Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Mixed Messages on Jamaat-ud-Dawa Ban; Afghan Parliament Divided on Dual Nationality Bar

Topline

  • Confusion persists over whether or not enforcement of a formal ban on Jamaat-ud-Dawa and the Haqqani network will be carried out; a JuD spokesman insists the group will continue its operations. The Supreme Court of Pakistan has directed the government to make public its list of banned organizations. The Court has also agreed to hear a legal challenge to the creation of military courts brought by the Lahore High Court Bar Association. The Afghan parliament is divided over whether or not to bar cabinet nominees accused of holding dual nationality. Pres. Ghani held trade and economic development talks with his Turkmenistan counterpart on Thursday. As the fuel crisis shows signs of easing in Pakistan, Prime Minister Sharif has ordered the finance ministry to spend Rs 40 billion on additional imports. Sharif departed for Saudi Arabia for the funeral of the king on Friday.

Pakistan — Security

  • JuD and Haqqani Ban Under Question: In further reporting on remarks yesterday by the foreign ministry spokeswoman that the assets of Jamaat-ud Dawa had been frozen in response to UN sanctions first issued in 2008, Dawn notes that she deferred questions on implementation to the interior ministry, which has been publicly noncommittal on whether or not the organization will be banned. A spokesman for JuD said Thursday that the group would continue its operations and that the statements were being issued under pressure from the US to “please India”, and would challenge and enforcement of the ban in the Supreme Court. Islamabad police have reportedly placed JuD members, as well as members of the Lal Masjid mosque and the pro-caliphate group Hizb-ut-Tahrir, under surveillance; the Express Tribune notes that JuD and other banned groups continue to publish extremist literature. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Thursday that the US did not currently have confirmation of any specific steps, but that “the Pakistani government has made clear in both private conversations and public statements that it is in Pakistan’s own interest to take steps against all militant groups in Pakistan, and explicitly to not differentiate between such groups”. At a separate Supreme Court hearing on Thursday, judges directed the government to publish lists of banned organizations in both English and Urdu. [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Military Courts: On Thursday, the Supreme court agreed to hear a petition from the Lahore High Court Bar Association challenging the 21st Amendment to the Pakistani constitution and the formation of military courts to hear charges against terrorist suspects. Hearings will begin January 28. [ET]
  • Other Counterterrorism Response: Khyber Paktunkhwa officials have announced plans to spend Rs 7 billion to increase security for schools in the province in the wake of the Peshawar attack. On Friday, Rawalpindi police stopped a car carrying 75 kilograms of explosives; Dawn reports that Lahore police arrested a cleric for speaking in support of the Pakistani Taliban during his sermon last Friday. Separately, JUI-F leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman accused the government of laying blame on seminaries for their own faults, and threatened mass protests if it carried out a crackdown against them.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Senate Elections: Most parties have yet to begin the process of selecting their candidates for the senate elections scheduled on March 3. Although the PTI has yet to make a decision on whether or not to participate in the elections, Punjab assembly members tell Dawn that they will attempt to elect a senator with the support of some other opposition parties.

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Petroleum Crisis: As of Thursday, fuel oil supplies are reported to have been restored to “near-normal levels” in most major cities; shortages persist in smaller towns, however. Prime Minister Sharif has directed the finance ministry to spend Rs 40 billion on additional fuel imports to cover the next two months’ supply. At a meeting on Thursday, Sharif ordered officials from the ministries of finance, petroleum, and water and power to cooperate “seamlessly” in order to avert future shortages. [WSJ] [BBC] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Iran Pipeline: Petroleum Ministry secretary Arshad Mirza told a Senate committee on Thursday that agreement had been reached with Iran that construction of the gas pipeline linking the two countries would begin only after U.S. sanctions on business with Iran are removed.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Prime Minister Departs for Funeral of Saudi King [Dawn]
  • Three TTP Suspects Arrested in Hangu [Dawn]
  • Wah Bomber Linked to Lal Masjid [Dawn]
  • Two Gas Pipelines Bombed in Balochistan [Dawn]
  • PEPCO to Be Dissolved, Merged with NTDC [ET]
  • Sindh High Court Chief Justice to be Elevated to Supreme Court [ET]
  • Government Seeks to Negotiate Down LNG Import Price in Qatar Talks [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Helicopter Transfer: Afghan Air Force officials say they are expecting the transfer of 20 MD 530F Cayuse Warrior helicopters from the United States by the end of the year, part of a four-year, 54-helicopter package; around 17 existing MD-530F helicopters will also be upgraded with weapons packages.
  • Pakistani Commander Visits: Lt. Gen. Nasir Khan Januja, head of Pakistan’s Southern Command, visited Afghanistan on Thursday for meetings with Afghan counterparts focusing on border security and cooperation; details of the discussions are minimal. His visit follows a trip by the Peshawar corps commander on January 18 and the head of the ISI on January 11.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Parliament Divided on Cabinet Nominees: Members of parliament debated amongst themselves on Thursday over whether or not to stick to their stance to bar dual nationals from confirmation from cabinet ministries. A member of the International Affairs Commission, which rejected seven nominees on that ground on Tuesday, tells TOLO that a two-thirds majority by the full lower house of parliament would be needed to override the committee’s decision. An advisor to Chief Executive Abdullah tells TOLO that talks are ongoing with the president over how to respond “but we respect the decision of the House of Representatives, and if the issue is not resolved, the CEO will agree to it”. [Khaama Press]
  • Ghani Seeks Turkmenistan Trade: In meetings with his counterpart in Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov on Thursday, Pres. Ghani discussed the TAPI natural gas pipeline and a rail link between Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Afghanistan, among other trade and investment measures, with a goal of doubling trade in the next year.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Two Killed in Helmand Suicide Attack [TOLO]
  • Commentary: Battleground Kankur: Afghan Students’ Difficult Way Into Higher Education – “Despite all eagerness, problems like crowded exam sites, interventions of by local powerbrokers, organisers’ mismanagement and the general insecurity made the exam-taking – again – a major challenge for the students and the Ministry of Higher Education.” [Obaid Ali, AAN]
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