- The US Department of Defense will not certify to Congress that Pakistani military operations in North Waziristan are damaging the Haqqani network, blocking the next tranche of Coalition Support Fund assistance, Pakistani foreign ministry sources report. Pakistan formally protested the “blame game” by senior Afghan officials, and refuted Afghan charges that Pakistani military cross-border artillery fire had been responsible for the deaths of several Afghan border security forces. Kashmiri separatist leaders were briefly placed under house arrest on Thursday, ahead of Pakistani foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz’s planned meeting with them next week. Khaama Press reports that the Taliban council of ulema will issue a decision today in its mediation of the dispute over Mullah Akhtar Mansour’s succession as the group’s senior leadership. The Election Commission of Pakistan reportedly plans to announce a new schedule for local government elections in Sindh and Punjab on Friday, beginning with an initial phase on October 12. Objections from senators may lead the Pakistani government to revise a proposed amendment that would introduce criminal penalties for tax evasion exceeding Rs 10 million, the Express Tribune reports.
Pakistan — Security
- US Finds Pakistani Action Against Haqqanis Inadequate: Dawn, citing anonymous foreign ministry officials, reports that the U.S. Department of Defense will not certify to Congress that Pakistani military operations in North Waziristan had damaged the Haqqani network, blocking the disbursal of the next planned tranche of Coalition Support Fund assistance. The last payment, of $337 million, is reported to have been last month. Meanwhile, Pakistani airstrikes continued in North Waziristan’s Shawal Valley area on Wednesday for the fourth straight day since Punjab Home Minister Shuja Khanazada’s assassination, reportedly killing 25 militant suspects; another 43 are reported to have been killed in airstrikes on Thursday. There is no independent confirmation of those accounts. [Reuters]
- Tensions with India: Pakistani military officials accused Indian Border Security Forces of killing a civilian in cross-border artillery firing in the Kotli district on Wednesday evening; earlier in the day, Pakistan’s foreign ministry summoned India’s ambassador to formally protest continued ceasefire violations, the fourth such protest in the past week. Pakistan’s foreign ministry confirmed on Thursday that foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz would meet with Kashmiri separatist leaders prior to his meetings with Indian national security advisor Ajit Doval next week; the leaders of the Hurriyat Council were briefly placed under house arrest on Thursday, but later released. [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]
- Russian Defense Deal Signed: Dawn reports that Pakistani and Russian officials finalized a defense deal that has been under negotiation for the past year; details are limited, but the agreement reportedly involves the sale of four Mi-35 attack helicopters.
- Travel Restrictions: The Express Tribune reports that at least 21,000 people have been removed from the Exit Control List, freeing them to travel outside the country. No details have been provided, but sources say that most of the individuals were from Khyber Paktunkhwa and the FATA and “had been added on court, police and secret service agency directives”.
Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy
- Local Elections: At a meeting on Wednesday, Election Commission officials are reported to have decided to modify the schedule for local government elections in Sindh and Punjab yet again, now setting the first phase of polling for October 12. The full schedule will reportedly be announced Friday. [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn]
- Corruption Charges: On Wednesday, the Sindh provincial government’s Anti-Corruption and Establishment Committee ordered investigations against 58 government officials for their alleged involvement in embezzling funds through the collection of ‘ghost’ employee salaries; most are from the health, education, and local government departments. Another 67 individuals are reportedly under scrutiny and may face charges after a further meeting on August 24.
- MQM Under Pressure: Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, MQM party leaders protested the continued arrest of party activists, saying that the Rangers-led operation in Karachi was ignoring militant threats against the party. MQM leader Rashid Godil remains under critical condition after an assassination attempt on Monday. Sindh Home Minister Suhail Anwar Siyal suggested that Godil had been provided with police security, but had “transferred their services to someone else without informing the competent authority”. Investigations continue in the case but no suspects have been identified. The MQM leadership has deferred setting a date for the next round of talks with the government over their return to parliament, citing Godil’s condition. Prime Minister Sharif is visiting Karachi on Thursday to review the security situation but does not appear to have meetings scheduled with MQM leadership. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
- Judicial Appointments: On Wednesday, the senate held open debate on judicial appointment policies and practices; various constitutional amendments were proposed, including the direct election of judges and police, a modification to the existing system of appointments to give greater power to parliament in nominations, and restrictions on the Supreme Court’s use of suo moto jurisdiction. Debate is expect to continue Thursday.
Pakistan — Economics and Development
- Lawmakers Push to Remove Tax Evasion Penalties: Facing objection from lawmakers in the Senate Finance Committee, the Express Tribune reports that the government is planning to review or modify a planned amendment to the 2010 Anti-Money Laundering Act, which would introduce criminal penalties for those charged with tax evasion exceeding Rs 10 million.
- Sharif Inaugurates Nuclear Plant: On Thursday, Prime Minister Sharif visited the Karachi Nuclear Power Plant, where he inaugurated the K-2 plant, a project to add an additional 1,100 megawatts of generation that is being supported by the China National Nuclear Corporation.
Pakistan — Remainders
- ISI Investigating NADRA Issuance of Fake ID Cards [AFP]
- Khyber Paktunkhwa Governor Inaugurates FATA Civilian Courts [Dawn] [ET]
- Army Pledges Support for Balochistan Polio Vaccination [Dawn] [Dawn]
- Supreme Court Upholds Ban on Houbara Bustard Hunting [Dawn] [ET]
- Human Rights Commission Investigation Upholds Accounts of Abuse in Kasur [Dawn]
- Electoral Reform Committee Proposes Increase in Campaign Spending Limits [ET]
- Chief Justice Refuses Security Protocol [Dawn]
Afghanistan — Security
- Tensions with Pakistan: On Wednesday, Pakistan’s foreign ministry summoned Afghan ambassador to Islamabad Janan Mosazai and formally protested recent public allegations by senior Afghan government officials of Pakistani support for Taliban attacks in Afghanistan, saying that “Pakistan has been acting with maximum restraint and avoiding any blame-game”. Pakistan also protested the death of three Frontier Corps personnel in cross-border artillery fire on August 16 and 17, and refuted claims that its own soldiers had killed Afghan border security forces in return, which Afghanistan’s foreign ministry had formally protested the day prior in Kabul. Meanwhile, Vice President Dostum, who continues to preside over military operations in Faryab province, claimed that an “ISI general” had been killed fighting alongside Taliban militants. [Dawn] [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
- Mansour Succession Struggle: Khaama Press reports that the Taliban council of ulema mediating between current commander Mullah Akhtar Mansour and his rivals is preparing to announce their decision on the succession question today. The report also claims that Mansour and his deputy Haibatullah Akhunzada “has gone missing during the past few days”, without elaborating. A separate report suggests that Mansour recently conveyed condolence messages following the death of former ISI director Hamid Gul, however.
Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy
- Refugees: The UN High Commissioner for Refugees representative in Afghanistan warned on Wednesday that increasing conflict in Afghanistan was displacing a greater number of Afghans, both internally and as external refugees. On Wednesday, Iranian, Afghan, and UN officials signed new cooperation agreements on legal and illegal Afghan immigrants to Iran.
- Mohaqiq Visits Iran: Deputy chief executive Mohammad Mohaqiq visited Iran on Thursday for meetings with Ali Akbar Velayati, advisor to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Velayati affirmed Iranian support for the Afghan government’s efforts to target Islamic State-affiliated militants. [TOLO]
Afghanistan — Remainders