Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: PTI Rallies in Mianwali; UK’s Cameron Visits Kabul

Topline

  • In a rally in Mianwali on Thursday, Imran Khan reiterated demands for Prime Minister Sharif to resign. In Supreme Court hearings on Thursday, judges suggested that an affidavit from Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif might be necessary to verify PTI allegations that Prime Minister Sharif had lied before parliament regarding whether or not the government had appealed for military mediation. UK Prime Minister David Cameron arrived in Kabul on Friday to meet with British forces and with Pres. Ghani and chief executive officer Abdullah Abdullah. In an interview with Pentagon reporters on Thursday, ISAF commander Gen. John Campbell cautioned that Afghan politicians and local press were exaggerating the extent of Taliban fighting in Ghazni’s Ajristan district, saying that Afghan security forces were able to repel any Taliban attempts to seize territory. The Supreme Court of Pakistan has sought replies from Sindh, Punjab, and Khyber Paktunkhwa as to their preparations for local government elections, which the court had previously ruled must take place by November 15.

Pakistan — Security

  • Sectarian Attacks: Police report that yesterday’s explosion in a passenger van in Peshawar was caused by a bomb planted in the vehicle; seven people were killed and at least five injured, most of them Parachinar residents from the Kurram Agency. Kurram has been the site of extended sectarian clashes in the past; no claim of responsibility has been reported. Separately, three people were killed and nine wounded in a roadside bombing near the town of Gilgit; all of the victims where Shia.
  • Khyber Strikes: The Pakistani military carried out airstrikes in the Khyber Agency on Friday, killing 15 militant suspects.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • PTI Rallies in Mianwali: On Thursday, Imran Khan led a rally in Mianwali, his home city, reiterating pledges to continue protests until Prime Minister Sharif resigned. Khan challenged the PML-N to produce a crowd equivalent to twenty percent of those who turned out, saying if the government managed to do so then he would “accept your popularity among the masses”. Tahirul Qadri announced on Thursday that his Pakistan Awami Tehreek party would contest the next elections, predicting it would become the “largest political party in the country in the near future”. Qadri announced his own plans for parallel rallies around Punjab, beginning with a rally in Faisalabad on October 12.  In Supreme Court hearings, judges suggested that it would be difficult for them to issue a ruling on Prime Minister Sharif’s disqualification on charges of perjury before parliament without tangible evidence, suggesting an affidavit or witness testimony from Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif would be necessary to prove PTI allegations that Nawaz had lied to parliament during remarks on August 29 in which he had said that the PTI, not the government, had sought army mediation in the standoff. In a parallel court hearing, representatives from other opposition parties not taking part in the protests cautioned the court against enforcing an order for the protestors forcible removal, urging “judicial restraint”. [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Election Complaints: An election tribunal investigating complaints against PML-N minister Khawaja Saad Rafiq’s win in NA-125 Lahore found evidence that polling station bags were filled with litter, making it impossible to evaluate ballot papers. At a meeting of the parliamentary committee on electoral reforms on Thursday, lawmakers criticized the behavior of polling staff; the Election Commission secretary, Ishtiak Ahmed Khan, noted that returning officers had been selected from the judiciary at the request of the political parties.
  • Local Elections: On Thursday, the Supreme Court ordered Sindh, Punjab, and Khyber Paktunkhwa to file responses within 15 days detailing their preparations for local government elections; the court had earlier mandated those elections be held by November 15, although there is little evidence of preparation to do so. Khyber Paktunkhwa local government minister Inayatullah Khan told reporters on Thursday that the government was prepared to meet that deadline, but that if the Election Commission carried out redistricting before then, it would not be possible to do so by November. In Sindh, Federal Investigation Agency officials raided the offices of the Printing Corporation of Pakistan and found substandard quality paper being prepared for local elections there.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Security Forces Arrest 29 in Quetta Raids [ET]
  • Karachi’s Polio Vaccinators in the Crosshairs [AJE]
  • US-Supported Power Management Center Inaugurated in Lahore [ET]
  • New Provincial Finance and Law Ministers Appointed in Khyber Paktunkhwa [Dawn]
  • Economic Coordination Committee Approves Gwadar LGN Terminal Project [ET]
  • Study Finds Nearly 89% of Pakistanis Lack Internet Access [ET]
  • Blasphemy Charges Against Four People, Including TV Host [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • ISAF Commander Cautions Against Exaggerating Taliban Attacks: In a conference call with reporters at the Pentagon on Thursday, ISAF commander Gen. John Campbell cautioned that Afghan local politicians and military officials have exaggerated the scope of fighting in Ghazni’s Ajristan district, saying that “there’s no terrain down there … the Afghans do not control” and that “the Taliban do not own any of the ground that they’ve tried to get”. Campbell said that ISAF reporting indicated that around six Afghan soldiers and twelve civilians had been killed in the fighting, which was “nothing… like what the local media has provided here.” Campbell acknowledged that spikes in fighting in Helmand and elsewhere had contributed to Afghan security force casualties, which he estimated at 7,000-9,000 killed or wounded, but expressed confidence in their ability to retake terrain from any Taliban offensive. Ministry of Interior spokesmen now claim that Taliban attacks around the country have declined since the signature of the bilateral security agreement with the U.S.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Cameron Visits Afghanistan: UK Prime Minister Cameron made an unannounced visit to Afghanistan on Friday to meet with British forces and with Pres. Ghani, making him the first head of government to meet with Ghani since his inauguration. Cameron will also meet with Abdullah Abdullah. Speaking upon arrival in Kabul, Cameron said that “this is where 9/11 and countless other plots were hatched. Afghanistan free from al Qaeda is in our national interests as well as Afghanistan’s.” He pledged to remain a “strong partner and good friend” to Afghanistan, even as British combat troops withdraw at the end of the year. [NYT] [AJE] [Guardian]
  • Government Reforms: Pres. Ghani has held meetings with the ministries of justice, commerce, and public works during his first week in office, as well as with private sector business leaders. A Ministry of Commerce spokesman said that Ghani had “ordered a settlement to the issues of the business community, review economic laws, resolution to the transit issues with neighbors and completion of the ring road”. On Thursday, the Afghan Attorney General’s office said that they were trying to locate and arrest a number of those accused of links to the Kabul Bank scandal, but said that only $184 million out of $913 million in embezzled funds had been recovered. [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Salang Tunnel Maintenance: The WSJ has a lengthy feature on the Salang Tunnel, a critical link connecting Kabul to northern Afghanistan, through which as much as 80% of Afghan commerce passes. Tunnel infrastructure is badly deteriorating despite continual repairs, and proposals to build alternative routes or overhaul the tunnel completely are stalled for lack of funds — the government has appropriated only $15 million in procurement funds out of an estimated $70-80 million in costs — and the management challenge of how to conduct the work without shutting down access completely.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Report: Unfinished Business: The Follow-Up Report on Kabul Bank – “Although the Kabul Bank Special Tribunal returned convictions against those indicted, there are a number of concerns with its proceedings and the judgment.” [Monitoring and Evaluation Committee (pdf)]
  • Commentary: Thirteen Foreign Detainees Left – What to Do With the Rest? – “The US detention facility on the Bagram airbase, which has been in operation since late 2001, a place of at least two deaths early on because of torture and ill-treatment, where detainees have been kept without trial or even the disclosure of their names should, it appears, soon be closing.” [Kate Clark, AAN]
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