Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: TTP Branches Praise Islamic State; Afghan National Army Casualties Up 30%


  • The two main Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan branches issued Eid ul Azha statements praising the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, and calling on it to end rivalries with other militant groups. A suicide bombing in Quetta killed five Hazaras on Saturday. Pakistan and India exchanged cross-border fire along the Line of Control in Kashmir through the weekend, killing nine civilians on Monday. Afghan army casualties are up 30% over the previous year, former Afghan defense minister Abdul Rahim Wardak tells the AP. Pakistan has reportedly freed two brothers of Taliban negotiator Tayyab Agha who had been held since May. The PML-N government and PTI protests remain deadlocked; former Pres. Zardari is reportedly seeking a more active role in brokering talks between the tow sides. Pres. Ghani has approved the reversal of NYT reporter Matthew Rosenberg’s expulsion from Afghanistan. The Afghan Electoral Complaints Commission announced Friday that provincial council election results would be finalized and returned to the Independent Election Commission on Wednesday of this week. Eight new polio cases recorded on Friday brought Pakistan’s nationwide total for the year to 202 cases, a 14-year record high. The Peshawar High Court has blocked the federal Privatization Commission’s plans to sell shares of the Oil and Gas Development Company Ltd, setting hearings for October 20 on a Khyber Paktunkhwa provincial government challenge to the sale.

Pakistan — Security

  • Militant Groups Praise the Islamic State: In video statement released on Saturday, Omar Khalid Khursani, the former Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan commander in the Mohmand Agency and a leader of the Jamaat-ul Ahrar splinter group, called for the Islamic State, Jabhat al Nusrah, and other militant groups “to reconcile among each other,” offering his services as a mediator. Separately on Saturday, the TTP issued an Eid statement on behalf of Maulana Fazlullah, the first of its kind, praising the Islamic State’s “conquests against the enemies” and also calling on them to “forget rivalries”. The statement also attributed the breakdown in negotiations with the Pakistani government to the government’s unwillingness to accept sharia law. Shahid subsequently clarified that the TTP remained “loyal to Ameer-ul-Momineen (Mullah Omar)”, and was not pledging alliance to the Islamic State. [BBC]
  • Sectarian Attacks: A suicide bombing in Quetta’s Hazara Town neighborhood on Saturday evening, taking place during peak Eid shopping hours, killed at least five people and injured twenty, most of them members of the Hazara minority community. There was no claim of responsibility, although Lashkar-e-Jhangvi has claimed responsibility for similar attacks in the past. The blast came hours after a bus in a Shia neighborhood of Kohat was bombed, killing six people. [ET] [Dawn] [AP]
  • Border Clashes with India: Pakistani military spokesmen accuse Indian forces of conducting unprovoked cross-border firing along the Line of Control in Kashmir on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Pakistani forces returned fire in all cases; no casualties were reported in any of the incidents. On Monday, clashes continued, killing five Pakistani and four Indian civilians; both sides accuse the other of initiating the firing. Earlier on Sunday, Indian authorities in Kashmir refused to permit the entry of assistance packages prepared for residents affected by recent flooding that were donated by the Falah-e-Insanat Foundation, a charitable affiliate of Jamaat-ud-Dawa. [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Drone Strike: A Predator drone strike on Sunday in South Waziristan’s Shawal region killed at least five militant suspects, who anonymous intelligence sources tell Reuters were all Uzbek militants.
  • Waziristan Operations: An anonymous Pakistani military official tells the Express Tribune that Operation Zarb-e-Azb will continue through the winter, regardless of weather. No deadline for the operation’s completion has been offered. Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif visited troops in Wana and Miram Shah over Eid.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Political Deadlock: The government and PTI protestors remain deadlocked, with neither side showing indications of being ready to make concessions to the other. Imran Khan continues to maintain that the sit-ins will continue until Prime Minister Sharif’s ouster; Sharif continues to conduct public business elsewhere, dismissing the impact of the protests. Although many PAT activists have returned home for the Eid holidays, Tahirul Qadri and Imran Khan continue to headline a smaller crowd in Islamabad. On Friday, former Pres. Zardari met with Jamaat-e-Islami leader Sirajul Haq and agreed afterwards to pursue “politics of reconciliation”; in a meeting with senior PPP leaders in Lahore on Saturday, Zardari ruled out a more confrontational approach against the government, as sought by some party members. Zardari is expected to join the PPP-JI mediation ‘jirga’ as an active participant after Eid in an effort to bridge the gap between the two sides. Zardari met with PML-Q leaders in Lahore on Sunday. Tahirul Qadri criticized Zardari’s intervention in remarks on Saturday. The PML-N is reportedly considering plans to hold counter-protests against the PTI in Khyber Paktunkhwa after Eid. Javeed Naseem, a PTI Khyber Pakuntkhwa provincial assembly legislator, announced his own plans to hold protest sit-ins against Chief Minister Pervaiz Khattak, accusing him of corruption; Naseem was censured for violating party discipline on Saturday. [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Election Complaints: On Saturday, former Supreme Court judge Khalilur Rehman Ramday filed a defamation notice against Imran Khan, who had accused him of involvement in election rigging. The FAFEN observer group has proposed a three-stage audit process to evaluate the disputed results of the 2013 elections. Dawn notes that the secretary of the Election Commission, Ishtiak Ahmed, has already received two tenure extensions and is approaching the end of his term; three of the four provincial election commissioners are also still serving on contract past their retirement. [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Local Elections: An unidentified Election Commission official tells Dawn that it will not be possible to hold long-delayed local government elections in Punjab, Sindh, and Khyber Paktunkhwa in time for the Supreme Court’s November 15 deadline. The Supreme Court held hearings on the issue on Friday and demanded reports from the provinces on their preparations for the polls. [ET]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Record Number of Polio Cases: Eight new polio cases were registered on Friday, bringing the national total so far this year to 202 cases, a 14-year record high. Around 86% of the current year’s cases have come from Khyber Paktunkhwa and FATA, where security concerns have limited vaccination efforts; about 60 health workers or security guards for polio vaccination campaigns have been killed since 2012. Meanwhile, Dawn reports that the government is seeking to replace the head of the Prime Minister’s Polio Monitoring Cell, Dr Altaf Bosan, with Dr Umer Qadir Baloch, who is brother to federal minister Abdul Qadir Baloch; Bosan’s salary is paid for by the Gates Foundation, and his current status is uncertain. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [BBC] [WSJ]
  • OGDCL Privatization Blocked: On Friday, the Peshawar High Court issued a stay order on the federal Privatization Commission’s plans to sell government shares in the Oil and Gas Development Company Ltd, which was to begin October 9. The Khyber Paktunkhwa provincial government had filed a petition seeking to block the sale, which it said was decided without constitutionally-required provincial input. Court hearings have been set for October 20.
  • International Assistance: Finance Minister Dar chaired an informal meeting of aid donors on Friday, seeking assistance for residents displaced by conflict in northwest Pakistan and the recent flooding. A formal donor conference will reportedly be organized by the end of the month. Preliminary flooding damages were estimated at Rs 28.3 billion, or roughly $275 million; Dar said that final figures could jump higher, however, and suggested that IDP resettlement and rehabilitation could require $2 billion, however.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Punjab Governor Reportedly Rebuffed Over Foreign Ministry Appointment [ET]
  • Kidnapped ANP Leader Freed in Peshawar [Dawn]
  • Express News Correspondent Killed in Gujranwala [ET]
  • Over 135 Detained in Karachi Raids [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • National Accountability Bureau Challenges Accountability Court’s Clearance of Sharif Family in Two Cases [Dawn] [ET]
  • Prime Minister Seeks Alternative Dispute Resolution Legislation [ET]
  • Government Cuts BISP Budget Allocations by 10% [ET]
  • Government Turns Down Proposal for Swat Hydroelectric Project [ET]
  • Path Unclear for CNG Sector Use of LNG Imports [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Afghan National Security Forces Under Strain: Former defense minister and advisor Gen. Abdul Rahim Wardak tells the AP that Afghan army casualties were up 30% during the 2014 summer fighting season, or around 450 additional deaths, as U.S. military forces have withdrawn or shifted to a supporting and advising role, leaving Afghan troops to face the brunt of recent Taliban offensives. Analyst Seth Jones also suggest that ANA divisions are under stress from the recent political crisis, although NATO training officials downplay the concern. In phone conversations on Sunday, Pres. Ghani spoke with all provincial police chiefs and regional military commanders across the country. On Saturday, Interior Minister Umer Daudzai called on the Taliban to “put aside their war and stand beside the ANSF, who are their brothers,” and to “come together and defend their country against their greedy neighbors.”
  • Tensions with Pakistan Over Taliban: Khaama Press, citing a Pak Tribune report that does not appear to be online, reports that Pres. Ghani has authorized the handover of former Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan deputy commander Maulvi Faqir Mohammad to Pakistani custody. On Friday, Pakistani security services reportedly freed two brothers of Afghan Taliban lead negotiator Tayyab Agha, Younas and Tahir, who had been detained in May. On Friday, a Twitter message sent by Afghan Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid inadvertently included geolocation information showing him to be communicating from Sindh, Pakistan, which Mujahid subsequently claimed was the result of hacking or an “enemy plot”.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • NYT Reporter Allowed to Return: On Sunday, the Afghan attorney general’s office issued an order allowing NYT reporter Matthew Rosenberg to return to Afghanistan, reversing his expulsion in August. Pres. Ghani spoke with NYT editors on Sunday and indicated that Rosenberg “would be welcome back in Afghanistan; in a Twitter statement, Ghani noted that “we respect the freedom of the press”. [Reuters]
  • Provincial Council Results: On Friday, the Electoral Complaints Commission announced that final results for the provincial council elections – held in April, but delayed as election officials were consumed with resolving the disputed presidential race — would be sent to the Independent Election Commission on Wednesday, and finalized shortly after.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Two, Including Child, Killed in Taliban Attack in Zabul [Khaama Press]
  • Ministry of Mines Expresses Optimism After Election Resolution [TOLO]
  • Afghan Women’s Daily Battle Against Abuse [AJE]
  • Commentary: The Misunderstanding of Hamid Karzai – “Afghanistan’s president of 13 years exits the stage, and leaves behind him a slew of missed opportunities.” [Bette Dam, Foreign Policy]
  • Commentary: Three Birds and One Stone: Signing the BSA and NATO SOFA to Project Reliability – “[The new government] has projected an image of itself as reliable to Afghans and to its international partners, and it has secured an important financial lifeline for the country.” [Thomas Ruttig and Kate Clark, AAN]

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