Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: PML-N Wins Lahore National Assembly Seat; Thousands Displaced by Kunduz Fighting

Topline

  • Former National Assembly speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq won reelection to the Lahore NA-122 national assembly seat by a margin of around 4,000 votes based on preliminary results from a by-election held on Sunday; the PTI candidate for a parallel provincial assembly election beat the PML-N candidate, however. On Friday, MQM leaders announced that they would withdraw party legislators’ resignations from the national and provincial assemblies after reaching an agreement with the PML-N on the formation of a “Grievances Redressal Committee”. As many as 100,000 people have been displaced by fighting in Kunduz, the Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation reports; search operations and fighting continues in and around the city. The Pentagon announced Saturday that it would make condolence payments to victims of last week’s errant airstrike on the city’s Doctors Without Borders hospital. A UK helicopter crashed near the NATO headquarters in Kabul on Sunday, killing five onboard; separately, a NATO convoy was bombed in Kabul, wounding seven civilian bystanders. The Taliban released a statement on Monday threatening attacks against TOLO TV and 1TV, accusing them of being “propaganda networks” for the international community. Prime Minister Sharif met with top officials on Friday to review preparations for his visit to the U.S. later this month. An unpublished UN assessment warns that half of Afghanistan’s districts are at “high” or “extreme” security risk, the worst security situation for the country since the ouster of the Taliban regime in 2001.

Pakistan — Security

  • FATA Operations: Military spokesmen report that 22 suspect militants were killed in airstrikes in the Datta Khel area of North Waziristan on Saturday evening; no information on the identities of the targets has been reported. [Dawn]
  • Balochistan Conflict: Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan visited Quetta on Saturday, where he met with Chief Minister Abdul Malik Baloch, touted the work of the Frontier Corps, and pledged to “secure every inch of Balochistan and develop the province”. On Friday, a National Party local leader was killed in Turbat by unidentified gunmen. [Dawn]
  • Executions: The Express Tribune reports that only 25 out of the 252 convicts that have been executed since the resumption of capital punishment in December 2014 were convicted on terrorism charges.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • PML-N Wins Lahore National Assembly Seat in By-Election: Campaigning concluded for the Lahore NA-122 by-election on Friday, with the PML-N, PTI, and PPP staging competing rallies for their candidates. Imran Khan reiterated charges of corruption and misuse of authority against the ruling PML-N in his final speeches, exhorting voters to turn out the incumbents; Prime Minister Sharif and Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif opted not to take part in the PML-N’s election rally, which was headlined by Shahbaz’s son Hamza Shahbaz, although the prime minister held a press briefing on Saturday to discuss his recent trip to the UN and other government activities. Anonymous PPP party leaders complain of the absence of their leadership in the contest. Just prior to the end of campaigning, the PTI won the endorsement of a group of 50 ulema, including the head of the JUI Nazriyati faction. Five army battalions, two Ranger companies, and 5,500 police were on hand for security for polling on Sunday, which took place at 284 polling stations, with approximately 347,000 registered voters. Unofficial results after the close of voting indicate that former national assembly speaker and PML-N candidate Sardar Ayaz Sadiq won reelection to the seat, securing approximately 76,000 votes to Aleem Khan of the PTI’s 72,000. The PML-N’s candidate lost to the PTI in a parallel by-election to a Punjab Assembly seat by around 4,000 votes, however. PTI officials celebrated the narrowing of Sadiq’s margin compared to his 2013 election, while PML-N leaders touted their victory. In his first comments on Monday, Imran Khan suggested that the PTI was “not prepared again” for the PML-N’s “rigging tactics”, and that the party was investigating “the number of PTI votes thrown out at the last minute”. Election commission officials reported receiving around 35 complaints of minor election violations; prior to the start of polling, the PTI accused the PML-N of violating election laws through the prime minister’s campaigning in the constituency, which the ECP agreed to investigate. [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • MQM Withdraws Resignations: On Friday, MQM leaders met with Finance Minister Dar and agreed to the formation of a five-member “Grievances Redressal Committee” to respond to MQM complaints regarding the paramilitary-led operations in Karachi, prompting the party to announce the withdrawal of its resignations from the national and provincial assemblies. On Saturday, MQM officials reported that 15 party activists had been detained by the Sindh Rangers in the past 24 hours. In a statement Friday evening, the Rangers suggested that MQM activist Mohammad Hashim might have been killed by rival party members; the MQM rejected that account and maintain that Hashim had been extrajudicially detained and killed by the Rangers since May. On Monday, a Gilgit-Baltistan anti-terrorism court sentenced MQM leader Altaf Hussain in absentia to 81 years in prison on charges of treason, incitement to violence, and speeches criticizing the armed forces. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
  • U.S. Ties: Prime Minister Sharif presided over a meeting of top civilian and military aides on Friday to review preparations for his visit to the United States later this month; the Express Tribune reports that Sharif plans to seek a civilian nuclear agreement with the U.S., and to propose a greater role for China in negotiating an Afghan settlement, and will also raise the issue of Indian border tensions. A State Department fact sheet issued Friday indicates that Pakistan has received $265 million in Foreign Military Financing, as well as $5 million in International Military Education and Training; the report also notes that the U.S. is Pakistan’s largest training partner and that U.S. remittances to Pakistan constitute 14.4% of the $18.72 billion total during the last fiscal year. [Dawn]
  • Other Election News: The Election Commission has challenged Lahore High Court orders regarding the delimitation of constituencies in Rawalpindi, which have been delayed in several union councils pending a resolution of the issue. The LHC is also considering a PTI petition challenging amendments to the Punjab local election law governing the indirect election of reserved seats in local government elections. Meanwhile, the total number of political parties registered by the Election Commission has risen to 307, but the ECP has only 171 approved symbols with which to identify them on the ballot. [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Tensions with India: Prime Minister Sharif has reportedly invited Kashmiri leader Syed Ali Geelani to Pakistan to discuss the disputed territory; India, meanwhile, is hosting Baloch separatist activist Balaach Pardili, a senior leader of the Free Balochistan Movement. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Energy Crisis: Prime Minister Sharif attended a groundbreaking ceremony for a LNG power plant in Sheikhupura on Friday, where he reiterated the government’s commitment to resolving the country’s energy crisis by the end of its term in 2018. The government has applied for an increase in the approved cost for the Nandipur Power Plant, to Rs 65.35 billion from the Rs 45 billion approved by the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority earlier this April; the Express Tribune reports that the government plans to outsource operations at the troubled facility to a Chinese engineering contractor. On Sunday, the Auditor General of Pakistan issued a report saying that Rs 329.9 billion in payments made to independent power generators during the 2014-15 fiscal year had been made in violation of treasury rules, and without consultation with auditors. [ET] [ET] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Spying Case Against U.S. Envoy is Falling Apart [NYT]
  • Peshawar Army Public School Families’ Organizer Kidnapped [ET]
  • Karachi Security Officials Crack Down Ahead of Muharram [Dawn]
  • Five Al Qaeda Suspects Arrested in Sheikhupura [Dawn]
  • Religious Parties Protest Supreme Court Judgment in Qadri Case [Dawn]
  • PIA Pilot’s Union Calls Off Strike [Dawn]
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Forms Provincial Finance Commission [Dawn]
  • Planning Ministry Pushes Back Against Criticism from Energy Ministries [Dawn]
  • Army Received Rs 35 Million to Promote Tourism in Malakand [Dawn]
  • Chinese Steel Company Reportedly Offering $778 Million Investment into Pakistan Steel Mills [ET]
  • Polio Vaccination Drive Begins in Khyber Paktunkhwa [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • State Bank Accused of Increasing Cash Reserve Requirement to ‘Trick’ IMF [ET]
  • Supreme Court Restores License of Senior Lawyer [Dawn] [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Kunduz Aftermath: The Post has a detailed account of the bombing of the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz last Saturday; the exact decision-making process to carry out the airstrike on the facility and who called it in remains sketchy. The NYT profiles one victim of the strike, janitor Najibullah Momand. On Saturday, the Pentagon announced that it would make “condolence payments” to “civilian non-combatants injured and the families of civilian non-combatants killed as a result of U.S. military operations.” As reported Friday, an Afghan government investigation committee headed by former NDS chief Amrullah Saleh has been tasked with investigating the airstrike and the Taliban’s assault on the city. The WSJ cites local disaffection with a corrupt provincial government as a contributing factor in the Taliban takeover; as many as 500 Taliban fighters are also reported to have infiltrated the city prior to the launch of the offensive. Fighting continues in parts of the city; TOLO reports that airstrikes and special operations raids are being carried out in the Khan Abad area north of the city. Residents report continued shortages of water and food; in a statement on Sunday, the World Food Program expressed “serious concern” over the situation in the province. Minister of Refugees and Repatriation Sayed Alimi Balkhi reported Sunday that around 20,000 families, totaling as many as 100,000 people, had been displaced by the conflict in the city, and noted that his ministry lacks the budget to care for them. Displaced residents protested in Kabul on Saturday, calling on the government to address their needs. [BBC] [AFP] [AJE] [Khaama Press] [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [TOLO] [TOLO] [TOLO]
  • Kabul Attacks: A Taliban suicide bomber struck a NATO convoy in Kabul on Sunday, wounding seven Afghan civilian bystanders; no international casualties were reported. Separately, a UK Puma Mk 2 helicopter crashed while attempting to land at the NATO Resolute Support mission headquarters in Kabul on Sunday, killing five people onboard, at least two of whom were identified as British Royal Air Force personnel; the aircraft was carrying ten people at the time of the crash, all coalition forces. Officials say the incident was the result of an accident and not insurgent activity; the AP reports that the helicopter appears to have struck a cable anchoring a surveillance ballon near the base. [Reuters] [BBC] [TOLO] [BBC] [AJE] [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • Media Under Threat: In a statement on Monday, the Taliban singled out TOLO TV and 1TV as “propaganda networks tasked with promoting the intellectual, cultural and information invasion of the infidels in Afghanistan,” and warned of attacks against them. On Saturday evening, two radio stations in Jalalabad were bombed, which damaged the buildings but did not cause casualties; no claim of responsibility was reported.
  • Other Attacks and Operations: The NYT reports that an unpublished UN assessment finds that the Taliban have spread to control the widest portion of Afghanistan since their ouster in 2001, and in many areas government forces only hold a few district buildings. Around half of the country’s districts are classified as “high” or “extreme” threat levels; the UN has evacuated four of its 13 provincial offices, all in northern Afghanistan. On Monday, a female UN worker was killed on the way to work in Kandahar city. The Express Tribune reports that Mullah Akhtar Mansoor has effectively consolidated control over the Taliban, and is near an agreement to reconcile with commander Abdul Qayyum Zakir; a spokesman for a dissident group of Taliban commanders insists that they will elect a rival leader soon, however. Military officials claim to have killed 100 Taliban fighters in NATO-backed operations in Kandahar’s Shorabak district on Friday. Three civilians were killed and four wounded in a crossfire following a Taliban ambush in the Baraki Barak district in Logar on Friday. On Saturday, Islamic State affiliates reportedly claimed responsibility for targeting a Shiite wedding hall in Kabul with bombs on Friday, which reportedly injured three people. [TOLO] [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Tensions with Pakistan: In remarks during his visit to Lahore on Saturday, Prime Minister Sharif voiced support for reviving peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government. Separately on Saturday, a spokesman for Pres. Ghani said that “Pakistan should first crush those terrorist groups who have declared war on Afghanistan from Pakistan’s soil… if Pakistan is ready to do so, then we will discuss the peace process.” In a meeting of the Council of Ministers on Monday, Chief Executive Abdullah laid blame on Pakistan for continuing to support the Taliban, and reiterated demands that it halt such support. [AP] [AJE]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Former Jihadi Leaders Meet to Review National Issues [TOLO] [TOLO]
  • Berghdal Lawyers Say Army Investigator Recommend Non-Judicial Punishment [Reuters] [BBC]
  • Senate Approves Laws on Money Laundering, Government Salaries [TOLO]
  • Ghani Reviews Security [Khaama Press]
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