Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Torture in Afghan Prisons Widespread, But Declining; Afghans Expelled from Pakistan

Topline

  • An UN investigation found that the use of torture against Afghan detainees by the police and intelligence services was still systematic and widespread, but had declined from levels reported in 2013. The Khyber Paktunkhwa government has ordered the expulsion of 300 Afghan clerics from the province within the next week; federal officials confirm their intention to expel all Afghan refugees from the country by the end of the year. A former Taliban official told TOLO news that the insurgency has appointed negotiators based in Qatar for potential talks with the Afghan government. ISI director Lt. Gen. Rizwan is visiting the US this week; India has confirmed its foreign secretary will visit Islamabad March 3-4. An amendment providing for open voting on Pakistani senate elections may be introduced before the end of this week. The WSJ details an ongoing corruption investigation into the Afghan National Army’s fuel procurement contract. The Pakistani government is considering a plan to assume responsibility for Pakistan International Airlines’ Rs 288 billion in debts.

Pakistan — Security

  • Military Courts: Pres. Mamnoon Hussain, on the advice of the defense ministry and with the approval of the prime minister’s office, issued an executive ordinance on Tuesday that clarified that terrorism cases that occurred before the passage of the 21st Amendment in January could be sent to the new military court system. The ordinance also provides for remote or closed hearing testimony in such cases, as a security measure for judges, prosecutors and witnesses. [Dawn] [ET]
  • Afghan Expulsion: On Wednesday, the Khyber Paktunkhwa provincial government ordered the expulsion of as many as 300 Afghan prayer leaders from the province within the next week. Speaking on Tuesday, federal minister for states and frontier regions Abdul Qadir Baloch reiterated that the government intends to repatriate all registered and unregistered Afghan refugees — estimated at roughly 2.6 million people — by the end of the year.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Diplomatic Visits: ISI director Lt. Gen. Rizwan Akhtar departed for the United States on Wednesday for his first official visit, where he is expected to meet with counterparts in the U.S. intelligence community. Separately, India has confirmed that its foreign secretary, S. Jaishankar, will visit Pakistan on March 3-4.
  • Senate Elections: With the end of the appeals period on Tuesday, 11 objections and 16 appeals have been filed against the Election Commission’s rulings on senate candidate eligibility. In a statement on Tuesday following criticism earlier this week, the Election Commission said that electoral laws requiring candidates to be registered residents of the province from which they contest an election did not apply to the senate. Separately, the PTI welcomed the government’s proposal to introduce a constitutional amendment that would make the assembly votes to determine senate elections open shows of hand; the national assembly and senate have been called into session and may vote on an amendment beginning February 27. PPP opposition leader Khursheed Shah said Tuesday that it would be “impossible” to amend the constitution on such a short timeline, however; former Pres. Zardari has suggested an all-parties conference on the issue. [ET]
  • Other Political Activity: On Tuesday, Sindh passed an amendment to its local government laws, empowering the Election Commission to delimit constituency boundaries, but transferring that power back to the Sindh government after elections are concluded. The government also appears to retain the power to set the number of union councils, committees, and wards. Elsewhere, Nabeel Gabol, an MQM national assembly member from Karachi, quit the party and resigned from the assembly, saying he would “decide later on my future prospects in politics”. Gabol previously quit the PPP to join the party in 2013. Separately, Altaf Hussain dismissed two leaders of  the three top leaders of the MQM’s Rabita Committee on Tuesday. [Dawn] [ET] [ET]
  • Seminary Protests: The Wafaqul Madaris al-Arabia coalition of Deobandi madrassas has announced plans to hold protests around the country, beginning in Lahore on March 15, against what it says are government “actions against religion in the name of anti-terrorism”.

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • PIA Woes: A meeting of the parliamentary Public Accounts Committ on Tuesday reviewing Pakistan International Airlines’ financial troubles backed a bailout plan for the airline that would see the government assume responsibility for the carrier’s Rs 288 billion in debts, but objected to plans to spin off non-core functions of the airline to the private sector, which would likely result in cuts to around 40% of PIA’s workforce. [Dawn]
  • Energy Crisis: Sindh finance minister Murad Ali Shah told the provincial assembly on Tuesday that the 6,000 megawatt Gadani coal power project had been “suspended,” citing environmental and health concerns; previous reports had indicated that Chinese companies had withdrawn support for the project over cost and design concerns.
  • Polio Crisis: A new polio case registered in Khyber Agency has brought the national total for new cases this year to ten.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Indian Coast Guard Official Who Contradicted Account of Pakistani Boat’s Destruction Suspended [Dawn]
  • ASWJ Korangi District President Killed [ET]
  • Sindh Police Posting Board Formed [Dawn]
  • Government Seeks More Time to Shahbaz Bhatti’s Killer’s Appeal [ET]
  • Punjab Assembly Passes Resolution Against Private School Security Fees [ET]
  • Bodies Discovered in Peshawar Linked to 2012 Airport Attack [Dawn]
  • Frontier Corps Soldier Killed in Quetta Landmine Blast [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Detainee Torture Declines: A UN report released Wednesday found that Afghan police and intelligence services continue to practice “systematic torture” at a number of detention facilities — including beatings, electric shocks, and asphyxiation, among other practices — based on interviews with roughly 800 detainees. 35% had experienced a form of torture or mistreatment, a 14% decline from levels found in a similar report issued last year. UN officials credited the new government for its “commitment to implement a new national plan on elimination of torture”; Interior Ministry officials said that they were committed to “totally eradicating” the practice, and insisted that its use was a result only of individual actions. [Khaama Press] [UN Report (pdf)]
  • Drawdown Plans: In remarks to reporters on Tuesday, Sec. Kerry indicated that Pres. Obama would make a decision on drawdown plans and U.S. force levels through 2016 “shortly”. Stars and Stripes notes that roughly 100 soldiers from the 7th Infantry Division have been ordered for a year-long deployment to Kandahar beginning this spring, where U.S. officials are expected to decide to retain airfield facilities. [Khaama Press]
  • Helmand Operations: Ministry of Defense officials tell TOLO that ongoing operations in Helmand are moving slowly due to a desire to minimize civilian and Afghan army casualties, and that the ANA is also conducting supporting operations in neighboring provinces in order to target Taliban fighters who may be fleeing the main area of operations.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Taliban Talks: Syed Akbar Agha, a former Taliban official, tells TOLO that the Taliban have selected seven representatives to take part in peace talks with the Afghan government, including at least some of the five former Taliban commanders released to Qatari custody from Guantanamo last year. TOLO identifies Syed Tayyab Agha, Mawlawi Shahabuddin Dilawar, Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai, and Qari Din Mohammad as lead Taliban negotiators. [Dawn]
  • Trilateral Transit Agreement: Iran’s ambassador to Afghanistan, Muhammad Reza Bahrami, said Tuesday that an agreement on a trilateral transit trade agreement between Iran, Afghanistan, and India was “in the final stages of review”, and was awaiting approval from New Delhi and Kabul. The deal would allow Indian goods to enter Afghanistan through Iran’s Chabahar port, and vice versa.

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Fuel Procurement Investigation: The WSJ details an ongoing investigation initiated by Pres. Ghani into an $800 million three-year fuel supply contract for the Afghan National Army, which losing bidders complain they were barred from competing on. The investigation is now evaluating whether the winning bidders, Ghazanfar Neft Gas Ltd, colluded with defense ministry officials to shut out of their rivals. Ghazanfar officials deny any wrongdoing, as does the head of defense ministry’s main procurement office, who has been suspended as the investigation proceeds.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • New Mazar-e-Sharif Militia Formed, Citing Daesh Threat [WAPO]
  • Afghan Government Should Share Power with Taliban, Musharraf Says [WSJ]
  • Election Reform Commission Waiting on Ghani Order, Abdullah Spokesman Says [TOLO]
  • Interior Minister Leads Delegation to Investigate Nangarhar Corruption [Pajhwok]
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