Afghan security forces had the situation under control. Ten new polio cases were reported in Pakistan on Monday, bringing the national total to 184 so far this year.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Court Hearings as Protests Continue: Speaking to reporters in London while en route home from the UN General Assembly session, Prime Minister Sharif said that his focus remained public service and that he was not afraid of a “handful” of demonstrators. Sharif downplayed the significance of the Supreme Court’s agreement to hear a disqualification petition against him, saying the court was not “conspiring against the government”. Supreme Court hearings have been set for Thursday, when debate is expected to focus on the constitutional bar on court investigations into parliamentary proceedings. A First Information Report police investigation has also been initiated against Sharif and other officials in connection to the deaths of three PTI activists during protests on August 31, after a lower court order. The opposition mediation jirga has called on the PTI and PAT to allow activists to return home for Eid, which the PAT has already approved. On Monday, the Islamabad High Court asked the PTI and PAT to voluntarily bar children from attending their sit-in rallies. The Nation reports that PML-N leaders remain apprehensive over the risk of army intervention in support of the PTI, particularly in the wake of a large Lahore rally this weekend. Other PML-N sources tell Dawn they are pushing for Prime Minister Sharif to convene a Central Working Committee meeting of the party to prepare a political strategy against the protestors, but Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid says that “we are more focused on resolving issues facing the nation” and that the government would keep its focus on parliament. [APP] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Other Political Activity: Former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gillani told reporters on Monday that the PPP plans to organize a large rally headlined by Bilalwal Bhutto on October 18 in Karachi, marking the 2007 return of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto from exile. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Polio Crisis: The federal health ministry established an “emergency operation cell” on Monday to coordinate and share information about polio vaccination efforts. Roughly 16,700 children in Peshawar did not receive vaccinations as part of a nationwide drive that began on Monday due to parental refusals; the drive was cut short to one day as a result of security concerns. A polio vaccination team was attacked in Gujranwala on Tuesday, injuring three people. Ten more polio cases were confirmed on Tuesday from around the country, bringing the national total to 184 so far this year, the majority from FATA. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Over 2,250 Criminals Arrested in Karachi Operations, Rangers Report [Dawn]
  • PML-N to Back Hashmi in Multan [ET] [Dawn]
  • National Accountability Bureau Approves Investigations Against PPP, ANP Leaders [APP] [ET]
  • Textile Policy Falls Short of Target [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Ajristan Fighting: Khaama Press, citing an as-yet unpublished ISAF statement on Tuesday, downplayed the significance of reports over the past week of a large Taliban assault on the Ajristan district in Ghazni, quoting ISAF officials who say that “the damage and casualties which were reported in the media last week were grossly exaggerated” and that Afghan security forces have “stabilized the situation”.
  • Bagram Detainees: The head of U.S. detention operations at Bagram, Brigadier Gen. Patrick Reinhart, tells Reuters that the U.S. is working to repatriate the remaining foreign nationals held there or turn them over to Afghan prosecutors; he also indicates that “if someone has committed a crime overseas that could be a crime also in the United States, a detainee could be transferred back to the United States”.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Bilateral Security Agreement Signed: In one of his first major appointments, Pres. Ghani named former interior minister Mohammad Hanif Atmar has his national security advisor on Monday. Atmar signed the U.S.-Afghanistan bilateral security agreement and a NATO-Afghan status of forces agreement on Ghani’s behalf along with Ambassador Cunningham at the presidential palace on Tuesday. The BSA’s signing will clear the way for the U.S. to retain around 9,800 soldiers in Afghanistan after the end of the year, alongside around 2,000 NATO forces. [Khaama Press] [TOLO] [BBC] [Reuters] [AFP]
  • Government Transition: Speaking at the inauguration ceremony on Monday, former Pres. Karzai asked the new national unity government to focus its efforts on “bringing sustainable peace and security”. In his remarks, Abdullah Abdullah committed to serving as a “united team, based on the agreed political framework”. TOLO reports that under the unity agreement, Abdullah will control the nomination of the ministers of defense, foreign affairs, border control, counternarcotics, mines, petroleum, trade, transport and aviation, among others; Ghani will reportedly choose the heads of the NDS and Central Bank, and the ministries of finance, energy and water, public works, rural rehabilitation and development, justice, and information, among others. In addition to Atmar, Ghani is reported to have named Salam Rahimi as his chief of staff. Ahmad Zia Massoud has been named a special representative on reforms and good governance. [TOLO] [ET]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • New Government Left with Unfinished Infrastructure Projects [TOLO]
  • Commentary: Four Early Steps to Salvage Afghanistan – “The flawed election process may have undermined the credibility of the new government, but an economic collapse so severe that the government cannot pay salaries or provide basic services would do far more to delegitimize Kabul and destabilize Afghanistan.” [Scott Smith and Andrew Wilder, Real Clear World]
  • Commentary: Ashraf Ghani’s Struggle – “Most of his reforms will require a fight against provincial power brokers as well as a rigid bureaucracy, but Ghani is no stranger to using a bit of managerial muscle.” [Sune Engel Rasmussen, Foreign Policy]
  • Commentary: Ghani Sworn in as Afghanistan’s New President – “Events have not panned out as either Ghani or Abdullah could have imagined or desired when they each decided to stand for the presidency almost exactly a year ago.“ [Kate Clark, AAN]
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