Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Ghani to Visit Islamabad Friday; Anti-Terrorism Court Issues Warrants for PTI Leaders

Topline

  • An anti-terrorism court in Pakistan has issued arrest orders against Imran Khan and other senior PTI and Pakistan Awami Tehreek leaders in connection to protestor attacks on the Pakistan Television headquarters in Islamabad in early September; Khan challenged the government to arrest him. Ashraf Ghani will visit Pakistan tomorrow, his first trip since taking office. Talks over Afghan cabinet appointments remain deadlocked. Pakistan army corps commanders meeting on Wednesday vowed to continue military operations against “all militant groups without any discrimination”. Maryam Nawaz, the prime minister’s daughter, stepped down from heading the Prime Minister’s Youth Loan Program, after facing PTI petitions challenging her appointment. The MQM and PPP traded blame for the ongoing famine in Tharparkar district, where 55 children have died in the past 44 days.

Pakistan — Security

  • FATA Operations: Wednesday’s meeting of Pakistan army corps commanders reiterated a commitment to “crush all militant groups without any discrimination” and vowed that “terrorists will neither be allowed to regroup and return to [North Waziristan and Khyber Agency], nor will they be allowed any space across the country”. Military officials report that five Lashkar-e-Islam militants were killed in a clash with a pro-government militia in Khyber’s Tirah valley on Thursday; seven militia members were injured. The head of the National Disaster Management Agency estimates that rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts in North Waziristan will take at least two years to complete and cost Rs 75 billion. Displaced Waziristan residents clashed with police at a ration distribution center in Bannu on Thursday, leaving at least nineteen people injured.
  • Russian Helicopter Sale: The sale of Russian Mi-35 helicopters to Pakistan has been “politically approved” but remains under contract negotiation, Russian envoy to Pakistan Alexey Dedov said in an interview on Wednesday; Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu is expected to visit Islamabad at an unspecified future date.
  • Quetta Attacks: Balochistan Bar Association lawyers carried out a strike on Wednesday to protest the attack on an anti-terrorism court judge the day prior in Quetta, accusing the government of failing to protect its citizens. Five people were killed when unidentified gunmen opened fire on three shops in Quetta on Wednesday; all are reported to be settlers from other parts of the country with the exception of one member of the Hindu minority community. No claim of responsibility has been reported. [Dawn]
  • Islamic State Linkages: An AP report quotes a spokesman for the militant group Jundullah claiming to have held talks this week with a delegation from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria in Balochistan on “working to unite various Pakistan militant groups”. Two separate militant groups operate under the name Jundullah within Pakistan; this appears to be the Peshawar-area organization, which also recently claimed responsibility for the Wagah border bombing, as did the TTP splinter group Jamaat-ul-Ahrar.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Political Deadlock: The Express Tribune notes that the government now publicly offers to resume talks with the PTI but has rejected any preconditions, and that suggests that both sides are expected to stall on any negotiations until after the PTI’s planned November 30 rally. Imran Khan visited Sheikupura for a rally on Wednesday, calling on supporters to join the demonstration, and warning that the PTI “will make it difficult for the government to stay on” after that point. Ten PTI office-bearers, including the party’s Rawalpindi and northern Punjab chapter presidents, were suspended from the party on Wednesday following a brawl between their associates and Khan’s security detail in Islamabad. Meanwhile, on Wednesday an Islamabad anti-terrorism court issued warrants for the arrest of Imran Khan, Tahirul Qadri, and other senior PTI leaders, on charges of attacking state property during the temporary seizure of Pakistan Television headquarters in September. Khan challenged the government to arrest him, warning that it would “pay a heavy price” if it tried to do so. [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [NYT]
  • Maryam Nawaz Steps Down from Youth Loan Program: On Wednesday, Maryam Nawaz, the prime minister’s daughter, announced that she would step down from her role heading the Prime Minister Youth Loan Program, a day after the Lahore High Court, hearing a PTI petition challenging her appointment, had “given the government a chance” to replace her. [Dawn] [ET]
  • Election Commissioner Appointment: Finance Minister Dar, who heads the parliamentary committee on electoral reforms, told reporters on Wednesday that it would not be possible to meet the Supreme Court’s deadline, today, for the appointment of a Chief Election Commissioner, suggesting another week was necessary. Meanwhile, Usman Ali, formerly director general of the Election Commission’s administration, has been named acting secretary of the ECP after the retirement of secretary Ishtiaq Ahmed.

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Energy Crisis: Prime Minister Sharif headlined the Pakistan-Britain Energy Dialogue and Investment Conference in London on Thursday, expressing a vision for “a competitive energy market in Pakistan, that on one hand provides a fair return on investment and through a robust regime adequately protects the rights of consumers on the other”. Speaking to journalists the day prior, Sharif acknowledged that the PTI’s protests had “shaken investor confidence”, but suggested that “these elements will be left behind and the country will move forward”. [ET] [ET] [ET] [AFP]
  • Polio Crisis: A new polio case was reported in the Killa Abdullah district of Balochistan on Thursday, bringing the number of cases there to 11 so far this year, and the nationwide total to 244 this year. [ET] [ET]
  • Tharparkar Crisis: PPP and MQM leaders traded blame for the ongoing famine in Sindh’s Tharparkar district, where the death of another child from malnutrition on Thursday brought the toll to 55 within the past 44 days. Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah visited the district headquarters in Mithi, accusing the MQM, which formerly held the health ministry, of negligence. MQM officials noted that the provincial planning and development department, headed by Shah, held responsibility for malnutrition progams in the area. Shah maintained that most deaths were the result of maternity-related complications and not hunger. [ET] [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Modi-Sharif Meeting Sought on SAARC Sidelines [Dawn]
  • Pakistan Test-Fires Hatf-VI Ballistic Missile [Dawn]
  • Lawmakers Protest Interior Minister’s Absence from Committee Meetings [Dawn]
  • Supreme Court to Hear Contempt Petition Over Lack of Cantonment Local Elections [ET]
  • Pakistan Ulema Council Chairman Opposes Blasphemy Law Repeal [Dawn]
  • Balochistan Public Service Commission Chairman Sacked on Corruption Charges [Dawn]
  • Trade Deficit Widens to $8.8 Billion in First Four Months [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Nangarhar Bombings: Two suicide bombers targeted separate NATO convoys in Nangarhar’s capital of Jalalabad and the Behsud district on Thursday; the first was killed before detonating, while the second blast killed one civilian bystander and injured another. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the first attack but have not claimed the second. [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Ghani to Visit Pakistan Tomorrow: A spokesman for Pakistan’s foreign office said that Pres. Ghani is expected to arrive in Pakistan on Friday for meetings with Prime Minister Sharif, President Hussain, and other senior Pakistani officials. It will be his first visit to the country since taking office, and follows trips to China and Saudi Arabia, and visits by senior Pakistani diplomatic and military leaders to Kabul. An Afghan official tells the AP that “we have no expectations but we do have hope” for the talks.
  • Cabinet Formation: Reuters notes that the Afghan government remains divided over cabinet appointments and appears unlikely to meet the goal of appointing a full cabinet in advance of the London donors’ conference, scheduled for early December. The heads of the army, police, intelligence service, and finance ministry are all reported to still be under intense debate; Pres. Ghani has rejected a proposal from Chief Executive Abdullah to divide appointments evenly between the two camps.
  • Kabul Bank Scandal: At court hearings on Tuesday, former Kabul Bank CEO Khalilullah Ferozi — who was sentenced to a fresh 10-year term in prison — accused acting finance minister Omar Zakhilwal of involvement in the bank’s collapse, demanding that he “come and sit with us in the jail” because “he had hands in all the cases and he was one of the main perpetrators.”

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Commentary: Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way to Go Online: Afghanistan’s Youth and New Media – “Direct access to the internet, it seems, is limited to a certain social stratum: to those Afghans with a better than average income, working, for example, for international employers, foreign embassies or in better paid positions in the Afghan government.” [Theresa Falke, AAN]
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