Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Gen. Nicholson Finalizing Security Review; Sindh Chief Minister Slams Development Budget

Topline

  • U.S. and NATO commander Gen. John Nicholson is finalizing his review of the security situation in Afghanistan and will present it to officials in Washington soon, his spokesman tells the Post; White House officials say Pres. Obama is “open to possible modifications” of the current mission. A separate report notes that troops deployment restrictions have forced the Army to rely on civilian contractors to provide maintenance support to combat aviation brigades deployed in Afghanistan. Kunduz provincial police officials report two of ten remaining hostages were killed by suspected Taliban kidnappers, and their bodies transferred. Another 17 people are reported to have been detained in a separate bus kidnapping incident in Sar-e-Pul; the Taliban have not commented on either case. Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah denounced Monday’s meeting of the National Economic Council and the forthcoming fiscal year’s Public Sector Development Program budget, which allocates only Rs 12.05 billion out of Rs 800 billion total for projects in Sindh. Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency is continuing to make arrests and conduct investigations into the issuance of Pakistani national identity documents to the late Taliban commander Mullah Akhtar Mansour. The AFP reports from South Waziristan, where “scores” of homes are without roofs to allow for aerial surveillance by the military, and around 30,000 families have yet to return home. Three Afghan aid workers were killed in a shooting in Parwan on Wednesday. Prime Minister Sharif will be discharged from the hospital in another 5-6 days and will return home “in the next three to four weeks,” his daughter said on Wednesday. Afghan officials say they are working to resolve disputes over new Pakistani restrictions on travel through the Torkham border crossing; Afghanistan’s foreign ministry formally protested the search of its Peshawar consul general’s car.

Pakistan — Security

  • Mansour Also Held Residency Permit: Federal Investigation Agency officials report that the late Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour also held a local residency certificate in Balochistan’s Qila Abdullah district, again under the alias of Wali Mohammad, which he is reported to have first obtained in 1999. Another former official, the deputy superintendent to the deputy commissioner of the Qila Abdullah district, was reportedly arrested on Wednesday as part of continuing investigations into Mansour’s possession of Pakistani national identity documents. [Dawn]
  • FATA Operations: In a report filed from a military-escorted tour of South Waziristan, the AFP notes “scores” of homes with damaged or missing roofs, which one official said had been removed “to have a better aerial view and stop militants taking refuge” in local homes. Roughly 42,000 families have been repatriated to South Waziristan so far, with the remaining 30,000 due to return by the end of the year. Tribal elders say the funds providing for reconstruction are insufficient for the need. Separately, the North Waziristan agency administration suspended six office staffers working for the Bannu Commssioner, accusing them of embezzlement and “anti-state activities”.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Prime Minister Recovering from Heart Surgery: Prime Minister Sharif’s daughter Mayram Nawaz reported on Wednesday that Sharif would likely remain in the hospital for another five to six days before being discharged, and would return home “in the next three to four weeks”. Prime Minister Modi and other leaders have issued messages encouraging a quick recovery. [ET]
  • Karachi Commissioner Removed: On Thursday, the Sindh provincial government removed Asif Hyder Shah from his position as Karachi commissioner; a replacement has not been announced. Separately, the National Accountability Bureau has reportedly initiated a money laundering investigation against former Lyari gang leader Uzair Baloch. [ET]
  • Other Political Activity: Dawn has further coverage of Pres. Mamnoon Hussain’s address to parliament on Wednesday. The National Database and Registration Authority told the Supreme Court on Wednesday that it was unable to verify nearly 103,000 votes in the May 2013 election in the NA-110 Sialkot constituency, which Defense Minister Khawaja Asif won whose results the PTI has contested. The ID card record for those votes were found to be valid, although roughly 3,500 votes were found to have been invalid, and election materials were missing for 29 polling stations. Three PPP legislators in Azad Jammu and Kashmir announced that they were switching their affiliation to the PTI on Wednesday. [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Budget Planning: Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah said that the recent meeting of the National Economic Council to approve the forthcoming fiscal year federal budget was “unconstitutional,” and accused the federal government of providing “peanuts and injustice” to Sindh, allocating only Rs 12.05 billion of the Rs 800 billion Public Sector Development Program budget. Dawn reports that the government’s budget may also include new amnesty measures to allow for the declaration of foreign assets, and allows for the seizure of equivalent assets in Pakistan if assets are held overseas. [ET] [ET] [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Council of Islamic Ideology Seeks to Complete Review of Controversial Draft Women’s Protection Law [ET]
  • Chinese Premier Welcomes Chabahar Port Project [Dawn]
  • Quetta Policeman Killed [ET]
  • Death Sentence Issued in 2013 Blasphemy Case [Dawn]
  • Islamabad High Court Reserves Bail Ruling in Imran Farooq Case [ET]
  • Commentary: Budgeting for Security – “With the increased defence allocations over the years when the fighting raged, the business interests of the armed forces also increased at a record pace.” [Khurram Husain, Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • U.S. Security Review: U.S. and NATO commander Gen. John Nicholson will present the findings of his initial 90-day security review in Washington soon, his spokesman indicated; details of Nicholson’s findings and recommendations have not been disclosed, but the Post reports that Pres. Obama is open to “possible modifications” to the U.S. military role in Afghanistan, which “would balance adjustments to how we currently execute our mission with our efforts to continue to develop the capabilities of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces”. Separately, the Post reports that troop deployment restrictions are forcing the Army to increase its reliance on civilian contractors to conduct maintenance and support for its combat air aviation brigades, which Army officials warned was contributing to an ” erosion of skill and experience essential to soldier and leader development” for those soldiers blocked from deployment.
  • Kidnappings: Kunduz police officials told reporters on Wednesday that they were still working to rescue ten hostages being held by alleged Taliban fighters, after a large bus convoy was detained earlier this week. On Thursday, provincial police chief Mohammad Masoom Hashemi reported that two of those hostages had been killed by their captors and their bodies “handed over”. Details of the identities of the hostages remain limited; the Ministry of Interior refuted rumors that the Taliban had access to biometric information on members of the security services that would allow them to be singled out for kidnapping, although it is not clear if any of the hostages are members of the army or police. Separately, at least 17 bus passengers were reportedly taken hostage in Sar-e-Pul’s Balkhab district on Thursday, which local officials also blamed on the Taliban.
  • Other Attacks and Operations: Three Afghan aid workers affiliated with the Aga Khan Development Network’s Focus Humanitarian Assistance organization were killed in an attack in Parwan province’s Sheikh Ali district on Wednesday, which the district governor blamed on the Taliban. No claim of responsibility has been reported. On Thursday, police reported the arrest of three Taliban fighters in connection to the incident. Following reports earlier this week that fifty or more Afghan police had been killed in attacks around the Helmand provincial capital of Lashkar Gah, provincial officials claimed that more than a hundred Taliban fighters had been killed in operations over the past three days. [Khaama Press] [TOLO] [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Border Tensions: On Wednesday, the Afghan foreign ministry summoned Pakistan’s charges d’affaires and formally protested the stop and search of the vehicle of the Afghan consul general in Peshawar the day prior. Afghanistan’s ambassador to Pakistan Omar Zakhilwal also criticized new document restrictions on travel across the Torkham border crossing, and suggested that Afghanistan had not been consulted by Pakistan over the move. Pajhwok quotes a Facebook post in which Zakhilwal said that the move “was announced by the Pakistani Embassy in Kabul some time ago, but I have not been officially consulted on the issue so far”, suggesting that Pakistani officials had conveyed the decision to the Afghan ministry of defense. A spokesman for the National Security Council said that the Afghan government “has very seriously started its efforts to resolve the matter”. [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Military Documents Exonerated Special Forces Soldiers in 2010 Gardez Night Raid That Killed Seven Civilians [The Intercept]
  • U.S. Military Spokesman Says Talks with New Taliban Leader Unlikely in Near Term [Reuters]
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