Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: PPP and PML-N Consolidate Wins in Local Elections; Indian Helicopter Transfer Expected Soon

Topline

  • Polling has concluded for the second phase of local elections in Sindh and Punjab; preliminary results suggest that the incumbent parties at the provincial level continued to secure most seats in the local-level polls, although candidates affiliated with former Sindh home minister and PPP dissident Zulfikar Mirza are reported to have won a majority of urban wards in Badin. Coinciding with the visit of deputy Afghan foreign minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai, the Indian press reports that the Indian Air Force will transfer four Mi-25 attack helicopters to Afghanistan within the next two months. Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif met with Vice President Biden on Thursday, and with members of the senate intelligence and armed services committees; details of his conversations remain limited. The House intelligence, armed services, and defense appropriations committees are holding inquiries into whether CENTCOM intelligence officials removed negative reports from intelligence assessments on Afghanistan. The government of Pakistan is reportedly planning to amend laws that permit the pardon of murder convicts if the families of the victims express forgiveness, requiring minimum sentences for murder convicts even if death sentences are pardoned. The Asian Development Bank approved a $1.4 billion loan to Pakistan to support electricity metering and transmission upgrades, as well as privatization efforts and tariff subsidy reductions.

Pakistan — Security

  • Chief of Army Staff Meets Biden: Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif met with Vice President Biden on Thursday for discussions on bilateral U.S.-Pakistan relations and the regional security situation; a statement from the Vice President’s office said that Biden “reaffirmed the United States’ interest in building a strong partnership with Pakistan that addresses our shared counterterrorism, economic, and regional security concerns” as well as reaffirming a “commitment to peace in Afghanistan”. Earlier in the day, General Sharif met with members of the U.S. Senate committees for intelligence and armed services. Few details of the discussions during the five-day visit have been provided, although Pakistan’s military spokesmen have described them in generally laudatory terms. [ET] [ET] [BBC]
  • Legal Reforms: Ashtar Ausaf Ali, the special assistant to the prime minister for legal affairs, told the AFP on Thursday that the government plans to introduce legislation to amend legal provisions, justified under Islamic law, that allow acquittals in cases of murder provided the family of the victims expresses “forgiveness”, a condition often invoked through coercion or financial compensation. Under the new proposal, convictions must first be secured before pardon can be considered, and those convicted on murder charges must still serve a minimum of seven years in prison.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Second Phase of Elections Concludes: Preliminary results from the second phase of voting in local elections in Sindh and Punjab suggest a continuation of the first phase’s trend, wherein the ruling party and the provincial level consolidated its power in local-level polling. In Punjab, the PTI again trailed behind the PML-N and behind independent candidates in the number of council seats won, while in Sindh the PPP appears to have secured a majority in all districts save Hyderabad, where the MQM won most seats despite the formation of a 10-party alliance against them, and Badin, where former Sindh home minister Zulfikar Mirza’s group is reported to have won 10 out of 14 urban wards; the PPP is expected to win control of the Badin district council, however. Preliminary reports suggest turnout of around 50% in most Sindh districts, although the Election Commission has yet to release detailed figures. Sporadic incidents of violence and election interference were reported across both Punjab and Sindh, and a Sindh United Party leader was killed in Hyderabad on the eve of polling. Speaking in Charsadda on Thursday, Imran Khan accused the ruling parties in Punjab and Sindh of intervening in the elections through the police; he will campaign in Karachi next week ahead of the third phase of elections. The PTI has petitioned for the army to provide security in Rawalpindi for the third phase, accusing the police of harassing their candidates and pushing them to withdraw from the race. PPP parliamentary opposition leader Khurshid Shah repeated criticisms of the Election Commission’s last-minute court-ordered postponement of polling in 76 local councils in Sindh. [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Corruption Investigations: On Thursday, the National Accountability Bureau approved an investigation against former Khyber Paktunkhwa chief minister and ANP national assembly member Ameer Haider Khan Hoti, on charges of amassing assets beyond his known sources of income. [ET]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Earthquake Relief: Prime Minister Sharif visited Upper Dir on Thursday, where he ordered district administration to complete the distribution of compensation money to those affected by the October earthquake no later than November 25, and also announced new road construction plans linking Chakdara and Chitral. [Dawn]
  • Energy Crisis: On Friday, the Asian Development Bank approved a $1.4 billion loan to support electricity metering and central billing systems designed to curtail power theft and improve Pakistan’s electricity transmission system, as well as budgetary support conditional on further cuts in tariff subsidies and privatization commitments. Meanwhile, a new USAID study estimates that Pakistan possesses as much as 200 trillion cubic feet of recoverable shale gas. [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Lal Masjid Cleric’s Son-in-Law Under Detention; Police Seek to Deter Protests [Dawn]
  • At Least 300 Executed in Past 11 Months, But Death Row Figures Unclear [ET]
  • Three Rangers Killed in Karachi Attack [Dawn] [ET]
  • Soldier Killed in Mashkay Attack [Dawn] [ET]
  • Interior Minister Meets Russian Counternarcotics Official [Dawn]
  • Current Account Deficit Shrinks as Imports and Exports Fall [ET]
  • Interview: Imran Khan Sees His Vindication [NYT]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Indian Attack Helicopter Transfer: Deputy foreign minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai visited India on Wednesday for meetings with Indian external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj; he met with Congress party vice president Rahul Gandhi on Thursday. The Indian press reports that four Mi-25 attack helicopters, originally floated during a visit to India by National Security Advisor Hanif Atmar last month, will be transferred to Afghanistan from the Indian Air Force within the next two months.
  • Afghanistan Intelligence Assessments Under Scrutiny: Foreign Policy reports that the House intelligence committee, armed services committee, and defense appropriations subcommittee plan to hold joint hearings investigating allegations that CENTCOM officials manipulated or shaped intelligence findings about the state of the Afghanistan conflict. A parallel inspector general investigation is also underway.
  • Attacks and Operations: A spokesman for the Badakhshan provincial governor confirmed on Thursday that Taliban fighters had taken control of the Yamgan district headquarters the day prior, but said that reinforcements were being dispatched to retake the area. It is the second time in the past six months that the Taliban have taken hold of Yamgan. On Friday, militants affiliated with the Islamic State attacked a checkpost in the Achin district, injuring at least three soldiers; 12 attackers are reported to have been killed. In a statement on Thursday, the NDS claimed to have detained a Taliban commander who had fought in the offensive to take Kunduz city last month.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Ex-Kabul Bank CEO’s Deals Under Scrutiny: Speaking to TOLO on Thursday, spokesmen for the Finance Ministry said that they did not act on a letter by former Ghani legal advisor Abdul Ali Mohammadi, in which he is alleged to have pushed the government to contract for gas supply from former Kabul Bank CEO Khalillulah Frozi.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • In Afghanistan, A Series of Attacks on Americans During ‘Non-Combat’ Operations [WAPO]
  • Zabul Kidnapping Survivor Describes Ordeal [AFP]
  • Opposition Leaders Criticize National Unity Government [TOLO]
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