Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Sharif to Hold Talks with Obama Today; Dostum Leads Jowzjan Operations

Topline

  • Prime Minister Sharif met with Sec. Kerry on Wednesday as well as with members of Congress; he meets Pres. Obama today for talks that are expected to focus on Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal and the conflict in Afghanistan. Reuters reports that Sharif will reject any restrictions on Pakistan’s tactical nuclear arsenal in the talks. The NYT reports that the administration is preparing to authorize the sale of eight F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan, and the LA Times reports that it will announced $70 million in aid to support girls’ schooling. Vice President Dostum claimed to have cleared Taliban fighters from the Khamab district in Jowzjan in operations on Wednesday, and suggested that he was preparing to lead operations in Faryab and Kunduz as well. October 23 and 24 have been set as public holidays in Pakistan for Ashura processions. The Election Commission of Pakistan has modified the election schedule for the third phase of polling in Sindh and Punjab local elections to take place December 5th. In a Bloomberg interview, Afghan minister of mines Daud Saba says that mining revenues this year will only amount to around $30 million, far less than initially projected. The Afghan electricity utility DABS has begun cutting off power to defaulters after months of warnings, including several high-profile political figures.

Pakistan — Security

  • Ashura Security: On Thursday, the government declared October 23 and 24 public holidays and finalized security plans across the country for Ashura processions held by members of Pakistan’s Shia community. Cell phone service will be disrupted on the 24th in Punjab. Police in Multan report that procession organizers have received death threats from the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan. At a press conference on Wednesday, a coalition of Shia parties warned against any restrictions on the mourning processions under new hate speech restrictions introduced as part of the National Action Plan against terrorism. [ET] [ET]
  • FATA Operations: In a statement on Wednesday, Pakistani military officials claim to have killed 21 militants in airstrikes in the Khyber Agency’s Tirah Valley area; no further details were released.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Sharif on US Visit: Prime Minister Sharif met with Secretary Kerry on Wednesday; Pakistani press coverage of their meeting suggests that Sharif focused his discussions on alleged interference by Indian intelligence services within Pakistan, and he is reported to have shared a dossier of evidence backing up these claims with Kerry. Afterwards, Sharif addressed a session of the US-Pakistan Business Council, touting improvements in the country’s internal security and inviting greater foreign investment. During meetings with U.S. senators on Wednesday afternoon, Sharif suggested that the U.S. was the “most relevant” third party to intervene in mediating the Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan. Sharif will meet Pres. Obama on Thursday; Reuters reports that he will tell Obama that Pakistan will not accept restrictions on its tactical nuclear weapons as part of a prospective agreement that would allow Pakistan greater access to the Nuclear Suppliers Group; speaking at an Islamabad conference on Wednesday, the director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Affairs section of Pakistan’s Strategic Plans Division also said that “the cost that is being suggest is too high” for Pakistan. The NYT reports that Pres. Obama nonetheless plans to “raise the issue at length”. An anonymous Pakistani security official suggests that Pakistan is pursuing sea-based “second strike” capabilities; a new report on Wednesday by the Federation of American Scientists estimates that Pakistan has expanded its nuclear arsenal from 110 to 130 warheads, with Pakistan projected to hold the fifth-largest nuclear by 2025. Meanwhile, the WSJ reports that Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif will be visiting Washington next month, and notes that he has largely eclipsed the civilian government in terms of decision-making on security policy. Beyond nuclear talks, the NYT indicates that Sharif and Obama’s talks will focus on the stalled Afghan settlement process. The White House is reportedly prepared to authorize the sale of eight F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan, although the deal could potentially be blocked by Congress. The LA Times reports that the administration plans to announce $70 million in aid aimed at doubling girls’ school enrollment, through additional teacher recruitment and school infrastructure upgrade. Earlier on Wednesday, the US Overseas Private Investment Corporation signed a ten-year, $250 million financing agreement with Karachi Electric to upgrade its transmission and distribution network. [AFP] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Elections and Other Political Activity: On Wednesday, the Election Commission official announced changes to the schedule for the third phase of local government elections in Sindh and Punjab, which have now been set for December 5. Sindh provincial officials have requested the deployment of army and paramilitary forces for the first phase of polling, which begins October 31. In a ruling on Wednesday, the ECP reasserted its authority to review and scrutinize party funding, rejecting a PTI challenge against an investigation into allegations that it had broken campaign finance laws and received foreign funding. During meetings with the head of the PML-N Youth Wing, Muhammad Safdar, the leaders of two rival Faisalabad factions affiliated with Law Minister Rana Sanaullah and former mayor Chaudhry Sher Ali pledged that they would cooperate during the upcoming local elections. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET]
  • Corruption Investigations: At a meeting of the National Accountability Bureau’s executive board on Wednesday, officials approved new investigations against Pir Mazharul Haq, a former Sindh education minister and senior PPP leader, on charges of making 13,000 illegal teacher appointments. Probes were alos approved against former federal communication minister Arbab Alamgir Khan and former national assembly member Asma Alamgir. In a statement, former Pres. Zardari warned of “dangerous implications” if the NAB continued to pursue “party-specific accountability”. Former Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani appeared for a court hearing in Karachi on Thursday in connection to multiple corruption charges against him; afterwards, he and lawyer Farooq Naeek dismissed the cases against him as “political victimization”.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Sindh Rangers Announce Arrest of 17 [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Army Deployment in Islamabad Extended for Three Months [Dawn]
  • Ministry of Industries Proposes Reversing Privatization Plans for Heavy Electrical Complex [ET]
  • Election Commissions Restores Membership of 58 Lawmakers After Asset Declarations [Dawn] [ET]
  • Commentary: A Nuclear Deal: Need or Prestige? – “Because Pakistani nuclear policymakers are concerned that India will be ushered in and Pakistan forever locked out of global nuclear governance and that Pakistan will perpetually be subordinated in the global nuclear order, nuclear policymakers here are not likely to shut the door on talks with the US.” [Cyril Almeida, Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Attacks and Operations: On Wednesday, Ministry of Interior spokesmen insisted that they had “sound plans” in place to curtail Taliban operations around the country, saying that “night raids will be increased and we will use more special forces and we will involve them in more operations”. Reuters notes a long-standing Taliban presence in the Deh Sabz district outlying Kabul, although district officials suggest that they do not pose a direct threat to the capital. Officials in Jawzjan claim to have killed at least 15 fighters after launching operations in the Khamab district following the arrival of Vice President Dostum to head up the security response in the north; in a phone interview with TOLO, Dostum claimed to have cleared the district of Taliban fighters and suggested he would move on to Faryab and Kunduz as soon as Pres. Ghani authorized him to do so. Also on Wednesday, the Taliban attacked an Afghan Border Police checkpost in the Spin Boldak district in Kandahar, killing two police officers. On Thursday, the district governor of Ghazni’s Jaghato district, Mohammad Dawoud Gulistani, was killed in a Taliban ambush. Elsewhere, a spokesman for the 209th Army Corps claimed that the Taliban’s shadow deputy governor for Faryab had been killed in an airstrike in the Qaisar district. In Kunduz, the Post reports that the Taliban’s destruction of government offices and infrastructure, schools, and other facilitites has slowed recovery efforts after the Taliban’s withdrawal; the Taliban are reported to still be in control of the Chardara district southwest of the city. [TOLO] [Pajhwok]

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Mining Revenues: In a Bloomberg interview, Afghan Minister of Mines and Petroleum Daud Saba says that the Afghan government currently projects that it will earn only around $30 million in revenues from the mining sector in 2015, down from earlier projections of as much as $1.5 billion; smugglers and Taliban commanders are estimated to being earning four times that amount. Talks with an Indian steel consortium over the Hajigak iron mine have stalled, as has work at the Mes Aynak copper mine.
  • Energy Defaulters Face Cuts: On Wednesday, the Afghan electricity utility Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat announced that it was beginning to shut off power connections for homes and businesses of those who had defaulted on their payments despite months of warnings; among those named as defaulters were several powerful political figures, including former governor Gul Agha Sherzai, Wolesi Jirga Speaker Abdul Rauf Ibrahimi, Kunduz militia commander Haji Mir Alam, and others.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • National Procurements Commission Approves 15 Contracts [Khaama Press]
  • TOLO Launches New Initiative to Track Government Promises [TOLO]
  • Commentary: Surrounding the Cities in Baghlan – “Baghlan-e Jadid district is the Taleban’s second most important stronghold in the whole of the northeast, after Chahrdara district in Kunduz province.” [Gran Heward, AAN]
  • Commentary: The Next Refugee Crisis: Afghanistan – “With the war in Afghanistan heating up, thousands of Afghan refugees are fleeing their country. But Iran and Pakistan, which house most of the Afghan refugees from previous cycles of violence, are increasingly unwelcoming.” [Michael Kugelman, NYT]
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