Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Electricity Outage Woes Continue in Pakistan; Ghani Replaces Two Cabinet Nominees

Topline

  • Another power fault at the Guddu Thermal Power Plant on Tuesday cut power to large portions of Balochistan, Punjab, and SIndh; the Express Tribune reports that repair work on the pylons whose bombings triggered a nationwide outage on Saturday evening has yet to begin. The Afghan parliament has agreed to reconsider the nominations of foreign minister Salahuddin Rabbani and and interior minister Noor-ul Haq Uloomi after their revocation of dual citizenship; Pres. Ghani withdrew the nominations of his information and justice ministers, replacing them with new candidates. Prime Minister Sharif reached out to his counterpart Prime Minister Modi in a letter on India’s Republic Day, reiterating a desire for friendly bilateral relations. Chief of Army Staff Sharif continues his visit in Beijing. Khyber Paktunkhwa officials say that residents displaced from Khyber Agency’s Bara area will begin repatriation February 15.

Pakistan — Security

  • Military Courts: On Monday, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a petition, originally filed in 1999 by retired colonel Muhammad Akram, seeking amendments to military court proceedings under the Pakistan Army Act of 1952. Meanwhile, Dawn reports Balochistan has selected 54 cases for trial by military court.
  • IDP Repatriation: On Monday, Khyber Paktunkhwa governor Sardar Mahtab Ahmad Khan visited the Bara area in Khyber Agency, the first visit by a senior government official since the military began operations in the area in 2009. He announced that displaced Bara area residents would be repatriated beginning February 15, pledging assistance in rebuilding. A group of Khyber IDPs protested outside the governor’s house later in the day, demanding a halt to military operations in the area, a guarantee of security for returnees, and financial assistance.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • India Relations: India press accounts on Monday reported that border guards on the two sides of the Line of Control exchanged sweets in commemoration of India’s Republic Day; unidentified sources tell Dawn that the Pakistani Rangers refused the offer. Kashmiri separatist groups protested against Indian control over Kashmir on Monday. Prime Minister Sharif wrote to his counterpart Prime Minister Modi on Monday, reiterating “our sincere wish to forge friendly and cooperative relations between our two countries”. [Dawn]
  • China Relations: Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif held a second day of meetings with senior Chinese officials in Beijing on Monday, with both sides describing each other as unshakeable partners. [Dawn]
  • US Relations: Defense secretary Alam Khattak briefed the senate defense committee on Monday on bilateral US-Pakistan defense talks held in December and Chief of Army Staff Sharif’s most recent visit to the U.S., concluding that “the US seems to be willing to continue reimbursing operational expenses beyond Sept 2015,” through the Coalition Support Fund, “but there is still no commitment on their part”. Khattak also reportedly told the committee that the U.S. had agreed to target TTP commander Maulana Fazlullah in Afghanistan; General Sharif is also reported to have shared unspecified evidence of Indian support for militants based in Afghanistan and targeting Pakistan with U.S. officials during his visit.
  • PTI Protests: Following verbal protests by a PTI leader at a Pakistan Ulema Council meeting attended by Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid, Rashid challenged the PTI to nominate someone to carry out a live debate on the party’s election rigging allegations. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Energy Crisis: A gas leakage at the Guddu Thermal Power Plant shut down 11 of the plant’s 17 units on Tuesday, cutting off electricity in parts of Sindh, Balochistan, and Punjab. The Express Tribune reports that repair work on two power pylons whose bombing Saturday evening by the Balochistan Republican Army tripped the national electricity grid, suspending power for much of Sunday, has yet to begin, although government officials had pledged to have power restored by Monday evening. Meanwhile, a commission established by the prime minister to investigate the oil shortage that struck earlier this month has blamed much of the supply chain, particularly the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority and Pakistan State Oil management. [Dawn] [ET] [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • PML-N Debates Senate Nominees [Dawn]
  • MQM and PPP Spar in Sindh Assembly, Prompting Walkouts [Dawn] [ET]
  • Jamaat-ud-Dawa Begins Ambulance Service in Karachi [Dawn]
  • Pakistan Formally Inducts JF-17 Thunder [Dawn]
  • Five Miners Abducted in Quetta [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Attacks: A tribal elder in the Kot district of Nangarhar province, Malik Amin, was killed along with his brother in an attack by unidentified gunmen on Tuesday morning; there has been no reported claim of responsibility. Separately on Tuesday, two Afghan National Army soldiers were killed in a roadside bombing in Faryab.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Cabinet Nominations: On Tuesday, members of parliament voted to “re-introduce” Noor-ul Haq Uloomi, and Salahuddin Rabbani for confirmation consideration as ministers for interior and foreign affairs, after their revocation of dual citizenship. Pres. Ghani withdrew the nominations of Ay Sultan Khair and Ahmad Seyar Majhoor as ministers of information and justice, replacing them with Bari Jahani and Najibullah Fahim, respectively. [TOLO]
  • Australian Foreign Minister Visits: Australian foreign minister Julie Bishop visited Kabul on Monday for meetings with Pres. Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah, as well with a roundtable of women’s rights activists. Bishop pledged to “ensure that the progress we’ve made and the gains we’ve made for the programmes to empower women will not be lost through the Australian aid programme,” which has been cut under the current government. [RFE/RL]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Civil Society Groups Frustrated Over Electoral Reforms Delay [TOLO]
  • Helmand Residents Report Increased Poppy Cultivation [TOLO]
  • Cold Threatens Displaced Families [TOLO]
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