Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Heart of Asia Conference Opens in Islamabad; Taliban Factions Clash in Herat

Topline

  • The ‘Heart of Asia’ conference of Afghanistan’s regional neighbors opened in Islamabad on Tuesday; Pres. Ghani and Prime Minister Sharif are expected to address the meeting tomorrow. Herat provincial officials report that rival Taliban factions aligned with Mullah Akhtar Mansour and Mullah Abdul Rassoul have been fighting in the Shindand district since Monday, with as many as 50 reportedly dead as of today. The Islamic State’s Khorasan Wilayat released a video on Tuesday dismissing the Taliban as a “deviant” group operating at the behest of the Pakistani intelligence services, and inviting Taliban fighters to join the group. Speaking at a press conference on Monday, Imran Khan charged that local elections in Sindh and Punjab had been “massively rigged” but suggested that the PTI would seek to reorganize and continue to contest future elections. Former minister and PPP leader Asim Hussain charged that he was being tortured in police custody during a court appearance on Monday; his petition for bail was denied.

Pakistan — Security

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Elections: Speaking at a press conference in Islamabad on Monday following a meeting of the PTI’s central executive committee, Imran Khan described the recent local elections in Sindh and Punjab as being “massively rigged”, saying that “had action been taken against those involved in rigging the general elections, the situation could have been different this time”. Khan acknowledged PTI losses but described it as the “only federal party”, and said that the PTI would “reorganise the party and contest future elections in a better way as we have learnt about our weaknesses”. Khan did not specify a timeline for holding intra-party elections, but did appoint regional coordinators for the election. The PTI’s Karachi president, Ali Zaidi, resigned on Monday. Dawn interviews MQM leaders following their victory in Karachi, who tout their supporter’s loyalty despite pressure from the Rangers on the party. The News notes that candidates from the Pakistan Rah-e-Haq party, described as a political front for the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat, secured several seats in Karachi. In Islamabad, the PML-N is reported to have won over at least nine independent union council chairmen, securing the plurality needed to elect the city’s mayor. Dawn reports that 31 councillors-elect in Badin allied with former Sindh home minister Zulfikar Mirza are in hiding in Karachi, apparently awaiting the outcome of four union councils where voting has let to conclude. [ET] [ET] [ET]
  • Corruption Investigations: Speaking before a counterterrorism court on Monday, former minister and PPP leader Dr. Asim Hussain alleged that he was being tortured and forced to make false confessions to police and Rangers, who have held him in detention on corruption and terrorism charges since August. Prosecutors denied the claim, and the presiding judge declined to accept Hussain’s petition seeking an independent inquriy into the charges against him as long as investigations are ongoing. His application for bail was denied and custody extended. [APP]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Tax Revenues: Opposition parties staged a walkout in parliament on Monday to protest the government’s introduction of new tax and customs duties, boycotting an address by Finance Minister Dar arguing the government’s case. Dar insisted that the duties would only impact luxury good imports and were necessary to overcome a Rs 40 billion revenue shortfall. [APP]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Al Huda Foundation Distances Itself from Former Student Tashfeen Malik [Dawn] [NYT] [WSJ] [Reuters] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
  • PML-N Undecided Over Future of Balochistan Chief Minister [ET]
  • Former Army Chief Aslam Beg to Represent Himself in Asghar Khan Case [ET]
  • No Danger from Karachi Nuclear Plant, Former Atomic Energy Commission Head Insists [ET]
  • Gas Supply Reopened to Punjab CNG Stations [Dawn]
  • No Layoffs in PIA Privatization, Finance Minister Pledges [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Taliban Divisions: Herat provincial officials reported Monday that as many as 11 Taliban fighters had been killed in clashes in the Shindand district between rival factions allied with movement leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour and dissident commander Mullah Abdul Rassoul; the latter group is reported to currently have the upper hand, according to the Herat provincial police chief’s assessment. Fighting is reported to have intensified on Tuesday, with as many as 50 fighters reportedly dead. On Tuesday, a video issued by the ISIS Wilayat Khorasan regional affiliate accused the Taliban of being a “deviant group” fighting on behalf of the Pakistani intelligence service, telling Taliban fighters that “the doors of the Islamic State is open for you”. Speaking at Monday’s meeting of the Council of Ministers, Chief Executive Abdullah estimated that Mullah Akhtar Mansour had likely been wounded in clashes between Taliban commanders last week, despite Mansour’s denial; Abdullah also emphasized Mansour’s presence in Pakistan. Speaking at a press conference later in the day, Pres. Ghani said that there was “no evidence that Mullah Mansour might have been killed” but that the incident should be “carefully analyzed”.
  • Attacks and Operations: At least two Taliban gunmen were killed and two police officers injured in an attack on a police station in Kandahar city on Monday. On Monday evening, unidentified gunmen are reported to have aborted an attack on political analyst Jawed Kohistani after intervention from neighbors; details are limited and Kohistani is unhurt. A Predator drone strike in Nangarhar’s Khogyani district reportedly killed 11 militant suspects on Tuesday.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Heart of Asia Conference Opens: A two-day conference of Afghanistan’s regional neighbors opened on Tuesday in Islamabad with remarks by and meetings amongst senior officials; Pres. Ghani and Prime Minister Sharif will attend and give speeches on the second day. Speaking at a press conference on Monday, Ghani said that Afghanistan had been engaged in “undeclared war” with Pakistan for the past 14 years, and that ” negotiations with Pakistan would be more effective than sitting-in for peace talks with the Taliban group.” Prime Minister Sharif and Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif met with other top officials on Tuesday to discuss Pakistan’s stance on Afghanistan ahead of the conference. Speaking at the conference opening, Pakistani foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz vowed that Pakistan would “continue to support all endeavours aimed at strengthening peace and security in Afghanistan.” Afghan deputy foreign minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai emphasized the terrorist threat facing Afghanistan and the “urgency for a united position against this evil phenomenon.” Indian foreign minister Sushma Swaraj departed for the conference on Tuesday, and is expected to hold parallel bilateral talks with Aziz tomorrow. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Khaama Press] [TOLO] [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • TAPI Groundbreaking: Leaders from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India are expected to attend a groundbreaking ceremony in Turkmenistan next week for the start of work on the prospective TAPI gas pipeline project, which is scheduled to begin December 13.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • German Defense Minister Visits Mazar-e-Sharif [TOLO]
  • At Least 130 Ministry of Interior Officials Referred for Graft Charges This Year [Pajhwok]
  • ADB Approves Ten-Year, $1.2 B Energy Security Project [Khaama Press]
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