Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: India and Pakistan Accuse Each Other of Terror Sponsorship; Hekmatyar Reportedly Returns to Kabul

Topline

  • India and Pakistan continue to trade accusations that the other is sponsoring terrorism, with India’s foreign ministry denouncing Prime Minister Sharif’s praise of slain Kashmiri militant commander Burhan Wani and Pakistan condemning reports that Baloch separatist leader Brahamdagh Bugti may seek asylum in India. Pakistani forces are reported to be on high alert, but spokesmen for the air force and foreign ministry reiterated that the closure of the Lahore-Islamabad highway for air force exercises was pre-planned and not related to current tensions. National Security Advisor Hanif Atmar affirmed the Afghan government’s intention to remove Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and other Hezb-e-Islami leaders from US and UN sanctions list; Hekmatyar reportedly reentered Kabul on Wednesday evening, but did not appear at Thursday’s signing ceremony. A HIG member offered an apology to victims of Hezb-e-Islami during the Afghan civil war in comments to VOA on Friday. The Uruzgan-Kandahar highway remains closed to traffic after the Taliban attack on Tirin Kot earlier this month. The TTP Jamaat ul Ahrar claimed responsibility for two attacks on security checkposts in Bajaur and Mohmand on Friday. The military announced seven new death sentences after military court convictions on Thursday. During meetings with Prime Minister Sharif on Wednesday, Iranian Pres. Rouhani voiced support for Iran’s connection to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. Afghanistan’s Water and Energy ministry announced plans for a World Bank-finance 50 megawatt gas power plant, to be built within two years in Mazar-e-Sharif.

Pakistan – Security

  • Tensions with India: Anonymous Pakistani foreign ministry officials tell the Express Tribune that Pakistan is unlikely to cooperate in an Indian investigation of the attack on the Uri army base, protesting that “on one hand you are declaring Pakistan a terrorist state, while on the other hand, you are expecting us to cooperate with you”. A spokesman for Pakistan’s Air Force and spokesman for the foreign ministry reiterated on Thursday that the closure of the Lahore-Islamabad highway for a military exercise was “routine training” and not related to current tensions; Reuters reports that Pakistani forces are on high alert, however. On Thursday, Indian foreign ministry officials continued to condemn Prime Minister Sharif’s address to the UN General Assembly the day prior, saying his praise for slain Kashmiri commander Burhan Wani amounted to “self-incrimination”. Pakistan’s foreign ministry denounced reports that Baloch separatist leader Brahamdagh Bbugti was seeking asylum in India, saying it was “indicative of Indian involvement in terrorism in Pakistan”. [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [WAPO]
  • Attacks from Afghanistan Repelled: The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan’s Jamaat-ul-Ahrar splinter faction claimed responsibility for separate attacks on security checkposts in Mohmand and Bajaur on Friday, from across the Afghan border; security sources report the attacks were repelled without casualties on either side.
  • Military Courts: On Thursday, the military’s public relations arm announced that Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif had approved death sentences for seven men convicted under closed-door military court proceedings; two of the men were described as being members of the TTP, while the affiliations of the others were not specified. [Dawn]
  • NGO Crackdown: On Thursday, the Islamabad Capital Territory Administration issued a one-month deadline for all NGOs operating within the city to submit audit reports, as well as details on local and international funding sources and bank account details.
  • Russia-Pakistan Joint Training Exercise: A unit of Russia soldiers arrived in Pakistan on Friday to participate in a two-week long joint military exercise with Pakistan, military spokesmen announced.

Pakistan – Politics and Diplomacy

  • Opposition Protests: Following new leaks detailing offshore bank holdings in the Bahamas this week, Finance Minister Dar ordered an investigation into the individuals and companies named, which reportedly includes at least 144 Pakistani business executives. PTI leader Arif Alvi criticized the government for acting swiftly in this case and for failing to investigate politicians named in earlier leaks. On Thursday, the PTI filed an Election Commission petition seeking action against the PML-N for the formation of what the PTI described as a “militant wing” of the ruling party, referring to party activists that organized demonstrations earlier this week threatening retaliation if the PTI conducted a protest march on the prime minister’s residence in Raiwind. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET]

Pakistan – Economics and Development

  • Iran Seeks to Join CPEC: In a meeting with Prime Minister Sharif in New York on Wednesday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani voiced interest in connecting Iran to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project; a statement by Pakistan said that “the two leaders reiterated the complementarity between Gwadar and Chabahar sea ports that could boost regional trade exponentially in the decades ahead”, and also discussed the resumption of work on the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project. [Dawn] [ET]
  • FWO Faces Audit: On Thursday, the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee ordered the military-run Frontier Works Organization to submit to an audit by the Auditor General of Pakistan.

Pakistan – Remainders

  • Pakistani Investigators Probing Travel by Would-Be New York Bomber Rahami [LAT]
  • Another Man Arrested on Blasphemy Charges in Kasur [ET]
  • Police Officer Killed in Quetta [ET]
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa to Reintroduce Women’s Protection Bill [ET]
  • Five More Ministers Added to Gilgit-Baltistan Cabinet [ET]
  • Supreme Court Imposes Restrictions on Promotion of Secretarial Staff Into Civil Service Ranks [Dawn]

Afghanistan – Security

  • Attacks and Operations: TOLO reports that the Uruzgan-Kandahar highway remains closed since the Taliban’s attack on Tirin Kot earlier this month; special forces commandos say they are moving to reopen the highway but attribute slow progress to a desire to protect civilians. Foreign Policy reports on fighting in Helmand earlier this summer, where the Taliban increasingly encircle the provincial and capital and where as much as 40% of Afghan security forces in province are believed to be “ghost soldiers” on the rolls to allow commanders to collect extra paychecks.

Afghanistan – Politics and Diplomacy

  • Hezb-e-Islami Agreement: In remarks during the signing of a draft peace agreement yesterday, Afghan National Security Advisor Hanif Atmar praised the peace deal and affirmed the government’s intention to seek the removal of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and other Hezb-e-Islami leaders from UN and US sanctions lists. UN and EU officials joined the US in issuing statements of support for the agreement. The WSJ reports that Hekmatyar returned to Kabul on Wednesday evening, although he did not attend the signing ceremony on Thursday. In remarks to the VOA’s Afghan service on Friday, a senior member of Hezb-e-Islami, Qarib-ur-Rehman Syed, said that the party “belongs to the people and people belongs to Hezb-e-Islami. In every and every second [sic], we apologize from those who were hurt” during the Afghan civil war during the 1990s.

Afghanistan – Economics and Development

  • Power Plant Planned: Ministry of Water and Energy officials announced on Thursday that they had reached an agreement with the World Bank and the private Ghazanfar Group for the construction of a 50 megawatt thermal power plant in Mazar-e-Sharif, slated for completion in two years, which will be fed by the Sheberghan gas field.

Afghanistan – Remainders

  • Abdullah Promises to Improve Private Sector Opportunities [TOLO]
  • Report: Afghanistan’s High Office of Oversight: Personal Asset Declarations of High Ranking Afghan Government Officials are Not Consistently Registered and Verified – “The HOO still suffers from a lack of independence and authority to fulfill its mandate, lacks enforcement power, and, in some instances, has failed to register and verify asset declarations.” [SIGAR (pdf)]
  • Interview: Afghanistan at an Inflection Point – “The current policy is not bringing conditions any closer to a political settlement, it’s not leading to the defeat of the Taliban, and it’s not getting any greater regional cooperation.” [Chris Kolenda, CFR]
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