Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Balochistan Attacks Trigger Power Blackout; Debate Continues on Dual National Ministers

Topline

  • Pakistan’s power sector, already under strain from a fuel oil shortage, saw countrywide blackouts Saturday evening and Sunday, after attacks by Balochistan separatists cut off two transmission lines, tripping the national grid. Afghan parliamentarians are still divided over the confirmation of dual national cabinet nominees; at least four nominees are reported to have surrendered their second nationality, opening the door to confirmation. Pakistan’s chief of army staff visited China on Saturday. A delegation of Afghan border police officials visited Pakistan for talks with their counterparts on Sunday. Pakistani officials reported a new exchange of cross-border mortar fire with Indian border forces in Kashmir on Sunday. Two civilian bystanders were wounded when a truck bomb exploded near the Kabul airport on Sunday. Former Pres. Musharraf has sought permission to visit Saudi Arabia to pay condolences after the death of King of Abdullah. Talks between the PTI and government remain deadlocked; Imran Khan said Saturday that the party would only participate in senate elections from Khyber Paktunkhwa.

Pakistan — Security

  • Counterterrorism Response: On Friday, the prime minister’s office issued a statement indicating that 1,859 terrorist suspects had been arrested across the country, the majority from Punjab; a timeframe for the arrests was not specified. The Express Tribune, citing provincial sources and the National Counterterrorism Authority, puts the number of arrests since the formulation of the National Action Plan in the wake of the Peshawar school attack in December at more than 9000, including more than 3,000 prayer leaders charged with promoting hate speech and over 3,650 Afghan nationals. On Saturday, the Crime Investigation Agency announced that they had arrested eight men who had sold mobile phone SIM cards to the gunmen who carried out last month’s attack on the Peshawar Army Public School. On Sunday, the senate defense committee visited the Peshawar Corps headquarters, IDP camps in Bannu, and North Waziristan, where they received briefings from military officials on operations and rehabilitation efforts. Airstrikes continue in North Waziristan, where the military reported killing 35 militants in the Datta Khel area on Sunday. [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Saeed Dismisses Ban: Speaking at a press conference on Saturday, Jamaat-ud-Dawa leader Hafeez Saeed said that restrictions on his group were “nothing new” and insisted that he would continue operations — which he characterized as charitable — and would “defend the land and its ideology.”
  • Indian Border Tensions: On Sunday, Pakistani officials accused Indian Border Security Forces of “unprovoked intensified heavy mortar shelling” on a number of villages in the Charwah area along the Kashmir line of control. No casualties have been reported.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Chief of Army Staff Visits China: Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif departed for China for a two-day trip on Saturday; he met with General Fan Changlong, vice-chairman of the Chinese Central Military Commission, on Sunday. Details of the discussions are limited, although the Pakistani military’s lead spokesman reiterated statements of close cooperation between China and Pakistan and said that Chinese officials had praised Pakistan’s ongoing military operations and counterterrorism crackdown. [Dawn]
  • Musharraf Seeks Permission to Travel to Saudi Arabia: Following the death of Saudi King Abdullah, former Pres. Musharraf appealed on Friday to be allowed to visit Saudi Arabia to pay his condolences to the Saudi royal family. Interior ministry sources told Dawn on Saturday that the government was likely to approve the request; a spokesman for the prime minister’s office said that they had received no formal request for Musharraf to be allowed to travel abroad, however. Musharraf’s party, the All Pakistan Muslim League, reiterated the request on Sunday. [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • PTI Talks Deadlocked: Government and PTI negotiators remain deadlocked over how to proceed with investigations into the PTI’s allegations of election rigging; Asad Umar of the PTI, who had been taking part in talks lead on the government side by Finance Minister Dar, said that the issue could now only be resolved between Imran Khan and Nawaz Sharif. Speaking to the press on Saturday, Khan said that the PTI would not return to the provincial and national assemblies and would only participate in senate elections through Khyber Paktunkwha, where the PTI holds a ruling plurality. Members of the PTI’s Punjab chapter are reported to have pushed to reverse their resignations and to participate in the senate elections. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Balochistan Coalition: The PML-N, National Party, and Paktunkhwa Milli Awami Party governing coalition in Balochistan is reported to be divided over how to share local government and senate seats. Prime Minister Sharif met with leaders from all three groups on Friday; no agreement was reached. A key dispute appears to be control of the Quetta mayoralty, which is due to be elected by local councilors on January 28; on Monday, the PkMAP and National Party agreed to support a PkMAP candidate, over the objections of the local PML-N chapter. [ET]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Two More IS-Linked Suspects Arrested [Dawn]
  • India Arrests Man on Charges of Sharing Missile Secrets with Pakistan [Reuters]
  • Execution Order Issued for Two Lashkar-e-Jhangvi Militants [Dawn]
  • Prosecutors Hesitant to Appear in Mumtaz Qadri Case [Dawn]
  • Karachi Police Arrest Two TTP Suspects [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Lal Masjid Leader Speaks Remotely as Civil Society Presses for Arrest [Dawn]
  • Jamaat, Railways Minister, ASWJ Protest Against Charlie Hebdo [ET]
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa and Election Commission Divided Over Local Government Election Schedule [ET]
  • Provincial Governments Estimate Four Years Required to Translate Laws Into Urdu [ET]
  • Discount Interest Rate Cut to 8.5% [Dawn] [ET]
  • Gilgit-Baltistan Stripped of More Than 50% of Forest Cover, Flooding Market with Illegal Lumber [ET]
  • Commentary: The Two Sharifs – “If civilians wish Pakistan to survive, they will have to take charge of key affairs rather than outsourcing them to the GHQ, hoping that would eventually bog down the military establishment.” [Imtiaz Gul, Friday Times]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Attacks and Bombings: A truck carrying explosives detonated near a gas station near the Kabul military airport on Sunday, wounding two civilian bystanders, in what interior ministry officials indicated was likely a premature suicide attack. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, the first major incident in the city since early January. On Saturday, two border police officers were killed and two wounded when a bomb planted on their vehicle detonated in Jalalabad; no claim of responsibility was reported. On Monday, five people were injured when a bomb exploded at a Jalalabad hotel. [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Cabinet Confirmations: Parliament sources tell TOLO that a number of members have been approached with bribes to shift their position and confirm cabinet nominees holding dual nationality; as many as 126 lawmakers are reported to have shifted their position to drop the ban. A spokesman for Pres. Ghani said Saturday that he would respect parliament’s resolution and that any cabinet nominees who did not surrender their dual nationality would be withdrawn and replaced. On Sunday, the Foreign Relations Committee of parliament, which initially ruled that seven nominees held dual nationality and should not be confirmed, said that it was reconsidering the cases of Noor-ul-Haq Uloomi (interior minister), Salahuddin Rabbani (foreign affairs), Ay Sultain (information and culture) and Saadat Naderi (labor), after receiving letters indicating that they had revoked their secondary citizenship. Cabinet nominees continue to testify before parliament; two female lawmakers came to physical blows again on Saturday, after some objected to an appearance by Central Bank nominee Khalil Sediq, who holds dual citizenship. Voting on nominees, originally planned for this weekend, may now take place Tuesday or Wednesday. [TOLO] [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press]
  • Pakistan Relations: A delegation of Afghan Border Police officials arrived in Pakistan on Sunday for a five-day visit and meetings with their senior Pakistani military counterparts. Their visit follows recent trips by senior Pakistani corps commanders to Afghanistan, most recently by the head of Pakistan’s Southern Command. On Saturday, Kandahar police chief Abdul Raziq offered rare praise for Pakistan’s crackdown on militancy, saying he was “confident that Pakistan now truly wants to cooperate with the Afghan government to root out terrorism”. Afghanistan’s ambassador to Pakistan, Janan Mosazai, told a press conference in Karachi on Saturday that Afghanistan was undertaking operations to crack down on suspected Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan sanctuaries in Kunar, and also called for broader cooperation on trade and investment. Mosazai also stressed that Afghan refugees living in Pakistan be repatriated in a “voluntary, dignified, and gradual” manner; the Pakistani government has set the end of 2015 as a deadline for repatriation, although past deadlines have repeatedly been deferred. [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Afghan Air Force Ascent Slow, Imperiling Battle with Taliban [Reuters]
  • Herat Police Accused of Harassing Youth with Adultery Charges [TOLO]
  • Report: Afghanistan Election Observation Mission 2014 – “Like the elections before it in 2009 and 2010, this one was decided by resorting to ad-hoc procedures rather than relying on those outlined in the constitution, the electoral legislation that was democratically adopted in 2013, and the rules and regulations adopted by the Independent Election Commission and the Independent Electoral Complaints Commission.” [Democracy International]
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