Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: New Committee to Consider FATA Merger; Hostages Reportedly Freed as Zabul Clashes Continue


  • Prime Minister Sharif has tasked a committee headed by foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz to review proposals for the merger of the FATA with Khyber Paktunkhwa, a move opposed by some FATA legislators who say it is intended to delay consideration of a constitutional amendment proposal for the merger that has been endorsed by most major political parties. Demonstrations were held in Ghazni on Tuesday as the bodies of seven Hazara kidnapping victims, at least some reportedly beheaded, were repatriated from Zabul; the National Directorate of Security intelligence agency denied reports that the Taliban had been involved in freeing eight Hazara hostages on Tuesday, but fighters loyal to Taliban commander Mullah Akhtar Mansour continue to clash with a splinter faction led locally by Mullah Mansour Dadullah, who some sources have linked to the Islamic State and the kidnappings. Prime Minister Sharif chaired a review of the implementation of the National Action Plan on counter-terrorism on Monday, where concerns were again raised about progress in curtailing terrorism financing, among other steps. Pres. Ghani met with the Chinese special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan on Monday, where he called for Pakistan to “show their cooperation and sincerity in fighting terrorism“. Following meetings between Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and the EU’s ambassador to Pakistan, interior ministry sources now suggest that Pakistan may reverse its suspension of deportation agreements with the European Union. A ceremony will be held in Gwadar on Wednesday for the transfer of more than 2200 acres of land to the Chinese port management firm, for use as a new free trade zone.

Pakistan — Security

  • Counterterrorism Response: Prime Minister Sharif chaired a meeting of senior military and civilian officials on Monday to review the government’s progress in implementing the National Action Plan on counter-terrorism; details of the meeting are limited, but Dawn reports that it raised concerns over poor performance in curtailing terrorist financing, hate speech, and in cracking down on banned organizations, among others. In Khyber Paktunkhwa, at least 10,000 people have been arrested and 22,000 detained since the passage of the National Action Plan in December 2014. Meanwhile, three people were injured in a grenade attack at a Shia mosque in Karachi’s North Nazimabad neighborhood on Monday evening; the attack follows a driveby shooting on Sunday evening that left at least one person dead and as many as three wounded. In Peshawar, officials reported the arrest of an Afghan national charged with recruiting for the Islamic State. [ET]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • FATA Reforms: On Sunday, Prime Minister Sharif tasked foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz and four other senior officials, including minister for states and frontier regions Abdul Qadir Baloch, Khyber Paktunkhwa governor Sardar Mehtab Khan Abbasi, national security advisor Lt. Gen. Nasser Khan Janjua, and legal advisor Zahid Hamid, to determine whether the Federally Administered Tribal Areas should be merged with Khyber Paktunkhwa or made into a separate province. FATA legislators have put forward a constitutional amendment for the merger, and have received backing from all major political parties. Akhunzada Chitan, the head of the FATA Political Parties Alliance and a senior PPP leader, rejected the committee’s formation as a delaying tactic by the government, although other FATA legislators have voiced support. [Dawn]
  • Deportation Agreement: Following Friday’s announcement by Interior Minister Chaudhyr Nisar Ali Khan of the suspension of deportation and repatriation agreements with Europe, Chaudhry Nisar met with the EU ambassador to Pakistan, Jean Francois Cautain; interior ministry sources tell Dawn that a review of the suspension is likely, and that “top EU officials have promised to address Pakistan’s concerns”.
  • Elections and Other Political Activity: Election Commission secretary Babar Yaqoob Fateh Mohammad briefed reporters on Monday about preparations for the second phase of local elections in Sindh, where approximately 5,000 out of the 7,000 polling stations have been declared either “sensitive” or “very sensitive”; 51,000 police personnel supplemented by the army and Rangers will provide polling security. Sindh opposition parties met with the ECP on Monday, complaining that the ruling PPP was “conspiring and exploiting its position” ahead of the polls. In Islamabad, the Jamaat-e-Islami and PML-N failed to reach an agreement on a seat adjustment plan and have decide to contest polls separately. On Monday, the PTI filed a petition with the Islamabad High Court seeking access to ECP server data in order to prepare registered voter lists. The Express Tribune reports tension within the PTI after the expulsion of Amjad Afridi, previously an advisor to Khyber Paktunkhwa chief minister Pervaiz Khattak for sports, culture, and museums, over charges of misconduct in the local elections. Meanwhile, PTI Punjab organizer Chaudhry Sarwar has written to the interior ministry requesting additional security, following the seizure of his private security guards’ weapons on the October 31st election day. [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • China Pakistan Economic Corridor Projects: The Vice Chairman of China’s National Development and Reform Commission, Wang Xiaodao, will headline a ceremony on November 11 to mark the transfer of 2,281 acres of land around the Gwadar port to the Chinese Overseas Ports Holding Company Ltd, for use as a free trade zone. [ET] [Dawn]
  • Earthquake Response: On Monday, the National Disaster Management Authority reported that 280 people, including 75 women and 94 children, had died in the October 26 earthquake epicentered in Badakhshan; the majority of the deaths occurred in Khyber Paktunkhwa province and the FATA. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Navy and Air Force Chiefs Observe Sea Spark Exercise [APP]
  • British Customs Seize £900,000 from British Pakistani with Links to Pakistani Politicians [ET]
  • JUI-F Denounces Ban on New Seminaries in Sukkur [Dawn]
  • Shahbaz Sharif Charges Imran Khan with Disrupting Aid to Farmers [ET]
  • Sindh Seeks to Put Cost of Maintaining Karachi Bus Line on Federal Government [Dawn]
  • Orakzai Elders’ Protests Postpone Polio Drive [Dawn]
  • Balochistan Cuts Funding for 650 ‘Ghost Schools’ [Dawn]
  • Senate Drops VIP Facilities Resolution [Dawn]
  • Commentary: Halfway to the 2018 General Election – “Having survived the dharna, and having been blessed with a neutered PPP, a toothless MQM, a voterless Jamaat-e-Islami, and a humbled PTI, the prime minister would be deeply mistaken to think that he and his party enjoy a seamless path to securing power once again in 2018.” [Mosharraf Zaidi, The News]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Zabul Clashes: Some of the bodies of seven Hazaras found dead in Zabul’s Arghandab district on Saturday — after being kidnapped more than a month prior by militants believed to be affiliated with the Islamic State — were beheaded, reports indicate, prompting denunciations from Pres. Ghani and demonstrations in Ghazni by as many as two thousand Hazara protestors on Tuesday. Some local accounts suggest that Taliban fighters loyal to Mullah Akhtar Mansour in Zabul had killed eight militants responsible for the beheadings, and had freed seven surviving hostages originally kidnapped in February from the Shah Joy district in Zabul. Those accounts have not been confirmed, but on Tuesday the National Directorate of Security announced that eight people out of 12 remaining captives from that group had been freed, and denied that the Taliban had any role in the rescue. The Arghandab district governor tells Khaama Press that the militants responsible for the recent beheadings “originally belonged to the Islamic State terror group but had recently joined the Taliban ranks”; a rival Taliban faction led by Mullah Mohammad Rasool, and locally commander by Mullah Mansour Dadullah, has clashed with Mansour-led Taliban over the past weekend, and has been accused of allying with ISIS fighters. The NYT reports that Uzbek commanders allied with Dadullah had surrendered to Mansour’s forces as of Monday; on Tuesday, Kandahar police officials reported that the Taliban’s shadow governor and top military commander for Zabul had been killed in a suicide bombing carried out by the Islamic State, but this account has not been confirmed.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Ghani Meets Chinese Envoy: Pres. Ghani met with Deng Xijun, China’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, on Monday; a statement from the presidential office said that Ghani “commended the efforts of China towards development and progress of Afghanistan and ensuring security in the country and region” and “underscored that the government of Pakistan should take action against the terrorist groups that declare war against the people of Afghanistan and by doing that show their cooperation and sincerity in fighting terrorism and ensuring lasting peace in Afghanistan”. [Khaama Press] [Dawn] [ET]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Afghans Arriving in Germany May Find the Welcome is Wearing Thin [NYT]
  • Nangarhar University Students Demonstrate, Adopting Taliban and Daesh Flags [TOLO]
  • Three Policemen Killed in Uruzgan Checkpost Attack [Pajhwok]
  • Commentary: US Hospital Strike Looking More Like a War Crime – “The case draws attention to a blurring of lines between NATO’s non-combat and the US military’s more shadowy counter-terrorism missions and how dangerous this may be for humanitarians and other civilians.” [Kate Clark, AAN]

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