Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Protests in Kabul Over Zabul Killings; Reinvestigation Ordered in Musharraf Treason Trial

Topline

  • Large demonstrators were held in Kabul on Tuesday and Wednesday after the bodies of seven Hazaras kidnapped and found dead in Zabul were carried to the city; a predominantly but not exclusively Hazara crowd demanded justice and security from the government. Pres. Ghani has tasked a delegation headed by Second Vice President Mohammad Sarwar Danish to visit Ghazni and investigate the incident. Presidential palace guards are reported to have fired on crowds attempting to breach the palace grounds, wounding eight. On Tuesday, the Islamabad High Court overturned a special court ruling that additional “abettors”, including the former prime minister and chief justice, should be tried alongside former Pres. Musharraf on treason charges related to the suspension of the constitution in 2007; the IHC ordered new investigations instead, a ruling both the government and Musharraf’s lawyers have embraced. RFE/RL reports that Baloch Republican Party leader Barhumdagh Bugti is “months away” from returning to Pakistan as part of negotiations begun over the summer with Balochistan Chief Minister Abdul Malik Baloch; speaking earlier this week to the BBC, Bugti suggested that Baloch lacked the full authority needed to negotiate, however. Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif chaired a meeting of corps commanders on Tuesday, at which the military noted continued concerns over a lack of “matching and complementing governance initiatives” by the civilian government. In remarks to TOLO on Tuesday, Afghanistan’s minister of urban development laid blame for the “Smart City” development agreement between his ministry and former Kabul Bank CEO Khalilullah Frozi on Pres. Ghani’s legal advisor, Abdul Ali Mohammadi. The PPP has reportedly secured nearly 70% of the more than 3,500 local council seats contested in Sindh during the first phase of local elections held last month. Speaking in Qatar on Tuesday, Pakistan’s petroleum and natural resources minister indicated that an agreement had been reached for the import of liquefied natural gas, costing $16 billion over the next 15 years.

Pakistan — Security

  • Baloch Leader Considering Return to Pakistan: RFE/RL reports that Barhumdagh Bugti, the leader of the Baloch Republican Party and the grandson of the late Nawab Akbar Khan Bguti, is “months away” from returning to Pakistan as part of ongoing negotiations with Balochistan provincial government officials. Government sources suggest that “we have reached agreement on 90 percent of the issues” following talks between Bugti and Chief Minister Abdul Malik Baloch in Switzerland over the summer. Bugti did not comment for the report, but earlier this week told the BBC that Baloch lacked the authority necessary to negotiate; he endorsed the use of “political means” to resolve the dispute in interviews earlier this summer. A government source suggests that Bugti will receive millions of dollars in natural gas royalties as part of the agreement. [ET] [AFP]
  • Security Review: Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif chaired a corps commanders meeting on Tuesday, at which military spokesmen indicate he “underlined the need for matching and complementing governance initiatives” to work alongside military operations. The meeting also noted concern over the slow pace of investigations of terrorism cases by joint investigation teams, and FATA reforms. The meeting precedes Sharif’s trip to Washington next week, and follows a civil-military security review on Monday, at which military officials reportedly criticized the government’s progress in implementing National Action Plan measures to curtail terrorist financing, among other steps. PTI and PPP opposition leaders highlighted the military’s statement in criticisms of the ruling PML-N on Wednesday.
  • Punjab Law Minister Under Scrutiny: Dawn reports that Punjab police are planning to interview Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah in connection to multiple murders carried out Naveed, alias “Commando”, a gunman who has alleged he worked at Sanaullah’s direction.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Islamabad High Court Orders Reinvestigation in Musharraf Treason Case: On Tuesday, the Islamabad High Court nullified a verdict by a special court, which had ordered the broadening of treason investigations against former Pres. Musharraf in connection to the 2007 suspension of the constitution, to include former Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz and former Supreme Court Chief Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar, among others. Aziz, Dogar, and former law minister Zahid Hamid had challenged that ruling, and the Islamabad High Court ruled on Tuesday that the case be reinvestigated. No timeline for that investigation appears to have been specified, and lawyers for Musharraf and the government appear to disagree in their interpretation of whether or not his role is also subject to reinvestigation. [ET] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Arrests Following Badin Clashes: On Tuesday, the Sindh Rangers arrested two PPP district council-level leaders as well as at least three armed party activists in the Badin district, following an attack hours earlier on the vehicle of former Sindh Home Minister and PPP dissident Zulfikar Mirza. Mirza, who was unhurt, blamed PPP legislators Kamal Khan and Sain Bux Jamali, among others, for the attack; Jamali in turn blames Mirza supporters for firing on his farmhouse.
  • Election Complaints and Other Political Activity: As of Tuesday, unofficial results from the first phase of local elections in eight Sindh districts indicate that the PPP secured nearly 70% of the 3,502 seats being contested; independent candidates won 654 seats and the PML-F 212. Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan rejected PTI charges that the National Database and Registration Authority had transferred voter registrations from the NA-122 Lahore constituency to adjacent constituencies in order to manipulate the outcome of the October special election to fill the seat. Chaudhry Nisar touted what he said was improved performance by NADRA, and noted the suspension of more than 200 employees of the agency as part of anti-corruption drives. [ET] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Energy Crisis: Reuters reports that the federal government is shifting its priority from large-scale generation projects — many of which have struggled to take off — to new transmission systems, privatization, and other management reforms. On Tuesday, Prime Minister Sharif inaugurated a 1,223MW liquefied natural gas-fired power plant in Kasur, due to be completed by 2017. Speaking in Qatar on Tuesday, Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said that a 15-year, $16 billion agreement had been finalized for the annual import of 1.5 million tons of LNG from Qatar. Meanwhile, the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority approved gas tariff hikes for the Sui Southern and Sui Northern gas utilities to account for gas lost to theft or transmission malfunctions, at an estimated total increase of Rs 67 billion. The Chinese-run solar plant in Bahalwapur has warned that a planned cut in solar tariff rates set for the start of next year will pose a “serious threat to the project”. [ET] [ET]
  • Polio Crisis: On Tuesday, a nationwide polio vaccination drive was launched, targeting 36 million children under the age of five; vaccinations were postponed in quake-affected regions in the northwest. Two new polio cases were registered in Peshawar and the Khyber Agency on Wednesday, bringing the national toll to 40 cases so far this year.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Supreme Judicial Council to Consider Complaints Against Two Lahore High Court Judges [Dawn] [ET]
  • PML-N Lawmaker Resigns Over Slow Earthquake Relief [ET]
  • Prime Minister Visits Karachi to Observe Naval Exercise [Dawn]
  • Punjab Government Releases Rs 364 Million for Sharif Family Security [ET]
  • Quetta Journalist Detained, Released by Security Services [Dawn] [ET]
  • Pakistan and Belarus Sign 18 Agreements [ET]
  • National Assembly Speaker Meets with Prime Minister [Dawn]
  • National Accountability Board Reviews Regional Bureau Performance [ET]
  • Remittances for July-October Period Rise 5.2% [ET]
  • Senate Questions ‘Unrealistic’ Tax Targets [ET]
  • Rescue and Recovery Operations Continue at Collapsed Lahore Factory [ET] [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Police Recruitment: A statement by the presidential palace on Tuesday following meetings between Pres. Ghani and senior police commanders voiced support for “simplifying the procedure to recruit the youth into military and police forces,” without further details.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Protests Over Hazara Killings: The bodies of seven Hazaras found dead in Zabul over the weekend after being kidnapped in Ghazni months earlier were transported from Ghazni to Kabul on Tuesday, where a predominantly Hazara group of protestors demonstrated, accusing the government of neglecting their security and demanding action. The protest follow earlier demonstrations in Ghazni. The exact circumstances of the victim’s kidnapping, and the identities of their captors and murders, remains disputed and unclear, although most accounts attribute the incident to ISIS-affiliated militants in Zabul, which some accounts suggest are Uzbek nationals previously sheltering in Waziristan. Demonstrations continued in Kabul and swelled in size on Wednesday; no precise crowd estimates have been reported but accounts suggest that the demonstrations have drawn in a wide range of participants, including women and other ethnic groups, and have been one of the largest such demonstrations in recent history. A group of protestors issued a list of demands to the government, including the formation of a dedicated Afghan National Army unit tasked with securing Hazara-majority areas, an increase in police force members, and “proper clearance operations” to target those responsible for the kidnappings and killings. Pres. Ghani’s spokesman said that a delegation headed by Second Vice President Mohammad Sarwar Danish would travel to Ghazni to investigate the incident; the UN, US, and other officials have condemned the killings, which the UN said could constitute a war crime. Chief Executive Abdullah’s deputy spokesman, Asif Ashna, resigned on Wednesday over what he said was negligence in the killings. Security forces near the presidential palace are reported to have fired on protestors who allegedly were attempting to enter palace grounds, which TOLO reports wounded at least eight people. [Reuters] [BBC] [AFP] [TOLO] [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • Smart City Project Under Scrutiny: In comments to TOLO, Minister of Urban Development Sayed Sadat Mansoor Naderi, whose ministry’s partnership with former Kabul Bank CEO Khalilullah Frozi has drawn criticism, forcing a cancellation order by the president, attributes the project’s origins to Pres. Ghani’s legal advisor, Abdul Ali Mohammadi, who appeared alongside Frozi at the project’s inauguration ceremony and has defended the agreement as a means to generate the profits needed to repay Frozi’s Kabul Bank-related debts.
  • Regional Diplomacy: Acting U.S. Special Representative Laurel Miller arrived in Pakistan and met with the prime minister’s special assistant on foreign affairs, Tariq Fatemi, on Wednesday, for discussions focused on Afghan peace talks. Afghan national security advisor Hanif Atmar arrived in Brussels on Wednesday to meet with NATO leaders and European Union diplomats ahead of a NATO foreign minister’s meeting next month that will focus on Afghanistan. Pres. Ghani will attend the opening ceremony of the TAPI gas pipeline in Turkmenistan in December.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • NDS Reports Arrest of Three Haqqani Militants in Khost [Khaama Press]
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