Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: PTI Boycotts Parliamentary Session on Kashmir; Donors Meet in Brussels

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Topline

  • The PTI is boycotting today’s joint session of parliament focused on the dispute in Kashmir, with Imran Khan telling reporters that the party would not “endorse” Nawaz Sharif’s legitimacy as prime minister by participating. Tuesday’s meeting of the Pakistani National Security Committee reportedly decided to press U.S. officials with warnings that Pakistan would withdraw its forces from the Afghan border and reposition them in the east if India did not deescalate current tensions. Meetings have begun in Brussels, with the international donors conference officially opening today; at the opening, Sec. Kerry welcomed the peace agreement between Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and the Afghan government, saying it represented an “honorable path to peace” that the Taliban should follow as well. EU officials denied any linkage between their assistance pledges to Afghanistan, which includes a newly-signed €200 million on-budget assistance commitment, and an agreement by Afghanistan to accept Afghan nationals deported after their asylum claims are rejected. Fighting is still ongoing around Kunduz as of Wednesday; provincial council members in Farah also report that roads to the capital city there have been blocked, although army officials deny those accounts. A U.S. servicemember was killed in an IED attack in Nangarhar’s Achin district during operations against the Islamic State on Tuesday, the Pentagon announced. Four Hazara women were killed in an attack on a bus in Quetta on Tuesday.

Pakistan – Security

  • Counterterrorism Review: The chief ministers of Khyber Paktunkhwa and Sindh raised concerns during Tuesday’s civil-military review of the National Action Plan against terrorism that the federal government was not providing sufficient funding for policing or counterterrorism operations, the Express Tribune reports. [Dawn]
  • Quetta Attack Kills Four: Four Hazara women were killed in an attack on a bus in Quetta on Tuesday evening; no claim of responsibility has been reported, although a spokesman for the provincial government confirmed that the women were targeted for their ethnicity. Separately at a hearing on Tuesday, Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali slammed the “incompetence” of security institutions protecting the Quetta Civil Hospital, the site of a major attack that killed at least 70 people, most of them members of the legal community, in August. [AP]
  • Rawalpindi Riot Suspects Cleared: An anti-terrorism court acquitted twelve men on Tuesday in a case involving attacks on a Shia mosque in Rawalpindi during the 2013 riots following Ashura, ruling the police had failed to provide sufficient evidence.

Pakistan – Politics and Diplomacy

  • PTI to Boycott Parliamentary Session on Kashmir: On Tuesday, Imran Khan announced that the PTI would boycott today’s planned joint session of parliament called to debate tensions with India and the dispute in Kashmir, despite the PTI’s participation in an all-parties conference on Monday on the issue. Khan said that “Nawaz Sharif has lost legitimacy to remain a prime minister” and that the PTI would not “endorse” him by attending the session. Dawn reports that the decision was opposed internally by sitting PTI legislators; PPP and Jamaat-e-Islami leaders described the boycott as “incomprehensible”, and Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid described the move as a sign of a “mental bankruptcy”. The parliamentary session is ongoing as of this writing. Meanwhile, the Express Tribune reports that Tuesday’s meeting of the National Security Council decided to convey a message to the U.S. that Pakistan would withdraw its troops from the Afghan border and reposition them in the east if India did not de-escalate the current conflict. Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif visited the 10 Corps headquarters on Wednesday to review security along the Line of Control. In an interview with the Indian Express, Pakistan’s ambassador to India called for a “results-oriented engagement” between the two countries and the revival of dialogue. The Economic Times reports that the Indian army has approved the release of footage to document is claim of having carried out a “surgical strike” across the Line of Control, but that the decision rests with Prime Minister Modi. [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [Foreign Policy]
  • Petition on Pakistan Shut Down: The White House has shut down an online petition on its ‘We the People’ forum seeking a declaration of Pakistan as a state sponsor of terrorism, saying that “it did not meet the signature requirements”. [ET]
  • MQM in Turmoil: The Express Tribune reports that Altaf Hussain will be charge-sheeted in a UK money-laundering case on Wednesday, giving him until Oct 26 to submit a reply. A Karachi anti-terrorism court granted bail to MQM leader Khawaja Izharul Hassan on Tuesday in a set of cases related to Hussain’s speeches. [ET]
  • Other Political Activity: The Lahore High Court has agreed to hear a petition from former Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry seeking the disqualification of Prime Minister Sharif. PPP leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has formed a party committee head by former chief minister Qaim Ali Shah to take disciplinary measures against local party leaders who did not accept the party’s nominees in local elections.

Pakistan – Economics and Development

  • CPEC Project: During debate in the Khyber Paktunkhwa assembly on Tuesday, legislators called for “written assurance” that the federal government was committed to developing a “western route” as part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project. At an ANP rally in Swabi, party chief Asfandyar Wali Khan vowed that his party would seek the “restoration of the original” CPEC project. [Dawn]
  • Census Planning: A three-judge Supreme Court bench rejected the government’s explanations for delays in the national census; the director of the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics said that it was working to train enumerators but would be dependent on the deployment of army soldiers for security. The court ordered further briefings on Oct 18.
  • Trade Talks: UK officials assured a Pakistani commerce ministry delegation that they would be given equivalent trade concessions to the EU GSP Plus trade agreement even after the UK exits the Union, the Express Tribune reports. [Dawn] [ET]

Pakistan – Remainders

  • Pakistan Foreign Ministry Expresses Concern Over 9/11 Lawsuit Bill [Dawn] [ET]
  • NATO Military Chairman Visits Pakistani Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman [APP]
  • UN Court Rejects Marshall Islands Nuclear Case Against India and Pakistan [AFP]
  • PTI and JUI-F Spar Over FATA and Kashmir [Dawn]
  • Islamabad High Court Seeks Details on Nawaz Sharif Exile Agreement in Saudi Arabia [Dawn]
  • Karachi Metropolitan Corporation Centralizes Control Over Payments [ET]
  • National Assembly Adopts Resolutions on Islamabad Appointments Quota, Forced Conversions [ET] [ET]
  • Former Khyber Paktunkhwa Mining Minister Granted Bail [ET]
  • Commentary: Doing the Same Thing, Over and Over Again – “We Pakistanis can tell one million nasty truths about India, but the single truth about Pakistan just won’t give up: we are a country that has developed an abiding expertise in converting strengths into weaknesses.” [Mosharraf Zaidi, The News]
  • Commentary: India and Pakistan Are Rearranging the Thresholds of Conflict – “The current India-Pakistan tension in the wake of  the Uri attack seems like another round of hostilities meant to re-define the military-strategic red lines of the two countries.” [Ayesha Siddiqa, The Wire]

Afghanistan – Security

  • Kunduz Operations: The Kunduz provincial police chief reported fresh Taliban attacks on Afghan forces in Kunduz from the south and east on Wednesday; a spokesman for the U.S. military coalition said that U.S. forces had conducted two “engagements from the air” since Tuesday night, but described fighting in the city as “sporadic”. Spokesmen for the interior and defense ministry said Tuesday that a “large-scale military operation” would be carried out to clear the city and its surrounding environs. Senators in the Meshrano Jirga called for a full security review, and former acting governor Hamdullah Danishi criticized the government for failing to deliver on its promises after last year’s Taliban attack on the city. [TOLO]
  • U.S. Servicemember Killed in Nangarhar: On Tuesday, the Pentagon announced that a U.S. servicemember had been killed in an IED bombing in Nangarhar’s Achin district, while taking part in operations targeting the Islamic State. The soldier’s identity and unit have not been disclosed; it is the third U.S. combat fatality in Afghanistan this year. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack on Wednesday. [NYT] [Reuters]
  • Other Attacks and Operations: Farah provincial council members tell TOLO that the main roads leading to the provincial capital have been blocked by Taliban forces; Afghan army officials said that they had inflicted a “massive toll” on the Taliban and that the highways were open to traffic. The Ministry of Interior claimed to have killed a top Taliban commander in Baghlan’s Baghlan-e-Markzai district on Wednesday. [TOLO]

Afghanistan – Politics and Diplomacy

  • Brussels Conference: Speaking at the opening of the international donors conference on Afghanistan in Brussels on Wednesday, Sec. Kerry said that the recent peace agreement between the Afghan government and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar offered an “honorable path to peace”, suggesting that the Taliban “take note” and saying that the current conflict “will not be won on the battlefield”. In his remarks, Pres. Ghani argued that “terrorism is not only a threat to Afghanistan but a threat to the entire world” and said that “we at a national level are committed to dialogue and constructive politics” but that the problem’s root was “in the region”. On Tuesday, a side panel was held to discuss the role of women in “realizing Afghanistan’s economic potential”. The European Union signed an agreement with the Afghan government for the delivery of up to €200 million in direct budget support over the 2017-2019 period; EU and Afghan officials also signed an agreement on the deportation of Afghan asylum seekers, but EU foreign policy chief Frederica Mogherini said that “there is never, never a link between our development aid and whatever we do on migration”. Members of the ‘Enlightenment Movement’ demonstrated outside the conference on Wednesday, pushing the government over the route of an electricity distribution line through Bamiyan. [WSJ] AP] [TOLO] [TOLO]

Afghanistan – Remainders

  • UNHCR Praises Pakistan’s Hosting of Afghan Refugees [AFP]
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