Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Police Attacked in Khyber Paktunkhwa; White House Considering Fewer Troops Post-2014

Topline

  • White House officials are considering a post-2014 Afghanistan force of as few as 5,000 U.S. troops, Reuters reports. Separate attacks on police in Khyber Paktunkhwa’s Charsadda and Peshawar districts killed at least nine people on Tuesday; there was no claim of responsibility in either case. A judicial commission has been appointed to investigate the shooting of GEO TV anchor Hamid Mir; Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif visited ISI headquarters on Tuesday in a show of support, after Mir’s supporters accused the intelligence agency of being behind the assassination attempt. The Afghan Independent Election Commission says it has processed more than 90% of ballot tally sheets and is prepared to announce the total preliminary results on Thursday.


Pakistan — Security

  • Attacks On Khyber Paktunkhwa Police: Separate bombings in the Charsadda district and Peshawar on Tuesday killed at least nine people and wounded several dozen more. In the first incident, a bomb struck a police vehicle traveling through the Charsadda market place, killing three bystanders and wounding thirty. In Peshawar, a group of unidentified gunmen ambushed a police patrol, killing five officers and a civilian. No claim of responsibility has been reported in either incident. [AJE] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Mir Shooting Aftermath: Prime Minister Sharif visited Karachi on Monday to review security operations there in the wake of Saturday’s assassination attempt on GEO News anchor Hamid Mir; he met with Mir at the Karachi hospital where he is recovering and vowed to find those responsible for the attack. On Monday, Chief Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani appointed a three-member judicial commission to investigate the shooting. Meanwhile, Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif visited ISI headquarters on Tuesday for a show of support for the intelligence agency, which Mir’s brother and other GEO TV officials have accused of being responsible for the attack. [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • UNICEF Employees Freed: Two Pakistani national employees of UNICEF who went missing last Thursday and were believed to have been kidnapped were recovered in a police raid on Monday; details were otherwise limited, and the kidnappers are reported to have been absent from the site. [Reuters]


Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Jamaat-e-Islami Plans ‘Peace Jirga’: With government-TTP peace talks apparently stalled, the Jamaat-e-Islami’s FATA chapter head has announced plans to hold a “peace jirga” on May 1, in conjunction with Maulana Samiul Haq of the JUI-S.
  • PPP-MQM Coalition: Anonymous MQM party officials claim that the PPP and MQM are preparing to finalize a coalition government agreement in Sindh, after several months of negotiations; no final agreement has yet been announced. [Dawn]


Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Development Spending Cuts: The government has disbursed only around 50% of funds budgeted for the Public Sector Development Program over the first nine and a half months of the fiscal year, Dawn reports, in an apparent effort by the government to curtail expenditures and keep fiscal deficit targets.


Pakistan — Remainders

  • Pakistan Mulls Tighter Controls on Madrassas [AJE]
  • Pakistan Test-Fires Hatf III Short Range Ballistic Missile [Dawn]
  • Prime Minister’s Advisor on Aviation Reportedly Blocking PIA Privatization [ET]
  • Sharif to Seek Pipeline Penalty Waivers During Iran Visit [ET]
  • Musharraf Skips Hearing in Bugti Murder Case [Dawn]
  • MQM Senator Mustafa Kemal’s Resignation Belatedly Accepted [Dawn] [ET]
  • Prime Minister Sharif Inaugurates New Guddu Power Plant Turbines [APP]


Afghanistan — Security

  • U.S. Force Levels May Drop Below 10,000: Reuters reports that White House officials have resumed deliberations on a long-term force presence in Afghanistan after the conclusion of a bilateral security agreement with the next president, and are considering an agreement that would retain “possibly less than 5,000 U.S. troops” past 2014, much lower than the levels sought by U.S. military commanders.
  • Sayyaf Observer Killed: Esmatullah, also known as Malem Tor, a veteran mujahedeen commander and provincial peace council member who had served as a poll observer for Abdul Rassoul Sayyaf’s presidential campaign, was killed outside his home in Logar province’s Mohammad Agha district on Monday. The Taliban denied involvement. [RFE/RL] [Khaama Press]


Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Vote Count: Independent Election Commission spokesmen said Monday that 93% of polling station results sheets have been processed and audited thus far, and total preliminary results will be announced on April 24. Speaking at a press conference on Monday, presidential candidate Ashraf Ghani called on the IEC to stop the release of partial vote figures, which have showed him running second to Abdullah Abdullah, arguing that “this only confuses the public’s perceptions”. [Khaama Press]


Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Afghanistan Calls on Iran to Stop Execution of Afghan Nationals [Khaama Press] [TOLO]
  • Commentary: The Taleban Rant and Take a Harder Line on Peace – “Their response has been characterised by incoherence and distress, with Taleban statements rejecting elections as “anti-Islamic and western concept”, insisting there had been an “overwhelming popular boycott” and criticising the “widespread fraud”.” [Borhan Osman, AAN]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Afghan Election Commission Releases More Partial Results; GEO TV Anchor Wounded in Shooting

Topline

  • The Afghan Independent Election Commission has released additional partial results representing around half of all votes, which show Abdullah Abdullah continuing to lead Ashraf Ghani, but falling short of the 50% needed to avoid a runoff. Senior GEO TV news anchor Hamid Mir survived a shooting in Karachi on Saturday, which his brother alleged was carried out by the ISI; military officials denied the accusations. Lahore police have arrested six Lashkar-e-Jhangvi gunmen linked to a string of shootings over the past year. Planned talks between intermediaries for the TTP and Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan did not take place on Saturday. Former Afghan Taliban leader Agha Jan Motasim has reportedly been released from house arrest in the UAE and is now in Kabul, following intervention by the Afghan government. Former Pres. Musharraf was transferred to Karachi on Saturday, where he underwent more medical tests and renewed an appeal with the Sindh High Court to be allowed to leave the country on health grounds.


Pakistan — Security

  • Prominent Journalist Wounded in Shooting: Hamid Mir, a high profile news anchor with Pakistan’s GEO TV, was shot and wounded by unidentified gunmen on motorcycles as he was traveling from the airport in Karachi on Saturday evening. He survived the attack and was hospitalized with three gunshot wounds, and is now in stable condition. Mir’s brother, Amir Mir, and other associates have alleged that the ISI was behind the attack; the military’s public relations arm has condemned the incident and called for an investigation, saying that “raising allegations against ISI or head of ISI without any basis is highly regrettable and misleading.” The military’s chief spokesman tells the Express News that “there should be no doubt that we will take legal action” against GEO over the accusations. Mir, who survived an assassination attempt by the Pakistani Taliban in 2012, has been a critic of military operations in Balochistan, and has called for the expansion of the treason trial against former Pres. Musharraf to include other military officials. Prime Minister Sharif has ordered an inquiry into the attack. [NYT] [ET] [ET]
  • Lashkar-e-Jhangvi Hitmen Arrested: Police in Lahore announced on Friday that they had arrested six men with links to Lashkar-e-Jhangvi who have been linked to the murder of at least sixteen people over the past two years, as well as four attempted murders, including a recent attack journalist Raza Rumi. Police say that Lashkar-e-Jhangvi leader Malik Ishaq ordered all of the attacks, despite his current imprisonment. In a Dawn article, anonymous security service officials criticize the Punjab government’s unwillingness to take more aggressive action against militant groups operating within the province. [ET]
  • Pakistani Taliban Talks Deadlocked: Speaking to reporters on Friday, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan spokesman Shahidullah Shaheed disassociated the TTP from “attacks on public places” that “some forces may carry out” in the absence of an agreed ceasefire with the government, but said that “we have the right to launch attacks in self defence”. A planned meeting between Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and the TTP’s intermediary negotiators that was scheduled for Saturday was cancelled without explanation. The NYT reports further on how divisions within the TTP have stalled talks efforts, noting efforts by the Haqqani network and the Afghan government to push rival factions within the group to focus their attacks on opposing side of the Afghan-Pakistan border. [The Nation] [Dawn]
  • UN Employees Kidnapped: Two Pakistani national staff working for UNICEF in Karachi were reportedly kidnapped on Thursday evening; UN officials confirmed that they had gone missing, although no ransom has been reported. [Dawn] [ET]


Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Musharraf Transferred to Karachi: Former Pres. Musharraf was transferred under heavy security from his Islamabad farmhouse to Karachi on Saturday, where he underwent an examination by doctors from the PNS Shifa naval medical facility on Sunday, who recommended he undergo an angiography. Musharraf’s lawyers have renewed requests with the Sindh High Court that he be allowed to leave the country and avoid further hearings on pending treason charges; the court has sought a response from the federal government. [Dawn] [ET]


Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Energy Crisis: The Khyber Paktunkhwa provincial government continues to protest efforts by the Ministry of Water and Power to cut off electricity distribution to cities and districts that have not paid electricity bills, accusing the federal government of failing to pay its own arrears for hydropower generated in the province. [Dawn] [AFP]
  • Wireless Spectrum Auction: On Saturday, the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority officials announced further details on the bidding procedures for 3G and 4G wireless spectrum auctions scheduled to take place on April 23. [ET] [ET] [Dawn]


Pakistan — Remainders

  • Supreme Court Rules National Accountability Bureau Chairman’s Appointment Was Legal  [Dawn] [ET]
  • Cabinet Approves Infrastructure Projects, LNG Gas Import Pricing, Range of Bilateral MOUs [ET] [APP] [ET]
  • China and Pakistan Conduct Joint Military Exercise in Rawalpindi [Dawn]
  • New WAPDA Chairman Says Diamer-Bhasha Dam Top Priority [Dawn]
  • Opposition Parties Meet to Plan Strategy to Block Protection of Pakistan Ordinance Legislation [Dawn]
  • Punjab Elite Police Receive Rs 379 Million in Arms and Equipment [Dawn]
  • Four High-Profile Prisoners Transferred from Sindh to Balochistan [ET]
  • Attack on Slain ANP Leader’s Home in Peshawar [Dawn]
  • Gas Pipeline Bombed in Sibi [ET]
  • IMF Reportedly Unsatisfied with State Bank Autonomy Legislation [Dawn]
  • Zardari Calls for Review of Blasphemy Law [Dawn]


Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • More Partial Vote Count Figures Released: The Independent Election Commission issued its second partial vote count figures on Sunday, representing 49.7% of all votes, which again showed Abullah Abdullah in the lead with 44% of the vote, followed by Ashraf Ghani with 33%. IEC officials indicated that the reported results were only based on verified votes, but noted that the figures are still incomplete and subject to change. Abdullah has expressed continued hope that he might ultimately come out with more than 50% of the final count, enough to avoid a runoff. The other six candidates in the race met as a group earlier this week at the offices of Abdul Rassoul Sayyaf to collectively consider appeals by Ghani and Abdullah to endorse their respective candidacies, the Post reports, or to consider efforts to mediate a coalition between the two, which Abdullah has ruled out. On Saturday Electoral Complainst Commission officials said they have reviewed around half of the approximately 900 ‘category A’ complaints filed, which are judged to be serious enough to potentially affect election outcomes. Results from around 1,000 polling centers have been quarantined for further evaluation; provincial election commission officials in Herat say they have invalidated around 100,000 votes from 27 polling stations; members of Abdullah’s campaign team protested the decision. Large numbers of votes have also reportedly been thrown out in Badakshan, Paktika, and Kunar, although no precise numbers have yet been reported. [WSJ] [BBC] [TOLO] [TOLO] [TOLO] [TOLO] [TOLO]
  • Motasim Returned to Kabul: Former Taliban leader and negotiations proponent Agha Jan Motasim has reportedly been released from house arrest in the UAE after intervention by the Afghan government last week; the exact circumstances of his detention, which followed efforts to convene meetings between Taliban commanders and Afghan government officials that were disowned by the Taliban, remain unclear. TOLO reports that Motasim is now in Kabul.


Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Taliban ‘Shadow Governor’ for Kandahar Killed [Khaama Press]
  • Helmand Promoted to ‘Grade A’ Province, Increasing Resource Share [TOLO]
  • Parliament Summons Health Minister [TOLO]
  • Commentary: America’s Last Task in Kabul – “It might be best for the United States to focus first on handing over the peacemaking to Afghanistan’s neighbors, as the most credible strategy for ending the war quickly.” [Vali Nasr, NYT]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Ceasefire Lapse Stalls TTP Talks; Afghan High Peace Council Seeks Motasim Release

Topline

  • Pakistan’s national security council agreed to continue efforts to hold talks with the Pakistani Taliban despite their withdrawal of a ceasefire agreement earlier this week, but Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan suggested that progress was unlikely if attacks resume. The Afghan High Peace Council has confirmed that Agha Jan Motasim has been placed under house arrest in the UAE and has appealed for his release; the details of his detention remain unclear. Afghan election officials are preparing to release preliminary vote results next week. The controversial Protection of Pakistan Ordinance has been introduced in the senate, where the PPP opposition has vowed to block its passage.


Pakistan — Security

  • Government to Continue Peace Negotiations Effort: At Thursday’s meeting of the cabinet national security committee, officials resolved to continue efforts to hold negotiations with the Pakistani Taliban despite its withdrawal of a ceasefire earlier this week; Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan issued a statement after meeting with TTP intermediary Maulana Sami-ul Haq on Thursday, however, in which he professed doubt that “purposeful dialogue can move forward in the absence of a ceasefire”. Chaudhry Nisar will meet with the full committee of TTP intermediaries on Saturday; Professor Ibrahim Khan reiterated calls for the government to release Taliban prisoners in order to resume the talks. No major attacks have yet been reported after the ceasefire’s withdrawal this week, but a member of the Frontier Corps was killed and two others injured when their vehicle was attacked by militants on the outskirts of Peshawar on Friday. [The Nation]


Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Protection of Pakistan Ordinance Brought Before Senate: The government introduced the Protection of Pakistan Ordinance legislation in the senate on Friday, where it has drawn opposition from the PPP, MQM, and other opposition parties. The draft, which earlier passed the national assembly, has been sent to committee for review. [Dawn] [ET]
  • MQM Protests: The discovery of the bodies of two missing MQM party workers on Friday, who had been missing for the past four months, has prompted protests by the party in Karachi and other cities in Sindh. [Dawn] [ET]


Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Energy Import: At a cabinet meeting on Friday, Prime Minister Sharif formally approved a policy for establishing a Liquified Natural Gas import terminal in Karachi and for the import of electricity from Iran. The LNG facility is expected to initially handle 200 million cubic feet per day, and to be operated by Elengy Terminal Pakistan Ltd, although the Express Tribune notes opposition from the Fauji Foundation. [ET]


Pakistan — Remainders

  • Special Treason Court Rejects Musharraf Petition to Remove Prosecutor [Dawn] [ET]
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Government Acknowledges 160 Schools Closed Due to Militant Threat; Opposition Disputes Figure [Dawn]
  • Government Again Seeks to Fire PEMRA Chairman [Dawn] [ET]
  • WAPDA Chairman Resigns [ET]
  • Government Seeks to Facilitate to the Return of Khan of Kalat from Exile [ET]
  • Lal Masjid Women’s Seminary Renames Library in Honor of Osama bin Laden [AFP]
  • JUI-F Accuses Sindh Government of Seeking to Ban Madrassas [Dawn]
  • Current Account Deficit Hits $2.1 Billion [ET]
  • Government Urges Saudi Arabia to Hike Pakistani Job Quota [Dawn]
  • Affected Families Still Waiting for Promised Cash Transfer Assistance Pledge During 2010 Floods [ET]
  • Commentary: A Military Operation in North Waziristan? Not Likely – “A naïve view of the Taliban coupled with a question mark on the outcome of the operation have so far led Sharif to procrastinate and hope that all will somehow work itself out.” [Moeed Yusuf, South Asia Channel]


Afghanistan — Security

  • Motasim Under House Arrest: The Afghan High Peace Council issued a statement on Thursday confirming that former Taliban leader Agha Jan Motasim has been placed under house arrest in the UAE; officials there have not commented publicly, although he is reportedly facing deportation. Motasim held an unauthorized conference in Dubai in March that sought to bring together government representatives and current and former Taliban members, which the Taliban’s central leadership rejected but which the High Peace Council had embraced. Other anonymous U.S. officials tell the Post that Motasim’s arrest “was unrelated to his role as a peace negotiator”, however. [Khaama Press] [ET]


Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Vote Counting: A spokesman for the Independent Election Commission said Thursday that the IEC was prepared to announce “a major percentage of the results” next week, but gave said no details where yet available on when. The original election schedule called for preliminary results to be announced by April 24. The Electoral Complaints Commission says that it has identified roughly a thousand polling centers whose results should be quarantined from the main count until fraud allegations or other concerns are resolved.


Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Commentary: How to Jump Start the Afghan Economy – “The new government must counteract this parallel economy by boosting domestic revenue and tightening monetary policy, all while facing the additional challenges brought by the impending withdrawal of international forces at the end of this year.” [Faiysal Alikhan, South Asia Channel]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Pakistani Taliban End Ceasefire; Afghan Election Commission Continues Vote Count

Topline

  • The Pakistani Taliban have announced an end to their ceasefire with the government, accusing it of failing to respond to their demands for prisoner releases and military withdrawals. Prime Minister Sharif has called a meeting of senior civilian and military officials today. The Afghan Independent Election Commission says that it is recounting results from around 22 provinces where polling centers recorded an excess of 600 votes. The Pakistani army will provide security to polio vaccination programs in Khyber Paktunkhwa. Finance Minister Dar projects $1.3 billion in revenues from the 3G/4G wireless spectrum sale, which will proceed on April 23. The Afghan parliamentarian wounded in a Kabul shooting on Wednesday, Maryam Koofi, was shot by a National Directorate of Security officer, apparently following an argument.


Pakistan — Security

  • Pakistani Taliban Ends Ceasefire: The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan’s lead spokesman issued a statement on Wednesday announcing that it would end its ceasefire with the government, accusing the government of failing to respond to its demands for prisoner release and the establishment of a “peace zone” in the FATA through the withdrawal of military forces. However, the TTP suggested that it was still willing to continue negotiations with the government “with complete sincerity and seriousness.” Umar Khalid Khurasani, the TTP’s Mohmand chapter head, issued a separate statement avowing that “the only way to implement true Shariah was jihad.” Professor Muhammad Ibrahim, the Jamaat-e-Islami Khyber In response Prime Minister Sharif has called a meeting on Thursday of the cabinet committee on national security, including senior military and civilian security officials, to review the status of negotiations with the TTP; details are currently limited on those discussions. [NYT] [AJE] [The Nation] [Dawn] [ET] [ET]
  • Army to Provide Security for Polio Vaccinations: Following meetings in Rawalpindi with federal and provincial officials and World Health Organization representatives, the Pakistan army has been tasked with providing security for polio vaccination programs in Khyber Paktunkhwa, where the government is currently seeking to expand its Seha ka Insaaf campaign.


Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Sharif and Zardari Meet: In a statement issued by the prime minister’s office after Nawaz Sharif and former Pres. Zardari met on Wednesday, the two leaders expressed their commitment “to respect and to strengthen all institutions in order to address the many challenges faced by Pakistan including those of security, health, education and poverty for a better future”. Dawn reports that Sharif agreed to review PPP objections to the Protection of Pakistan Ordinance, which the party has indicated it will block from senate passage. [The Nation]
  • PTI Divisions: Despite efforts by PTI chairman Imran Khan last week to broker an agreement with a dissident faction of Khyber Paktunkhwa provincial lawmakers, the group organized itself as a breakaway ‘pressure group’ in the assembly session on Wednesday.


Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • 3G Wireless Auction: All four of the bidders for the 3G/4G wireless spectrum auction have met government qualifications; Finance Minister Dar projected revenues of $1.3 billion from the sale, which is scheduled to take place April 23. The Senate subcommittee on information technology has recommended that auction be postponed, however, citing the lack of an appointment for one of the three commissioners on the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority. [Dawn] [ET]
  • Economic Indicators: Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, Finance Minister Dar reported that the economy grew at 4.1% during the first half of the fiscal year; second quarter growth data were not announced, but based on earlier reported first quarter growth, this indicates that growth slowed between the two quarters from 5% to around 3.2%, according to anonymous Pakistan Bureau of Statistics officials.


Pakistan — Remainders

  • Prime Minister Sharif Expected to Visit Iran in May [ET]
  • Case Against Army Officer Linked to Malakand Disappearances Transferred to Military Jurisdiction [ET]
  • Chinese Mining Consortium Threatens to Withdraw from Khyber Paktunkhwa Over Licensing Dispute [Dawn]
  • In Senate Proceedings, MQM Walks Out Over Karachi Operations, PPP Opposes State Owned Enterprise Privatizations [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • PPP Asks Senator Faisal Raza Abidi to Resign [Dawn] [ET]
  • Report: PakVotes: A Social Media Experiment in Elections Monitoring – “During Pakistan’s May 2013 general elections and by-elections three months later, USIP supported an experiment called PakVotes, designed by the Pakistani nongovernmental organization Bytes for All (B4A) to increase the flow of information from “information dark” areas through a network of social media reporters.” [Nadia Naviwala, USIP]
  • Commentary: Message in a Meeting – “Did the political show of unity mean the civil-military crisis was on its way to being defused or was the prime minister preparing for a showdown with his hand-picked army chief?” [Cyril Almeida, Dawn]


Afghanistan — Security

  • Parliamentarian Wounded: Additional details on the shooting yesterday of Takhar parliamentarian Maryam Koofi indicate that the gunman was a National Directorate of Security officer, who apparently engaged in an argument with Koofi or her bodyguard, who was also injured. The suspect has not been identified, but has been arrested.
  • Police Killed: The Taliban claimed responsibility for the death of seven Afghan Civil Order Police in the Said Abad district in Wardak province on Wednesday; as many as a dozen are reported to have initially been kidnapped in the ambush.


Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Election Count: A spokesman for the Independent Election Commission reported that it had begun a recount of results from polling centers with more than 600 recorded votes; together with the Electoral Complaints Committee, the IEC is also “re-auditing” vote tally sheets that lack official stamps or signatures. The Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan and the Transparent Election Foundation of Afghanistan, the country’s two biggest domestic voter observation groups, have protested that the IEC and ECC have not allowed their observers to be present during the review of suspicious ballots. [TOLO]


Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Asian Development Bank Reports Steep Drop in GDP Growth Rate Between 2012-2013 [Khaama Press]
  • Election Results Increase Chance of Long-Term U.S. Presence [AP]
  • Afghan Women Stand to Be Counted as West Begins to Disengage [Reuters]
  • Legislators Criticize Incomplete Quorum [TOLO]
  • Commentary: How the Hazaras Voted in Bamiyan – “The probable Bamyan victory for the Abdullah/Mohaqeq ticket suggests that factional ties (in this case factional ties within the parties into which Hezb-e Wahdat split) was not the main determining factor in how people voted.” [Qayoom Suroush, AAN]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Pakistan Telecom Officials Say High Interest for 3G Auction; Afghanistan Faces Budget Shortfall

Topline

  • Pakistan Telecommunications Authority officials refute accounts from Reuters that reported low interest in 3G and 4G wireless spectrum bids, which anonymous finance ministry officials had suggested would result in less than $1 billion in revenues. Afghanistan is facing a roughly $400 million budget shortfall that may force it to cut salary payments within two months absent an infusion of aid, Ministry of Finance officials warn the Post. Three Afghan civilians were killed in a NATO airstrike in Khost on Tuesday, local officials allege; parallel NATO and Afghan government investigations have been announced. Prime Minister Sharif and former Pres. Zardari met in Islamabad for wide-ranging one-on-one talks on Wednesday. Khan Said Sajna Mehsud may be appointed overall Pakistani Taliban commander for South Waziristan in a bid to end infighting there.


Pakistan — Security

  • TTP Infighting: The Nation reports that Khan Said Sajna Mehsud, a formal rival claimant for overlal Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan leadership who has clashed in recent weeks with Shehryar Mehsud, will likely be appointed as head of the TTP in South Waziristan by commander Maulvi Fazlullah in a bid to resolve the conflict. In North Waziristan, the military reportedly carried out helicopter strikes on suspected militants after a soldier was wounded in a bombing on Tuesday; there are no reports on casualties.


Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Nawaz and Zardari Meet: Prime Minister Sharif and former Pres. Zardari met in Islambad for a one-on-one meeting on Wednesday, their second since Sharif took office last year. No details of their discussions have been released, although they reportedly covered Pres. Musharraf’s trial, the passage of the Pakistan Protection Ordinance, and peace negotiations with the Taliban, among other issues. Speaking in the Senate on Tuesday, Farhatullah Babar, Zardari’s spokesman, said that recent “public posturing by the security establishment is uncalled for and disturbing,” and indicated that the PPP would support the civilian government against “adventurism or threat of adventurism by any coalition of undemocratic forces”. [Dawn]


Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • 3G/4G Spectrum Auction: Anonymous finance ministry officials tell Reuters that Finance Minister Dar is “very angry” about the bids received for the upcoming 3G/4G wireless spectrum sale, and is considering cancelling or delaying that auction, scheduled for April 23. Only four bids were reportedly received for 3G licenses, likely resulting in roughly $860 million in revenues; no bids were reported for 4G licenses, and no new providers entered the market despite efforts by Dar and the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority to promote the auction. The PTA denied that account, saying that the response had been “very encouraging” and that “we have received bids for both 3G and 4G spectrum and the overall demand has exceeded the supply”. [Dawn]
  • Tax Revenues: The Federal Board of Revenue has published a list of individual and corporate tax payers in a bid to shame defaulters and high-income individuals avoiding income tax, which few Pakistanis pay. Finance Minister Dar denied that the government intends to increase tax rates in the next budget, but stressed that the FBR would work to meet the revised tax target for the year of Rs 2.345 trillion.
  • Energy Crisis: Unpaid bills in the power sector have expanded to Rs 286 billion during the first three quarters of the fiscal year in spite of increases in price intended to bring them in line with the costs of production. Distribution company collections are reported to have fallen from 80% to 76%. [The Nation] [ET]


Pakistan — Remainders

  • Election Commission to Defer Petition on Jhang Election Tribunal Ruling to Supreme Court [Dawn]
  • Lashkar e Islam Threatens Peshawar Shia Neighborhood [Dawn]
  • Two Killed in Quetta Shooting [Dawn]
  • Musharraf Prosecutors Argue Against Broadened Indictment [Dawn] [ET] [ET]
  • New Khyber Paktunkhwa Governor Sworn In [Dawn]
  • Foreign Direct Investment Rises to $670M in First Nine Months of Fiscal Year [ET]
  • Supreme Court Irked at Inaction Over Court Martial Against Frontier Corps Officers Linked to Missing Persons [Dawn]
  • Mukhtar Ahmed Appointed Higher Education Commission Chairman [Dawn] [ET]


Afghanistan — Security

  • NATO Airstrike Killed Civilians: Provincial officials report that a woman and two children were killed in an errant U.S. airstrike in Khost on Tuesday; a government delegation has been dispatched to investigate, and Pres. Karzai condemned the incident as a ““violation of agreements between the two countries”. No details have yet been released on the circumstances surrounding the reported strike; NATO officials said they were investigating. [Reuters]
  • Parliamentarian Attacked: Maryam Koofi, a female member of parliament from Takhar and sister to prominent parliamentarian Fawzia Koofi, was shot and injured by unidentified gunmen in Kabul on Tuesday evening; she is in stable condition. No claim of responsibility has been reported.


Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • External Relations: In an AFP interview, prospective presidential run-off candidate Ashraf Ghani expresses a desire to seek an end to conflict with Pakistan and to establish a “special relationship” analogous to France and Germany after World War II. Speaking in Herat on Tuesday, Ambassador Cunningham stated that the U.S. would work with whoever the next president is to complete the Bilateral Security Agreement “as one of the first items of business in his presidency”. [TOLO] [TOLO]


Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Budget Shortfalls: Afghan Ministry of Finance officials warn that lower-than-expected tax and customs revenue collections during the first three months of the year has resulted in a roughly $400 million shortfall in the $2.5 billion operating budget, which may result in cuts to salary payments within two months in the absent of external aid. Ken Yamashita, coordinating director at the U.S. Embassy, tells the Post that “there’s definitely that significant economic contraction that’s coming with the transition,” but that “certain actions by the government need to be taken which will have a quick impact on their ability to generate more revenue”.


Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Over 4,150 Detainees Released from Bagram Prison to Date, Officials Report [Khaama Press]
  • More Reports on Motasim’s Disappearance in UAE [WSJ]
  • Afghanistan Rejects Reports That It Has Withdrawn Objections to Dasu Hydro Project [ET]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Bomb Wounds Soldier in North Waziristan; Afghan Deputy Minister Kidnapped in Kabul

Topline

  • Infighting amongst South Waziristan Pakistani Taliban groups continues; no announcement of a ceasefire extension has yet been made, and a roadside bombing injured a Pakistani soldier in North Waziristan on Tuesday. The Afghan Deputy Minister of Public Works, Ahmad Shah Wahid, was kidnapped near his home in Kabul on Tuesday. The Afghan Independent Election Commission has collected around 95% of ballots at its central Kabul counting facility. Pakistan has received four bids for 3G/4G wireless spectrum licenses, with an auction to be held on April 23. The second phase of Balochistan local government elections will take place at the end of May. The Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs has confirmed that Taliban dissident Agha Jan Motasim is missing or under detention in the UAE, and told reporters they are seeking more information from UAE officials.


Pakistan — Security

  • No Ceasefire Announcement Yet: The Nation, citing an unidentified private tv network, reports that the Pakistani Taliban’s leadership shura has agreed to extend the ceasefire with the government, but no announcement has yet been made and no other reports have confirmed consensus on the part of the TTP in this regard. On Tuesday, a bomb near a passing military convoy in North Waziristan injured one soldier; the TTP have not claimed responsibility. PPP opposition leader Khurshid Shah accused the government of failing to prioritize the release of Shahbaz Taseer and Ali Haider Gillani in its talks with the TTP.
  • TTP Infighting: A spokesman for the Hakimullah Mehsud group has confirmed to Dawn they continue to be in conflict with the rival Khan Said Sajna group in South Waziristan. A pamphlet issued in the name of Mullah Omar was distributed in the area calling for a resolution to the conflict, but a spokesman for the Afghan Taliban denied involvement.
  • Pipeline Attacks: Gas pipelines were attacked in separate bombings in the Khairpur district of Sindh and Dera Bugti district in Balochistan on Tuesday, suspending gas supplies. No claim of responsibility has yet been reported in either incident.


Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Balochistan Local Elections: Follow direct elections for local bodies in Balochistan in December, the Election Commission has set May 29 as the date for the second phase of the elections, for 4,561 reserved seats; a third phase will subsequently elect council heads.
  • Senate Requires PM Attendance: The senate passed an amendment to its rules on Monday that requires Prime Minister Sharif to attend senate proceedings at least one a week while the house is in session; Sharif has yet to attend any senate session, where the PML-N is in the minority, since taking office last May. [Dawn] [ET]


Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • 3G Auction: The Pakistan Telecommunications Authority has received only four bids for 3G or 4G wireless spectrum licenses, all from existing mobile service operators in the country, suggesting that initial government projections of $2 billion in revenues will not be met. Qualified bidders will be announced on April 17 and an auction held on April 23. [The Nation]
  • South Korean PM Visits: South Korean Prime Minister Chung Hongwon began a four-day visit to Pakistan with meetings with Prime Minister Sharif in Islamabad on Monday. During talks, Sharif proposed the establishment of a free trade agreement between the two countries and sought Korean investment in Pakistan’s energy and infrastructure sectors.


Pakistan — Remainders

  • DNI Clapper Says Intel Cooperation with Pakistan ‘On the Upswing’ [ABC News]
  • US Air Force Personnel Reportedly Deputed to Operate CIA Drone Program [Guardian]
  • Finance Minister Projects Improving Economy, Loan and Revenue Inflows [Dawn]
  • Special Court Hears Arguments in Musharraf Treason Case [Dawn] [ET]
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Assembly Members Threaten Protests if Electricity Supply Curtailed [Dawn]
  • Sindh Opposition Accuses PPP Sindh Government of Overseeing Extrajudicial Action in Karachi Operation [Dawn]
  • IMF Projects Continued Debt-to-GDP of Over 60% [ET]
  • FATA Polio Vaccination Campaign Announced, Excluding North and South Waziristan [ET]
  • Judicial Inquiry Rejects Police Report Into Perween Rehman Murder [ET]


Afghanistan — Security

  • Deputy Minister Kidnapped: Deputy Minister of Public Works Ahmad Shah Wahid was abducted by unidentified gunmen while en route to work in Kabul on Tuesday morning, the Afghan Interior Ministry and the Ministry of Public Works have confirmed; no ransom demand has yet been reported. Wahid’s driver was injured in the incident. The Taliban’s lead spokesman said that he was investigating whether the Taliban were involved in the incident. [BBC] [TOLO]


Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Vote Counting: A spokesman for the Independent Election Commission reported on Tuesday that around 95% of ballots have been received at the central Kabul counting facility. The IEC will place special scrutiny on votes received from polling centers that opened after noon, where IEC were reported to have been attacked, or where site chief administrators failed to personally verify tally sheets, among other criteria.
  • Motasim Confirmed Missing: A spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed on Monday that Taliban peace negotiations proponent Agha Jan Motasim has gone missing or been detained in the UAE, saying they were seeking more information from UAE officials on his status. The Taliban, who previously denounced Motasim’s efforts to organize meetings between dissident Taliban commanders and the Afghan government, said they had “no information” on Motasim’s whereabouts. [TOLO]


Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Boehner Visits Afghanistan, Calls for Maintaining ‘Right-Sized’ Force [Khaama Press]
  • One Killed, Nine Injured in Khost Roadside Bombing [TOLO]
  • Book Reviews: A Hedgehog and a Fox Explain Afghanistan – “Afghanistan metastasized not because of our neglect, but because we were either treating the wrong “disease,” or because our treatment made the problem worse.” [Douglas Ollivant, South Asia Channel]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Abdullah Leads in First Partial Vote Count; Stall Continues in TTP Talks

Topline

  • The Afghan Independent Election Commission released preliminary count data for around half a million ballots on Sunday, which showed Abdullah Abdullah with roughly 42% of the vote and Ashraf Ghani with around 38%. IEC officials emphasized those numbers remain subject to change; the Electoral Complaints Commission is investigating at least 870 accusations of serious fraud. Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan mediators claim that infighting between rival South Waziristan groups has been resolved, and the TTP leadership met on Friday and Monday to discuss the ongoing peace negotiations with the government, which announced plans to release another 12 low-level detainees on Sunday. Opposition parties in the Pakistani senate say they are planning to block passage of the Pakistan Protection Ordinance. The JUI-F has quit the governing coalition in Pakistan.


Pakistan — Security

  • TTP Debate Ceasefire Extension: The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan leadership reportedly met on Friday to discuss the possibility of renewing a ceasefire agreement with the government, but no statements have yet been made; another meeting was reported on Monday. Maulana Yousaf Shah, an intermediary for the TTP, claimed on Saturday that infighting between rival factions in South Waziristan had ended after mediation efforts by Haqqani network representatives, and insisted that talks with the government would resume soon. Local sources tell the Nation that the conflict between the Khan Said Sajna and Sheryar Mehsud groups has not been resolved, however. Five TTP militants were reportedly killed in the Darra Adam Khel district on Sunday, although there are no further details. On Sunday, Prime Minister Sharif approved the release of another twelve “low profile suspected militants”; no details as to their identity have been released. Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said that their release had been approved after consultation with the army, and that the government expected the Taliban to reciprocate with a release of prisoners; he suggested that the next direct meeting with TTP leaders would take place “within the next couple of days”. [ET]
  • Quetta Hazaras Killed: Two members of Quetta’s Hazara community were killed by unidentified gunmen on Saturday evening as they were attempting to board a bus, police report. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has reported that nearly 30,000 members of the Hazara community in Balochistan have fled the province over the past five years; nearly 1,000 have been killed in targeted sectarian attacks since 2009. [ET]
  • Tribesmen Kidnapped in Khyber: A group of more than a hundred members of the Sheikmal Khel tribe were kidnapped by Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan-affiliated militants in the Tirah Valley on Saturday; the tribesmen are reported to have been operating a drug market, the proceeds of which were also seized. All but six tribesmen are reported to have been freed on Sunday. [AJE] [ET]
  • NATO Supply Line Attack: Two people were injured in an attack near Peshawar on a convoy of trucks carrying supplies for NATO forces; paramilitary Frontier Corps forces engaged with the militants, who used rockets and heavy machine guns in the attack. No claim of responsibility has been reported.


Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Pakistan Protection Ordinance: The main opposition parties are seeking to block approval of Pakistan Protection Ordinance legislation which cleared the lower house of parliament last week; together, they hold enough of a majority to deny passage in the senate. [Dawn]
  • JUI-F Quits Coalition: The JUI-F announced on Friday that it was quitting the national governing coalition, which the party joined in January, citing the government’s failure to consult with the party on internal security policy and talks with the Pakistani Taliban; PML-N sources attribute the split to disputes over ministry allocation, and suggest that the TTP leadership did not approve of JUI-F participation in the current talks initiative. [The Nation]
  • Civil-Military Relations: Following remarks by Chief of Staff Sharif last week, Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid insisted Friday that there was “no rift” between military and civilian leaders. Minister for Planning Ahsan Iqbal also maintained that the treason trial against former Pres. Musharraf had “no relation to” the armed services. Speaking at a conference on Saturday, PML-Q party leader Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain warned that members of parliament could be subject to disqualification for “maligning the army”; a number of other former political allies of Pres. Musharraf have also spoken out in opposition to his trial. The Express Tribune reports that Prime Minister Sharif is considering withdrawing the defense portfolio from Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif, after he made critical remarks against Musharraf last week. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]


Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Labor Standards: Finance Minister Dar met with World Bank officials in Washington last week, where he sought membership in the International Labor Organization / International Finance Corporation ‘Better Works Program’, in an effort to offset the loss of textile manufacturing contracts with the Walt Disney corporation, which dropped Pakistan from its list of approved sources on April 1. [ET]
  • Growth Rate: Preliminary figures by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics suggest that Pakistan’s GDP growth rate fell below 4% in the second quarter; the government is reported to have delayed publication of those statistics in order to avoid negative investor reactions during the recent international bond sale.


Pakistan — Remainders

  • Security Tightened In Islamabad as Market Bombing Investigations Continue [Reuters] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Gallup Pakistan Polling Reports 55% Hold Favorable View of Government [ET]
  • Government-Auditor General Clash Deepens [Dawn]
  • Afghanistan Drops Objections to Dasu Hydropower Dam [ET]
  • Government Vows to Curtail Load-Shedding as Summer Demand Peak Approaches [ET] [ET]
  • Coordination Board Meeting Delayed as State Bank Appointment Deadline Approaches [ET]
  • Altaf Hussain Files Pakistani Passport Renewal [ET]
  • Over 13,800 Homicides Recorded in Pakistan in 2012, UNODC Reports [ET]
  • Islamabad High Court Orders Higher Education Commission Appointment [ET]
  • Sehat ka Insaf Vaccination Campaign Conducts 11th Round in Peshawar [ET] [Dawn]
  • Government Borrowing from State Bank Falls by Rs 500B [Dawn]
  • Chinese Team to Visit Gwadar by End of April [ET]
  • PML-N Under Pressure to Provide Jobs for Voters [Dawn]


Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • IEC Begins Release of Preliminary Vote Count: Spokesmen for the Independent Election Commission reported that as of Friday, over 80% of ballots had been received at the central Kabul counting center. The announcement of partial results was delayed on Saturday, but on Sunday the IEC released data on around half a million ballots, or around 10% of polling stations. Abdulllah Abdullah led that count with 41.9% of the total, followed by Ashraf Ghani at 37.6% and Zalmay Rassoul at 9.8%. A runoff will be required if no candidate manages to clear a 50% threshold in the first round of voting; Abdullah has ruled out a partnership with Ghani to avoid a second round. Final results will not be certified until mid-May, and IEC officials stressed that candidate vote shares would change in the coming weeks of counting. Following the release, all candidates except Abdullah and Ghani issued a joint statement criticizing the count. The Electoral Complaints Commission has recorded at least 870 ‘Priority A’ class complaints, judged to be serious enough to affect the outcome of the presidential or provincial council elections. [AP] [WAPO] [AJE] [Reuters] [Guardian] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [TOLO] [TOLO]


Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Anxious China Emerges as a Diplomatic Player in Afghanistan [Reuters]
  • Afghan Bank Union Warns of Halt to International Transactions if Money Laundering Law Not Passed [TOLO]
  • US and Afghan Officials Work to Arrest USAID Contractor for Embezzlement [Pajhwok]
  • Afghan Border Forces Kill Two Pakistani Nationals [Dawn]
  • Two Policemen Killed in Khost Bombing [Khaama Press]
  • For Afghan Journalists, Elections Bring a Sense of National Duty [NYT]
  • Commentary: Making Sense of the First Ten Percent of the Results – “The release of partial results is meant as a measure of transparency, as a long silence tends to lead to speculations of interference or other malfeasance. But it has also led to confusion, as well as premature conclusions.” [Martine van Bijlert, AAN]
  • Commentary: Paktia – Where Rain Helped the ‘King Making’ Vote – “Altogether, the elections went much better in 2014 than in 2009 and 2010, with a visibly higher turnout.” [Pakteen Ibrahimi, AAN]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: TTP Infighting Continues in Waziristan; Motasim Reportedly Detained in UAE

Topline

  • Infighting between rival Pakistani Taliban groups has spread into North Waziristan; the TTP’s senior leadership council is reportedly meeting today to consider the extension of a ceasefire agreement with the government that expired yesterday. Agha Jan Motasim, a former Afghan Taliban leader who has split with the leadership over peace talks, is rumored to have been detained in the UAE. Despite preliminary reports of high voter turnout last Saturday and the absence of a large-scale Taliban attack, low-level violence appears to have been widespread on election day. The PML-N will appeal an election tribunal ruling that disqualified their candidate from winning the NA-89 Jhang constituency and elected ASWJ leader Maulana Ahmad Ludhianvi to the seat.


Pakistan — Security

  • Taliban Infighting: Clashes between rival Pakistani Taliban factions continued on Friday, with at least ten people reportedly killed in North Waziristan. As many as 56 militants are reported to have been killed since Sunday; the fighting is said to have resulted from the TTP’s earlier rejection of Khan Said Sajna as a successor to Hakimullah Mehsud after his death last November. The TTP’s extended ceasefire agreement expired on Thursday, and the group’s leadership shura will meet today to consider its further extension; no announcement has yet been reported.


Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • PML-N to Appeal Jhang Seat Ruling: PML-N party officials have backed a decision by Sheikh Muhammad Akram to appeal the election tribunal ruling earlier this week that invalidated his election in the NA-89 Jhang constituency and directed the Election Commission to notify runner-up Maulana Ahmad Ludhianvi of the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat as the winner.
  • Sharif Visits China: Prime Minister Sharif arrived in Beijing on Thursday to attend the Boao Forum, meeting beforehand with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to discuss the proposed China-Pakistan economic corridor project, which Sharif touted at a public session as a “new Silk Road”.


Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Senate Panel Recommends Delay on 3G Auction: The Senate telecommunications committee recommended that the government delay a planned auction of 3G and 4G wireless spectrum licenses scheduled for April 23, arguing that the government must first hire a third member of the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority board before proceeding. Government officials rejected the proposal and said they would proceed with the auction as scheduled. [ET]
  • Economic Indicators: Pakistan’s trade deficit totaled nearly $14 billion during the first nine months of the fiscal year, 5.5% less than the same period last year but $1.5 billion higher than IMF projections. Remittances during the same period totaled $11.58 billion, up 11.9%. [ET]


Pakistan — Remainders

  • Outgoing Saudi Ambassador Says ‘No Hidden Agenda’ Behind Aid [Dawn]
  • Supreme Court Issues Detailed Verdict on Rejection of Musharraf Petition Against July 2009 Ruling [Dawn] [ET]
  • Power Shortage Returns, Forcing 12-18 Hours of Load-shedding [Dawn]
  • PPP and MQM Leaders Reiterate Opposition to Protection of Pakistan Ordinance [Dawn] [ET]
  • Lahore Market Bombing Wounds 17 After Reports of Extortion [ET]
  • US and Pakistan Review Plans to Expand Trade and Investment [Dawn]


Afghanistan — Security

  • Motasim Missing: Associates of dissident Taliban leader Agha Jan Motasim, who has publicly supported peace negotiations with the Afghan government and who most recently sought to organize talks between Taliban commanders in Dubai last month, say that he has been out of contact for the past ten days. An anonymous former Taliban leader indicates that Motasim’s offices were raided by UAE officials, saying that “there are also some speculations that the UAE is angry at Agha Jan’s source of funding,” without elaborating.
  • Election Violence: Brigadier General Dave Haight, who heads U.S. military operations in eastern Afghanistan, tells Stars and Stripes that despite initial reports of broad turnout and the absence of any large-scale incidents, election day was “one of the most violent days in Afghanistan”. The Afghan defense ministry has reported around 690 security incidents, including as many as 200 bombs defused by security forces; the Independent Election Commission reports roughly 300 attacks on polling stations. On Thursday, the National Directorate of Security announced that security forces had arrested 262 insurgents across 23 provinces who had been planning attacks on the elections.


Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Vote Tallying: The Independent Election Commission has counted approximately 45% of ballots cast, Pajhwok reports. No preliminary results have yet been announced. [TOLO] [TOLO] [TOLO]


Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Commentary: Kandahar, A Center-District Divide and the Weakening of the Tribal Factor – “The bigger turnout this time compared to the 2009 election is partially owed to better security. In the town, security was extraordinarily tight.” [Borhan Osman, AAN]
  • Commentary: Democracy Dividends from the Afghanistan Investment – “We may not be headed for a classic victory, but with continued commitment the prospects for an acceptable outcome in Afghanistan look fairly good.” [David Petraeus and Michael O’Hanlon, WSJ]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Baloch Group Claims Islamabad Bombing; US Bases Leave Behind Unexploded Ordinance in Afghanistan

Topline

  • The closure of U.S. bases in Afghanistan has left hundreds of square miles of unexploded ordinance on abandoned firing ranges, on which at least 70 Afghans have been killed since 2012, the Washington Post reports. The United Baloch Army has claimed responsibility for yesterday’s bombing of a vegetable market in Islamabad, but a Pakistani interior ministry spokesman has disputed that claim. Infighting between rival TTP groups in South Waziristan has delayed planned direct peace talks with the government that were to have taken place this week. Abdullah Abdullah tells Reuters that he will not seek to avoid a runoff election by forming a coalition with Zalmay Rassoul, but confirms an earlier meeting and says that his future government would be “inclusive”. An election tribunal has ruled that ASWJ leader Maulana Ahmed Ludhianvi has won a seat in the National Assembly, disqualifying Sheikh Muhammad Akram and bypassing a re-polling of the election; the ruling has yet to be confirmed by the election commission.


Pakistan — Security

  • Baloch Group Claims Islamabad Attack: A group identifying itself as the United Baloch Army issued a claim of responsibility for Wednesday’s bombing of an Islamabad-Rawalpindi area vegetable market, saying that it was carried out in retaliation for army operations in Kalat. The group also claimed responsibility for a train bombing in Sibi on Tuesday. An unidentified spokesman for the interior ministry rejected that claim, however, suggesting only that “the links of this incident lead somewhere else, according to investigations done by the security and intelligence agencies so far.” The TTP denied involvement in the incident. [Dawn] [ET] [Guardian]
  • TTP Infighting: At least five people were killed in an apparent clash between rival militant groups at a hotel in the Tank district on Wednesday; the incident follows reports of clashes between the Waliur Rehman and Sajna groups of the TTP in South Waziristan the day prior, killing ten. The Nation reports that the infighting has delayed planned direct talks between TTP leaders and the government.
  • NATO Supply Line Attacks: The driver of an oil tanker carrying supplies for NATO forces in Afghanistan was killed in an attack near Peshawar by unidentified gunmen on Thursday. [ET]


Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • ASWJ Leader Ruled to Have Won Assembly Seat: An election tribunal hearing a petition brought by the Sunni sectarian group Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat ruled that Sheikh Muhammad Akram, the PML-N winner from the NA-89 Jhang national assembly seat, was disqualified on charges of defaulting on a bank loan, and that ASWJ leader Maulana Ahmed Ludhianvi should take the seat immediately rather than holding a by-election. The ruling is subject to appeal and has not yet been approved by the Election Commission; security is reported to have been tightened in Jhang. [The Nation]
  • Civil-Military Relations: At a meeting of corps commanders in Rawalpindi on Wednesday, senior military commanders expressed their unhappiness with “unfair criticism” from the government and the continued prosecution of former Pres. Musharraf on treason charges, Dawn reports. [Dawn]
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Governor Appointed: Following the resignation of Khyber Paktunkhwa governor Shaukatullah Khan, PML-N provincial assembly opposition leader Sardar Mehtab Ahmad Khan Abbasi was appointed governor of the province on Thursday. [Dawn]


Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Gas Rationing: The Economic Coordination Committee rejected a Ministry of Power and Water proposal to divert gas production to the power sector ahead of peak summer electricity demand, prioritizing the fertilizer sector instead.
  • Imran Khan Proposes Discretionary Spending Cut: PTI party chief Imran Khan has called on Khyber Paktunkhwa Chief Minister Pervaiz Khattak to impose a halt to the use of discretionary funds for ministers.


Pakistan — Remainders

  • Sirajul Haq Takes Oath as New Jamaat-e-Islami Leader [Dawn] [ET]
  • PPP to Block Protection of Pakistan Ordinance in Senate [Dawn] [ET]
  • Peshawar High Court Issues Fresh Order for Military Response to Missing Person Case [ET]
  • Balochistan Governor, Chief Minister Tasked with Opening Negotiations with Baloch Groups [Dawn]
  • 1,200 Ex-Military Men Hired to Join Sindh Police Force [Dawn]
  • At Least 12 Killed in Karachi Shootings [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • US and Pakistan Hold Strategic Dialogue Talks on Economic Ties [ET]
  • Report: Pakistan Development Update – “Growth recovery is underway, with the projected GDP growth approaching 3.6-4.0 percent, driven by dynamic manufacturing and service sectors, better energy availability, and early revival of investor confidence.” [World Bank]


Afghanistan — Security

  • Munitions Clearance: The withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghan bases has left roughly 800 square miles of territory previously used as firing ranges scattered with unexploded ordinance, the Post reports. Clearance is expected to cost $20 million and take 2-5 years, but is complicated by the security situation and the withdrawal of forces from those areas. As many as 70 casualties have been recorded in these areas since 2012 alone, 88% of which were children.
  • Taliban Cooperation: The head of Afghan army operations in the east, Maj. Gen. Muhammad Shareef Yaftali, tells Reuters that the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban are increasingly working together to carry out attacks in Afghanistan.


Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Post-Election Discussions: In a Reuters interview, Abdullah Abdullah confirmed that he has held talks with Zalmay Rassoul, saying that he would head an “inclusive” government but denying that he intends to form a coalition with Rassoul in order to avoid a runoff. Meanwhile, members of parliament demanded an investigation into ballot shortages reported at many polling stations. [TOLO] [Pajhwok]


Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Interrogation Begins of Police Commander Who Shot AP Reporters [AP]
  • Parliament Continues to Delay Ratification of Mining Law [TOLO]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Islamabad Market Bombing Kills 22; Afghan Candidates Edge Towards Victory Claims

Topline

  • At least 22 people were killed in a bombing at an Islamabad wholesale market on Wednesday; the TTP denied involvement and condemned the attack. Both Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani suggest that they won the Afghan presidential elections outright, based on preliminary counts of posted polling results; the Independent Election Commission has warned the candidates and the press not to prematurely post results as counting continues. Pakistan reentered the global bond market for the first time since 2007 this week, with $2 billion in bonds issued at between 7.25-8.25% interest.


Pakistan — Security

  • Islamabad Market Bombing: At least 22 people were killed and more than 50 injured when a bomb was remotely detonated at an Islamabad-Rawalpindi area vegetable wholesale market on Wednesday morning. The Pakistani Taliban denied involvement, condemning the incident and saying that it was continuing to observe a ceasefire with the government. That ceasefire is set to expire on Thursday; earlier on Tuesday, the TTP’s main spokesman accused the government of failing to meet militant demands and of continuing operations against its members. [AP] [Reuters] [BBC] [AJE] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Protection of Pakistan Ordinance Challenged: At least one legal challenge against the new Protection of Pakistan Ordinance legislation has already been filed at the Supreme Court, and PTI officials tell Reuters that they are prepared to bring further objections to the bill, which broadly expands police and security services’ powers of detention and engagement. The bill must still pass the senate, where the PML-N lacks an outright majority and will face opposition from the PPP.


Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Musharraf Case: Pakistan’s Corps Commanders are holding their monthly meeting on Wednesday, following public remarks by Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif expressing frustration with “undue criticism of the institution in recent day”, which analysts interpret as a signal to the government about military unhappiness with the ongoing treason trial against former Pres. Musharraf. The Express Tribune reports that Musharraf will be shifted to a naval hospital in Karachi, although this has not been publicly confirmed. [ET]


Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Bond Issue: Following a positive response during meetings with international investors over the past week, Pakistan upped its bond issue $2 billion, with half offering a 7.25% yield after five years and half offering 8.25% after ten years. It is Pakistan’s first international bond issue since 2007. [WSJ] [Reuters]
  • China Investment: Prime Minister Sharif will travel to Beijing from April 9 through 11th to take part in the Boao Forum, where he will hold additional talks on the financing of infrastructure projects proposed as part of the Pakistan-China Economic Corridor.


Pakistan — Remainders

  • Clashes Between Rival TTP Groups in South Waziristan Kills Ten [Dawn]
  • Confusion Prevails as Khyber Paktunkhwa Cabinet Reshuffle Not Notified [Dawn]
  • Islamabad High Court Rules Accountant General’s Suspension Was Illegal [Dawn]
  • Supreme Court Issues Detailed Verdict on Local Elections [Dawn] [ET]
  • Nawabshah Railway Bombed [ET]
  • Three Small Bombs Hit Hyderabad [Dawn]
  • Zardari Rebuffs Pressure for Shakeup of Azad Kashmir Party Leadership [The Nation]
  • IMF Forecasts Slowing Growth [Dawn] [ET]


Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Election Results: The campaigns of both Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani tell the NYT that they believe they have won the election outright by securing more than 50% of the vote; in WSJ interviews, both candidates stopped short of claiming victory but said they were confident of strong performances. Zalmay Rassoul, the third major contender, appears to be running far behind both, and has not commented publicly since after the polls, when he said he would abide by the results and expected to win in a run-off. The Independent Election Commission warned the candidates and media not to make their own predictions about election results while the vote count was ongoing. [Reuters] [Reuters] [TOLO] [TOLO] [TOLO] [BBC]


Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Two Killed in Ghazni Bombing [TOLO]
  • Commentary: An Emerging Mixed Picture – “Alongside a robust genuine and determined vote, there are indications of significant irregularities: old patterns of intimidation, ballot-stuffing, and ‘ghost polling stations’ in remote and insecure areas, and possible new patterns of ‘early’ and ‘late voting’ in areas where people came out to vote.” [Martine van Bijlert, AAN]