Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Ghani Hosts Senior Officials Meeting in Kabul; Pakistan Marks Defense Day

Topline

  • Pres. Ghani hosted the Senior Officials Meeting of international donors in Kabul on Friday and Saturday, at which Afghanistan’s international partners pledged to continue support for Afghanistan through 2017 “at or near” the levels of the past decade. Few breakthroughs were reported during Pakistani foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz’s meetings with Ghani on Friday, and no joint statement was issued, although Aziz told Pakistani reporters later that both sides had agreed to “restore trust,” and Ghani is reported to have agreed to consider Pakistani calls for a resumption of dialogue with the Taliban. Dissident Taliban commander Mullah Mansour Dadullah released a video over the weekend challenging Mullah Akhtar Mansour’s command of the Taliban, and accusing the Pakistani intelligence services of installing him and other leaders of the movement; continued clashes are reported in Zabul between fighters loyal to Dadullah and Taliban reinforcements sent by Mansour. Pakistan celebrated its 50th annual Defense Day on Sunday; military and police officials say they arrested at least six suspects in Quetta and Multan charged with plotting attacks timed to the celebrations, who they linked to Indian intelligence. A bombing strike in North Waziristan’s Shawal Valley was the first combat test of an indigenously-produced armed drone, Pakistani military spokesmen announced Monday; few details have been released. Pres. Ghani issued a decree on Sunday approving seven out of eleven electoral reform proposals developed by the special committee on electoral reform, but the statement from the presidency does not specify which ones were approved. MQM leaders to continue to protest the detention of their activists; anonymous sources tell Dawn that the party pulled out of negotiations with the government over their return to parliament after Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan’s recent visit to the UK, where he reportedly pressed for legal action against Altaf Hussain. UK investigators interviewed a man Pakistani officials have identified as the main organizer of the 2010 murder of Imran Farooq; another suspect, the actual assassin, is reported to have gone into hiding in Kabul. At least 13 Hazara bus passengers were killed in an attack in Balkh on Saturday. A coalition of opposition parties, including the PPP, PTI, and others, announced on Sunday that they would negotiate a seat adjustment formula to challenge the PML-N in the upcoming Punjab local elections; PTI leaders later appeared to backtrack from the notion that they were cooperating with other opposition parties, however. The PML-N is seeking to push back the deadline for candidate registration in the first phase of the polls by a month, to October 11.

Pakistan — Security

  • Pakistan Marks Defense Day: Pakistan commemorated its 50th annual Defense Day on Sunday, marking the anniversary of the 1965 war with India and commemorating the sacrifices of Pakistan’s armed forces throughout the country’s history. In his message to the nation, Prime Minister Sharif stressed that “the exemplary unity demonstrated by the political and military leadership in curbing terrorism is yet another splendid chapter of our national history”; in his remarks on Sunday, Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif touted the military’s readiness to “face all internal and external challenges, whether tradition or untraditional, hot start or cold start”. On Saturday, Pakistani military spokesmen announced the arrest of a man in Quetta charged with plotting to set improvised explosive devices to disrupt the celebrations, accusing him of having links with Indian intelligence; another two accused saboteurs charged with Indian links were arrested in Multan. [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Pakistan Claims First Use of Armed Drone: On Monday, Pakistani military spokesmen announced that a version of the the indigenously-manufactured “Burraq” model unmanned drone had conducted its first ever armed strike, killing three “high profile terrorists” in a bombing in the Shawal Valley region of North Waziristan. No further details were released. Pakistan has been developing the drone since 2013, and conducted a test of the drone’s capability to conduct laser-guided bombing in March. [Guardian] [AP] [Reuters] [ET]
  • Tensions with India: Punjab Rangers officials reported an exchange of cross-border mortar fire with Indian forces in the Chaprar area on Friday; no casualties or damage was reported. Further firing was reported on Sunday evening and Monday. On Saturday, Pakistan’s ambassador to the UN urged the UN Security Council to press India to enforce the ceasefire agreement in Kashmir, accusing India of 36 ceasefire violations in July and of killing 20 civilians and wounding 97 in August. [Dawn]
  • Karachi Security: Speaking to the press on Saturday, Karachi police chief Mushtaq Mahar reported a decline in kidnappings, extortion, targeted killings and terrorism of as much as 70% since the beginning of paramilitary operations in the city in September 2013. Mahar warned that terrorist “sleeper cells” were still active in the city, and acknowledged the persistence of street crime. On Saturday, the Rangers announced the seizure of a large weapons cache belong to an unspecified “militant wing of a political party” in the Landhi neighborhood. [Dawn]
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Attacks: Malik Mumtaz, a Hangu district councilor and ANP member, was killed in a roadside bombing in the Kohat district on Saturday; elsewhere in Kohat, a PML-N tehsil councilor, Nasrullah, was killed by unidentified gunmen. Earlier on Friday, a group of men attacked a police checkpost in the Ghizer district on the border of Khyber Paktunkhwa and Gilgit-Baltistan, temporarily detaining the officers and stealing their weapons. [Dawn]
  • FATA Operations: Mehsud tribal elders met with Pakistani military officers and the local political agent in Wana, South Waziristan on Friday, where they pledged support to the government and discussed plans for the phased repatriation of displaced Waziristan residents.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • MQM Under Pressure: Speaking to party supporters on Friday, MQM leader-in-exile Altaf Hussain denounced what he described as an “unannounced ban” on the party’s political and welfare activities, and called on Prime Minister Sharif to disclose any “compulsions” upon him to put the MQM under pressure, asking why “if the federal government cannot do anything, and is unable to accept the [party’s] legitimate demands, why is it trying to hold dialogues with the MQM?” At a separate press conference, MQM leaders reiterated allegations that the Rangers were detaining party activists extra-judicially. In remarks on Saturday, former Pres. Zardari warned that Hussain’s “negative politics will harm [the] MQM itself”, urging the party to stick to “mainstream politics”. Speaking to reporters on Sunday, Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid said that MQM assembly member resignations were still “pending”; MQM leader Farooq Sattar accused the government of “buying time” in earlier negotiations. In a Dawn interview, Finance Minister Dar claims that the MQM’s withdrawal from talks was a surprise; anonymous MQM sources suggest that the move was linked to Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan’s parallel visit to the UK, where he spoke further with UK authorities about investigations against Hussain. Chaudhry Nisar reportedly conveyed a message seeking for the UK to “withdraw support” from the MQM and Baloch separatist leaders; the money laundering case against Hussain is also reported to have “taken a serious turn”. A team of Scotland Yard investigators concluded a previously undisclosed three-day visit to Pakistan on Friday, where they interviewed Mohsin Ali, who Pakistani Interior Ministry officials have previously identified as the main organizer behind the 2010 murder of former MQM leader Imran Farooq; a Federal Investigation Agency officials tells the Express Tribune that investigators have identified a fourth suspect in the case, identified as Farooq’s actual assassin, who is reported to have taken shelter in Kabul. Meanwhile, new arrest warrants were issued against Hussain on Saturday on charges of threatening the Rangers, and on Monday the Lahore High Court issued a ban on the broadcast of speeches by Hussain across all electronic media. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Election Administration: In a statement on Friday, the Election Commission warned that the continued disbursal of development funds in Sindh and Punjab was in violation of the code of conduct for local government elections. The Express Tribune reports that at least 60 civil servants have sought exemption from serving as returning officers in the polls, but that those requests have been denied. The PML-N has petitioned the ECP to extend the deadline for filing nominations for the first phase of the Punjab elections from September 11 to October 11; the PTI is reportedly holding off on issuing party tickets for the elections in hopes of picking up PML-N candidates who fail to secure their party’s endorsement.
  • Election Campaigning: A coalition of opposition parties, including the PPP, PTI, Jamaat-e-Islami, and others, announced on Sunday that they would negotiate a seat adjustment formula to challenge the PML-N in local elections across Punjab; the coalition also echoed PTI calls for the resignation of Election Commission members prior to the polls. Despite the attendance of PTI Punjab organizer Chaudhry Sarwar at the meeting on Sunday, deputy Punjab organizer Umar Sarfaraz Cheema later issued a statement denying that the PTI would negotiate a seat adjustment. Another alliance of opposition parties has formed in Hyderabad to challenge the MQM. Bilalwal Bhutto Zardari arrived in Lahore on Saturday for a week-long visit focused on election strategy and “revamping” the party. The PTI kicked off its campaign on Sunday for the special elections to fill the national assembly and provincial assembly seats in Lahore vacated by last month’s election tribunal ruling; on Monday, former National Assembly Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq filed a Supreme Court challenge against the tribunal verdict, which his lawyers said was intended to challenge the fine against him, not to stay the by-election. [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Seminaries Under Scrutiny: Under direction from the State Bank of Pakistan, commercial banks have reportedly frozen the accounts of more than 200 unregistered madrassahs, and have barred madrassahs from opening new accounts until they register with the government. JUI-F leader Fazlur Rehman and other seminary leaders have protested the controls.

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Energy Crisis: Despite gas tariff hikes intended to help the Sui Southern Gas Company and Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Ltd recover an additional Rs 77 billion from gas consumers, the two companies are still facing a combined revenue shortfall of Rs 29 billion, the Express Tribune reports. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Prime Minister and Chief of Army Staff Meet to Discuss China Corridor Security [Dawn] [ET]
  • Senate Session Delayed [Dawn]
  • Prime Minister Seeks Details on PML-N Lawmaker Assets [ET]
  • Anti-Terrorism Court Clears ASWJ Leader in Hate Speech Case [ET]
  • Pakistan Nationals Extradited to US in Narco-Terrorism Case [Reuters]
  • Two Militant Suspects Killed in Frontier Corps Operation in Panjgur; Six Bodies Found in Kalat [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Police Arrest Christian Man Accused of Blasphemy in Kasur [AFP]
  • ‘Prime Suspect’ in Parween Rehman Murder Still At Large, Police Tell Supreme Court [Dawn] [ET]
  • Senate Panel Asks Government to Drop Overseas Voting Proposal [ET]
  • Supreme Court Orders Investigation Against Former NAB Chairman Over Malik Riaz Land Scam [Dawn]
  • Women Health Workers Demonstrate Across Khyber Paktunkhwa Over Unpaid Salaries [Dawn] [ET]
  • Chitral Flood Reconstruction and Relief Costs Estimated at Rs 1.4 Billion [Dawn]
  • Commentary: Playing Hardball with Aid to Pakistan – “The United States is putting tougher conditions on its aid money to Pakistan. And Pakistan might just tell the United States to take a walk.” [Nadia Naviwala, Foreign Policy]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Taliban Infighting: Pajhwok and Khaama Press reports that a new video has appeared on Afghan social media featuring dissident Taliban commander Mullah Mansour Dadullah, in which Dadullah accuses Pakistani intelligence agencies of imposing “mutinous persons” on the Taliban’s senior leadership and “distributing” leadership positions, “bypassing the wishes of religious scholars”. Dadullah rejects the leadership of Mullah Akhtar Mansour, and calls on other Taliban fighters to resist Mansour’s control of the movement by joining him in Zabul. The NYT echoes earlier reports that the Taliban have begun massing fighters in Zabul, where they have clashed with Dadullah’s forces. On Monday, Zabul police officials reported that three community elders were killed while attempting to mediate between the two sides.
  • Attacks and Operations: Unidentified gunmen attacked a bus carrying members of the Hazara minority community in the Zari district of Balkh province on Saturday, killing at least 13 civilian passengers; one woman was reportedly left unharmed and survived. No claim of responsibility has been reported. Elsewhere, a suicide bomber detonated at a bus stop in the Logar provincial capital of Pul-e-Alam on Saturday, injuring at least 14 civilian bystanders. In Kunar, a massed force of Taliban fighters attacked multiple security checkposts in the Mano Gai and Chapa Dara distircts on Saturday; at least one Afghan soldier was killed, and Afghan security forces claim to have killed 14 Taliban gunmen in the clashes. On Sunday, at least six Afghan soldiers were killed in an attack on their outpost in Nimroz’s Khasrood district. [Reuters] [AP] [TOLO] [TOLO]
  • Helmand Airstrike: At least 11 Afghan counternarcotics officers were killed in an errant NATO airstrike on Sunday night outside the Helmand provincial capital of Lashkar Gah, local officials tell the AP; TOLO reports that as many as 17 were killed and that the strike took place in the Sangin district. Details are limited and NATO has yet to comment as of this writing.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Diplomatic Meetings: On Friday evening, Pres. Ghani formally opened the Senior Officials Meeting of donor representatives in Kabul, where the Afghan government briefed its partners on reforms undertaken since the London summit last December. Speaking to delegates, Ghani said that “rebuilding Afghanistan is going to be a long-term endeavor. The question for this meeting is, what kinds of investment should the government and the people of Afghanistan be making and in what sort of sequence to rebuild a sustainable economy that can secure the welfare of its people?” Ghani identified the “fundamental development problem” facing the country as “how to raise the productivity of our assets, our people, and our factors of production, and to do so in a way that spreads the benefits of a market economy not just to the entire Afghan population, but to their children and their children’s children in a virtuous circle of sustainable growth.” At the conclusion of the conference, international donors reaffirmed their pledge to “sustain support through 2017, at or near the levels of the past decade”. Earlier, the Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan (RECCA) closed on Friday with an endorsement of Afghanistan’s role as a regional transportation and economic hub. [Senior Officials Meeting Co-Chair’s Statement (pdf)] [Ghani SOM Speech Transcript] [Ghani RECCA Speech Transcript] [TOLO] [TOLO] [TOLO] [TOLO] [TOLO] [Guardian]
  • Tensions with Pakistan: Pakistani foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz returned from Kabul on Friday following meetings with Pres. Ghani and other Afghan officials on the sidelines of the RECCA summit; no joint communique was issued following the meetings. In his remarks at the summit, Aziz said that Pakistan was committed to supporting Afghanistan’s reconstruction and development. Speaking to the Pakistani press on Saturday, Aziz said that both sides had agreed to “restore trust, end the blame game against each other and create a positive atmosphere”, and said that Afghanistan’s finance minister would visit in November to attend a meeting of the Pakistan-Afghanistan joint economic commission. An anonymous Pakistani diplomatic source tells Dawn that Ghani has agreed to “discuss” Pakistan’s call for the Afghan government to resume outreach to the Taliban. In remarks at the Senior Officials Meeting on Saturday, Ghani said that “the quest for peace will continue” and that “provided that we have a willing partner, peace discussions will advance and a serious dialogue to end the killings will be under way.” Speaking earlier at the RECCA conference, Ghani had expressed concern that “Pakistan’s leaders express the desire for peace but face the challenge of controlling those forces that believe that an unstable and weakened Afghanistan is better than a strong and confident neighbour.” On Sunday, Afghanistan’s foreign ministry said that “we reiterate our position and state facts, asking Pakistan to take action against terrorist groups inside its territory that declare war against our people.”
  • Ghani Issues Electoral Reform Decree: On Sunday, Pres. Ghani issued an executive decree tasking the Ministry of Justice and Office of Administrative Affairs with developing the legal grounds to implement seven of the eleven electoral reform proposals prepared by the special electoral reforms commission last week. The decree did not specify which proposals Ghani had approved. He also directed the reforms commission to “further research the legal, technical, implementation and practical aspects of the other proposals” and to “complete its remaining tasks”. Speaking to representatives at the Senior Officials Meeting on Saturday, Ghani reportedly pledged that the 2019 presidential election would be “the most transparent election on [a] regional level”. Independent Election Commission representatives have balked at the proposed changes. [Executive Decree Statement] [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Polio Case Reported: Ministry of Public Health officials reported a new polio case in Nimroz’s Zarang district, the second to be reported in southern Afghanistan and the ninth so far this year.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Afghan Government Accused of Inaction on Mining Standards [AP]
  • Returning Wolesi Jirga Members Call for Action Against ISIS [Khaama Press]
  • Turkmenistan Begins Survey Work on TAPI Pipeline Route [AFP]
  • Taliban Reject Badghis Ulema Council Fatwa Against Insurgency [TOLO]
  • Herat Schoolgirls Hospitalized in Reported ‘Poisoning’ [Khaama Press] [TOLO] [TOLO]
  • Qatar to Open Kabul Embassy [Khaama Press]
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