Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Imran Khan Meets with Chinese Ambassador; Little Sign of Forward Movement from Taliban Talks

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Topline

  • The Election Commission has summoned Imran Khan and Jahangir Tareen to respond to disqualification petitions against them on November 2, coinciding the new date of the PTI’s planned Islamabad protests. Khan met with the Chinese ambassador to Pakistan on Tuesday, reportedly seeking to assure him that the PTI’s protests were not intended to disrupt the China-Pakistan economic corridor project. Pakistan Awami Tehreek sources confirm they will not take part in the PTI’s protests. Afghan government sources confirm that they held talks with Taliban representatives in Qatar; the Taliban’s official spokesman denied those talks took place, although Taliban sources suggest that they did but saw little movement on either side from their demands for the release of Taliban prisoners or initiation of a ceasefire. Chief Executive Abdullah visited Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, meeting with King Salman. The UN released a quarterly update to its report on civilian casualties in Afghanistan, finding at least 2,562 civilians had been killed and 5,835 wounded during the first nine months of the year, roughly level with the same period last year. The share of casualties attributed to pro-government forces rose, particularly those attributed to Afghan Air Force airstrikes, but the Taliban remain responsibility for roughly 60% of all casualties. Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah has ordered a reinvestigation into a 2007 bombing that targeted Benazir Bhutto upon her return to the country.

Pakistan – Security

  • Civil-Military Tensions: Prime Minister Sharif has ordered Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan to personally direct the investigation into the source of a Dawn article earlier this month that documented civil-military disputes over the crackdown on militant groups, the Express Tribune reports.
  • Investigation Into 2007 Bhutto Bombing: On Tuesday, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah ordered a new investigation into the double bombing in Karsaz in 2007 that targeted Benazir Bhutto’s first rally upon returning to the country; Shah said that the investigation would be carried out despite “the conspiracy under which the evidence of the incident was removed instantly”. [ET]
  • Intelligence Bureau Warns of Indian Interference: Speaking to a senate committee on Tuesday, Intelligence Bureau Director General Aftab Sultan claimed that a “significant number” of terrorist suspects arrested over the past three years were linked to India’s RAW and Afghanistan’s NDS intelligence agencies. IB officials also identified the East Turkestan Islamic Movement and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan as potential threats to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor Project.
  • Karachi Mosque Bombing: Karachi police and Rangers have detained the Karachi chief of the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat, Rab Nawaz Hanfi, as well as about a half dozen other suspects, in connection to investigations into Monday’s bombing at a Shia mosque.

Pakistan – Politics and Diplomacy

  • Opposition Protests and Other Political Activity: In a speech to supporters on Wednesday, Imran Khan lambasted the PML-N’s recent uncontested intra-party elections, and reiterated calls for Prime Minister Sharif to step down and face corruption allegations. The Election Commission has summoned Imran and PTI secretary general Jahangir Khan Tareen to respond to disqualification petitions against them; the hearing, on November 2, coincides with the PTI’s rescheduled protests in Islamabad. Supreme Court hearings on PTI petitions seeking the prime minister’s disqualification will begin Thursday, and Imran is expected to attend in person. The Pakistan Awami Tehreek will only “observe” the PTI’s protests and will not take part itself; party leader Tahir ul Qadri is now in Canada. On Tuesday, Finance Minister Dar ordered the Federal Board of Revenue to seek further information about individuals named in the Panama and Bahamas leaks from tax havens there. Separately, the Election Commission plans to audit the asset statements of lawmakers, beginning with a random sample of 25% of legislators. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Tensions with India: Indian foreign secretary S. Jaishankar told an Indian parliamentary committee meeting on Tuesday that “people-to-people contact [between India and Pakistan] will continue and there is no plan to stop it”, but that “right now, we don’t have any fixed calendar even for talks at the secretary-level”. On Tuesday, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority wrote to Prime Minister Sharif requesting approval to implement a “complete ban” on airing any “Indian content”.
  • BOL TV Launches: The BOL TV news network launched on Tuesday, more than a year after initially planned; the company’s chief executive Shoaib Ahmed Shaikh continues to face money laundering charges and charges in connection to his company Axact’s selling of fake degrees, but has been released on bail. The NYT notes threats against prosecutors in the Axact case.

Pakistan – Economics and Development

  • CPEC Project: Imran Khan met with China’s ambassador to Pakistan Sun Weidong on Tuesday, during which Imran avowed that the PTI’s upcoming protests in Islamabad were not meant to disrupt the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project. Speaking separately on Tuesday, Khyber Paktunkhwa Chief Minister Pervaiz Khattak accused the PML-N of concentrating the benefits of the CPEC project in Punjab and ignoring the needs of the other provinces. [ET]
  • Census Plans: During Supreme Court hearings on Tuesday, Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali dismissed excuses from the attorney general and the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics for continued delays in holding a national census, and ordered the government to set a date for the census within two weeks. [Dawn]

Pakistan – Remainders

  • ‘Final Phase’ of South Waziristan IDP Repatriation to Begin Wednesday [ET]
  • Thousands of Pilgrims Stranded on Iran-Pakistan Border [Dawn]
  • Kurram Border Crossing Remains Closed for Fourth Day [ET]
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Bomb Disposal Robots Out of Order [ET]
  • Lahore High Court Hears Two Military Court Appeals [ET]
  • Peshawar High Court Orders NADRA to Expedite CNIC Verification [ET]
  • Sindh Government Lifts Ban on Civil Service Recruitment [Dawn] [ET]
  • Former Balochistan Chief Minister Says 18th Amendment Not Being Fully Implemented [Dawn] [ET]
  • Groundbreaking for Lahore-Karachi Gas Pipeline Planned in December [ET]

Afghanistan – Security

  • Civilian Casualties: The UN released a report on civilian casualties in Afghanistan during the first nine months of the year on Wednesday, finding at least 2,562 had been killed and 5,835 wounded, roughly on par with the same period a year prior. The share of those casualties attributed to pro-government forces rose sharply, particularly those caused by Afghan Air Force airstrikes; overall, however, the Taliban and other militant groups were responsible for more than 60% of all reported casualties. [UNAMA Statement]
  • Attacks and Operations: A spokesman for the Ministry of Defense said Tuesday that Afghan security forces would carry out operations through the winter to retake areas in Taliban control. Supporters of Vice President Dostum rallied in Jawzjan on Tuesday, vowing to take up arms against the Taliban. Farah police officials tell TOLO that as many as 70 Taliban fighters were killed in U.S. airstrikes carried out on Monday night; NATO spokesmen confirmed that airstrikes were carried out in the area, but provided no further details. [Ariana News]

Afghanistan – Politics and Diplomacy

  • Taliban Talks: Afghan government sources confirm that they have held direct talks with Taliban representatives in Qatar; a spokesman for the president said that the government would “use all options and sources within the framework of the law” to seek a “dignified and sustainable peace”. Taliban representatives in those talks reportedly sought the release of prisoners, de-listing of the group from UN sanctions, and formal recognition as a precondition for peace talks, while Afghans and the US representative at the talks sought a ceasefire agreement; a Taliban source tells Reuters that “like our previous meetings, it was a waste of time and resources, as we could not achieve anything from the meeting”, while another source tells RFE/RL that the talks “went positively”. The U.S. State Department has not confirmed American participation in the meetings. The Taliban’s official spokesman denied that the meeting took place.
  • Abdullah Visits Saudi Arabia: Chief Executive Abdullah met with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud in Riyadh on Tuesday; a spokesman for Abdullah indicated that the discussion focused on requests to curtail Taliban fundraising, and to allow for Afghans with Saudi work visas in Pakistani passports to convert those visas to an Afghan passport.
  • Nangarhar Governor Appointed: On Tuesday, Pres. Ghani appointed Gulab Mangal, the Minister for Border and Tribal Affairs, as the new governor of Nangarhar following the resignation of Salim Khan Kunduzi earlier this month. Mangal will continue to serve as a presidential advisor on tribal affairs; he has previously served as governor in Helmand, Laghman, and Paktika.

Afghanistan – Remainders

  • Karzai Continues to Criticize US Counterterrorism Policies [TOLO]
  • Herat Provincial Council Member Sentenced to Death After Kidnapping and Murder Conviction [Khaama Press]
  • Commentary: Hard Choices for Peace in Afghanistan – “It is hard to focus on that distant point when Afghanistan may be able to reckon with its past and debate how to balance the claims of retributive justice with the society’s need for peace.  Despite the compromises contained in any negotiated document, the agreement with Hekmatyar provides a model for others that might bring that day closer.” [Barnett Rubin, New Yorker]
  • Commentary: With an Active Cell in Kabul, the Islamic State Tries to Bring Sectarianism to the Afghan War – “ISKP’s sectarianism is worrying. Yet it is unlikely that it can single-handedly drive the conflict in a sectarian direction.” [Borhan Osman, AAN]
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