Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: London Conference on Afghanistan Opens; Government and PTI to Resume Talks

Topline

  • The London conference on Afghanistan will open today, with Pres. Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah seeking continued support from international donors and partners. The government and PTI will reportedly resume negotiations on December 7; Imran Khan told supporters yesterday that plans for protest strikes in Faisalabad are proceeding regardless. General Abdual Rahman Rahimi, former Balkh provincial police chief, has been appointed to head the Kabul police, replacing General Zahir Zahir. Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan commanders tell Reuters that increased airstrikes and pressure from local tribesmen are increasingly constraining their ability to shelter in eastern Afghanistan. A parliamentary committee has agreed to nominate Judge Sardar Raza Khan, current chief justice of the Federal Shariat Court, to become Chief Election Commissioner. The Afghan Ministry of Finance reportedly plans to consolidate three state-owned banks, including New Kabul Bank, into a single entity; the plan requires $50-100 million in additional investments, however. Afghanistan will seek an extension of temporary visas for Afghan refugees in Iran; the Balochistan Frontier Corps’ construction of a trench on its side of the border has increased tensions with Afghan officials who dispute the boundary.

Pakistan — Security

  • TTP Under Pressure: Reuters notes the apparent increase in targeting of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan commanders who have sheltered in Afghan border provinces, with four commanders confirming previously reported accounts of narrow misses targeting commander Maulana Fazlullah and constant forced movement. Tensions are also reportedly on the rise between the TTP and local tribesmen. On Thursday, Pakistani military jets continued airstrikes in the Dattakhel region of North Waziristan, killing 18 militant suspects. Elsewhere in the FATA, a woman was killed and two people were injured in a roadside bombing in the Bajaur Agency on Thursday.
  • Quetta Attack: At least one person was killed and thirteen injured in a bombing at a Quetta market area on Thursday; the target of the attack, which has not been claimed, appears to have been a passed Frontier Corps vehicle. [ET] [ET]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • PTI Protests: Speaking to supporters in Islamabad on Wednesday, Imran Khan said that the PTI would “implement its plan” to hold a strike in Faisalabad on December 8 unless the government established an independent judicial commission to investigate alleged election rigging. PTI organizers say they are preparing for the Faisalabad rally, and have already begun preparations for a Lahore rally on December 15. Speaking to the press earlier in the day, Khan reiterated allegations against the Election Commission. Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid and Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal hit back at Imran, accusing him of overruling his negotiating team and damaging the economy. On Thursday, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan told reporters that talks with the PTI would resume December 7, led on the government side by Finance Minister Dar. [ET]
  • Chief Election Commissioner Appointment: The joint parliamentary committee tasked with appointing a nominee for Chief Election Commissioner has unanimously chosen Judge Sardar Raza Khan; he is currently Chief Justice of the Federal Shariat Court and formerly served as a Supreme Court judge and Peshawar High Court chief justice. The PTI did not take part in the committee but indicated earlier that it had no objections to the names under consideration. [ET]
  • Musharraf Treason Trial: Government uncertainty about how to proceed with the prosecution of additional figures in the treason trial of former Pres. Musharraf will lead the prosecution team to seek a two-week delay at the next hearing on December 9, the Express Tribune reports.
  • MQM Leader’s Bail Extended: London police extended the bail for MQM leader-in-exile Altaf Hussain through April 2015; Hussain was arrested in June and questioned on money-laundering charges, but was released on bail. In a statement, Hussain urged supporters to “remain calm about this issue”. [ET]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Iran Seeks Return of Bank Deposits: Iranian Ambassador to Pakistan Ali Reza Haghighian sought the return of $216 million in bank deposits at KASB Bank at a meeting with Finance Minister Dar on Wednesday, the Express Tribune reports. The Iranian deposits have been frozen with the imposition of U.S. and international sanctions on financial transactions with the government; furthermore, the bank itself was placed under State Bank of Pakistan control on November 14, limiting depositor withdrawals. The Iranian deposits comprised roughly 35% of total deposits as of December 2013.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Chief of Army Staff Attends Defense Expo, Calls for Resolution of Kashmir and Palestine Disputes [Dawn]
  • Peshawar High Court Dismisses Contempt Plea Over Drone Case [Dawn]
  • Supreme Court Seeks Report on Government Organizations’ Appointments [Dawn]
  • Government Seeks to Boost Natural Gas Power Generation [ET]
  • Sindhi Nationalists Divided [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Former Pop Star Turned Talbeeghi Jamaat Preacher Faces Blasphemy Probe [AJE]
  • Debate in National Assembly Over Balochistan Migration [Dawn]
  • US Ambassador Supports Expanded Trade [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • New Kabul Police Chief: Reversing previous reversals, on Wednesday the Ministry of Interior announced that General Abdul Rahman Rahimi, formerly the provincial police chief for Balkh, would in fact be appointed police chief for Kabul, replacing General Zahir Zahir, whose resignation was announced but then at least initially not accepted. Khaama Press, citing unidentified sources, reports that Zahir has been appointed to head the Criminal Investigation Department.
  • ALP Checkpoint Attacked: Four Afghan Local Police members, including the unit’s chief Mohammad Nahim, were killed in an attack on a checkpoint in northern Jowzjan province district of Darzab on Wednesday. No immediate claim of Taliban responsibility has been reported. [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • London Conference: The London conference on Afghanistan, which will bring together diplomats and leaders from as many as 50 countries, is due to open today; the event is not expected to generate new pledges of specific financial assistance but will serve as a platform for Pres. Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah to outline plans for reform and seek pledges of support from the international community. Prime Minister Sharif and Secretary Kerry are among those in attendance. [Conference Overview]
  • Border Tensions: The Afghan government will send a delegation to request that the Iranian government extend the visas of an estimated 760,000 temporary refugees who lack permanent registered status; the Iranian government last extended the visas for a six-month period in June. Meanwhile, the construction of a border trench along the Afghan-Pakistan border in Balochistan has exacerbated tensions between the two countries; Kandahar police chief Abdul Raziq accuses the project — which is being carried out by the Pakistani Frontier Corps on their side of the disputed Durand Line — of being an attempt to “simply to draw a border with Afghanistan and claim our land as their own”.

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Bank Consolidation: The Ministry of Finance confirmed on Wednesday that it plans to consolidate the operations of three state-owned backs — Pashtani Bank, Milli Bank, and New Kabul Bank — into a single entity; TOLO’s account suggests that the new bank may take over some of the Central Bank’s regulation of the national banking system, with the Central Bank focusing more on oversight. Central Bank chairman Nooruallah Delawari tells TOLO that an additional $50-100 million in investment is needed to ensure the bank’s viability, however.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Pakistan Signs on to CASA Electricity Transmission Agreement [ET]
  • Cameroonians Arrested with Counterfeit Currency in Kabul [Khaama Press]
  • Can Pomegranates Power the Afghan Economy? [BBC]
  • Commentary: Five Key Priorities for the London Conference on Afghanistan – “The success of the conference  should be measured by progress on five key priorities: a reformed framework for renewed aid; a consensus to improve security, a credible program of action to eliminate corruption; new policies to boost economic productivity; and ambitious targets to ensure young people and women can fully participate in Afghanistan’s economy, politics, and society.” [Nematullah Bizhan, South Asia Channel]
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