Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Verdict Reportedly Near on Election Rigging; Afghanistan Protests Cross-Border Shelling

Topline

  • PML-N sources report that the special judicial commission investigating PTI charges of systematic election rigging during the May 2013 polls has completed its report and that its verdict exonerates the government; no formal announcements have been made, but Prime Minister Sharif is scheduled to address the nation later this evening. Afghan officials formally protested cross-border firing by Pakistani military forces along the border of Nangarhar and Kunar provinces. Bodyguards for Vice President Dostum were attacked by unidentified gunmen in Jowzjan on Wednesday; one attacker was killed and another arrested. The Election Commission of Pakistan has petitioned the Supreme Court to hold local elections in phases. Afghanistan’s electoral reform commission was formally inaugurated on Wednesday. The Sindh provincial government shuffled the portfolios of five ministers on Wednesday. MQM leader Altaf Hussain ordered the shut-down, then reopening, of all party offices on Wednesday. Sindh is on alert for potential flooding with heavy rain forecast for the next five days; Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif visited Dera Ghazi Khan on Thursday after a dyke breach led to flooding in several nearby villages. Prime Minister Sharif has reportedly been invited to a meeting in Washington with President Obama in October.

Pakistan — Security

  • Imran Backs Talks: Speaking after a meeting with families of the victims of the December attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar on Wednesday, the PTI’s Imran Khan reiterated his support for negotiations, suggesting that “if America can negotiate with the Afghan Taliban, Pakistan and Afghanistan should also negotiate with them”, and arguing that “the issue of militancy can be resolved only through dialogue”. [ET]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Judicial Commission Near Ruling on Election Fraud: PML-N sources claimed on Wednesday that the special judicial commission investigating charges of election fraud had submitted its report to the Ministry of Law and Justice, and in its final verdict rejected all of the PTI’s allegations of systematic and organized poll rigging. No official announcement has yet been made, and PTI lawyers say they have yet to receive copies of the judgment. Prime Minister Sharif reportedly received a legal briefing on the report, and is scheduled to address the nation today. [Dawn]
  • Elections: Election Commission officials tell the Express Tribune that they filed a petition with the Supreme Court before Eid to hold local government elections in Sindh and Punjab in phases, citing the large amount of administrative staff that would be needed to hold all voting simultaneously. [ET]
  • Sindh Leadership Shakeup: On Wednesday, the PPP-led Sindh provincial government reshuffled the portfolios of five ministers, covering the irrigation, information, education, local government, archives, works and services, information technology, public health, and rural departments, among others. Additional chief secretary Wasim Ahmed has also reportedly been appointed to head the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation, the third head of the body in the past month. [ET]
  • MQM Under Pressure: On Wednesday, a Karachi anti-terrorism court approved a 90-day detention under Rangers’ custody for Qamar Mansoor, a MQM leader arrested during last week’s raid on party headquarters, charging him with “involvement in targeted killing, extortion and other offences”. On Wednesday evening, party leader Altaf Hussain ordered the closure of all party offices, and was reported to be “extremely angry” with the party’s leadership committee over “certain organizational matters”.  The order was rescinded on Thursday. [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • US Relations: Special advisor to the prime minister Tariq Fatemi continued his meetings in Washington with U.S. officials, meeting with National Security Advisor Susan Rice, Senator Dianne Feinstein, and Senator John McCain, and others. Dawn reports that Pres. Obama has invited Prime Minister Sharif for a visit to Washington in October, following the UN general assembly session. [ET]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Customs Powers of Paramilitary Forces Extended for a Year [Dawn]
  • UK Deputy Minister Pledges Continued Aid Despite NGO Crackdown [ET]
  • Supreme Court Seeks Details of NGO Funding [APP]
  • Frontier Works Organization Touts Road Construction Linking Gwadar Port [Dawn]
  • Peshawar High Court Stays Arrests of Provincial Mining Secretary [ET] [ET]
  • Interior Minister Orders Inquiry into Travel Restriction on Prominent Lawyer’s Family [Dawn]
  • Developer Malik Riaz Alleges Extortion by Former Military Officers [Dawn] [ET]
  • Report: Revisiting Counter-terrorism Strategies in Pakistan – “The militarisation of counter-terrorism policy puts at risk Pakistan’s evolution toward greater civilian rule, which is itself a necessary but not sufficient condition to stabilise the democratic transition.” [ICG]
  • Report: Tipping the Scales: Security and Surveillance in Pakistan – “The Pakistani government has significantly expanded its communication interception activities. This Privacy International report covers the intelligence services plan to capture all IP-traffic in Pakistan and other initiatives, pointing to gaps in the laws governing surveillance.” [Privacy International]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Border Tensions with Pakistan: In formal protests to the Pakistani ambassador, Afghan officials report that at least four civilians were killed in cross-border mortar and heavy weapons fire by Pakistani forces along the border with Nangarhar and Kunar province over the past several days. [ET] [TOLO]
  • Dostum Bodyguards Attacked: Unidentifed gunmen reportedly attacked Vice President Dostum’s security detail in Sheberghan on Wednesday during his visit to Jowzjan province; one gunman was killed and another arrested, although no details have been reported on their identity. Dostum was not present at the time of the attack. [TOLO]
  • Badakshan Attack: Afghan security officials report that they have repelled an attack by Taliban militants on multiple checkposts in the Warduj district.
  • Mullah Omar Death Rumors: A spokesman for the Fidayee Mahaz, a Taliban splinter group, claimed on Thursday that Taliban deputy Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansoor was responsible for the murder of movement leader Mullah Mohammad Omar two years prior.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Presidential Conversation: Presidents Obama and Ghani, along with Chief Executive Abdullah, spoke by teleconference on Wednesday to discuss support for the Afghan national security forces and Afghan government negotiations with the Taliban. No details of the conversation have been reported. [Reuters]
  • Electoral Reform Commission Begins Work: Chief Executive Abdullah spoke at the inauguration ceremony on Wednesday for the new electoral reforms commission, welcoming its work and pledging the support of the national unity government for its efforts. UN officials are also participating in the commission’s deliberations in an advisory role.
  • Parliamentary Session Adjourns: The Wolesi Jirga adjourned its current session on Wednesday for a 45-day summer recess, leaving without taking votes on at least four pending bills and with appointments still vacant for the ministry of defense, supreme court, and attorney general.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Afghanistan Bans Toy Guns to ‘Curb Culture of Violence’ [AFP]
  • Kunduz Governor Alleges Embezzlement by Provincial Council Head [TOLO]
  • Kabul Journalist Reportedly Beaten by Second Deputy Speaker’s Bodyguard [TOLO]
  • Two Balkh Television Channels Shut Down Over Unpaid Taxes [Pajhwhok]
  • Ministry of Urban Development Concerned Over Illegal Construction in Kabul [TOLO]
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