Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: PTI Suggests Flexibility on Protests; NATO Pledges ANSF Support

Topline

  • PTI leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi suggested on Tuesday that the party might be willing to withdraw its protest plans in Faisalabad if talks resumed with the government before December 6; Finance Minister Dar suggested openness to talks but said the PTI should first call of its protest. NATO foreign ministers meeting in Brussels reaffirmed support for Afghanistan and the Afghan national security forces; the Operation Resulte Support training mission will officially begin in January 2015, although non-U.S. members have fallen short of initial troop contribution plans. Three candidates have reportedly been shortlisted for the Chief Election Commissioner of Pakistan; a parliamentary committee will meet tomorrow to choose an nominee, a day before the Supreme Court’s deadline. Tahirul Qadri departed Pakistan, vowing to return again at an unspecified future date. Pakistani news sources indicate that the U.S. has agreed to increase its targeting of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan militants operating in Afghanistan; six militant suspects were reported killed in a strike near the border with the Khyber Agency on Tuesday.

Pakistan — Security

  • FATA Operations: Military airstrikes in the Dattakhel area of North Waziristan on Wednesday killed at least 15 militant suspects, including two TTP commanders, officials report. No independent confirmation is available.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Mixed Messages on PTI Protests: In a TV interview on Tuesday, PTI Vice President Shah Mehmood Qureshi suggested that if talks between the party and the government were to resume before December 6, he would “personally request party chairman Imran Khan to postpone his call to blockade Faisa­labad on December 8”. Finance Minister Dar, tasked with reopening negotiations on the government side, also appeared on the show and said that talks could be resumed by December 6 or 7, but suggested that the PTI should first call off its protest. Prime Minister Sharif told reporters in London on Tuesday that his government was open to “constructive” negotiations but deplored the “reenactment of the abhorring political game reminiscent of the 1990s by certain political leaders”. Speaking separately to supporters in Islamabad, Imran Khan called for new elections before Eid, expressing confidence that the PTI would sweep the polls. [ET] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Election Commissioner Appointment: Speaking to the press on Wednesday, Finance Minister Dar indicated that three former judges — Sardar Raza Khan, Tariq Pervez, and Tanvir Ahmed Khan — had been shortlisted as candidates to serve as the Chief Election Commissioner; their names will be forwarded to a twelve-member parliamentary committee to decide on a final appointee choice. The committee includes equal representation from the government and opposition benches in parliament, and must reach at least a two-thirds majority for its choice. The committee will meet Thursday, a day ahead of the Supreme Court’s final deadline for the commissioner’s appointment; the Express Tribune reports that the PTI have not raised objections to any of the three candidates. Separately, acting Election Commission secretary Usman Ali told reporters on Tuesday that it would require “very strong political will” to hold local government elections in Punjab and Sindh within 2015, and laid blame on the provincial governments for delays in sharing information needed to conduct new constituency delimitation. [Dawn] [ET]
  • Other Political Activity: Tahirul Qadri departed Pakistan for medical treatment in the United States on Wednesday, vowing to return at an unspecified later date. Jamaat-e-Islami leader Sirajul Haq laid the onus on the government to rejoin dialogue with the PTI. In a meeting of PPP supporters in Lahore on Tuesday, former Pres. Zardari criticized Imran Khan for a “lack of political wisdom”; Zardari was also publicly critical of unspecified factions within the PPP, in an apparent reference to party divisions in Khyber Paktunkhwa and Punjab. The Jamaat-ud-Dawa plans to hold a convention in Lahore December 4-5, which leader Hafeez Saeed suggested would “defuse political tension in the country by promoting tolerance and unity”. [Dawn] [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Balochistan Chief Minister Admits Lack of Progress on Talks with Separatist Leaders [Dawn]
  • Hindu Doctor Abducted in Quetta [ET]
  • Second Block of JF-17 Jets to Be Inducted Into Pakistan Air Force [ET]
  • Finance Minister Expects Release of IMF Tranche [ET]
  • Legislators to Meet on IDP Issues [Dawn]
  • National Assembly Calls for Restoration of PIA Routes [ET]
  • Pakistani Exports to EU Set to Increase by $1 Billion After GSP Plus [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • TTP Militants Targeted: A U.S. drone strike killed at least six militant suspects in the village of Renay-Parchao, across the border from Pakistan’s Khyber Agency, on Tuesday; Pakistani intelligence sources indicate those killed were members of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan’s Swat chapter. TTP leader Mullah Fazlullah, originally from Swat, reportedly escaped a drone strike in Nangarhar last week. A separate report suggests that the U.S. has agreed to target top TTP leaders believed to be based in Afghanistan, after repeated urging by Pakistani interlocutors.
  • Security Concerns: TOLO follows yesterday’s NYT article on concern among aid workers about the Kabul security environment. The former head of the British army, General Lord Dannatt, told the BBC that “a low level, even a medium level degree of insecurity and a continuing insurgency is quite likely, but let’s keep the wider picture in mind,” urging continued international commitment to Afghanistan. First Vice President Dostum, speaking on Tuesday, said that he would ensure that the “Taliban will not succeed in sabotaging the development of the country,” and would “stand alongside our security forces and fight against the enemies.”

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • NATO Pledges Support: Pres. Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah met with NATO foreign ministers in Brussels on Tuesday, seeking continued support for Afghanistan after 2014. A joint statement issued afterwards formally agreed to the start of Operation Resolute Support, beginning in January 2015, to train, advise, and assist Afghan national security forces. Speaking to the press, Sec. Kerry said that NATO members were still working to fill a gap of troop commitments for the training mission, which previous reports have suggested the United States would fill at least in the interim. NATO members also agreed to continue to support ANSF funding for 2015, but did not specify further financial commitments in the statement. [TOLO] [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Infrastructure Funding: Deputy Minister of Energy and Water Shujauddin Ziai tells TOLO that dam construction projects in Kabul, Herat, Nimroz, and Paktia would be halted due to a shortage of funding; Ministry of Finance spokesmen counter that the blame lay with the Ministry of Energy and Water, for “technical problems that prevented technical and economic studies of the dams from happening”.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Commentary: Between Rhetoric and Reality: Access to Health Care and its Limitations – “Any desire to package Afghanistan as a simplified political or military success story, risks masking the reality of the ongoing conflict and of the suffering of hundreds of thousands of people who struggle to survive and who still do not have access to adequate medical care.” [Frank Dorner and Lena Langbein, AAN]
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