Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Erdogan Visits Pakistan, Denouncing Gulen; Germany Extends Afghanistan Troop Mission

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  • Visiting Turkish Pres. Erdogan devoted most of his remarks at a joint session of parliament and joint press conference with Prime Minister Sharif to condemning the “terrorist organization” led by Turkish exile opposition leader Fethullah Gulen; he praised the Pakistani government’s crackdown this week on the PakTurk school network, which the Turkish government has linked to Gulen. The Islamabad High Court dismissed a petition from school administrators challenging the Interior Ministry’s revocation of visas for the schools’ expatriate staff. Pakistani Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif claimed on Wednesday that 11 Indian soldiers had been killed earlier this week in the exchange of fire that left seven Pakistani soldiers dead; the Indian Army rejected that account. The German cabinet approved an extension of the presence of its 980 soldiers in Afghanistan for another year; the full parliament must still affirm the decision. An Afghan army helicopter made an emergency landing in Logar province on Wednesday; the Taliban claim to have shot down the craft, but provincial officials say there were no casualties. The Supreme Court of Pakistan continued hearings into Prime Minister Sharif’s family’s overseas business holdings, before adjourning hearings until Nov 30. In remarks to reporters, Russia’s special envoy on Afghanistan blamed the United States for the current situation in Afghanistan, and confirmed that Russia was in contact with the Taliban, who he described as a “potent political armed force”.

Pakistan – Security

  • Indian Soldiers Killed in Exchange, Army Chief Claims: Speaking to journalists on Wednesday, Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif claimed that 11 Indian soldiers had been killed in retaliatory fire on the same day seven Pakistani soldiers were killed, saying that “the Indian army should man up and accept their losses”. Sharif claimed that “40-44” Indian soldiers had been killed in recent clashes, although he did not specify a timeframe. A spokesman for the Indian Army’s Northern Command rejected the claim.
  • Islamic State Suspects Arrested: The Lahore Counter-Terrorism Department announced the arrest on Thursday of a cell of eight Islamic State-affiliated suspects, who were reportedly planning to travel to Syria and Afghanistan.

Pakistan – Politics and Diplomacy

  • Erdogan Visit: Visiting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan held a joint press conference with Prime Minister Sharif on Thursday, following an address to a joint session of parliament earlier in the day. Erdogan’s remarks in both forums focused on Turkish exile opposition leader Fethullah Gulen, whose “terrorist organization” he blamed for the failed July coup in Turkey. Erdogan thanked the government for cracking down on the Gulen-linked PakTurk school network, pledging that students of those schools “will be taken care of to the highest standards”. Dawn reports that a Turkish government-linked organization will take over administration of the schools. School administrators filed an Islamabad High Court petition on Wednesday against the Interior Ministry’s revocation of visas for all expatriate staff and their families; on Thursday, the court dismissed the petition, directing them to petition the Interior Ministry directly. [Dawn] [ET] [AP] [Dawn]
  • Panama Papers Investigation: In Supreme Court filings on Wednesday, Prime Minister Sharif’s children challenged PTI allegations against their overseas business holdings. In a parallel Lahore High Court hearing on Wednesday regarding the National Assembly speaker’s dismissal of a disqualification petition against the prime minister, his lawyers challenged the court’s jurisdiction and argued that the Panama Papers material should be inadmissible as evidence. The Supreme Court heard further arguments on Thursday, during which Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali pushed back against complaints from the prime minister’s legal team, saying there was “nothing wrong with starting accountability from one person”; hearings have been adjourned until Nov 30. [ET] [ET] [ET]
  • Karachi Mayor Bailed Out: Following his release on bail on Wednesday in the last of 39 pending criminal cases against him, Karachi mayor Waseem Akhtar joined a rally with other MQM-Pakistan leaders at the Quaid-e-Azam mausoleum, pledging to serve the city and restore peace in Karachi. PPP leader Qadir Patel also received bail on Wednesday. [Reuters] [Dawn]

Pakistan – Remainders

  • Rangers Arrest ASWJ Leader in Karachi [ET]
  • Election Commission Seeks Larger Staff for ‘Monitoring Wing’ [Dawn]
  • Chinese Navy Flotilla Visits Karachi [Dawn]
  • Senators Express Concerns that CPEC Will Boost China-India Trade [Dawn]
  • Sindh Assembly Approves Minority Protection Commission [ET]

Afghanistan – Security

  • Attacks and Operations: The NYT and WSJ have additional reporting on yesterday’s attack on a vehicle carrying guards for the Afghan security agency responsible for protecting VIPs, which was claimed by the Islamic State. At least six people were killed in that attack; TOLO reports one of those killed was an army colonel and the rest civilians. Ministry of Interior officials claim to have killed eleven Taliban fighters, including a Taliban ‘shadow governor’, in operations on the outskirts of Sar-e-Pul city over Wednesday night. An Afghan Air Force helicopter made an emergency landing in Logar province’s Baraki Barak district on Wednesday; the Taliban claim to have shot the helicopter down, but provincial security officials say there were no casualties. [Khaama Press]
  • Germany Extends Force Presence: The German cabinet approved a one-year extension for around 980 German soldiers deployed to Afghanistan through the end of 2017, the government announced on Wednesday; the decision must still be approved by parliament. [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan – Politics and Diplomacy

  • Regional Diplomacy: Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Russian envoy Zamir Kabulov said that the United States lacked a strategy in Afghanistan, and said that “foreign countries are responsible for the events that took place in the country in the past fifteen years”. Kabulov suggested that the Taliban were a “whether we accept it or not, the Taliban is a potent political armed force”, and confirmed that Russia and the Taliban were in contact “to ensure the security of Russian nationals in Afghanistan and Russia’s political representatives in the country”. Speaking to a Pakistani delegation on Wednesday, Chief Executive Abdullah said that he looked forward to a future visit to Pakistan, but provided no specific dates for a visit, emphasizing that “there is a need for both the countries and the region to fight jointly against terrorism”.

Afghanistan – Remainders

  • EU Diplomat Urges Government Unity [TOLO]
  • Ghani Pledges Trial for Farah Kidnappers [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • State Film Department Accuses Finance Ministry of Failing to Disburse Budget [TOLO]
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