Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Haqqani Commanders Arrested; Supreme Court Hears Sharif Disqualification Arguments

Topline

  • Afghan intelligence officials report the arrest of two senior Haqqani network commanders, including Anas Haqqani, a younger brother to Sirajuddin and a leading financier. The Supreme Court of Pakistan has resumed hearing a PTI petition seeking Prime Minister Sharif’s disqualification from office; Sharif and Imran Khan continue to trade criticism against each other. Special elections are being held today for the NA-149 constituency in Multan, in which former PTI president Javed Hashmi is seeking to regain his seat as an independent after his resignation from the party. Abdullah Abdullah met with senior Afghan security officials on Wednesday, urging a clearer definition of the Taliban as an enemy; Pres. Ghani chaired a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, dissolving a monitoring office in the attorney general’s office. The Peshawar High Court has blocked the imposition of a special federal tax intended to fund gas infrastructure development.

Pakistan — Security

  • FATA Operations: Prime Minister Sharif chaired a meeting of senior military and civilian advisors on Thursday to review internal security operations and the ongoing Operation Zarb-e-Azb in North Waziristan. Sharif visited the Pakistan Air Force headquarters in Islamabad earlier in the day, where he was briefed on air operations. Pakistani military spokesmen report that 21 militant suspects were killed in airstrikes in the Khyber Agency on Thursday, a day after a suicide bomber struck a gathering of pro-government militia forces. In Kohat, displaced residents from Kurram, Orakzai, and South Waziristan accused the government of failing to provide for displaced FATA residents, threatening to carry out their own Islamabad sit-in.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Protests Continue: Imran Khan and Nawaz Sharif continue to trade criticism, with Khan criticizing the government for not paying its energy bills but cutting off his power for the same. Sharif visited residents affected by floods in Bahawalpur on Wednesday and said that Khan should make improved governance in Khyber Paktunkhwa his first priority. The Supreme Court held hearings on Wednesday on a PTI petition seeking Sharif’s disqualification on grounds that he had lied to parliament; in hearings on Thursday, the court noted that the constitution did not define “Sadiq” (honest) and “Ameen” (righteous), two qualities which parliamentary candidates are required to hold according to Article 260 of the constitution. Meanwhile, the Islamabad High Court suspended police investigation reports filed against Islamabad police officials who had been accused of violence during clashes with PTI and PAT activists on August 30, in which three people were killed. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Multan By-Election: Polling opened on Thursday for a special election for the NA-149 constituency in Multan; Javed Hashmi, the former PTI president, had resigned his party affiliation and is now re-contesting the seat as an independent. Polling proceeded despite reports of last-minute pamphlet distributions made by a PML-N supporter of Hashmi, in violation of rules barring campaigning in the final 48 hours. Petitions have been filed seeking Hashmi’s disqualification. Hashmi’s main rival is Malik Aamir Dogar, an independent candidate who has been backed by the PTI. [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Parliamentarians Suspended Over Asset Declarations: 212 federal and provincial lawmakers were suspended on Wednesday by the Election Commission for failing to submit asset statements by a September 30 deadline; past suspensions have been quickly overturned after legislators have belatedly submitted forms. [ET]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Peshawar High Court Blocks Gas Cess: On Wednesday, the Peshawar High Court blocked the imposition of a special federal tax on industry and the compressed natural gas sector, which had been established to fund gas infrastructure development. The cess was first imposed in 2011, but was declared unconstitutional by the court in 2013, a ruling that was upheld by the Supreme Court in August 2014; a presidential ordinance re-imposed the tax in September. [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Cabinet Reshuffle Rumored [Dawn]
  • Pakistani Ambassador to UN Calls for Immediate Halt to India Border Clashes [ET] [ET] [ET]
  • Remittances Rise Nearly 20% During First Quarter, to $4.69 Billion [ET]
  • Parliament Approves Local Government Bill for Islamabad Capital Territory [ET]
  • Islamia College University Professor Describes His Time in Taliban Captivity [ET]
  • MQM Activist Killed in Hyderabad [Dawn]
  • Suspect Arrested in Connection to 2013 Attack on Sindh High Court Judge [Dawn]
  • PML-N Parliamentarian Disqualified on Charges of Fake Educational Degree [ET]
  • Cabinet Approves Fines for Oil Dealer Overcharging [ET]
  • Commentary: PTI Clutching at Straws – “By now everyone can see that the PTI has a lot of stamina to bellow its message night after night — but there is no real message as such.” [Khurram Husain, Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Haqqani Commanders Captured: On Wednesday, the National Directorate of Security announced that it had captured two senior Haqqani network commanders in Khost, including Anas Haqqani, brother to chief Sirajuddin Haqqani and a leading fundraiser for the group. Afghan officials described him as the group’s second-in-command. Hafiz Rashid, a senior military commander for the southeastern region, was also arrested. No details have yet been released on how the arrests were carried out. [AFP] [BBC] [Khaama Press]
  • Insider Attack: An Afghan soldier opened fire on ISAF personnel on Thursday morning, Afghan defense ministry officials reported; no details were released on the location of the shooting, which did not result in casualties. The gunman was arrested.
  • Other Attacks: A car bomb killed eight members of the CIA-backed paramilitary Khost Protection Force on Wednesday, officials report; they had reportedly been engaged in a search operation at a compound believed to be used by suicide bombers. On Thursday, a senior Taliban commander was reportedly killed in a Predator drone strike in Herat’s Oba district. A major bridge on the Kabul-Kandahar highway was destroyed in a bombing in the Zabul capital of Qalat on Wednesday. [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Executive Actions: Abdullah Abdullah met with senior Afghan National Army, Afghan National Police, and National Directorate of Security officials on Wednesday, during which he said the government needed to more clearly define “friend” and “foe”, referencing former Pres. Karzai’s tradition of referring to the Taliban as “brothers”. Acting interior minister Omar Daudzai renewed requests for heavy weapons for Afghan security forces. At a cabinet meeting on Tuesday evening, Pres. Ghani dissolved the Attorney General’s deputy assistant for monitoring affairs, a role which he said belonged to the presidency. The meeting also focused on plans to improve security and speed visas access for investors. On Thursday, Nazifullah Salarzai, a former UNAMA spokesman, was appointed chief spokesman for the president; Habibullah Ahmadzai was appointed special security advisor, and Khalil Zemar advisor on detainee and prisoner affairs.
  • Indian Relations: Pres. Ghani spoke by phone with Indian Prime Minister Modi on Wednesday and accepted an invitation to visit India at an unspecified future date.

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Energy Dues: Officials with the Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat power supply company reiterated warnings that they will begin to cut off power to customers who have defaulted on bill payments, which they report total Afs 1.1 billion. [Pajhwok]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Kandahar Girls’ School Faces Closure as International Funds Dry Up [Guardian]
  • Three Kunar Timber Smugglers Arrested for Forging Presidential Signature [TOLO]
  • Report: Afghanistan’s Political Transition – “Given the international role in developing the agreements that have created this new partnership, and the absence of mechanisms to resolve internal differences, the international community should serve as a guarantor of Kabul’s new political order and, if necessary, mediate any serious disputes that arise.” [International Crisis Group]
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