Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Zardari Lashes Out Against Investigations; Afghan Govt Considering Electoral Reform Proposals


  • In remarks on Monday, former Pres. Zardari lashed out at Prime Minister Sharif, accusing him of “repeating the politics of the 1990s” and engaging in a “clear pattern of harassment and revenge”; Zardari’s remarks follow the arrest and investigation of several top Sindh provincial government and PPP officials, including some close aides to Zardari. Afghan government officials say they are reviewing the electoral reform proposals brought by the reform commission this past weekend. In remarks on Monday, Pakistani foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz pushed back on U.S. pressure to take more direct action against the Haqqani network, suggesting that the group was primarily based in Afghanistan. The Taliban-affiliated clerics seeking to mediate the dispute over Mullah Akhtar Mansour’s succession tell the Express Tribune that they have set a deadline this week for Mansour to commit to abiding by their mediation, warning of “disastrous infighting” otherwise. Vice President Dostum returned to Kabul from Sar-e-Pul on Monday, touting his presiding over operations in the Kohistanat district and appealing for Russian military assistance. Following a meeting on Monday, members of Pakistan’s Election Commission rebuffed calls from Imran Khan to resign. No money has been allocated to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics to prepare for a national census that was to be held beginning March 2016.

Pakistan — Security

  • Sartaj Aziz Denies Haqqani Network Operating From Pakistan: In remarks on Monday, Foreign Advisor Sartaj Aziz pushed back at U.S. demands for Pakistan to take stronger action against the Haqqani network, claiming that “80 or 90%” of the group’s “capacity” was in Afghanistan, and that the “infrastructure of the Haqqani network in North Waziristan, including [improvised explosive device] factories and a number of other capacities, including communications, has been disrupted”. [Dawn]
  • Security Review: On Tuesday, Prime Minister Sharif and Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif met to discuss the Sindh Rangers-led crackdown in Karachi and other operations in Sindh, but details of their conversations are limited as of this writing. The Express Tribune reports that the discussions also touched on an “under-cover operation” by the army and Punjab Rangers targeting sectarian organizations in Punjab.
  • FATA Attacks and Operations: Six people were killed, including a local paramilitary soldier, and at least 56 wounded in a suicide bombing in the Jamrud area of the Khyber Agency on Tuesday; the target appears to have been the office of the Khyber political agent, who survived unhurt. A spokesman for the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan claimed responsibility. Elsewhere, around 400 displaced families returned to their native towns in South Waziristan on Monday. [ET]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Zardari Accuses Sharif of ‘Revenge Politics’: In a statement issued from London on Monday, former Pres. Zardari accused Prime Minister Sharif of “repeating the politics of the 1990s,” condemning the recent arrests of several top PPP aides and investigation of Sindh government officials by federal and military agencies as “a clear pattern of political harassment and revenge”. Zardari added that “if they want to conduct fair accountability, they should first take action against a federal minister who confessed of money-laundering for the Sharif brothers. Only then we will know how clean the followers of N-league are.” Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid responded that the federal government “had nothing to do with” the current investigations against PPP officials, and that “if the leaders facing investigation are not involved in any crime, they will be exonerated”. Minister for States and Frontier Regions Abdul Qadir Baloch endorsed the recent arrests, saying that “if anyone has a doubt that there would be any compromise on recent action against terrorism and corruption, so let me tell you that there is no question of turning back”. On Tuesday, the Islamabad High Court granted former Prime Minister Gilani a week-long bail in nine new cases related to the Trade Development Authority scandal; separately, a former aide to Gilani professed readiness to return kickbacks he received for allocating gas supplies to a carpet manufacturer. [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Election Commission Rebuffs Resignation Call: A meeting of Election Commission officials on Monday resolved that ECP commissioners would not resign in response to calls from PTI chairman Imran Khan, and would instead await a Supreme Court ruling on the issue. Separately, the ECP has set the election schedule for the NA-122 and NA-154 by-elections; nominations will begin September 10, and polling will take place October 11. [Dawn] [ET] [ET]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • No Funds for Population Census: Dawn reports that despite a decision by the government back in March to prepare to conduct Pakistan’s first full census since 1998 this coming March, no funds have been allocated to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics to start work on the exercise, which was originally budgeted to cost Rs 14.5 billion. Some officials suggest that the government will instead rely on registration information in the National Database and Registration Authority for planning purposes, although analysts note that that registration is highly uneven.
  • Tax Revenues: The All Pakistan Anuman-i-Tajiran trader’s union issued a “charter of demands” on Monday that calls for deferring the introduction of the new withholding tax on bank transactions for individuals who do not file income taxes until the end of the year, and for traders to be exempted from value-added tax, among other measures. Federal Board of Revenue collections in August reportedly fell short of target by more than Rs 18 billion; on Tuesday, the government reduced petroleum prices but raised the sales tax rate on them in an effort to offset declining revenue. [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Suspects Arrested Following Jiwani Airport Attack; BLA Claims Responsibility [ET] [Dawn]
  • Sindh Preparing to Identify All Madrassahs in Province [Dawn]
  • Two Militant Suspects Killed in Karachi [ET]
  • Pres. Hussain to Visit China [Dawn]
  • Petroleum Prices Reduced; Gas Prices Hiked [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Pakistan May Be Region’s Most Water-Stressed Country By 2040 [ET]
  • Commentary: Is the United States Cutting Pakistan Off? The Politics of Military Aid – “Policymakers should reconsider a glideslope that ends CSF reimbursements to Pakistan over the next several years, with the total authorized amount reducing each year.” [Stephen Tankel, War on the Rocks]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Dostum Returns to Kabul: Vice President Dostum returned to Kabul on Monday, where he held a press conference that included appeals to Russia to provide aircraft and helicopters, warnings of Daesh encroachment into Central Asia, and blame for Pakistan’s intelligence agencies for fueling insurgency in Sar-e-Pul. Dostum also touted the retaking of the Kohistanat district in Sar-e-Pul. [Pajhwok] [Khaama Press]
  • Taliban Divisions: The group of clerics seeking to negotiate between Taliban commander Mullah Akhtar Mansour and the dissident faction opposed to his leadership succession has reportedly given Mansour a deadline of “two or three days” to approve the group’s mediation efforts, which Mansour has yet to indicate he will abide by; Maulvi Ahmad Rabbani, who heads the group, warns the Express Tribune of “disastrous infighting” if no agreement is reached.
  • Baghlan Attacks: On Tuesday, the Baghlan chief military attorney, Sayed Munawar Shah, was killed in the provincial capital of Pul-e-Khumri by unidentified gunmen. No claim of responsibility has been reported. Elsewhere, Taliban fighters attacked a security checkpost in the Dand-e-Ghor district in Baghlan, where they are reported to have taken as many as 20 soldiers hostage. [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Electoral Reforms: National unity government spokesmen say they will review the electoral reform proposals generated by the electoral reforms commission, following briefings over the weekend. Abdul Sattar Sadat, the former Independent Election Commission chairman, criticized the proposals, and suggested that accepting them would be an admission of fraud during last year’s vote, effectively invalidating Pres. Ghani’s election.
  • Tensions with Pakistan: A spokesman for Chief Executive Abdullah said Monday that “we do not have any expectations from Pakistan” and therefore “we will not ask them to mediate between the Afghan government and Taliban group”, and suggested that talks would proceed without Pakistan’s involvement. Anonymous Pakistani diplomatic sources suggest that they will attend the Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan later this week, followed by ministerial-level meetings on the sidelines.
  • Ghani Denounces Corruption: In a speech on Tuesday, Pres. Ghani denounced corruption in government contracts, land theft, and illegal drug trafficking, saying that corruption was a “cancerous lesion” on the state and that a “national jihad” was necessary in the country’s schools and mosques to combat it. [TOLO] [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Concerns on the Rise Over Stalled National ID Card Rollout [TOLO]
  • Police Investigating ‘Poisoning’ Report in Herat School [Reuters]
  • Commentary: Is it Ghani’s Time to Shine? – “It will be critical for the [Senior Officials Meeting this week]to put on full display both the strength of Afghanistan’s National Unity Government and the commitment of its partners within the international community to its success.” [Jed Ober, Foreign Policy]

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