Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Ghani Appoints New Interior Minister; PPP Walks Back Zardari Remarks on COAS Extension

Topline

  • Pres. Ghani announced the appointment of Herat 207th ANA Corps commander Maj. Gen. Taj Mohammad Jahid as the new interior minister, and Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission deputy director Mohammad Farid Hamidi as attorney general; outgoing interior minister Noor ul Haq Uloomi has been appointed ambassador to the Netherlands. Indian officials say they are still “awaiting details” of Pakistan’s investigations into the Pathankot Airbase attack. Prime Minister Sharif chaired a meeting of the nuclear National Command Authority on Wednesday, which noted with concern “the growing conventional and strategic weapons’ development in the region”. Taliban sources tell the Express Tribune that they have received “nothing officially” regarding participation in talks with the Afghan government, although a leader of the Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin said that his group had received an invite and was considering participation in talks. PPP officials, and former Pres. Zardari himself, insisted that a statement attributed to him yesterday suggesting the need for an extension in Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif’s tenure was not accurate and not representative of the party’s position. Other anonymous PPP sources contradict that, however, and at least one party member has introduced a resolution in the Punjab assembly calling for a tenure extension. Prime Minister Sharif has recommended the appointment of PML-N secretary general Iqbal Zafar Jhagra as governor of Khyber Paktunkhwa. Security officials in Jowzjan claim that hundreds of Taliban fighters have fled the area after the arrival of Vice President Dostum to head military operations.

Pakistan — Security

  • Tensions with India: A spokesman for India’s ministry of external affairs said Wednesday that India was “await[ing] details” of Pakistan’s investigations into the Pathankot Airbase attack as well as a visit by a Pakistani investigation team to India; the statement did not clarify when such a visit might take place. Additionally on Wednesday, Prime Minister Sharif chaired a meeting of the nuclear National Command Authority, which “took note of the growing conventional and strategic weapons’ development in the region”. The meeting also expressed a desire for “meaningful and sustainable comprehensive dialogue” with India. At a weekly press briefing on Thursday, Pakistani’s foreign ministry spokesman said that “Pakistan seeks peace in the region and is therefore against any arms race.” Separately, the Sindh Rangers arrested three accused hitmen affiliated with the MQM in Karachi, who are alleged to have received training from the Indian intelligence service RAW. [ET] [ET]
  • Military Courts: On Wednesday, a five-member Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali moved to consolidate all cases pending before the court regarding appeals against convictions issued by the military court system, setting hearings for next week. Asma Jahangir, a lawyer for several convicts, argued that her clients had been denied their right to a fair trial, as details of their hearings and the judgements against them had not been released, and they were not afforded legal representation.
  • Seminaries Under Scrutiny: Minister of State for Interior Balighur Rehman told the National Assembly on Wednesday that the government has shut down 254 “suspected and unregistered” madrassahs around the country since the formulation of the National Action Plan, the majority of them in Sindh.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Mixed Messages From PPP Over Zardari Remarks: In an interview with GEO TV on Wednesday, former Pres. Zardari refuted a statement attributed to him earlier in the day that had praised Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif and suggested he should stay on past the expiration of his tenure in November. PPP leader Qamar Zaman Kaira tells Dawn that the statement “was not released from our official channel,” although anonymous party sources contradict that. A PPP member in the Punjab assembly, Khurram Wattoo, has introduced a measure calling for an extension for Sharif, however. [ET]
  • Other Political Activity: Prime Minister Sharif’s office announced on Wednesday his recommendation that Pres. Mamnoon Hussain appoint PML-N leader Iqbal Zafar Jhagra as governor of Khyber Paktunkhwa province. Jhagra is the secretary general of the PML-N and currently a senator from Islamabad. Imran Khan headlined a rally of PTI supporters in the town of Kotli in Azad Jammu and Kashmir on Wednesday, denouncing Prime Minister Sharif and former Pres. Zardari for corruption. [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Census Delay: Chief Census Commissioner Asif Bajwa told the senate finance committee on Wednesday that it would not be possible to conduct a census within the next two months and that the next best available time to do so would be in September or October. He said that “unless the military can provide the required number of troops, the census will have to be delayed for some time,” and that the census could not be conducted in phases, as doing so would produce distortions in the count based on population movements.
  • Polio Crisis: Two children have died in Faisalabad this week and are believed to have been suffering from polio symptoms, Dawn reports; lab work is underway to determine the nature of their illness.

Pakistan — Remainders
Supreme Court Reserves Verdict on Former Chief Justice’s Plea in Musharraf Treason Case [Dawn] [ET]
Benazir Bhutto Murder Case Probes ISI Report of Mehsud Phone Intercept [ET]
Karachi Police Arrest Garbage Activist [Dawn] [ET]
Travel Restrictions Imposed on Blasphemy Suspect [ET]
Three Killed in Rangers Shootout [Dawn]
PIA Unions Seek Disclosure of Government Privatization Plans [Dawn]
Prime Minister Launches National Health Program in Muzaffarabad [Dawn] [ET]
Senate Finance Committee Investigating Eurobond Issue [ET]
Why Do So Many Children Drop Out of Pakistani Schools? [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security
Attacks and Operations: Security officials in the Qosh Tapa district in Jowzjan claim that hundreds of Taliban fighters have fled the area after the arrival of Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum. Two de-miners were reportedly injured after being stopped at a Taliban checkpoint in Zabul’s Shinkay district on Wednesday evening. Officials in Ghazni’s Andar district report that as many as eight Taliban militants were killed when their explosives detonated prematurely as they were assembling a bomb at a mosque on Wednesday evening. TOLO quotes a group of ten former Daesh fighters in Nangarhar’s Nazyan district who allege that they were financed and supported by the Pakistani military. [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy
Interior Minister Replaced: On Wednesday, Pres. Ghani announced the appointment of a new interior minister, reappointing outgoing minister Noor ul Haq Uloomi as ambassador to the Netherlands. Major General Taj Mohammad Jahid, who currently commands the Afghan National Army’s 207th Corps in Herat, was named as his replacement. Additionally, Ghani nominated the deputy director of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, Mohammad Farid Hamidi, as attorney general, a position that has been vacant to date. Both nominations require parliamentary confirmation.
Taliban Talks: Pres. Ghani’s office issued a statement on Wednesday calling on “all armed groups to use this opportunity to choose a life free of war and violence” and to participate in Pakistani-brokered talks planned for as early as next week. Prime Minister Sharif met with visiting Wolesi Jirga speaker Abdul Rauf Ibrahimi on Thursday, welcoming the prospect of talks as “progress in the right direction”. National Security Advisor Hanif Atmar warned on Wednesday that “peace doors will not remain open to the armed opposition forever and if they do not join the peace process we will ask three countries to take action against them.” Russia’s special envoy to Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov, also urged the Taliban to take part in peace talks. The Taliban’s spokesman tells the Express Tribune that “we’ve not received anything officially” regarding talks with the Afghan government and “we only heard it from the media”. Anonymous Taliban sources object to references in the Quadrilateral Coordination Group’s statements to multiple Taliban groups. Ghairat Baheer, the son-in-law of Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, tells the Express Tribune that HIG has received a formal invitation to participate in talks, and “we are considering the offer”.

Afghanistan — Remainders
IEC Belatedly Announces Results of 2014 Presidential Elections [TOLO]

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