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Detention of Mutasim Agha Jan by UAE Now Confirmed, Basis Unknown

On Tuesday, I noted that Mutasim Agha Jan had gone missing in Dubai while attempting to work toward negotiations between the Afghan Taliban and Afghanistan’s High Peace Council. Multiple outlets now are reporting on the Peace Council having confirmed that Mutasim was indeed detained by authorities in the UAE. Here is Khaama Press on the confirmation:

The Afghan High Council has confirmed that the former Taliban leader Agha Jan Mutasim has been held in United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Agha Jan Mutasim has been missing in United Arab Emirates during the past several days. He was a senior Taliban leader and was supporting the Afghan peace process with the Taliban group.

Afghan High Peace Council following a statement said the detention of Agha Jan Mutasim clarifies that certain elements in the region are disrupting the Afghan peace talks.

The statement further added that those individuals, who are struggling to resume Afghan peace process, have been victimized.

The High Peace Council insisted that Afghan peace talks should take place inside Afghanistan and negotiations have taken place with the UAE officials to end limitations and resolve the issue of Agha Jan Mutasim.

Note that the High Peace Council accuses “certain elements in the region” of “disrupting the Afghan peace talks”. We also get a similar accusation from Karzai’s office. From today’s Washington Post, there is this:

“Known and secret enemies of peace in Afghanistan continue sabotaging our peace process,” Aimal Faizi, Karzai’s spokesman, said Thursday. He did not specify who he thought was responsible, but Afghan officials often accuse neighboring Pakistan of abetting insurgents and stymieing peace efforts.

In that regard, it is very interesting to see an opposition political figure in Pakistan speaking out today against Pakistan’s military supporting the Afghan Taliban: Read more

Pakistan’s Next Government Beginning to Take Shape

Most of the results from Saturday’s historic election in Pakistan are in. The biggest surprise is that Imran Khan’s PTI party, which had been viewed as a possible upset winner, fell to third place behind the outgoing PPP. Nawaz Sharif and his PML-N party came very close to achieving a majority in the National Assembly, but since a majority was not achieved, Sharif is now in the process of forging the alliances that will be needed for him to form a government for which he will once again become Prime Minister. Here are the latest numbers from the Express Tribune:

Contrary to most pre-poll predictions, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) emerged as the single largest party by securing 123 seats of the National Assembly, according to the results released by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

The election commission has received 256 results out of 268 constituencies, and are still waiting for results from 12 constituencies, a senior ECP official said.

In order to win a simple majority in the 342-member lower house, a party or coalition would need 172 seats. Of the total seats, 272 are for directly elected members while 60 are reserved seats for women and 10 are for minorities.

These reserved seats are allocated to parties as per their performance in the polls. As per the results from ECP, PML-N has secured 123 seats; Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarian (PPPP) bagged 37 seats, followed by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) which managed to get 27 seats. Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) won 18 seats, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) 10 seats, Pakistan Muslim League-Functional (PML-F) four seats, Jamaat-e-Islami three seats, Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) two seats, NPP and PML two seats each.

We learn more about how the election proceeded from AFP (via the Express Tribune):

It was targeted by the Taliban, women and minorities were vastly under-represented, and videos of irregularities went viral online – yet Pakistan’s 2013 election may still have been its fairest ever.

A much improved voter roll, near-record turnout, and vigilant citizens tweeting alleged rigging all played their part in what former Norwegian PM and election observer Kjell Magne Bondevik called “a credible expression of the will of the people”.

Saturday’s election saw about 50 million Pakistanis vote, with former prime minister Nawaz Sharif emerging the winner nearly 14 years after he was deposed in a coup.

/snip/

Violence in the run-up to polls and on election day itself killed more than 150 people, according to an AFP tally, as the Taliban set their sights in particular on secular parties that made up the outgoing government.

In a remarkable use of technology, voters were able to text their voter ID number to find out immediately the location of their polling station. Although 50 million votes were cast, the polling location service was accessed 55 million times.

Perhaps because of the unexpectedly poor performance of his party, Imran Khan is continuing to pursue charges of rigging in several districts: Read more

Imran Khan Injured, Doctors Order Rest Ahead of Saturday’s Election

Yesterday, former cricket star Imran Khan was injured when he fell off a lift that was raising him and a number of bodyguards to an elevated stage for a rally in Lahore. Prior to the injury, Khan and his PTI party were seen as slightly trailing former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his PMN-L party for Saturday’s first-ever election in Pakistan after a civilian government (Asif Ali Zardari’s PPP party) has successfully completed a five year term in office. Pakistan’s Dawn News paints Khan’s injuries as serious while the Express Tribune downplays the seriousness.

Here is Dawn’s description of the fall and injuries:

Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan Tuesday sustained serious injuries on his head and back after falling from a lifter during climbing up the stage installed for an election rally in Lahore.

TV footage showed him tumbling down along with three or four personal body guards on a pick up truck. The PTI chief was seen bleeding when he was taken away by his party supporters to the city’s Liberty Hospital.

/snip/

Khan sustained injuries on his head and back, said the hospital sources. They also said that Khan had to have as many as 16 stitches due to the injuries he sustained at back of his head.

The Express Tribune, meanwhile, claims the injuries are not serious:

Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan will not attend a public meeting in Islamabad on Thursday (May 9).

Additional Information Secretary PTI Lahore Umar Khan, while talking to APP, said Imran Khan’s condition was not serious but he had been advised bed rest by doctors for a week.

This same article describes what appears to be spinal fractures but no damage to the spinal cord: Read more

With US Attention on Memogate Fallout and Taliban, Khan’s Tsunami Gathers Strength

As reported late yesterday by the New York Times, the US is finally acknowledging that it faces a diminished role in Pakistan. However, restoring even a diminished level of relations with Pakistan after the November 26 airstrike that killed 24 Pakistani troops is complicated by the fact that “civilian and military leaders are clashing over purported coup plots”. At the same time, the US continues its efforts at negotiating with the Taliban on a peace agreement for Afghanistan once the US leaves, and has even arranged for the Taliban to open an office in Qatar. These diplomatic moves are all focused on the scheduled 2014 withdrawal of combat troops from Afghanistan, but standing between now and then are the scheduled Pakistan elections in 2013.  Former cricket star Imran Khan appears to be gaining a huge political following and so it seems likely that whether it is the long-rumored military coup or an electoral loss, the Zardari government appears to have lame duck status while participating in these critical discussions.

The Times describes the reduced US role with Pakistan:

With the United States facing the reality that its broad security partnership with Pakistan is over, American officials are seeking to salvage a more limited counterterrorism alliance that they acknowledge will complicate their ability to launch attacks against extremists and move supplies into Afghanistan.

The United States will be forced to restrict drone strikes, limit the number of its spies and soldiers on the ground and spend more to transport supplies through Pakistan to allied troops in Afghanistan, American and Pakistani officials said. United States aid to Pakistan will also be reduced sharply, they said.

It appears that the reduced number of “spies and soldiers” is down to about 100 from a high of 400. It is also very interesting to note that there have been no drone strikes in Pakistan since November 16, a full ten days before the November 26 border post attack. Today marks the one month mark for the blocking of supply lines through Pakistan in response to the border post attack.

While trying to sort out whether the Zardari government is stable enough to negotiate with over US involvement, the US is continuing its frequently ill-fated attempts to negotiate with the Taliban.   Read more