Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Supreme Court Throws Out Disqualification Petition Against Sharif; ISAF Ends Combat Command


  • The Supreme Court of Pakistan threw out petitions brought by the PTI and PML-Q seeking Prime Minister Sharif’s disqualification from office on perjury charges. The PTI held a day of mourning for an activist killed in clashes in Faisalabad on Monday; the government and PTI each accuse the other of responsibility for the violence, and have filed competing police investigation reports against each other. NATO formally closed its combat operations command on Monday; despite praise for the Afghan national security forces, outgoing commander Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson expresses concerns over their ability to sustain operations in the face of heavy attacks, desertions, and logistics shortfalls. Afghan ministry of finance officials estimate they lose Afs 14 billion in non-tax revenues annually due to theft by fee collectors or bribes. Iranian and Pakistani officials met in Islamabad to discuss economic cooperation, with both sides pledging continued commitment to natural gas trade; Pakistani officials have informed the US Treasury that they will not fully normalize economic ties as long as sanctions remain in place, however. A polio vaccinator was killed in Faisalabad on Tuesday amidst a three-day national vaccination campaign; the militant group Jundullah claimed responsibility.

Pakistan — Security

  • Assembly Member Freed: Rana Jamil Hassan Khan, a PML-N Punjab provincial assembly member who was kidnapped near Sargodha in June, was freed by security forces in Khyber near the Afghan border on Monday, and has since been shifted to Landi Kotal. Details of his kidnappers, or the operation to free him, have not been released. [RFE/RL]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Supreme Court Throws Out PM Disqualification Petition: On Tuesday, a seven member Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice Nasirul Mulk threw out three petitions filed by PTI and PML-Q leaders seeking Prime Minister Sharif’s disqualification from office on charges of perjury before the national assembly. [ET] [ET]
  • Faisalabad Protests: Following the death of a PTI activist, Haq Nawaz, in clashes with government supporters amidst yesterday’s protests in Faisalabad, Imran Khan called for a day of mourning. Funeral services were held Tuesday. At least twelve activists and five policemen were also injured in Monday’s clashes. Spin-off protests follow the report of Nawaz’s death were reported in Rawalpindi, Peshawar, Lahore, Quetta, and Karachi. Competing police First Investigation Reports were filed against PML-N leaders and PTI activists over the violence. Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has formed a three-person investigating committee; government spokesmen blamed Imran Khan for the conflict. Former Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah, one of whose guard PTI leader accuse of responsibility for Nawaz’s shooting, held a press conference on Tuesday to rebut the charges. PTI officials called off nascent efforts to resume talks with the government on Monday. Speaking at a lightly attended National Assembly session on Tuesday, PPP parliamentary opposition leader Khurshid Shah called on Prime Minister Sharif “to come forward and settle this issue through political means” and cautioned Khan that “the only legal way to come into power is elections, not force.” [NYT] [WSJ] [ET] [ET] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Elections: At a hearing on Monday, the Supreme Court ordered the governments of Sindh and Punjab to work with the Election Commission to complete preparations by the end of the year to hold local government elections. Separately, a PTI delegation met with new Chief Election Commissioner Sardar Raza on Tuesday, reiterating demands that other provincial election commissioners be replaced. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Iran Gas Project: Iranian and Pakistani officials met in Islamabad on Monday for Joint Economic Commission meetings; both sides reiterated a commitment to completing the gas pipeline project linking the two countries. Pakistani petroleum minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi told the Iranian delegation that Pakistan now seeks to complete the project in two steps, the first focused on building an LNG terminal at Gwadar and the second focused on linking Gwadar to Nawabshah by pipeline. The Express Tribune reports that Pakistani officials have formally informed the US Treasury Department that they will not fully normalize economic ties with Iran as long as international sanctions remain in place, however. [ET]
  • Polio Vaccinator Killed: A polio vaccine worker was killed in a shooting in Faisalabad on Tuesday; the militant group Jundullah claimed responsibility for the attack. A nationwide vaccination drive targeting 158 districts was launched earlier on Monday. [BBC] [NYT]
  • Electricity Tariffs: The Express Tribune reports that the government is considering introducing a new consumer tariff rate slab, for those consuming 301-500 units of power monthly, in an effort to reintroduce subsidies for middle-income consumers and bring their rates down by as much as 20%. The move, which reverses a previous consolidation of tariff rate slabs, is estimated to cost Rs 22 billion in subsidies, resulting in 4-6% tariff increases for industrial, commercial, and bulk consumers.
  • Financial Transfers: Finance Minister Dar chaired a meeting of the biannual National Finance Commission, which agreed to distribute Rs 2.6 billion between the four provinces as a reward for maintaining fiscal surpluses during the first quarter of the fiscal year and transferring those to the federal government.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Foreign Ministry Rejects Linkage to Attacks in Indian Kashmir [Dawn] [ET]
  • US Delegation Links TTP to Drug Trade [Dawn]
  • Karachi Police Claim to Have Killed Organizer of 2007 Attack on Bhutto [Dawn] [ET]
  • Two Injured in Bannu Bombing [Dawn]
  • Special Treason Court Orders Report on Broader Indictments by January [ET] [ET]
  • Government Committed to Privatization, Commissioner Says [ET]
  • Senators Objected to Rerouted China Economic Corridor [Dawn] [ET]
  • Tharparkar Death Toll Continues to Rise [ET]
  • Malala Yousafzai to be Awarded Nobel at Ceremony on Wednesday [Guardian] [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • NATO Ends Afghan Combat Mission: As noted on Monday, ISAF formally closed its combat operational command in a ceremony in Kabul. Roughly 13,300 NATO forces remain in the country as of the beginning of December, and will remain in the country after the end of the year for a continuing assistance and training mission. ISAF commanders praised Afghan force capabilities at Monday’s ceremony, saying they were “ready for greater responsibility”. In a NYT interview, Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson, the outgoing head of the ISAF Joint Force Command, offered a far more mixed assessment, noting that “the fact that we are in less places, the fact that there are less of us as a coalition, is obviously concerning,” and expressing concern with high Afghan force casualties and desertion rates. [BBC] [Reuters]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Government Formation: A presidential palace statement indicated that Pres. Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah met with former ministers for a “farewell gathering” on Tuesday.

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Revenue Collection: Ministry of Finance officials estimate that the government collects roughly Afs 20 billion annually in fees and non-tax revenues across 47 government agencies, but that collections could reach Afs 34 billion if all fees were applied properly; officials and analysts blame the lack of a computerized system for allowing for the proliferation of bribes and payments pocketed by collectors.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Four Civilians Killed by Unknown Gunmen in Nangarhar [Khaama Press]
  • Iran Offers 500 Scholarships for Afghan Students [Khaama Press]
  • Taliban in Badakshan Seek Prisoner Swap [TOLO]
  • Report: A Comparative Perspective on an Afghan Peace Process: Why, When, Who and What? – “A peace process in Afghanistan does not appear to be imminent … Parties to the conflict do not perceive themselves to be engaged in a ‘mutually hurting stalemate’.” [Caroline Hartzell, Chatham House]
  • Commentary: All The President’s Strongmen – “Ghani has to find a balance between including these strongmen and imposing the rule of law by disarming and removing them.” [Deedee Derksen, Foreign Policy]
  • Commentary: The National Unity Government’s Elusive Cabinet – “All in all, the cabinet negotiations will provide the first important litmus test of how well the two men will be able to negotiate the pitfalls and complexities of this combined government.” [Martine Van Bijlert, AAN]

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