Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: LHC Hears Challenge to Campaigning Restrictions; Campbell Says No Bar on Reporting Child Abuse

Topline

  • The Lahore High Court has agreed to hear a PTI petition challenging the Election Commission’s code of conduct restrictions on electoral campaigning by sitting assembly members in the special elections to fill vacant seats in Lahore and Lodhran. ECP officials have sought a response from government officials over complaints by the opposition parties that the prime minister’s recently-announced package of agricultural aid to farmers violates code of conduct restrictions on development spending prior to an election. In a statement on Tuesday, Resolute Support commander Gen. John Campbell denied that U.S. servicemembers had been directed to ignore incidents of child sexual abuse by local Afghan security partners. Members of a dissident Taliban faction reportedly associated with Abdul Qayyum Zakir issued a competing Eid statement on Tuesday, calling for a new shura to determine the group’s leader. Quetta police arrested 40 Afghan nationals near the Khalid airbase on Tuesday, as investigations continue into the Badaber Airbase attack in Peshawar. A NATO servicemember was killed in attack near Bagram on Tuesday. Speaking at the conclusion of the U.S.-India Strategic and Commercial Dialogue, Indian foreign minister Sushma Swaraj reiterated calls for Pakistan to “bring to justice the perpetrators of the 2008 Mumbai attack”. The Afghan Civil Aviation Authority has assumed formal control over the management of its airspace from NATO.

Pakistan — Security

  • Badaber Airbase Attack Investigations Continue: Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan reiterated that the attack on the Pakistan Air Force base in Badaber, Peshawar, was planned from Afghanistan, and that nine of the attackers were foreign nationals. On Tuesday evening, Quetta police arrested at least 40 Afghan nationals living near the Khalid Airbase, who were accused of living in the area illegally.
  • Tensions with India: Indian foreign minister Sushma Swaraj and Sec. Kerry, together with the commerce ministers of India and the U.S., concluded first U.S.-India Strategic and Commercial Dialogue meeting in Washington DC on Tuesday; speaking to reporters afterwards, Swaraj warned against “the threat posed by al Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Muhammad, D-Company and Haqqani network and other regional groups that seek to undermine stability in South Asia,” and called on Pakistan to “bring to justice the perpetrators of the 2008 Mumbai attack”. In brief remarks to reporters while en route to the UN General Assembly, Prime Minister Sharif voiced Pakistan’s support for regional peace and security. On Tuesday, officials in the Kurram Agency announced the arrest of two men charged with working for Indian intelligence.
  • UK Counterterrorism Cooperation: Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan met with UK officials in Islamabad on Tuesday to discuss intelligence cooperation and counterterrorism efforts, as well as the status of MQM leader Altaf Hussain and the investigation into the 2010 murder of Imran Farooq in London.
  • Sons of Lal Masjid Cleric Arrested: On Tuesday, Islamabad police arrested two sons of the late Lal Masjid cleric Ghazi Abdul Rasheed, charging them with the possession of an illegal firearm and an army uniform; a Lal Masjid spokesman accuses the authorities of arresting them to forestall their legal case against former Pres. Musharraf in the death of their father during a 2007 siege of the mosque. [ET]
  • Karachi Violence: A PPP party activist was killed by unidentified gunmen in Karachi’s Orangi Town neighborhood on Tuesday evening; no claim of responsibility was reported.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Election Preparations: The Lahore High Court agreed to hear a PTI petition challenging the Election Commission’s code of conduct restrictions on campaigning by sitting assembly members in the upcoming special elections in Lahore and Lodhran, suspending those restrictions for the time being. The LHC also dismissed a petition challenging the use of phased polling in Punjab’s local elections. The Supreme Court approved the ECP’s alteration of the election schedule for Islamabad’s local elections in a ruling on Tuesday, confirming polls on November 30. ECP officials have issued notices seeking explanations for the government’s announcement of a new package of agricultural assistance, which opposition parties have charged violates the ECP’s restriction on new development spending in advance of the elections. On Tuesday, the PPP issued a statement expressing “surprise” that Pres. Mamnoon Hussain was actively participating in PML-N party meetings, noting restrictions imposed by the courts on political activity during former Pres. Zardari’s tenure; the statement follows a meeting at which Prime Minister Sharif appointed Pres. Hussain the party’s lead campaign strategist for local elections in Sindh. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Corruption Investigations: In a statement on Tuesday, the Sindh government laid blame on the National Accountability Bureau and other federal investigators for failing to keep tabs on the location of Sindh Building Control Authority chief Manzoor Qadir, who has reportedly fled the country after initial investigations in June. On Wednesday, the Lahore High Court accepted a plea bargain from PPP leader Qasim Zia in a securities fraud case, in which he will return Rs 22.2 million. [Dawn] [ET] [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Pakistan’s Child Deradicalization Center Offers Second Chance [Dawn]
  • Supreme Court Directs Military Court Convict to Direct Appeal to High Court [Dawn]
  • PTI Accuses Punjab Government of Hiding Local Government Audits [Dawn] [ET]
  • Sindh Institutes Ban on Hide Collection Ahead of Eid [Dawn]
  • Islamabad High Court Agrees to Hear Air Force Officer Challenge of Detention Without Charge [ET]
  • Lashkar-e-Jhangvi Suspect Arrested in Islamabad [Dawn] [ET]
  • Government Freezes Private School Fees in Islamabad [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • U.S. Commander Rejects Report Soldiers Turned Blind Eye to Child Abuse: In a statement on Tuesday, Gen. John Campbell, the head of NATO’s Resolute Support mission and commander for U.S. forces in Afghanistan, rejected recent accounts that U.S. servicemembers had been directed to ignore incidents of child sexual abuse by local Afghan security partners, saying that “no such theater policy has ever existed here, and certainly, no such policy has existed throughout my tenure as commander” and that he “expect[s] that any suspicions of sexual abuse will be immediately reported to the chain of command, regardless of who the alleged perpetrators or victims are”. In a statement on Wednesday, the Ministry of Interior suggested that the accounts in a recent NYT story on the issue were out of date, and said that “sexual abuse of children is an obscene and indecent act with the Afghan laws recognizing it as a criminal offense and the perpetrators will face severe punishment as per the applicable laws”. [Reuters] [BBC]
  • Taliban Divisions: Reuters reports that a dissident faction of the Taliban issued a competing Eid statement on Tuesday calling for a new shura gathering to determine a leader of the Taliban; details of the statement are limited but it is reported to have been associated with military commander Abdul Qayyum Zakir. The Fedayee Mahaz splinter group issued its own statement on Tuesday claiming that Mullah Omar’s family members were coerced into accepting the leadership of Mullah Akhtar Mansour. A BBC profile of the Taliban reports that Mullah Mansour has expanded the membership of the group’s leadership council to 21 members, but that the leadership largely remains centralized amongst southern Pashtuns.
  • NATO Soldier Killed: A NATO servicemember, whose nationality and identity have not been disclosed, was killed near Bagram airbase Tuesday evening; initial reports have not clarified whether the death occurred during a rocket attack on the base or a subsequent patrol of the area launched after the rocket strikes, which came under attack. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the rocket attacks. [AP] [Reuters] [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • CEO Voices Concerns Over Electoral Reform, Census Law: Spokesmen for Chief Executive Abdullah told reporters on Tuesday that Abdullah had written to Pres. Ghani asking him to expedite the formation of a selection committee to chose new members of the Independent Election Commission and Electoral Complaints Commission, as recommend by the special commission on electoral reform. In another statement, spokesmen for Abdullah criticized Ghani’s recent meetings with tribal elders and other senior political figures over a national census law, suggesting doing so was against the law.

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Afghanistan Assumes Control of Air Traffic: On Tuesday, the Afghan Civil Aviation Authority formally assumed responsibility for management of Afghanistan’s air traffic control and airspace management from NATO.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Ghani Visits Kabul Malls at Start of Eid [TOLO]
  • Afghanistan Tries to Stem Migration Brain Drain [RFE/RL]
  • NDS Announces Detention of 23 Militant Suspects [TOLO]
  • Report: Quarterly Report to UN Security Council on the Situation in Afghanistan – “Positive developments supportive of a possible peace and reconciliation process, notably, the holding of direct talks between the Government of Afghanistan and the Taliban, ultimately gave way to increased uncertainty following the announcement of the death of the Taliban leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar.” [UN Secretary General]
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