Ghani Named President-Elect in Afghanistan; Pakistan Appoints New ISI Chief; Standoff at Indo-China Border Continues
Afghanistan Candidates sign power-sharing agreement, Ghani to become president Afghan presidential candidates Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani finalized a power-sharing agreement on Saturday, ending months of tension in the country, and officially signed the pact on Sunday in a ceremony with President Hamid Karzai at the Presidential Palace in Kabul (BBC, Guardian, NYT, Pajhwok, RFE/RL, ...
Candidates sign power-sharing agreement, Ghani to become president
Afghan presidential candidates Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani finalized a power-sharing agreement on Saturday, ending months of tension in the country, and officially signed the pact on Sunday in a ceremony with President Hamid Karzai at the Presidential Palace in Kabul (BBC, Guardian, NYT, Pajhwok, RFE/RL, TOLO News, WSJ). According to reports, teams for both men met late into the night with U.N. representatives to try to finalize the deal before Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission (IEC) announced the final election results on Sunday.
International media outlets noted that the last sticking point was how to announce the results of the June 14 run-off election vote audit. Abdullah, who was widely assumed to be trailing Ghani, "had insisted that the official percentages either not be made public at all or be altered to give him more votes" (Post). The IEC ultimately decided not to reveal the vote tallies, but declared Ghani the president-elect just hours after the agreement was signed (AP, Pajhwok, RFE/RL, TOLO News, VOA). Abdullah is expected to take on the newly created position of chief executive — similar in power to a prime minister — though he could nominate someone else in his stead (NYT). Ghani will be sworn in on Sep. 29. Bonus Read: "What the Afghan power-sharing deal means" (BBC).
The agreement was hailed as an "important opportunity" for unity and increased stability by the Obama administration on Sunday, with the White House releasing a statement that congratulated Abdullah and Ghani for ending Afghanistan’s political crisis and confirmed that the United States "stands ready to work with the new administration to ensure its success" (VOA). President Barack Obama also spoke to both men by telephone (Pajhwok, TOLO News). Support has also poured in from the international community, with representatives from the United Nations and NATO welcoming the agreement (TOLO News).
The signing of the pact has raised hopes that they will soon sign the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA), which would determine the size and scope of any U.S. troop presence that would remain in Afghanistan once the NATO combat mission ends in December (BBC). Both Ghani and Abdullah had pledged to sign the BSA — something Karzai refused to do — during their campaigns, and have said it would be signed immediately after being sworn into office (Post).
While the West welcomed the creation of a national unity government, the Taliban decried the pact on Monday, saying it was a "sham" orchestrated by the United States (Reuters). In a statement emailed to journalists, spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said: "Installing Ashraf Ghani and forming a bogus administration will never be acceptable to the Afghans," adding that: "We reject this American process and vow to continue our jihad until we free our nation from occupation and until we pave the way for a pure Islamic government."
Ghani to name woman to Supreme Court
In a statement released on Monday, Ghani said he wants Afghan women to be "represented at the highest levels of government, including on the Supreme Court" (AP). Afghanistan’s new president-elect added that: "he is committed to ensuring that women are well represented in government and the education and economic sectors." Calling poverty, a lack of education, income inequality, and insecurity the country’s enemies, he noted: "Together, we have turned the page and written a new chapter in our long and proud history — the first peaceful democratic transition between one elected president and another."
Bonus Read: "Home of the Free: Starting a New Life in Pakistan’s Azad Nagar, a Colony of Ex-Slaves," Rabia Mehmood (AJA).
New ISI chief is appointed, will take over in October
Pakistan’s Inter-Services Public Relations office announced via Twitter on Monday that Lt. Gen. Rizwan Akhtar would take over as the head of the country’s powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency on Oct. 1 (BBC, Dawn, ET). Akhtar, who is currently the head of the paramilitary Sindh Rangers, has "extensive experience [in] counterinsurgency from a previous posting in the border region of South Waziristan" (RFE/RL). He is also believed to be a close ally of Gen. Raheel Sharif, the head of Pakistan’s army; the Wall Street Journal noted that the move — which was one of six appointments — allows Sharif to "put his own men in key positions" (WSJ). Akthar will replace Lt. Gen. Zaheerul Islam, who is retiring at the end of September.
Pakistan repatriates 14 detainees from Bagram Prison
Fourteen Pakistani detainees were quietly released from U.S. custody in Afghanistan’s Bagram Prison on Saturday and repatriated to Pakistan, according to Justice Project Pakistan, a legal firm representing some of the prisoners (Guardian, VOA). Sarah Belal, a lawyer with the project, said in a statement that, so far, Pakistani authorities have not released any information about the prisoners, such as their names or their current whereabouts. The releases on Saturday raised the number of Pakistanis freed from Bagram in the past 10 months to 39. Reuters noted that: "At least one Pakistani is thought to still be in prison there, although the exact numbers are unclear since no official list has been provided since 2012" (Reuters).
Protest movement heads to Karachi, Lahore
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) party chairman Imran Khan took his anti-government protests to the port city of Karachi on Sunday, attracting tens of thousands of supporters in the country’s largest city and commercial hub (Dawn, WSJ). It was the first time since Aug. 15, when Khan and his followers began a sit-in in Islamabad against the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, that he took the protests on the road. On Monday, Khan announced that he would soon hold a similar rally in Lahore (ET). While the crowd in Karachi was much larger than any of those in the Pakistani capital, it was hard to know what kind of impact it had, considering that Sharif doesn’t have much of a political base in the city. Bonus Read: "Khan Says His Party Would Rule Pakistan If Elections Held," Kamran Haider and Faseeh Mangi (Bloomberg).
— Bailey Cahall
Standoff at Indo-China border continues
The Indian Army has kept on high alert 15 battalions, as well as "reserve units," in the Chumar sector in eastern Ladakh — located in the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir — to counter the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) presence there, according to media reports on Monday (Times of India, NDTV). Although, Chinese President Xi Jinping — during his visit to India last week — told Prime Minister Narendra Modi that he had ordered his forces to withdraw, approximately 1,000 PLA troops were still occupying six to seven tactical positions in the Chumar sector. Tensions between India and China have flared up occasionally as both nations disagree over the demarcation of their shared border.
Despite the Indian army’s repeated warnings to vacate the area, the PLA started pitching tents in the Indian territory, and showed no signs of withdrawing, Indian official sources said (Economic Times). On Sunday, the Indian government withdrew clearances for Chinese editors who were scheduled to come to New Delhi for an annual media exchange with Indian journalists. Although the Indian government has not issued an official statement, the organizer told participating Indian journalists: "Due to unavoidable complications, we have had to postpone the India-China Media Exchange. We thank you all for agreeing to participate on Sep. 24 … and we will call on your participation again when we hold the event. But for now, it stands cancelled" (NDTV).
India reacts to Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s comment on Kashmir
India, on Saturday, reacted to Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s earlier comment on Kashmir, and stated that the unity and integrity of the country was "non-negotiable" (Economic Times). Bilawal had said on Friday: "I will take back Kashmir, all of it, and I will not leave behind a single inch of it because, like the other provinces, it belongs to Pakistan" (Times of India). Bilawal, in his 20s, plans to contest the next general elections in Pakistan in 2018. His mother, Benazir Bhutto, was twice elected as Pakistan’s prime minister, and his father, Asif Ali Zardari, was Pakistan’s president from 2008 to 2013. India and Pakistan have fought three wars since the two countries were partitioned in 1947, and two of them were over Kashmir. Both countries have claimed Kashmir in its entirety, and the dispute has been a flashpoint between India and Pakistan for more than 60 years.
In response to Bilawal’s comments, Syed Akbaruddin, a spokesman for the Indian External Affairs Ministry, said: "We are in the process of looking forward and looking forward does not mean that our borders will be changed," adding that Bilawal’s comment was "far from reality which takes us back into the past century" (NDTV). The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress party were also quick to respond to Bilawal’s comments. BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain said: "Kashmir is very much a part of India and will remain so. Any discussion on it is not acceptable to us. Kashmir resides in the hearts of Indians" (Indian Express). Congress leader Shakeel Ahmed said: "He is a youth, his 70 generations had the dream to capture Kashmir. He will have to keep waiting for another 70 generations. He underestimates the might of India" (NDTV).
Indian spacecraft ‘Mangalyaan’ clears crucial test
India’s Mars orbiter satellite, "Mangalyaan," which aims to observe the physical features of Mars and conduct a limited study of the Martian atmosphere, successfully completed a test fire on Monday (IBNLive, NDTV). Scientists at the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) successfully reignited the spacecraft’s main engine for four seconds to test for efficiency, and uploaded commands to allow the spacecraft to automatically enter Mar’s orbit on Sep. 24. The $74-million project was launched on Nov. 5, 2013, and is India’s first mission to Mars. If India succeeds in its Mars probe, it will become the fourth country in the world, after the United States, Russia, and the European space agency, to claim a successful Mars mission. After clearing the crucial test, ISRO tweeted on Monday: "#MarsOrbiter Main Liquid Engine test firing successful!" (Economic Times).
— Neeli Shah and Jameel Khan
Edited by Peter Bergen.
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