Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Sharif to Sign Chinese Infrastructure Deals; Pakistani Army Offers to Train Afghan Soldiers

Topline

  • Prime Minister Sharif will hold meetings on the sidelines of the APEC summit in China this weekend where he is expected to sign agreements worth $35 billion to finance infrastructure and electricity generation projects in Pakistan. During visits to Kabul yesterday, Pakistani Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif renewed offers to train Afghan army officers in Pakistan. Afghan officials are actively courting Chinese support, emphasizing their actions against Uighur militant suspects. A fourth PTI legislator has split with the party, reversing his resignation from parliament. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan named a new spokesman and has pledged support for Lashkar-e-Islam fighters in Khyber. Pakistani opposition parties debated nominees for the appointment of a Chief Election Commissioner. Ambassador Robin Raphel, previously a senior advisor on Pakistan issues at the U.S. State Department, has been placed under investigation by the FBI over unspecified counterintelligence concerns.

Pakistan — Security

  • TTP Names New Spokesman, Backs Lashkar-e-Islam: In a statement released Friday, the rump Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan led by Maulana Fazlullah announced a new spokesman, identified as Muhammad Khurasani. Former spokesman Shahidullah Shahid was expelled from the group after his split and pledge of allegiance to the Islamic State along with five other commanders last month. The TTP also announced that its fighters would support Lashkar-e-Islam in the Khyber Agency against current military operations there. Pakistani army forces fired artillery at suspected LeI hideouts in the Bara area on Friday, which they say killed five militants.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Protest Standoff: Speaking to supporters on Thursday, Imran Khan suggested that he would end the PTI sit-in if a Supreme Court-led investigation into charges of vote rigging found no evidence of such activities, but that “in case rigging is proved then resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif should be ensured.” The rhetoric is a slight shift from Khan’s previous position that Sharif must resign prior to an investigation; federal information minister Pervaiz Rashid responded that “the government is ready for dialogue with PTI when and where they want”. Meanwhile, PTI legislator Siraj Muhammad Khan (NA-6 Nowshera) has reversed stance and asked national assembly speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq not to accept his previous resignation statement, making him the fourth PTI assembly member to defect from the party; PTI leaders said the move was evidence of government efforts to buy off its members. [ET] [Dawn]
  • Election Commission Appointments: Prime Minister Sharif and PPP parliamentary opposition leader Khurshid Shah discussed potential nominees for the Chief Election Commissioner appointment on Thursday; Dawn reports that retired chief justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani and retired judge Tariq Pervez Khan are currently the top contenders. Shah met with Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Friday to consult with the PTI, who recommended former judge Nasir Aslam Zahid, a choice backed by the Jamaat-e-Islami. [Dawn]
  • U.S. Official Under Investigation: Ambassador Robin Raphel, who served as the senior advisor on Pakistan at the State Department’s office of the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan and led the coordination of civilian assistance to Pakistan, is under investigation by the FBI on counterintelligence-related charges, the Post reports. No details of the investigation have been released, and it is not immediately clear whether the investigation is related to her work in Pakistan. Raphel has not been charged; her security clearances have been withdrawn and her contract as an advisor has expired, however.

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Sharif Visits China: Prime Minister Sharif departed for China on Friday, where he will meet with Chinese officials on the sidelines of the APEC summit. Minister for Planning Ahsan Iqbal tells the WSJ that Sharif will sign bilateral agreements totaling $35 billion for infrastructure projects along the Gwadar-Xinjiang ‘economic corridor’, and for the construction of 14 mostly coal-fired power plants. Chinese Pres. Xi Jinping previously delayed a trip to Islamabad in September, at which the agreements were to have been signed, due to the ongoing PTI-led protests in Islamabad. [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET]
  • Tharparkar Drought: Two more children have died in the Sindh district of Tharparkar, where 39 people have died in the past 38 days amidst drought and extreme poverty conditions. 470 people have died in the area over the past three years; on Friday, PPP leader Bilalwal Bhutto Zardari issued “show cause” notices to Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah and deputy secretary general Manzoor Hussain Wassan. Wassan previously briefed the press on an inquiry report commissioned by former Pres. Zardari that found negligence by government agencies; he and PPP party spokes officials have now retracted that report, saying its findings were “premature”. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Indian Officials Fear Al Qaeda in Pakistan Grooming Indian Militants for Attacks [Reuters]
  • Karachi Police Arrest Man Linked to Sectarian Attacks [ET]
  • Punjab Chief Minister Announces Compensation for Family of Christians Killed by Mob [Dawn]
  • Gas Price Hike ‘Inevitable,” Minister Says [Dawn]
  • Supreme Court Reinstates PPP Legislator, Overturning Election Tribunal [Dawn]
  • Unblocking YouTube ‘Not a Priority’ for Government [Dawn]
  • Commentary: Why We Need More Metro Buses – “In order to cater for such large urban areas, the only solution is effective public transit.” [Shahid Saeed, Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Pakistani Army Chief Proposes Training for Afghan Officers: During meetings with Afghan acting defense minister Bismillah Khan Mohammadi on Thursday, visiting Pakistani Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif renewed an offer to provide training for Afghan army officers in Pakistan. Anonymous Pakistani military sources say that they had “very constructive and fruitful discussions with the new Afghan leadership”; President Ghani has reportedly agreed to visit Islamabad later this month. [Khaama Press] [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Chinese Relations: The NYT notes tentative steps by China to increase assistance for and engagement with Afghanistan, a reflection of growing Chinese concerns about Uighur militancy in its own western frontier as well as potential commercial linkages. Afghan officials have actively courted China by noting every Uighur militant captured by the National Directorate of Security and by “painstakingly preparing” dossiers for Chinese officials documenting their linkages to training camps in Pakistan.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Government Struggling to Meet Kabul Bank Timeline [TOLO]
  • ANP Officer Credited with Defusing Thousands of Mines [TOLO]
  • USAID-Backed Soap Operas Send Messages of Hope in Afghanistan [AP]
  • Commentary: More Bilateral Than Multilateral Efforts: The Afghanistan Conference in China – “Neither was the regional process institutionally strengthened, nor could funds be secured for concrete operation.” [S Reza Kazemi, AAN]
  • Interview: Rula Ghani, the Woman Making Waves as Afghanistan’s New First Lady – “Rula Ghani is certainly aware that she is doing something exceptional for a presidential spouse in Afghanistan, and that her actions will not go without scrutiny.” [Guardian]
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