Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Troop Drawdown Pace Under Review; Pakistan ‘Reconciling’ Banned Terrorist Organization List

Topline

  • The Washington Post reports that the White House is considering modifications to the troop withdrawal timeline in Afghanistan, allowing the retention of additional forces through and past 2015; the full withdrawal date of end-2016 remains set, however. China is taking on a new deiplomat role as a potential mediator in the Afghan conflict, the WSJ reports. Pres. Ghani has reportedly dropped a request by former Pres. Karzai for Indian arms shipments to support the ANSF. Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan has ordered a reconciliation of Pakistan’s list of formally banned terrorist organizations with UN blacklists; interior ministry sources confirm that Jamat-ud-Dawa and the Haqqani network are on the unpublicized list, but say that the government is unwilling to announce the fact. The PML-N announced its senate candidate slate on Wednesday; the PTI and MQM continued their war of words on Tuesday. Ministers gathered in Islamabad to discuss the TAPI project on Wednesday.

Pakistan — Security

  • Counterterrorism Response: At a meeting to review National Action Plan implementation progress on Tuesday, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan ordered the interior secretary to coordinate with the foreign ministry and establish a “reconciled list” of banned terrorist organizations that would match the UN’s blacklist. Interior ministry sources say that Jamaat ud Dawa and the Haqqani network are already banned, “but the government was reluctant to formally make an announcement in this regard.” As many as 72 groups are reportedly officially banned — the list does not appear to be public — although implementation remains spotty. Chaudhry Nisar told parliament on Wednesday that “complete peace would only be restored in the country when we are able to eliminate the leadership of terrorists who managed to escape from Pakistan’s border area adjacent to Afghanistan”. Meanwhile, the Punjab provincial police told a Senate committee hearing that seminaries in the province are receiving foreign funding, and requested assistance from the Federal Investigation Agency in tracking “actionable intelligence”. [ET] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Missing Persons: At a hearing on Tuesday, the Supreme Court heard a petition from the Voice for Baloch Missing Persons activist group; reports from the four provincial additional advocates general indicated that 4,557 bodies of unidentified individuals had been recovered in the past four years suspected. [ET]
  • Qadri Hearing: The Islamabad High Court heard final arguments in Mumtaz Qadri’s appeal of his death sentence in connection to the 2011 killing of former Punjab governor Salman Taseer; a final verdict has not yet been issued. [ET]
  • Bin Laden Rumors: Former ISI director Lt. Gen. Asad Durrani told an Al Jazeera interviewer that it was “probable” that Pakistani intelligence was aware of Osama bin Laden’s presence in Pakistan and suggested that this was shared with the U.S. in exchange for an agreement on “how to bring the Afghan problem to an end.” Durrani offered no evidence for his assessment, which he acknowledged was speculative.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • PML-N Announces Senate Candidates: On Wednesday, the PML-N announced its nominees for the senate elections scheduled for March 3, which are indirectly elected by the provincial assemblies; the Express Tribune provides a list. [ET]
  • PTI-MQM Clash: On Tuesday, the PTI wrote to the British high commissioner to Pakistan seeking action by the UK government against MQM leader-in-exile Altaf Hussain for “using British territory to incite people to violence in Pakistan”. PTI activists also demonstrated against the MQM at a rally in Rawalpindi on Tuesday. [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Energy Crisis: On Tuesday, the government suspended four more Pakistan State Oil officials in connection to last month’s petroleum shortage; the Express Tribune notes that the committee investigating the issue is headed by a close aide to the finance minister, Zafar Muzaffar, who has been suggested as a possible replacement for the current minister of petroleum. Separately, the Iranian government has offered to boost electricity exports to Pakistan to as much as 4,000 megawatts and to cut tariff rates; the minister of power and water has been invited to Iran later this month to discuss the proposal. [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Chinese Foreign Minister to Visit Feb 12 [Dawn] [ET]
  • Opposition Boycotts National Assembly Over Unbudgeted Taxes [Dawn]
  • Former PPP Minister Claims ‘Serious Differences’ Between Bilalwal and Zardari [Dawn]
  • Public Accounts Committee Defers Scrutiny of Previous Government Projects [Dawn]
  • No Change in Pakistan-China Corridor Route, JUI-F Leader Assured [APP]
  • PAC Directs State-Owned Firms to Halt Vehicle Transfers to Staff [ET]
  • Remittances Rise 14.6% in July-January Period [ET]
  • Capital Health Authorities Rejected Report of Polio Sample [ET]
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Government Proposes Expanded Schools for Girls [ET]
  • Supreme Court Orders Publication of All Laws on Web [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Troop Drawdown Under Consideration: The Post reports that the White House is considering revisions to the pace of troop drawdown in 2015, allowing commander Gen. John Campbell to retain more than 5,500 troops in country after the end of this year and keeping regional training hubs and airbases open longer than planned. Officials say the decision comes in part due to requests from Pres. Ghani for extended assistance; a change to the president’s deadline for the withdrawal of all U.S. forces (save a reserve embassy protection force) at the end of 2016 is not under consideration, officials say.
  • Ghani Drops Indian Arms Request: TOLO reports that Pres. Ghani has suspended a request for Indian arms and heavy weaponry made by Pres. Karzai during his final months in office, which India had suggested it would consider.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Chinese Diplomacy: The WSJ details previously unreported meetings between Chinese, American, and Afghan leaders in London last December on possible Afghan peace talks, which followed earlier visits by separate delegations from the Taliban and the Afghan government to Bejing last fall. Details of the discussions and internal Chinese calculations are limited, although most sources suggest the Xi Jinping government is taking new steps to take on an increasingly active mediation role, one welcomed by the U.S. and the Afghan government. China is also reportedly considering training Afghan security forces, a previously unprecedented step, and “asking Pakistan to encourage the Taliban to join reconciliation efforts”.
  • Electoral Reforms: A spokesman for Chief Executive Abdullah attributed the delay on forming a commission to propose electoral reforms to Pres. Ghani’s office, saying that formal work could not begin until Ghani establishes the commission through executive decree. [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • TAPI Talks: Delegates from Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India are meeting Wednesday in Islamabad for talks intended to finalize a choice of contractor for the construction of the TAPI gas pipeline. [Dawn] [ET]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Pentagon Confirms Role in Strike that Killed Abdul Rauf Khadim [WAPO]
  • Red Cross Concerned Over Possible Decreases in Humanitarian Aid [TOLO]
  • Senate Awards Kabul Police Chief [TOLO]
  • Asian Development Bank to Provide $130M Grant for Road and Rail Network [TOLO]
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