Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Taliban Threaten Kunduz and Other Northern Districts; PTI Allege Rigging in Kashmir Elections

Topline

  • Taliban fighters briefly took control of Kunduz’s Khan Abad district on Saturday; the deputy chief of staff of the Afghan National Army, Gen. Murad Ali Murad, arrive on Sunday to oversee operations, and officials claimed to have retaken control of the area later that day. The Taliban destroyed a key bridge linking Kunduz city to adjoining northern districts, however, and Taliban attacks on the outskirts of the city were reported on Monday. Hundreds of families are reported to have fled Khan Abad for Takhar province, where Taliban fighters also briefly seized control of the Khwaja Gar district before being repelled early Monday morning. Heavy fighting was also reported in Nangarhar’s Hesarak district, and operations continue around Lashkar Gah. Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif visited Khyber Agency on Friday to review ongoing operations in the Rajgal Valley area. Balochistan security officials reported the arrest of dozens of suspects in Quetta and Mastung over the weekend, which they suggested were linked to the attack on the Quetta Civil Hospital earlier this month; no details on the suspects’ identities have been released, however. Pakistan closed the Chaman border crossing with Afghanistan on Friday after Afghan demonstrators burned the Pakistani flag during protests the day prior. A planned meeting between Chief Executive Abdullah and Pres. Ghani was delayed on Friday; a spokesman for Abdullah suggested they would meet again soon. The PTI’s Azad Jammu and Kashmir chapter accused the PML-N of rigging the results of the legislative assembly elections there, calling on General Sharif to intervene; Imran Khan has called for the deployment of Rangers in Lahore, describing the Punjab police as the “militant wing” of the PML-N. PAT leader Tahir-ul-Qadri also addressed supporters, suggesting that India was supporting the PML-N’s continued rule. MQM leaders and activists continue to carry out a hunger strike over the arrests of party members. Former Pres. Karzai visited New Delhi on Friday, telling reporters that India “should be a lot bolder” in providing Afghanistan military assistance. The secretary general of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, Iyad bin Amin Madani, met with Pakistani foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz on Saturday, echoing Pakistan’s position that the Indian government’s crackdown in Kashmir was “not an internal matter”; in a visit to Afghanistan, Madani announced plans to host a conference of Islamic scholars to discuss Afghan reconciliation in Saudi Arabia in October. The Taliban have rejected participation in that meeting, however. The number of registered and unregistered Afghan refugees leaving Pakistan for Afghanistan has spiked over the past month, with a UN processing center in Peshawar for registered refugees reportedly over its capacity. U.S. national Matthew Barrett was finally deported from Pakistan on Saturday morning. Government officials say they will appeal a Supreme Court of Pakistan ruling curtailing the prime minister’s ability to make financial decisions and issue ordinances without the approval of the full cabinet.

Pakistan – Security

  • Counterterrorism Response: National Security Advisor Nasser Khan Janjua will oversee the first meeting of a new implementation committee for the National Action Plan against terrorism on Monday. The Sindh provincial government reportedly plans to establish a new forensic database of firearms; on Saturday, the provincial cabinet also approved a draft law on the registration of seminaries in the province, prompting JUI-F leader Fazlur Rehman to warn against “targeting madrassahs [to serve] the agenda of their foreign masters”. [ET]
  • FATA Operations: Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif visited troops stationed in the Khyber Agency on Friday, reviewing the ongoing “Operation Khybber III” in the Rajgal Valley. Military spokesmen report continued airstrikes in the area, which they said killed nine militant suspects on Saturday and six on Sunday, without providing further information. In Bajaur, one security officer was killed and a civilian bystander injured when a bomb exploded in Salarzai on Saturday. [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [ET] [AP]
  • Balochistan Operations: Balochistan security officials report the arrest of as many as 27 militant suspects during raids in the Mastung district, including nine foreigners; another 13 arrests were reported in Quetta on Saturday. Officials linked the arrests to the attack on the Quetta Civil Hospital earlier this month, although they provided no details on the suspects’ identities. The Pakistan Bar Council will boycott court proceedings on Monday, reiterating demands that the government bring those responsible for that attack to justice. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • U.S. National Deported: American national Matthew Barrett was deported from Pakistan on Saturday morning, following his detention earlier this month on charges of entering the country in violation of a ban related to his previous expulsion from Pakistan in 2011. [ET]
  • U.S. Spying Intercepted Pakistani Communications: New leaks from former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden to The Intercept include internal NSA presentations from 2013 describing efforts to penetrate targets in Pakistan’s National Telecommunications Corporation’s VIP Division, including the “Green Line communications network” used by top civilian and military leaders.
  • Military Courts: Dawn reports that a military appellate court upheld death sentences for five men convicted in May in connection to attacks on Karachi’s Ismaili community and the murder of activist Sabeen Mahmud; lawyers for the defendants have indicated their intention to appeal to the high courts.

Pakistan – Politics and Diplomacy

  • Tensions with India: Foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz met with visiting Organization of the Islamic Conference secretary general Iyad bin Amin Madani on Saturday; at a joint press conference afterwards Madani echoed Pakistan’s position that “the human rights violations in India-held Kashmir are not internal matter of the Indian state” and calling for a referendum on the status of Kashmir. On Friday, Pakistan’s foreign ministry reiterated an invite to India’s foreign secretary S. Jaishankar for discussions on the disputed territory, apparently without directly responding to Jaishankar’s earlier response on Thursday that laid out an agenda for talks focused on terrorism and “Pakistan’s illegal occupation of Jammu and Kashmir”. On Monday, Balochistan registered cases in absentia against five Balochistan separatist leaders who had made comments in support of Prime Minister Modi’s remarks in which he referred to support from Balochistan. [ET] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Refugee Repatriation: The UN-managed center in Peshawar that processes the voluntary repatriation of Afghan refugees from Pakistan is unable to process a surge in repatriations over the past few weeks, Dawn reports. The International Organization on Migration estimates that 60,000 unregistered refugees have returned from Pakistan over the past four weeks, and have not received any support; more than two-thirds of those returnees are children. On Saturday, a Pakistani lawyer, Zulfikar Ahmed Bhatta filed a Supreme Court petition seeking an extension of the deadline for the return of registered Afghan refugees for another year, to December 2017; Bhatta’s filing suggests that the Supreme Court investigate whether Khyber Paktunkhwa provincial government officials are purchasing up properties previously owned by Afghan refugees. [ET]
  • Opposition Protests and Other Political Activity: At a press conference on Friday, the PTI’s chapter president for Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Sultan Mahmood, issued a white paper alleging that the PML-N government had rigged the results of recent legislative assembly elections in the region, and called for the current AJK government’s term to be cut short to 2018, with new elections there held in conjunction with the nationwide general elections.  Mahmood called on Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif to intervene, saying “rigging in the AJK elections will adversely impact the ongoing freedom movement in Indian-held Kashmir”. The PTI’s AJK chapter staged a protest in Lahore on Sunday against India. Speaking in an address to supporters on Saturday, Pakistan Awami Tehreek leader Tahir-ul Qadri accused India of “fighting to keep [Prime Minister Sharif’s government] in power” and of carrying out attacks in the country which Qadri suggested Sharif had deliberately failed to respond to. Qadri has announced plans for protests in several cities beginning at the end of the week. On Sunday, following the shooting death of a PTI union council chairman candidate in Lahore on Saturday, Imran Khan called for the deployment of paramilitary Rangers in Punjab, to investigate what he said was an “alarming” increase in targeted killings. Dawn overviews the flurry of recent petitions seeking the disqualification from office of Prime Minister Sharif, his family members, and PTI opposition leaders. [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Karachi Crackdown: Prime Minister Sharif met with Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah and governor Ishratul Ibad Khan on Friday during a visit to Karachi; sources tell Dawn that Sharif said that “there would be no compromise on efforts aimed at restoring a lasting peace to the city” and that operations in Karachi were “not going to end anytime soon”. MQM activists continued to maintain a hunger strike on Friday, saying that none of a group of six party members had been released from police custody, as ordered by the Chief Minister last week; police said they were released later on Friday. In remarks following a court appearance on Saturday, the MQM’s Karachi mayoral nominee, Waseem Akhtar, vowed to continue to fight charges against him. [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET]

Pakistan – Economics and Development

  • Court Ruling Constrains Prime Minister’s Financial Autonomy: Government officials tell the Express Tribune that they will appeal a Supreme Court ruling last week that held that the prime minister must hold meetings of the full cabinet when considering financial issues or executive orders, saying that “if we accept the judgment, it will not be possible to run the government smoothly”. [ET]

Pakistan – Remainders

  • Accused Financier Arrested in Connection to 2008 Mumbai Attacks [Dawn]
  • Two Sindhi Nationalist Party Activists Arrested Over Alleged Links with Indian Intelligence [Dawn]
  • Cabinet to Review Right to Information Bill [ET]
  • Former Ambassador Haqqani ‘Still Waiting’ for Passport Renewal [Dawn]
  • Bail Hearing Adjourned Over ‘Move on Pakistan’ Chairman’s Arrest [ET]
  • Former Judge Sentenced to Five Years Over Embezzlement Charges [ET]
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Chief Minister Accuses Central Government of Stealing Electricity [Dawn] [ET]
  • Power Sector Receivables Cross Rs 684 Billion, Despite Cut in Generation Costs [Dawn]
  • Gwadar Facing 22% Power Shortage [ET]
  • Senate Planning Committee Concerned Over Balochistan Water Storage Project Delays [Dawn]
  • Commentary: New Survey Shows that Pakistanis Penalize Candidates for Religious Piety – “In our analysis, we find that appeals to religion can sometimes backfire, causing a backlash from voters when nominally devout politicians fall short of the higher moral standards that they implicitly invoke.” [Niloufer Siddiqui and Michael Kalin, WAPO]

Afghanistan – Security

Afghanistan – Politics and Diplomacy

  • National Unity Government Divisions: Pres. Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah will hold a second meeting in connection to Abdullah’s complaints “in the next few days”, a spokesman for Abdullah said Sunday, saying that both leaders “want to work side by side”. A meeting was to have taken place Friday but was postponed due to Independence Day celebrations. Second Deputy to the Chief Executive Mohammad Mohaqiq warned against “unilateralism” during remarks on Friday.
  • Chaman Border Crossing Closed: Pakistan closed the Chaman border crossing with Afghanistan on Friday after a group of Afghan protestors burned the Pakistani flag and attempted to breach the border gate during an Afghan Independence Day gathering the day prior. Border security officials from each side met on Saturday but reached no resolution for the gate’s reopening. The Afghan Chamber of Commerce and Industries reports that trade between Afghanistan and Pakistan dropped more than 50% over the past two months. [ET] [Dawn] [Khaama Press]
  • India Ties: Pres. Ghani and Indian Prime Minister Modi held a videoconference on Monday, in which they jointly inaugurated the India-financed reconstruction of the Stor Palace in Kabul and touted India’s support for Afghanistan. Separately, former Pres. Karzai visited New Delhi on Friday, telling reporters that he “appreciated” remarks by Modi alluding to support for dissidents in Balochistan, and that “India should be a lot bolder in meeting the military needs of Afghanistan”.  [TOLO]
  • Taliban Talks: The Organization of the Islamic Conference will hold a conference of Islamic scholars in Mecca and Medina on October 8-10 in support of reconciliation in Afghanistan; Pakistan’s Ulema Council will send delegates, but the Taliban rejected it as an “attempt to legitimise the presence of infidel invaders in Afghanistan by providing misleading information and painting the legitimate Jihad of the Mujahideen as corruption”.

Afghanistan – Remainders

  • Russia Express Concerns Over Report of ISIS-Taliban ‘Ceasefire’ [Khaama Press]
  • Taliban Condemn Death of Afghan Cleric in Peshawar [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press]
  • Paralyzed Afghan, His Family Ripped Apart, Bears Pain of Perpetual War [NYT]
  • Over 200,00 Hectares of Land Stolen Since 2001 by Government Officials, Land Authority Reports [TOLO]
  • The Fight Over a Shrine for a Tyrannical Afghan King [WAPO] [RFE/RL]
  • Commentary: From Guantanamo to the UAE: A Scrutiny of the Three Afghan Transfer Cases – “Their files reveal multiple mistakes in intelligence, mistakes in Afghan geography and history, and cases largely made up variously of hearsay, secret evidence and confessions.” [Kate Clark, AAN]
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