Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Pakistan Begins Ground Operations in Shawal; Mansour Hedges on Sucession Dispute Mediation

Topline

  • Pakistan’s military announced on Thursday it had begun ground operations in the Shawal Valley region of North Waziristan, one of the last major areas where such actions have not been carried out after the launch of Operation Zarb-e-Azb last summer. The Post reports that only around $300 million in U.S. Coalition Support Fund money will be held up by the Pentagon’s refusal to certify Pakistani action against the Haqqani network, but anonymous Obama administration sources suggest that this money “is not going to happen soon”. Mullah Akhtar Mansour has reportedly refused to guarantee that he will accept the ruling of a group of Taliban ulema seeking to mediate his leadership succession dispute with Mullah Omar’s family, delaying further talks. Tensions between Indian and Pakistani diplomats remain high ahead of next week’s planned national security advisor meeting in New Delhi; despite Indian criticism of Pakistani plans to meet with Kashmiri separatist leaders ahead of those talks, the meeting currently is still scheduled to proceed. Pakistan has cancelled a planned meeting of Commonwealth parliamentary representatives that it was to host in September, citing the presence of representatives from Indian Kashmir. Vice President Dostum has announced the clearing of several districts in Faryab province, where TOLO reports several hundred families are now returning after being displaced during as much as six months of Taliban control. Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah and the MQM voiced separate complaints of the federal government’s crackdowns in Karachi; despite Prime Minister Sharif’s bypassing of the MQM during his one-day visit to Karachi on Thursday, the MQM said that it would still take part in future negotiations in Islamabad. On Thursday, Pakistan’s information ministry introduced a new code of conduct for media organizations, restricting hate speech as well as a broad range of criticism of the army, judiciary, and other public institutions.

Pakistan — Security

  • Ground Operations in Shawal: On Thursday, the Pakistani military’s main spokesman announced that the military had begun ground operations in the Shawal Valley, one of the last remaining areas of North Waziristan where such operations have not been conducted since Operation Zarb-e-Azb was launched last summer. The announcement follows a week of daily airstrikes in the area, but there is no independent confirmation of the military’s claims to have killed more than 3,000 militants over the course of the past year’s operations. [NYT]
  • Counterterrorism Investigations: On Thursday, Punjab police announced the arrest the day prior of seven militant suspects, who are accused of facilitating the assassination last week of Punjab Home Minister Shuja Khanazada; the Express Tribune’s report suggests that the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi deputy commander for Punjab, Nadeem Inqlabi, was responsible for planning that attack. Meanwhile, the Express Tribune reports that Prime Minister Sharif, on the recommendation of Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, will appoint former Khyber Paktunkhwa police chief and current head of the National Police Bureau Ihsan Ghani to lead the National Counterterrorism Authority, replacing acting director Saud Aziz. During court hearings on Thursday, Chief Justice Jawwad Khawaja and other judges criticized the government for failing to provide adequate funds to NACTA and the Federal Investigation Agency to conduct counter-terrorism investigations. [Dawn] [ET]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Tensions Over Kashmir Continue Ahead of Aziz Visit: On Friday, India’s foreign ministry issued a statement saying that it would “not be appropriate” for Pakistani foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz to meet with the Kashmiri separatist Hurriyat Council leadership prior to his meetings with Indian national security advisor Ajit Doval next week; those talks thus far remain scheduled for the 23rd, however. In a statement on Thursday, Pakistan’s foreign ministry indicated that the Hurriyat meeting would go ahead, saying that “Kashmiris are important stakeholders in the context of Jammu and Kashmir dispute”. Meanwhile, Pakistan has cancelled a planned conference of Commonwealth parliamentary representatives that it was to host on September 30, objecting to the invitation to legislators from the Indian-administered state of Jammu and Kashmir. Separately, the Lahore High Court upheld a petition from Jamaat-ud-Dawa leader Hafeez Saeed, who sought to ban the screening in Pakistan of the Indian film “Phantom”, which depicts the 2008 Mumbai attacks, which Saeed is charged with organizing. [AP] [BBC] [Reuters] [AP] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • MQM Disappointed with PM’s Visit to Karachi: During separate meetings with Sindh governor Ishratul Ibad and Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah on Thursday, Prime Minister Sharif reviewed the ongoing crackdown in Karachi, affirming his support for the operation. In their discussions with the prime minister, Chief Minister Shah and Rangers chief Major Gen. Bilal Akbar are both reported to have objected to MQM calls for a “monitoring committee” to oversee the operation. Shah is reported to have reiterated his objections to investigations by federal agencies into corruption in Sindh, saying they had exceeded their jurisdiction. The MQM said that it was “disappointed” by Sharif’s visit, saying he had failed to address the party’s complaints; party leader Farooq Sattar said that the MQM would still take part in further negotiations mediated by Maulana Fazlur Rehman in Islamabad at an unspecified future date, however. Nine MQM party activists were reportedly arrested on Thursday. [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Media Code of Conduct: On Thursday, the federal information ministry issued a new amendment to the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority Rules, introducing code of conduct requirements that bar the media from broadcasting hate speech, or commentary “that is against the Islamic values, ideology of Pakistan or founding fathers of the nation”, among other restrictions.

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • CSF Assistance: Pakistan’s foreign ministry spokesman said that discussions were ongoing with the U.S. over the disbursal of Coalition Support Fund assistance, which has reportedly been frozen over the U.S. Defense Department’s refusal to certify Pakistani military operations in North Waziristan had damaged the Haqqani network. The Post reports that only around $300 million of the 2015 CSF pipeline would be affected by the de-certification; the Pentagon has not commented publicly on the issue, but an anonymous Obama administration official tells the Post that payment of the final $300 million “is not something that is going to happen soon. It’s just something that [the Defense Department] has reminded the Pakistanis of.”
  • Russian Gas Pipeline Construction: The WSJ reports on Pakistan’s growing ties with Russia, following yesterday’s announcement of a military helicopter sale, and noting plans for the state-owned Russian industrial conglomerate Rostec to finance, own and operate a gas pipeline linking Karachi and Lahore, an agreement that is expected to be signed within the next month.
  • Tax Revenues: Only 74,000 of the more than 351,000 people who were served notices from the Federal Board of Revenue during the 2014-15 fiscal year filed tax returns, the Express Tribune reports, resulting in a total of Rs 1.11 billion in tax payments against Rs 16.8 in payments sought by the FBR.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Ahmadi Man Killed in Taunsa [AFP]
  • Three Christians Charged with Blasphemy in Gujrat [AFP]
  • PTI Protests Plans for Phased Local Elections in Punjab [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Interior Minister Orders Action Against Forged ID Cards [ET]
  • Petition Challenges Military Court Death Sentence [Dawn]
  • Four Laborers Abducted in Turbat [Dawn]
  • Senate Continues Debate on Judicial Reform [Dawn] [ET]
  • Lawmakers Hesitant to Endorse Overseas Voting [Dawn]
  • Pakistan Launches Injectable Polio Vaccine [AFP]
  • Gas Tariff Hike Expected September 1 [Dawn]
  • Commentary: Iran and Pakistan: Back to Business – “The India-Iran relationship will continue to grow, but with China’s big bet on Pakistan – in the tens of billions of dollars – and Pakistan’s distancing itself from the regional sectarian war, Iran appears keen to partner with Pakistan rather than playing an antagonistic role in the country.” [Arif Rafiq, The Diplomat]
  • Commentary: A General’s Legacy – “While many of his contemporaries and successors feigned innocence when it came to the question of feeding militants, Gul unabashedly owned up to core policies of the security establishment.” [Ayesha Siddiqa, Express Tribune]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Attacks and Operations: TOLO reports that “hundreds” of displaced families are returning to their homes in Faryab following recent high-profile military operations presided over by Vice President Dostum, which are reported to have ousted Taliban militants from the Qaisar and Ghormach districts where they had been in control for the past six months. In an RFE/RL interview, Dostum said that “negotiations are under way with Pashtun tribal leaders” to win their support; other accounts have charged that his militia network has harassment and extortion. Meanwhile, the Badakshan deputy governor tells TOLO that Taliban militants have cut off transit routes to the Zebak, Eshkkashim, Shighnan, and Wardak districts, warning of major food shortages and the potential for mass starvation. On Friday, three school children were killed in a rocket attack on their school in Paktika’s Sar-e-Rawza district. Two policemen and one civilian were killed and another policeman wounded in two separate bombings in Baghlan on Friday; another local policeman and civilian were killed in a separate bombing in Kunduz.
  • Taliban Succession: In meetings on Thursday, a panel of Taliban clerics failed to secure an agreement from Mullah Akhtar Mansour that he would accept their decision in mediating his succession dispute with the family of Mullah Mohammad Omar, the Express Tribune reports. Mansour is reported to have “sought some more time to apprise the members of the [Taliban] leadership council and his other aides before taking any decision.”

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • TAPI Pipeline: Pakistan’s minister of petroleum and natural resources told reporters on Thursday that the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India natural gas pipeline would be inaugurated in December, and construction would be completed in the next three to four years. Afghanistan is expected to earn $500-600 million in annual transit royalties from the pipeline, the total construction cost of which is now estimated at $25 billion.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Jamiat-e-Islami Leaders Criticize Government Electoral Reform Progress [Pajwhok]
  • Head of National ID Card Program Reiterates Calls for Implementation [TOLO]
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