Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Pakistani Politicians Praise IDPs in Eid Messages; Hashmat Karzai Assassinated in Kandahar

Topline

  • A suicide bomber has killed Hashmat Karzai, a cousin to the president and prominent Kandahar-area powerbroker; there has been no claim of responsibility reported. Pakistani political leaders issued Eid messages paying tribute to those displaced by fighting in North Waziristan, and pledging further assistance. Imran Khan reiterated his intentions to go forward with an August 14 rally in Islamabad yesterday; the PML-N is reportedly divided over its planned response of holding a monthlong celebration leading up to independence day, with Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan opposed to the announced plans. A new SIGAR audit report found as many as 43% of the small arms transferred to the Afghan National Security Forces are not accounted for on two different tracking lists maintained by the U.S. military.

Pakistan — Security

  • Army Leadership: Four senior Pakistani military corps commanders are due to retire in October, the Express Tribune notes, as well as ISI Director General Zaheerul Islam, opening up an opportunity for Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif to appoint his own choices to the top military command.
  • Lower Dir Guesthouse Attack: Six people were killed and four injured when a jirga mediating a dispute between unidentified parties broke into fighting at a guesthouse belonging to former Khyber Paktunkhwa minister for labor Bakht Baidar Khan, of the Quami Watan Party, on Tuesday. Khan’s brother was among the dead.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Eid ul Fitr: Pakistani officials issued statements commemorating Eid ul Fitr and the end of the month of Ramazan on Monday; Prime Minister Sharif paid tribute to “all those martyrs, who have laid down their lives in defence of their country”. Chief of Army Staff Sharif visited forces in North Waziristan on Tuesday. Minister for States and Frontier Regions Abdul Qadir Baloch visited families displaced by the fighting, pledging assistance, and saying that “the displaced persons are our heroes and stars and facing this time of trial for peace and comfort of the entire nation”. Former Pres. Zardari also called on PPP party workers to “spend some time of the Eid with internally displaced persons as well as families of soldiers and law-enforcement agencies who are valiantly fighting extremists and militants to defend the motherland”.
  • Islamabad Protest Plans: Speaking with the Express Tribune while on a visit with IDPs in Bannu, Imran Khan reiterated his intention to go ahead with a protest rally in Islamabad on August 14, warning that “if the police or the army fire a bullet on any of the participants, the case will be registered against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif”. PML-Q officials say they are working to forge an alliance between the PTI and Pakistan Awami Tehreek, which Khan has thus far avoided. The Express Tribune reports that Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan has opposed the PML-N government’s strategy of a monthlong celebration leading up to independence day as a means of diverting momentum away from the PTI, proposing that the party instead emphasize a commitment to austerity and to supporting Waziristan IDPs. [ET] [Dawn]
  • Bail Extended for MQM Chief: London police have extended MQM leader-in-exile Altaf Hussain’s bail in a money laundering investigation until December, two days before it was set to expire. Hussain had been due to appear at a police interview on July 31; it is unclear if that will take place. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Tax Revenues: Preliminary figures from the Federal Board of Revenue indicate that the government may miss its monthly tax collection target for July by around Rs 7 billion.
  • UK Bans PIA Cargo Service: The UK has imposed a temporary ban on Pakistan International Airlines cargo service, resulting in the suspension of deliveries across the European Union. PIA officials say they will contest the decision, the rationale for which was not reported.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Former Chief Justice Chaudhry Hits Back at PTI Allegations [Dawn]
  • Quetta Passenger Train Narrowly Misses Bombing [Dawn]
  • Balochistan Officials Accuse Sindh of Withholding Water Share [Dawn]
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Proposes Up to 1,000 New Community Primary Schools [Dawn]
  • Ministry of Industries and Petroleum Opposes Reallocation of Gas for New 50MW Power Plant [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Karzai Cousin Killed by Suicide Bomber: Hashmat Karzai, a cousin of the president and powerful figure in Kandahari politics, was killed along with a bodyguard by a suicide bomber at his home on Tuesday. The attacker reportedly hid the bomb in his headgear, and had been admitted as a guest during Eid-ul-Fitr celebrations; he has not been identified, and the Taliban have not yet issued a claim of responsibility. Hashmat had backed Ashraf Ghani in the presidential election, serving as his campaign manager for the province. He had also engaged in high-profile feuds with other members of the Karzai family; his death follows the assassination of Ahmad Wali Karzai, the president’s brother, in 2011. [AFP] [Reuters] [TOLO]
  • SIGAR Warns of Missing Small Arms: A report by the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction released Tuesday warns that the U.S. military may have lost track of more than 43% of the more than 474,000 small arms supplied to the Afghan National Security Forces since 2004. Pentagon officials said that they were working to reconcile two weapons-tracking lists reviewed by SIGAR, which found multiple instances of missing, duplicate or incomplete serial numbers. [WAPO] [SIGAR Report (pdf)]
  • Nangarhar Attacks: A large force of as many as 500 Taliban fighters attacked Afghan security checkposts in Nangarhar’s Hesarak district on Tuesday; details are limited as fighting is ongoing, but officials tell Khaama Press that at least 12 security personnel and 50 Taliban fighters have been killed.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Karzai Defends Release of Taliban Prisoners [TOLO] [TOLO]
  • U.S. Paratroopers in Afghanistan Hope to Deal a Few Final Blows Against the Taliban [WAPO]
  • Eid, in One of Afghanistan’s Most Dangerous Provinces [WAPO]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: PTI Denounces Army Security Order for Islamabad; Obama Phones Abdullah and Ghani

Topline

  • Opposition parties denounced the Pakistani government’s invocation of Article 245 of the constitution, calling out the military to assist in securing the capital of Islamabad for the next 90 days; currently, however, army forces are only present at the airport. The PTI has vowed to carry on with its planned protest in Islamabad on August 14. Pres. Obama spoke by phone on Friday with Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani, urging them to remain committed to the compromise audi and national unity government agreement reached earlier this month. Both campaigns have reportedly reached tentative agreement on the criteria for discarding disputed ballots in the audit process, but recounting is now on hold until the end of the Eid holidays.  Pakistani military officials claim to have cleared most of Mir Ali and its surrounding villages of militants in the ongoing Waziristan operation. US officials say they have urged Pakistan not to allow the Haqqani network to regroup in the wake of the operation; Pakistani officials say they need U.S. forces in Afghanistan to provide an “anvil” for fighters being pushed across the border. The NYT warns of increasing Taliban control in districts surrounding Kabul in Kapisa and Nangarhar; in Kandahar, a team of suicide bombers attacked a guesthouse belong to provincial police commander Abdul Raziq on Sunday, and a group of as many as 100 fighters attacked the Registan district headquarters on Saturday, killing the district police chief. Mullah Omar and Pres. Karzai both issued statements on the eve of Eid. An inquiry into the mid-June clash between Pakistan Awami Tehreek supporters and Lahore police concluded on Saturday. Power was cut to more than half of Sindh on Friday after a grid station caught fire in Jamshoro.

Pakistan — Security

  • Waziristan Operations: On Sunday, military spokesmen claimed to have cleared 70% of the town of Mir Ali and its surrounding villages, seizing several caches of explosive bomb-making materials in the process. Military officials claim to have killed 570 militants during the course of the operation to date, although this cannot be independent verified. On Saturday, security forces were attacked in the neighboring Bannu frontier region, leading to the reported arrest of at least one militant. Officials in the nearby Attock district also report an uptick in attacks which they link to militants fleeing the Waziristan operation. A tribal jirga of Waziristan elders met with Minister for States and Frontier Regions Abdul Qadir Baloch on Friday, and endorsed military action to expel the Taliban from the area. Imran Khan visited with IDPs in Bannu on Monday. Elsewhere, the NYT reports from Swat, the site of major offensives in 2009 that displaced Taliban fighters, including current TTP commander Maulana Fazlullah, from the area; clashes between local militias and Taliban fighters have continued, however, with several prominent local leaders and landowners targeted for attack. [ET] [Dawn] [WAPO]
  • Cross-Border Coordination: Speaking at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado on Friday, National Security Council director Jeff Eggers said that the White House had conveyed concerns to Pakistan that the Haqqani network “not be allowed to regroup and resettle back into those historical areas” of Waziristan. Pakistani ambassador to the U.S. Jalil Abbas Jillani, who appeared on the same panel with Eggers, said that “we should make every possible effort to ensure these people don’t find any refuge anywhere… while the hammer is in full swing, we only hope that the anvil we have been talking about for a long time that would also appear one day.” An un-identified Pakistani official in Washington for talks with the administration reiterated the message that “the “Pakistan hammer saw no evidence of the anvil on the other side” in remarks to reporters in Washington on Thursday.
  • Ahrarul Hind Claims Support of TTP Commanders: In a statement on Friday, the militant splinter group Ahrarul Hind — which previously claimed responsibility for a March 3 attack on an Islamabad district courthouse and had rejected government negotiations efforts with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan — claimed to have received backing from several TTP commanders and vowed to continue attacks on the Pakistani security services. The group said that Maulana Umar Qasimi was its leader, who sources tell Reuters is originally from Jhang, Punjab.
  • Ahmadis Killed by Gujranwala Mob: On Sunday, a mob of around 150 people in Gujranwala attacked members of the Ahmadi minority community after earlier allegations that an Ahmaid man had shared “blasphemous” content with another on Facebook. Several houses were burnt and looted, and a woman and two of her granddaughters were killed in the violence; at least eight others were injured. No arrests have been made as of Monday.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Opposition Denounces Army Security Role in Islamabad: On Friday, the PML-N government invoked Article 245 of the Constitution, placing security for the capital city of Islamabad in the hands of the army for the next 90 days. Statements by Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid varied as to the extent to which the army will in fact assume security duties across the city; currently, the army is only positioned at the Islamabad airport. The PTI, which has planned a rally in the city on Independence Day, August 14, denounced the move on Saturday after a meeting of senior leadership, calling it a “dangerous but futile tactic” to forestall the protests. PTI officials called on party members to “breach any obstacles” in order to take part in the rally. Nisar defended the decision on Sunday, noting that Article 245 has been invoked on multiple occasions by past governments, and disputing the notion that the move was aimed at the PTI’s rally. The PPP has also criticized the move, saying it could lead to a suspension of high court jurisdiction and the creation of military courts. The Islamabad Bar Association filed a petition with the Islamabad High Court challenging the government’s action on Sunday. [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Inquiry Into Lahore Clashes Wraps: The judicial commission investigating the June 17 clashes between Pakistan Awami Tehreek supporters of Tahirul Qadri and Lahore police completed its inquiry on Saturday, following the receipt of statements from Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif. Qadri and his supporters have boycotted the inquiry. [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Electoral Reforms: The joint parliamentary committee on electoral reforms formed on Friday will convene for the first time after the Eid ul Fitr holidays; PML-N sources tell the Express Tribune that the government may give chairmanship of the committee to the PTI or another opposition party.
  • India-Pakistan Talks: Indian diplomats issued formal complaints to their Pakistani counterparts on Friday expressing concerns over the continued delay of the trials of seven Lashkar-e-Taiba operatives linked to the 2008 Mumbai attacks. On Saturday, India’s defense minister, Arun Jaitley, told the Indian parliament that border violations along the Line of Control would be a subject of discussion in the planned Foreign Secretaries’ meeting scheduled for August 25.

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Energy Crisis: The breakdown of a power transformer in Jamshoro cut power to more than half of Sindh, including the city of Karachi, for as long as 14 hours on Friday. The PPP, which heads the provincial government, laid blame on the Karachi Electric Supply Company for the blackouts, and staged protests on Sunday. [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Tax Revenues: Only around 17,000 people filed tax returns after the government sent out notices to more than 120,000 people suspected of avoiding taxes during the last fiscal year, Federal Board of Revenue officials report.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Government Challenges Peshawar High Court Order to Give FATA Residents High Court Access [Dawn]
  • One Killed, Thirteen Injured in Quetta Bombing [Dawn] [ET]
  • Karachi Police Report 100 Officers Killed in Past 200 Days [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • PML-N Assembly Member Accused of Attacking Police Station Testifies in Defense [ET]
  • Supreme Court Rejects Musharraf Petition for Faster Review of Exit Control List Case [ET] [Dawn]
  • $2 Billion in Remittances Projected for Ramazan Month [Dawn]
  • Islamabad High Court Stays Appointment of PEMRA Director [Dawn] [ET]
  • PIA Director for Flight Operations Resigns After Clashes with Pilots Union [Dawn] [ET] [ET]
  • OGRA Recommends Petroleum Price Increase [Dawn]
  • Commentary: A New Kayani Moment? – “Is the PML-N lurching towards its own version of a Kayani moment, the March ’09 intervention as the PML-N-led long march inched towards Islamabad?” [Cyril Almeida, Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Taliban Offensive: The NYT reports that the Taliban are expanding their control over highways and cities surrounding Kabul — particularly in districts of Kapisa and Nangarhar — an advance that has gone underreported due to the absence of international military forces and the Afghan security services’ refusal to release detailed statistics on increasing casualties incurred by the police and army. On Saturday, a group of as many as 100 Taliban fighters attacked the district headquarters in Kandahar’s Registan district, fighting a ten-hour battle that killed the district police chief and at least five other guards. Sunday, a group of six suicide bombers attacked a guesthouse belonging to provincial police chief Abdul Raziq; a security guard and a child, as well as the attackers, were killed.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Audit Stalled: Pres. Obama spoke separately by phone with Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah on Friday, urging both men to “continue to move forward in the spirit of collegiality to maintain national unity” and to “continue their dialogue on the details” the interim agreement negotiated by Sec. Kerry two weeks ago. Obama’s call comes as the two sides continue to argue over procedures for the ongoing audit of all ballots cast during the run-off vote in mid-June. The NYT reports that Abdullah’s vice presidential running mate Mohammad Mohaqiq accused Ghani of reneging on the agreement in remarks to reporters on Thursday; a spokesman for Ghani insists that “we are not delaying anything” but that “reaching an agreement on such a crucial issue like the formation of a national government, which has never had a place in our political system in the past, requires a lot of negotiation.” Around 60% of all ballot boxes have been transferred to the central counting center in Kabul as of Friday. The UN announced that agreement was reached Saturday on procedures for disqualifying disputed ballots, although an Abdullah spokesman says that his campaign still has “reservations”. The audit was again suspended on Saturday, and IEC officials say counting will not resume until after the Eid holiday. TOLO lists six conditions under which votes will be discarded, based on a copy of UN recommendations to the Independent Election Commission last week made in an effort to avert deadlock between the two campaigns; the UN proposal has not been publicly released.  [White House Call Readout] [TOLO] [TOLO]
  • Omar and Karzai Issue Eid Addresses: On Friday, the Taliban issued a biannual message attributed to Mullah Omar on the eve of Eid-ul-Fitr; in it, Omar claims increasing military successes and to have gained political recognition for the insurgency through negotiations for prisoner exchanges and the delivery of services. Omar reiterates calls for the total withdrawal of international forces, and claims that the majority of Afghans boycotted the presidential elections. On Monday, Pres. Karzai issued his own Eid message, calling on the Taliban to renounce violence and “not to further destabilize the country by allowing the terrorist groups to operate in Afghanistan”. [ET] [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Teenage Attacker in August 2012 Incident Tried and Convicted as Juvenile [WAPO]
  • Cross-Border Shelling Injures One in Kunar [TOLO]
  • Attackers Who Killed Hazara Civilians in Ghor Previously Freed from Prison [TOLO] [TOLO]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: UN Proposes Audit Procedures After Candidate Deadlock; Army Called Out for Islamabad Security

Topline

  • The rival presidential campaigns in Afghanistan have still not reached agreement on the criteria by which audited ballots may be rejected, prompting the UN to issue its own proposals to the Independent Election Commission; those proposals have not been released publicly but are now under review. Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan has announced that the army will be called out to provide security in Islamabad for the next three months. Militant operative Adnan Rashid was not in fact re-captured earlier this month in North Waziristan, Pakistani security sources say, but another unidentified “high-value target” was detained instead. The Afghan parliament has reached an agreement on a new law to give extra perks to MPs, but has cut out previous articles guaranteeing a pension salary after retirement and the provision of at least two guards. The Pakistani government has announced plans for rallies and celebrations to mark Independence Day through the month of August, in an effort to detract attention from the PTI’s own protest rally plans.

Pakistan — Security

  • Waziristan Operations: On Thursday, security sources said that Adnan Rashid, a former Pakistani air force junior officer who had escaped from prison in 2012, had not in fact been re-arrested along the border between North and South Waziristan earlier this month, as was reported at the time. Instead, officials say an unidentified “high-value target” involved in training suicide bombers was arrested and that there had been a “mix-up” in identities. Two soldiers were killed in an IED bombing in the Ghulam Khan area of North Waziristan on Thursday evening. Separately, five TTP militants, including a senior commander, were killed in a bombing in Orakzai on Thursday. Currently only 40-50 families are living in the government-organized refugee camp in Bannu, officials from the Ministry of State and Frontier Regions acknowledged while testifying before the senate on Thursday; among other problems, the site of the camp is reported to be infested with scorpions. [ET] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Army Called Out to Provide Islamabad Security: On Friday, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan announced that the government was invoking Article 245 of the constitution to call out the army to maintain law and order in Islamabad for a period of three months. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Independence Day Rallies: On Thursday, the PML-N government announced plans for a month-long series of celebrations to mark independence day, culminating in a military march and aerial fly-by on August 13, and a flag-raising ceremony on independence day itself, August 14. Imran Khan continues to tout the PTI’s own protest rally plans in Islamabad. [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn]
  • India-Pakistan Talks: Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry, who will meet with his Indian counterpart for talks on August 25 in Islamabad, told reporters on Thursday that the talks would “discuss the resumption of the dialogue process to improve bilateral ties and address all outstanding issues, including Kashmir”. Chaudhry also said that Pakistan hopes to restart talks on extending most-favored nation trading status to India “when the dialogue process resumes”. On Friday, India’s Ministry of External Affairs summoned Pakistan’s deputy ambassador to lodge a formal protest against the slow movement on the cases of seven Lashkar-e-Taiba operatives linked to the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
  • Re-election Ordered: An election tribunal has ordered a re-election in the PS-114 Sindh provincial assembly seat in Karachi, following challenges by runner-up Rauf Siddiqi of the MQM against winner Irfanullah Marwat of the PML-N. A date for new polling has not yet been announced by the Election Commission. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Polio Crisis: A new case of polio was registered in Balochistan’s Qilla Abdullah district on Thursday, the first in that area in two and a half years. The family of the affected child, who had refused to accept vaccination, had been living in Karachi for the past four years before returning to the district. 102 polio cases have been reported around the country so far this year. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Two Police Constable Killed in Quetta Shooting [ET]
  • Sacked PEMRA Chief Files Contempt Plea Against Information Ministry [Dawn] [ET]
  • Wanted Provincial Assembly Member Also Reportedly Linked to Extortion [Dawn]
  • Supreme Court Considering Review of 2013 Ruling on Transfers of Public Body Heads [ET]
  • Anchor Kamran Khan Leaves GEO for Rival Bol TV [Dawn]
  • IMF Projects 13% Depreciation of Rupee [ET]
  • Power Breakdown Across Karachi [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Aid Workers Killed in Herat: The two women killed while traveling in a Herat taxi on Thursday were Finnish nationals working for the charity International Assistance Mission, officials have confirmed; their identities have not yet been released. The Taliban said they were “investigating” the shooting but have not claimed responsibility. [BBC]
  • Civilian Casualties: A militant checkpoint stopped two minibuses traveling in Ghor on Friday and separated out and killed at least 14 passengers, most of them reportedly members of the Hazara minority group. The Taliban have not claimed responsibility. [BBC] [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Audit Disputes: The Abdullah and Ghani campaigns have failed to reach an agreement on the criteria for evaluating and discarding disputed votes in the ongoing presidential runoff audit, prompting the UN to issue its own proposal to the Independent Election Commission, which it emphasized was developed “after extensive consultations with both presidential campaigns” and seeks to “address the legitimate points raised during the consultations while meeting the best international standards and factoring in the unique context of Afghanistan.” The details of the UN proposal have not been released, but are currently under review by the IEC. Thus far, no votes have been invalidated in the audit process, although around 1,000 ballot boxes have been reviewed. Meanwhile, Ahmad Zia Massood said Friday that the “national unity government” agreement struck between the two campaigns earlier this month “does not mean a share of power” for the losing candidate; reports have previously indicated that Massood was promised a senior minister position for his support of Ashraf Ghani, complicating the new agreement, which reportedly proposes appointing the losing candidate, or his nominee, to a new prime minister position [TOLO]
  • Law Giving MPs More Privileges Approved: A conference committee between the lower and upper house of parliament, the Wolesi Jirga and Meshrano Jirga, reached agreement on Thursday on modifications to legislation that will grant members of parliament new privileges, including health insurance, housing, and travel packages, but which cut out guarantees of pensions equivalent to 25% of their salaries and the provision of security guards that were previously included in the Wolesi Jirga draft of the law. The law must still receive presidential signature.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Ministry of Interior Reports 30% Rise in Crime Rate [TOLO]
  • Two NATO Soldiers Killed in Southern Afghanistan [Khaama Press]
  • Commentary: Audit Stopped, Re-Started, UN Intervenes – “In the absence of some basic ground rules, including the invalidation criteria, and with little sign of goodwill between the two parties, every small problem has needed discussion and led to dispute, ad hoc solutions or suspension of the audit.” [Kate Clark and Qayoom Suroush, AAN]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Aid Workers Killed in Herat; IDP Registration Verification Efforts Continue

Topline

  • Two female aid workers were killed by unidentified gunmen while traveling in a taxi in Herat city on Thursday. An Afghan court has returned a conviction and death sentence for the police commander who killed an AP photographer and wounded correspondent Kathy Gannon in Khost in April. Afghan officials continue to accuse Pakistan of sparing the Haqqani network and other militant groups in their ongoing operation in North Waziristan. The FATA Disaster Management Authority is seeking Rs 2.6 billion to conduct continuing relief operations for displaced North Waziristan residents; NADRA has verified roughly half of the IDP families registered thus far. The audit process for the Afghan presidential runoff resumed on Thursday.

Pakistan — Security

  • Waziristan Operations: During his visit to Washington, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister Tariq Fatemi reiterated that the Pakistani military hard orders to pursue all militants in North Waziristan, and denied that the Haqqani network had been spared. The Express Tribune reports that security officials have detained at least ten displaced Mir Ali residents in Bannu on suspicion of links to militant groups. The FATA Disaster Management Authority has requested Rs 2.6 billion to help pay for cash transfers and other relief aid to displaced Waziristan residents. IDPs have complained that they are being denied relief aid for lack of a Computerized National Identity Card; the National Database and Registration Authority has verified the registration of roughly 53,000 out of 93,000 families.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Sharif Visits Saudi Arabia: Prime Minister Sharif held talks with Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz Al Saud in Jeddah on Tuesday; on Monday, he met with Crown Prince Salman Bin Abdul Aziz. Details of their discussions have not been disclosed.
  • Opposition Politics: PTI officials say their planning continues to protest rallies in Islamabad on August 14. On Thursday, former Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry filed a Rs 20 billion defamation suit against Imran Khan, who has accused him of failing to investigate rigging allegations during last year’s general elections. Former Pres. Zardari joined an iftar dinner with Vice President Biden in Washington on Wednesday, prompting wide speculation in the Pakistani press but no details of their conversations. PPP sources say Zardari has now extended his trip and will hold further meetings with U.S. Congress members. Jamaat-e-Islami leader Sirajul Haq resigned from his role as finance minister in the Khyber Paktunkhwa provincial assembly on Wednesday, citing his party duties. [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Unidentified Banker Allegedly Pressured by State Bank to Sell Shares [ET]
  • Indo-Pakistani Foreign Secretaries Meeting Set for August 25 [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Alleged Head of Militant Cell in Raiwind Arrested [Dawn] [ET]
  • Lawyer Killed in Karachi [Dawn]
  • Power Tariff Rate Cut Approved [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Aid Workers Attacked: Two foreign female aid workers, whose identities and nationalities have not yet been released, were killed by gunmen on a motorcycle while traveling in a taxi in Herat city on Thursday. The Herat governor tells the AFP that the two women were working for International Assistance Mission, an Christian charity that provides medical care and which has been operating in Afghanistan since the 1960s. No claim of responsibility has been reported. [Reuters] [Khaama Press] [AJE]
  • Death Sentence for Gunman Who Killed AP Journalist: At a court hearing in Kabul on Wednesday, former Khost police commander Naqibullah was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of AP photographer Anja Niedringhaus and the shooting of reporter Kathy Gannon in April. Naqibullah denied being trained by militants in Pakistan, and did not give a reason for why he opened fire. He has the option to appeal the sentence within fifteen days.
  • ALP Accused of Extrajudicial Killing in Andar: Al Jazeera reports an incident in Ghazni’s Andar district at the beginning of June, in which a local Afghan Local Police unit is alleged to have executed three residents of the village of Alizai during a Special Forces-backed raid, accusing them of supporting the Taliban. UN officials have verified the accounts — confirmed by the commander himself, in interviews — although an ISAF spokesman says that their forces were present only in an advisory role and that they had found no evidence to substantiate the claims. [AJE]
  • Tensions with Pakistan: The National Directorate of Security’s spokesman told reporters on Wednesday that Pakistan’s operations in North Waziristan were “nothing more than a publicity ploy”, repeating accusations that Pakistan was sheltering the Haqqani network in Khurram, Peshawar, and Islamabad, and concluding that “Pakistan is the cause of all insecurities in the region.” In a meeting with the new Chinese special envoy to Afghanistan on Thursday, Pres. Karzai emphasized that “Pakistan can particularly play an important role in the restoration of peace in Afghanistan. Our peace talks are in fact, with Pakistan and not with the Afghan Taliban.” [AP]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Election Audit: As reported yesterday, ballot recounts were temporarily suspended on Wednesday as the campaigns reconvened under UN mediation to attempt to settle the rules for the ongoing presidential run-off audit. Auditing resumed Thursday, and is expected to accelerate after the end of Ramadan; no new details have yet been announced on an agreement on audit procedures, however. TOLO reports that the presence of foreign observers for the Abdullah campaign without proper identification was a cause of the earlier halt, which his spokesmen deny. Independent Election Commission officials report that 12,233 ballot boxes (out of roughly 22,000) have been transferred by ISAF from the provinces to the counting center in Kabul as of Wednesday; only 4.5% of the total have been examined to date. [WAPO] [TOLO] [TOLO] [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Five Civilians Killed, 21 Wounded in Takhar Bombing [TOLO]
  • Explosion Reported in Kabul [Khaama Press]
  • Commentary: Snatching Defeat from Victory: How ISAF Infighting Helped Doom Sangin to its Ongoing Violence – “Institutional dysfunction and competing agendas within the coalition helped ensure that the generals and bureaucrats overseeing the campaign in Helmand repeatedly undermined efforts to build a lasting peace.” [Julius Cavendish, AAN]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Civilian Casualties Reported in Shawal; Audit Suspended as UN Negotiates Rejection Criteria

Topline

  • Pakistani officials have refuted an AFP report that recent airstrikes in the Shawal Valley area of North Waziristan killed 37 civilians, not militants as reported by the military; more airstrikes took place in the area on Wednesday. The number of registered internally displaced persons has now surpassed one million and is expected to grow; the Sindhi nationalist Sindh Bachayo Committee led a strike in the province on Tuesday to protest an influx of IDPs. The vote audit in Afghanistan was suspended again on Tuesday as the UN worked to negotiate an agreement between the campaigns on the criteria by which ballots will be discarded; UN officials say the audit will resume Thursday. A Pakistani man was killed in firing near the Line of Control on Wednesday.


Pakistan — Security

  • Waziristan Operations: The AFP takes a critical look at Pakistani military statements regarding casualties inflicted on alleged militants during Operation Zarb-e-Azb in North Waziristan; residents of the Shawal Valley say that 37 civilians, the majority women and children, were killed in airstrikes in the area on July 16, which the military says killed 35 “fleeing terrorists”. Elders from the area have called for an investigation, and say they had been assured that their homes would not be targeted; anonymous military officials suggest that militants were using civilians as “human shields” and that residents should have known to evacuate. Thirteen more militant suspects were reportedly killed in airstrikes in the area on Wednesday. At a press conference on Tuesday, Minister for State and Frontier Regions Abdul Qadir Baloch refuted the report of civilian deaths. Baloch also acknowledged that more than a million internally displaced persons had been registered, and suggested that the total figure could surpass two million in the future. Separately on Tuesday, the Sindhi nationalist Sindh Bachayo Committee led a strike action to protest against the provincial government’s agreement to allowed IDPs to resettle in the province. The U.S. has announced an additional $9.3 million in assistance for IDPs, which will primarily be delivered through UNICEF. Meanwhile, Special Assistant Syed Tariq Fatemi arrived in Washington on Tuesday and held talks with State Department officials, briefing them on the current state of the Waziristan operations; speaking to the press in Kabul on Tuesday after shuttling back and forth between the two countries this week, Special Representative Dobbins said that Islamabad officials “gave assurance” that the Haqqani network had been expelled from North Waziristan and “would never be allowed to return”. [ET]
  • India Border Clashes: A Pakistani man was killed in cross-border fire after approaching the Line of Control in the Shakargarh sector on Wednesday, Pakistani military sources report.


Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Foreign Secretaries Meeting: Anonymous Pakistani diplomatic sources tell Dawn that the Indian and Pakistani foreign secretaries will meet to discuss the stalled peace process between the two countries “in the second half of August”. No confirmed date has been set, or announced.


Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Qatar Declines Bidding on LNG: Qatar has declined to take part in a public tender initiated by Pakistan State Oil for the import of liquefied natural gas, with officials reporting that Qatar Gas is instead seeking a direct state-to-state negotiation over a supply agreement. The results of the tender are expected to be used to set a benchmark price for negotiations with Qatar.
  • Energy Crisis: Protestors attacked a Lahore Electric Supply Company office on Wednesday as power shortages continue during the month of Ramazan. Anonymous LESCO sources tell Dawn that the company is overbilling paying customers in an attempt to make up for line losses and theft.
  • Peshawar Flight Operations Resume: The Peshawar airport Civil Aviation Authority head announced Wednesday that Etihad and Emirates will resume flight operations to the city beginning Thursday, after suspending them following shooting attacks on a Pakistan International Airlines flight that killed one woman and injured two crew members in late June. Qatar Airlines had previously resumed operations; Gulf and Saudi Airlines remain suspended. [ET]


Pakistan — Remainders

  • Peshawar Deputy Superintendent of Police Wounded [Dawn]
  • Bajaur Salarzai Tribal Elders Vow to Support Government [Dawn]
  • Tight Security Ordered for Eid-ul Fitr [ET]
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Government Orders Salary Increases for Select MPAs [ET]
  • Dispute Continues Between Government and Activists on Number of Missing Persons [ET]
  • Pakistani UN Peacekeeping Deployments Drop in Past Year [ET]
  • PPP Senator Raza Rabbani Challenges Privatization Initiatives [Dawn] [ET]


Afghanistan — Security

  • Suicide Attack in Kunduz: The district police chief of the Chahar Dara district in Kunduz was injured in a suicide bombing on Wednesday along with three guards, one of whom was killed. The Taliban have not yet claimed responsibility.


Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Election Audit Temporarily Suspended: Speaking to TOLO on Tuesday, the deputy head of the Independent Election Commission announced that the IEC would be forced to halt the audit process unless the two campaign teams could reach an agreement on the procedure for the disqualification of ballots; Abdullah campaign representatives put the blame on Ashraf Ghani’s campaign. The process was halted on Tuesday; on Wednesday, the UN mediated further negotiations between the campaigns and the IEC, and announced that a formal protocol would be put into effect beginning Thursday with a resumption of the audit. [TOLO] [TOLO] [TOLO]


Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Rockets Target Kabul Area Military Academy [Khaama Press]
  • NATO Plane Makes Emergency Landing in Herat [Khaama Press]
  • Convicted Pakistani Journalist to Appeal Sentence Next Week [ET]
  • Report: Use of Open-Air Burn Pit Violated Department of Defense Requirements – “Despite U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) requirements to find alternatives to open-air burn pit operations, USFOR-A sent their solid waste to the open-air burn pit until June 2013 and the Afghan military continued to use burn pits to dispose of its own waste until October 2013.” [SIGAR (pdf)]
  • Commentary: Why Afghanistan’s National Unity Government is Risky – “In the longer term, a national unity government may undermine the effectiveness of state institutions and result in policy paralysis at a time when Afghanistan needs smaller, but more effective governance.” [Srinjoy Bose and Niamat Ibrahimi, South Asia Channel]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Police Compound Attacked in Kabul; Pakistani Officials Say No Militants Spared in Waziristan

Topline

  • A Taliban suicide bomber attacked a compound used by the Counternarcotics Police and DynCorps in Kabul, killing three Nepalese and one Peruvian guard. Pakistani security officials insist that their operations in North Waziristan are targeting militant groups indiscriminately, but the Afghan foreign ministry spokesman accused Pakistan of selective action that was sparing the Haqqani network. Waziristan elders have objected to displaced women joining food aid distribution queues in Bannu. Only 600 ballot boxes have been audited in Kabul so far, but spokesmen for Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani reiterated their support for the process and the formation of a national unity government in statements on Monday. Pakistan’s Federal Board of Revenue is reportedly preparing a tax evasion case against Tahirul Qadri. In statements to Beijing reporters before taking on his new post, China’s new special envoy to Afghanistan dismissed suggestions that China would deploy troops to replace outgoing U.S. and other international forces.


Pakistan — Security

  • Waziristan Operation: Reuters interviews some Waziristan tribal elders displaced to Bannu who have demanded that female IDPs not go out in public to emergency food distribution points, and reports incidents of women being beaten while queuing for aid, with no intervention by security forces. Roughly three-quarters of those who have fled Waziristan are women or children. Maj. Gen. Akhtar Jamil Rao, the head of the 45 Engineers Division, gave a press conference in Bannu on Tuesday, in which he said that rations had been distributed to 650,000 people. [Dawn] [ET]
  • Al Qaeda Targets Killed in Drone Strike: The News reports that Saturday’s drone strike in the Datta Khel area of North Waziristan killed six Al Qaeda operatives, including Mustafa Abu Yazid, identified as the group’s top operational commander in Pakistan. Another commander by that name was previously reported to have been killed in the area in 2010, however.


Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Leaders Abroad: Most of the country’s leading political figures, including Prime Minister Sharif and Finance Minister Dar, Imran Khan, former Pres. Zardari, and Maulana Fazlur Rehman, are all out of the country on travel to Saudi Arabia, the UK, or the Gulf, Dawn notes. Zardari is reportedly on a visit to the United States this week and will join an iftar session for Vice President Biden on Tuesday evening.
  • Qadri Under Investigation: The Federal Board of Revenue is reportedly preparing to file a tax evasion case against Tahirul Qadri, after issuing multiple prior notices earlier this month; a spokesman for Qadri says that he will not respond to pressure tactics. Separately, the inquiry tribunal into last month’s clashes between Qadri supporters and Lahore police gave a “final notice” inviting Qadri to participate in the inquiry by July 25.


Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Chinese Development Assistance: Federal government officials briefed the National Assembly Committee on Planning and Development on a list of 36 projects totaling $39.6 billion on which they are seeking Chinese financing and support, as part of the proposed “economic corridor” linking Pakistan and China. 22 out of the 37 are related to the power sector. [Dawn]


Pakistan — Remainders

  • Four Women Attacked with Acid in Quetta [ET]
  • Security Officials Report 75 Border Clashes with India Since 2011 [ET]
  • State Bank of Pakistan Freezes Payment to Iran for Power Transformers [Dawn]
  • Revisions to Money Laundering, Debt Laws Underway as Part of IMF Agreement [Dawn]
  • Families Accuse Punjab Police of Detaining Majlis-i-Wahadatul Muslimeen Activists [Dawn]
  • Three Candidates Under Consideration for National Commission on Human Rights [Dawn]
  • Rental Power Case Against Former PM Ashraf Adjourned Until September [ET]
  • Parliamentary Committee Opposes Ban on Drinking Alcohol by Non-Muslims [Dawn] [ET]
  • Commentary: Saudi Arabia’s New Strategic Game in South Asia – “U.S. officials should instead make the best of the Saudi-Pakistani nuclear nexus by embracing the threat as a deterrent against Iran as well as potential defectors from the present international sanctions regime.” [Dan Markey, The National Interest]
  • Commentary: Right War, Wrong Battlefield – “Operation Zarb-e-Azb, for all its success, is not going to prevent militants from re-grouping in the future — whether in Pakistan or anywhere else — and they will continue to rally their supporters.” [Arsla Jawaid, South Asia Channel]


Afghanistan — Security

  • Counternarcotics Police Offices Attacked: On Tuesday, a suicide bomber on a motorcycle penetrated several layers of security at a Kabul compound used by the Counternarcotics Police of Afghanistan and the U.S. contractor DynCorp, killing at least four foreign security guards when he detonated his explosives. The WSJ reports the attacker had been a guard at the facility for several years. Three of the dead were Nepalese, and one Peruvian; another six people were injured. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. [WAPO] [AJE] [AP] [BBC] [Khaama Press] [TOLO]
  • Border Tensions with Pakistan: Special Representative Dobbins visited Islamabad on Monday, where Foreign Advisor Sartaj Aziz assured him that Operation Zarb-e-Azb “was addressing this menace (of militancy) without any discrimination or distinction”; those comments are being echoed by Special Advisor Tariq Fatemi on his trip to the United States this week. Dobbins also met with Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif to discuss the situation in Afghanistan. At a weekly press briefing on Tuesday, Afghan foreign ministry spokesman Ahmad Shekib Mostaghani said that Pakistan’s operations in North Waziristan were only targeting the Pakistani Taliban and not the Haqqani network, which he said was receiving support from Pakistani intelligence services to carry out terrorist attacks within Afghanistan. He added that “all options are on the table” to end cross-border artillery strikes along the border into Kunar. [Khaama Press]


Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Ballot Audit Moving Slow: TOLO reports that a total of 600 ballot boxes have been audited in the past five days, far behind the Independent Election Commission’s initial plan to audit a thousand boxes per day. IEC officials blame candidate agents and a shortage of international observers for slowing down the process; negotiations are reportedly still underway with the IEC, UN, and candidate teams on the procedures and criteria by which ballots will be discarded. Despite the delays, spokesmen for Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani have reiterated their support for the compromise agreement reached earlier this month and for the creation of a national unity government once the audit is complete.
  • China ‘Will Not Fill Void’ in Afghanistan: Prior to departing for his new assignment in Kabul as China’s special envoy to Afghanistan, Ambassador Sun Yuxi told a group of reporters in Beijing on Tuesday that “this idea about filling a void after the withdrawal of [U.S.] troops, I think it doesn’t exist.” Sun said the Afghan government should hold responsibility for security, but said that “we also welcome the United States retaining some military bases to observe for a time and cooperate to help the Afghan people and government fight terrorism.” He suggested that “preserving Afghanistan’s stability is not a matter of adding troops but of helping Afghanistan to quickly rebuild,” adding that “we hope to see a rapid decrease in weaponry and a rapid increase in wealth.” Sun also denied that Pakistan was involved in supporting terrorist activities in Afghanistan.


Afghanistan — Remainders

  • U.S. Mentors Prepare to Let Afghan Forces Go it Alone [NYT]
  • Commentary: Memorials and Patrons: How Northern Afghan Elites Try to Own History – “Strengthened by their consolidated political and economic power, Balkh’s provincial elites have started employing cultural means to demonstrate their wealth and strength and attempt to eternalise their power by celebrating the great historical figures they associate themselves with.” [S. Reza Kazemi, AAN]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Drone Strike Hits Near Datta Khel; Afghan Vote Audit Process Moving Slow

Topline

  • The audit process continues in Afghanistan, but disputes between the two campaign over the criteria by which ballots will be thrown out, and a shortage of observers, has slowed the process; the Ghani campaign briefly walked out on Saturday, but returned to the process on Sunday. IEC officials say the process will accelerate in the coming week. A Predator drone strike killed as many as fifteen militants near Datta Khel on Saturday; Pakistani military source suggest operations in Datta Khel, and the Shawal valley nearby, will be the next major ground movements in the ongoing Waziristan operation. A Pakistani civilian was killed in fire along the Line of Control in Kashmir, military officials report. Nominations have reportedly been finalized for a Pakistani parliamentary committee on electoral reforms. Prime Minister Sharif departed for Saudi Arabia on Sunday; assistant Tariq Fatemi will travel to Washington this week.


Pakistan — Security

  • Predator Drone Strike: As many as fifteen militant suspects were killed in a U.S. Predator drone strike on Saturday that targeted a compound in the Datta Khel village in North Waziristan. Local sources tell the NYT and WSJ that the majority the dead were Punjabi militants involved in sectarian terrorism, although their identities and affiliations have not been confirmed; some of the dead were also reported to have been Uzbeks. AFP and AP sources instead suggest that most of those killed were Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan members, including two unidentified “important” commanders. Pakistan’s foreign ministry formally condemned the strike in a statement Saturday. [Reuters]
  • Waziristan Operations: Pakistani military officials reported the “consolidation” of control over the villages of Boya and Degan on Saturday; Peshawar Corps Commander Lt. Gen. Khalid Rabbani visited soldiers in the area the same day. Defense Minister Khawaja Asif touted the military’s progress in interviews on Saturday. Anonymous sources tell Dawn that efforts to retake Datta Khel, formerly held by Hafiz Gul Bahadur, will begin next, followed by movement into the Shawal Valley system; on Sunday, the military carried out airstrikes in the Shawal area, which spokesmen said killed 28 militant suspects. There is no independent confirmation of military figures, which have not acknowledged any civilian deaths in the more than month-long offensive; Reuters interviews residents who claim that seventeen civilians were killed in bombing on Friday. A “rapid assessment” of IDP needs began on Saturday; more than 990,000 have been registered since the beginning of Operation Zarb-e-Azb. On Friday, however, the National Database and Registration Authority said it could not verify the identities of over 33,000 people who have registered as heads of families, through which aid and cash grants are being distributed; over 92,000 families have been registered in total. A jirga of displaced tribal elders met on Sunday in Bannu to seek compensation and an early return to their homes in North Waziristan. [Dawn]
  • India Border Clashes: Cross-border mortar fire along the Line of Control in Kashmir near Sialkot killed one person and injured at least three on the Pakistani side on Sunday; Pakistani military officials accuse Indian forces of “unprovoked firing”. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Khuzdar Bombing: At least three people were killed and more than 27 wounded when a bomb went off in Khuzdar, Balochistan on Saturday, targeting a paramilitary Frontier Corps vehicle. No claim of responsibility has been reported.


Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • External Diplomacy: Tariq Fatemi, a special assistant to Prime Minister Sharif on foreign affairs, will travel to the U.S. on an official visit this week to hold meetings with U.S. officials. In meetings last week, a delegation of security officials held meetings with Pentagon and CENTCOM officials, during which they reportedly sought continuing assistance after the expected expiration of the Coalition Support Fund program following the withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan. Meanwhile, PM Sharif departed for Saudi Arabia on Sunday, where he will reportedly hold talks on a range of issues, including strained ties between the government and the intelligence services. [Dawn]
  • PTI Protests: A five-member cabinet committee was appointed on Saturday, headed by Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique, to prepare for Independence Day celebrations culminating August 14 in Islamabad, coinciding with the PTI’s planned protest rally in the city. Smaller ceremonies are planned throughout the month of August, “dedicated to martyrs of Tehreek-i-Pakistan and war against terrorism”. Rafique told reporters that the government had no intention to use force to stop the PTI’s rally.
  • Complaints and Electoral Reforms: On Saturday, nominations were finalized for a parliamentary committee to consider electoral reforms, which will reportedly be headed by Science and Technology Minister Zahid Hamid. The Express Tribune reports that the PML-N government may accept the PTI’s demand for a full audit of votes cast in the 2013 general elections, a process that could take as much as 18 months. Separately, dueling disqualification petitions are expected to be filed against Imran Khan and Nawaz Sharif this week. [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [ET]
  • MQM Leadership Temporarily Suspended: MQM leader in exile Altaf Hussain temporarily suspended 19 members of the party’s central leadership committee on Sunday — on grounds that they had failed to carry out the responsibilities assigned to them — before reinstating them less than twelve hours later. Dawn reports that low collections of zakat and other donations during the Ramazan period were the principle point of dispute within the party.


Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Polio Crisis: Five new polio cases were registered across the country on Saturday, bringing the national total for the year to date to 99. Despite the surge in cases, health officials tell the Express Tribune that they hope to stop polio transmissions by 2015 and achieve polio-free status by 2018. [Dawn]
  • Trade Deficit: Pakistan Bureau of Statistics figures released on Friday indicate that Pakistan recorded a $19.8 billion trade deficit for the previous 2013-14 fiscal year, a 2.5% decrease from the previous year but still wider than government and IMF targets.


Pakistan — Remainders

  • Youm-e-Ali Processions Held Under Tight Security [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET] [Dawn]
  • WorldCall Cable Operator Offices Attacked in Karachi [Dawn]
  • Five Peshawar Police Killed in Separate Attacks [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • In Pakistan, A Master Bomb Technician Fights a New Kind of War [WAPO]
  • Faisalabad MP and Supporters Attack Police Station, Free Prisoner [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Parliamentary Committee to Nominate National Human Rights Commission Head [ET]
  • Auditor General Challenges Successor’s Appointment [ET]
  • State Bank of Pakistan Leaves Interest Rate Unchanged [ET]
  • Sindh Provincial Revenues Rose 20% in 2013-14 [Dawn]
  • Petroleum Ministry Recommends Liquefied Petroleum Gas Price Cut [Dawn]


Afghanistan — Security

  • Paktika Bombing Aftermath: President Karzai, First Vice President Qanooni, and Abdullah Abdullah all made separate visits to Paktika’s Urgun district over the weekend to visit survivors of last week’s market bombing there; Ashraf Ghani had also visited last week.
  • Helmand Bombing: Two Afghan police officers were killed when their vehicle was hit by a suicide bomber in Helmand on Monday; another fifteen people, including eight policemen, were injured.


Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Election Audit Moving Slowly: ISAF forces began transferring ballot boxes from provincial offices to the Independent Election Commission headquarters in Kabul on Saturday. Disputes continue between the two campaigns’ observers at the IEC over the criteria by which ballots will be thrown out, suggesting a long and slow process which is likely to run until the end of August. Campaign observers for Ashraf Ghani staged a walkout on Saturday after disputing some ballot audits, although the process resumed on Sunday. As of Sunday, 435 out of 22,828 ballot boxes are reported to have undergone the audit process; IEC officials say they plan to accelerate the process to around 1,000 boxes a day beginning next week. Special Representative Dobbins has returned to Kabul, and met with Pres. Karzai on Sunday to discuss the audit process. In meetings on Friday, Abdullah and Ghani continued conversations on a prospective national unity government to follow the audit process; a small protest against the inclusion of warlords in such a government was held by civil society groups in Kabul on Sunday. [TOLO] [TOLO] [BBC] [Guardian] [AFP]


Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Former Taliban Leader Agha Jan Motasim Criticizes Pakistani Taliban Attacks [ET]
  • MPs Give No Confidence Vote to Members of Independent Commission for Overseeing the Implementation of the Constitution [TOLO]
  • Heavy Clashes Reported in Faryab [Khaama Press]
  • Commentary: What Happened in the Afghanistan Elections? – “46% of polling centers had a decrease of nearly a million votes from the runoff (~980k) while the polling centers which had increased turnout saw an average increase of 679 voters per polling center. These polling stations contributed an additional 2,281,613 votes in comparison with the first round.” [Drew Bollinger and Ian Schuler, Development Seed]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Eight Killed in Khyber Checkpost Attack; Dunford Testifies on Afghanistan

Topline

  • In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday for his confirmation hearing to become Marine Commandant, outgoing ISAF commander Gen. Joseph Dunford expressed caution about drawdown plans for U.S. forces after 2015, and noted the continuing dependency of the Afghan security forces on U.S. support and assistance. Eight Frontier Corps security personnel were killed in an attack on their checkpost in the Khyber Agency’s Jamrud area on Friday. A U.S. embassy employee was briefly detained at the Islamabad airport for attempting to board a flight while carrying a pistol; he has been released on bail. The audit process began for Afghanistan’s presidential run-off ballots on Thursday, and is expected to expand further in the next week as more international observers are deployed to monitor the process. Efforts to begin the privatization of a partial stake in Pakistan International Airlines will begin next week, Pakistani officials say.


Pakistan — Security

  • Checkpost Attacked: As many as eight Frontier Corps security personnel were killed in an attack on a checkpost in the Khyber Agency’s Jamrud area on Friday. Also on Friday, a bombing in Peshawar targeting a police van killed one officer and injured three others. Security has been tightened around the country in anticipation of Youm-i-Ali processions marking the martyrdom of the first Shia Imam, which will take place on Sunday.
  • IDP Relief Efforts: The Khyber Paktunkhwa government and the World Health Organization held talks on Thursday to plan for expanded healthcare access in Bannu, where an estimated 40,000 pregnant women have been displaced by the conflict in North Waziristan. There are currently only four women doctors in the district. [Dawn]


Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • U.S. Embassy Employee Briefly Detained: A U.S. embassy employee, identified by the Express Tribune as William Jones, a security trainer, was briefly detained at the Islamabad airport on Friday for attempting to board while carrying a pistol and 15 rounds of ammunition. He was released on bail by a local court on Friday. [Dawn]
  • India Talks: At a weekly press briefing, Pakistan’s chief foreign ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam said that India should not set “preconditions” on talks between the two countries. India’s defense minister has recently reiterated that normalization of relations will require action against those responsible for the 2008 Mumbai attacks. Separately, Finance Minister Dar linked the negotiation of further trade liberalization to the resumption of the composite dialogue process between India and Pakistan.
  • Electoral Reform: The government and opposition held talks on Thursday about the procedures for and appointments to the proposed joint committee on electoral reform; it was agreed that nominees will be named “as soon as possible”. Meanwhile, the Jamshoro election tribunal has ordered a recount of 162 polling stations in the NA-229 Tharparkar constituency won by the PPP’s Faqir Sher Mohammad Bilalani.
  • Opposition Politics: Dawn reports that recent statements by former Pres. Zardari criticizing the PML-N government are part of a plan by the PPP to take on a more active opposition role, in part due to concern over being overshadowed by the PTI. PPP Secretary Latif Khosa told reporters on Friday that the party believes last year’s elections were “massively rigged” and that the PPP would support PTI efforts to hold the PML-N accountable, including demands for mid-term polls. The Pakistan Awami Tehreek, joined by leaders from the PML-Q, held a rally in Lahore on Thursday, demanding action against the PML-N and police over the incident last month in which eight PAT members were killed. Separately, a contempt case has been filed against Imran Khan for “ridiculing and disrespecting” former Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry. [ET]


Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • PIA Privatization: A financial advisor will be appointed to begin the formal process of privatizing between 26-51% of government shares of Pakistan International Airlines on July 22, according to Minister of State for Privatization Mohammad Zubair. He suggested that half of the airline’s “surplus” employees would be eased out through voluntary retirement.


Pakistan — Remainders

  • Quetta Bombing Wounds Frontier Corps Soldier [Dawn]
  • Alleged Mastermind of Kamra Airbase Attack Killed in Karachi [Dawn]
  • Sui Southern Gas Company Managing Director Resigns [ET]
  • Textile Mills Association Demands Sales Tax Refunds [ET]
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Plans Rs 7 Billion Wheat Subsidy [Dawn]
  • Rs 144.6 Billion Pakistan Power Park Project Approved [ET]


Afghanistan — Security

  • Dunford Testifies on Afghan Mission: Outgoing ISAF commander Gen. Joseph Dunford testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday at a confirmation hearing for his appointment to become the next Marine Corps Commandant. Under questioning, Dunford suggested that “all of us in uniform, to include the Afghans, would prefer” that the president’s announced schedule for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from the country by the end of 2016 “were a bit more ambiguous”. He also expressed concerns that Afghan national security forces would not be “capable of conducting the kind of operations we’re conducting” against Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups.
  • Kabul Airport Attack: The Interior Ministry’s spokesman on Thursday accused the ISI and the Haqqani network of sponsoring yesterday’s attack on the Kabul airport, which he suggested was carried out in retribution for last month’s attack on Karachi’s airport by Uzbek and Pakistani Taliban militants.


Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Audit Begins: International observers are being deployed to monitor the audit of all ballots cast during the Afghan presidential run-off, which began in limited form on Thursday, and is expected to expand staffing and accelerate beginning next week. Abdullah Abdullah appeared at a press conference on Thursday, saying that “there is a better spirit between us [the campaign teams] and we would like to keep it up”, and reiterating that “vote audits must take place transparently and with the observation of representatives from both campaign teams”. Abdullah met with Ashraf Ghani again on Friday to discuss the proposed national unity government, their second meeting this week. [TOLO]
  • China Appoints Special Envoy: China has appointed former ambassador to India and Afghanistan Sun Yuxi as a new special envoy for Afghanistan. The Chinese foreign ministry said that the appointment would help “ensure lasting peace, stability and development for Afghanistan and the region”.


Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • TAPI Pipeline Operation Agreement Reached: Turkmenistan, Pakistan, India, and Afghanistan signed an operational agreement on technical specifications for the proposed TAPI natural gas pipeline at a meeting in the Turkmen capital of Ashghabat on July 8, officials have announced. [Khaama Press]


Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Karzai Visits Families of Paktika Bombing Victims [Khaama Press]
  • Kunar Rockets Kills 2, Injures 7 [Khaama Press]
  • Laghman Bombing Kills 2, Injures 14 [Khaama Press]
  • Report: Women’s Access to Justice in Afghanistan – “How do women in Afghanistan seek justice when their rights are violated? What barriers do they face in pursuing justice or receiving a fair outcome?” [Erica Gaston and Tim Luccaro, USIP]
  • Commentary: Audit Started, Rules as Yet Unclear – “Today, the referee blew his whistle and the football match kicked off, but the teams have not agreed on what exactly constituted a goal, so the referee does not yet not know what is a goal and what might be offside.” [Kate Clark and Qayoom Suroush, AAN]
  • Commentary: The ECC Open Sessions on Election Day Complaints – “The first two rounds – first round presidential and the, now paused, provincial council hearings – had already been a rushed and largely formalistic affair. This time was even more so, despite the seriousness of the allegations and the ensuing controversy.” [Qayoom Suroush, AAN]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Pakistani Police Raid Raiwind Safehouse; Taliban Attempt Attack on Kabul Airport

Topline

  • A group of Taliban gunmen attempted an attack on the Kabul international airport on Thursday morning, but were eventually killed by Afghan and ISAF commandos, with no damage to the airport and only one police injury reported. Pakistani police in Lahore raided a suspected militant safehouse on Thursday, killing one militant suspect. More than 500 suspects have reportedly been detained by Pakistani authorities around the country in an effort to forestall TTP retaliatory attacks for the Waziristan operation. The Afghan Independent Election Commission has begun the audit of all ballots cast in the presidential run-off election. An advance security detail for Pres. Karzai was ambushed near Gardez, Paktika, on Thursday; at least four guards were wounded. Karzai himself was not present. Prime Minister Sharif will travel to Saudi Arabia at the end of the month, where he will reportedly seek Saudi mediation in tensions between the military and the Pakistani government.


Pakistan — Security

  • Raiwind Raid: Lahore police reportedly received a tip-off on early Thursday morning about the presence of a militant safehouse in the city’s Raiwind neighborhood, prompting a joint army and police search operation and raid that turned into a prolonged ten-hour siege. Accounts are contradictory on the number of casualties, but officials now indicate that one militant suspect was killed and one injured; one member of the Punjab Elite Force was also killed. Separately, interior ministry officials tell BBC Urdu that more than 500 suspects have been detained around the country as part of efforts to curtail backlash attacks by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and its supporters as the Waziristan operation continues.
  • Hangu Bombing: Six people were killed and at least three others injured in a double roadside bombing in the Hangu district of Khyber Paktunkhwa on Thursday; all were civilians. No claim of responsibility has been reported.
  • Indian Border Clashes: Pakistani military sources accused the Indian Border Security Force of “unprovoked firing” along the Line of Control near Sialkot on Wednesday; no casualties were reported.


Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Civil-Military Relations: Prime Minister Sharif will travel to Saudi Arabia on July 20 for his annual week-long trip; the Express Tribune reports that Sharif will reportedly seek Saudi assistance in moderating pressure from the ISI on the government. Minister for Planning Ahsan Iqbal told reporters on Wednesday that “this is a fact that the problems the PML-N is facing are because of its decision to try Gen Musharraf for violating the Constitution”; he denied, however, that the government was “taking revenge [against] any institution” and insisted that everyone should be answerable to the law.
  • PTI Protests: Meanwhile, the government and the army are reportedly still planning on holding independence day celebrations at the same public square in front of parliament as the PTI’s protest rally, which The Nation reports has forced the party to consider alternate venues. PTI officials are now reaching out to other opposition parties to seek their support. Separately, Arsalan Iftikhar Chaudhry’s petition with the National Database and Registration Authority to seek family registration certificates for Imran Khan, in order to challenge his eligibility to serve in parliament, was rejected.  [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]


Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Energy Protests: Khyber Paktunkhwa chief minister Pervaiz Khattak threatened continued protests and a cut-off of hydroelectric energy supply from the province to Punjab if unscheduled power shortages continued; Water and Power Minister Khawaja Asif met with Khattak on Wednesday and has pledged to address the shortfalls.
  • Polio Crisis: Three new polio cases in Peshawar and Khyber Agency were confirmed on Wednesday, bringing the total reported so far this year to 94, surpassing last year’s annual total.


Pakistan — Remainders

  • Security Forces Foil Planned Dera Bugti Attack [Dawn]
  • Former Punjab Law Minister Calls for Tahirul Qadri to Be Included in Lahore Probe [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Government Forms Treaty Implementation Cells to Preserve EU’s GSP Plus Status [Dawn]
  • Government Raises Rs 56.1 Billion in First Investment Bond Auction of the Fiscal Year [ET]
  • Oil and Gas Regulator Bans Use of LPG in Transport [Dawn]
  • Economic Coordination Committee to Consider Rs 49 Billion Price Hike on Gas [ET]


Afghanistan — Security

  • Taliban Attack Kabul Airport: A team of Taliban gunmen seized control of a nearby building as a base of fire from which to fire upon Kabul’s international airport with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades on Thursday morning. Interior ministry officials say no rockets actually hit inside the airport, and no planes were damaged. All attackers – reports vary as to whether there were four or six – were killed by Afghan and ISAF coalition commandos by mid-morning; several flights were diverted or cancelled during the four-hour battle, but only one injury was reported among police. [NYT] [WAPO] [Reuters] [Guardian] [AFP] [Khaama Press]
  • Karzai Advance Security Team Attacked in Paktika: An advance security detail for Pres. Karzai travelling to the Urgun district in Paktika, where a car bombing in a market earlier this week killed at least 43, was ambushed while en route on the outskirts of Gardez. Karzai was not traveling with the group. Fighting reportedly broke off when additional support personnel were dispatched to assist the presidential force; at least four guards are reportedly injured.
  • Bagram Hunger Strikes: A former Pakistani detainee at Bagram tells the Guardian that an unspecified number of the 38 non-Afghan nationals still held by the United States at the Bagram prison facility regularly carried out hunger strikes to protest their treatment there. The former detainee says he was not physically abused during his time at the prison, however.


Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Vote Audit Begins: The Independent Election Commission announced on Thursday the formal beginning of the full election audit agreed to over the past weekend. Around 15,000 ballots will be scrutinized in Kabul, overseen by international observers; provincial ballots are still in the process of being transferred to the IEC counting center. TOLO notes some of the audit criteria under consideration as ballot boxes are reviewed; the process is expected to take at least three weeks. Meanwhile, Abdullah Abdullah is expected to host Ashraf Ghani on Thursday in continuing talks about the shape of a national unity government after the results are finalized. TOLO reports that the deal struck this past weekend committed both sides to convening a constitutional loya jirga within two years to shift the country to a prime ministerial system, and that the eventual winner will work with the runner-up to make joint appointments for key provincial, economic, and security posts. [TOLO]


Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Conviction of Pakistan Journalist Appealed in High Court [ET]
  • SIGAR Report Suggest Afghanistan Cannot Absorb New Cargo Planes [WAPO] [SIGAR (pdf)]
  • Bergdahl Retains Lawyer in Investigation of His Disappearance and Capture [WAPO] [Reuters] [AP]
  • Commentary: How Afghanistan Pulled Back from the Brink – “The compromises achieved by Secretary Kerry’s intervention acknowledge that Afghanistan would be better served by a governing structure that dilutes presidential authority and encourages greater political inclusiveness through the sharing of state and executive powers between a president and prime minister.” [Marvin Weinbaum, MEI]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: TTP Operative Adnan Rashid Recaptured; Wait Continues for Start to Afghan Audit

Topline

  • The Pakistani military has reportedly recaptured Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan operative Adnan Rashid as he attempted to flee North Waziristan. Military airstrikes and Mir Ali ground operations continued on Wednesday, and a Predator drone strike in the Datta Khel area has reportedly killed as many as twenty militant suspects. The audit of Afghanistan’s disputed presidential run-off remains stalled, with disagreements reported between the two campaigns over the degree to which the UN will lead the audit or play a supervisory role. Citing the example of Afghanistan, Imran Khan has now called for a complete audit of all votes in Pakistan’s 2013 elections, and vowed to proceed with a protest rally planned for Islamabad in August. The death toll from yesterday’s car bombing in Paktika has been revised to 43.


Pakistan — Security

  • Waziristan Operations: As noted yesterday, the Pakistani military began ground operations in Mir Ali after seizing control over the North Waziristan district capital of Miram Shah; spokesmen say at leave five soldiers have been killed in Mir Ali fighting, but most militants are believed to have fled the area. Further airstrikes on Wednesday have killed 35 militant suspects, according to military spokesmen. On Tuesday, military sources reported that they had captured TTP commander Adnan Rashid, as well as an Al Qaeda operative identified as Mufti Zubair Marwat. Rashid escaped prison in 2012 in a high-profile jailbreak in Bannu, and has been linked to assassination plots against former Pres. Musharraf and a subsequent mass jailbreak in Dera Ismail Khan. Rashid was reportedly captured while traveling from North Waziristan to South Waziristan en route to the Afghan border. GEO reports that TTP sources have confirmed Rashid’s arrest, and are said to blame the Maulvi Nazir group for passing the information that led to his discovery. Meanwhile, around 25,000 residents reportedly fled five border villages in the Bajaur Agency on Tuesday, ahead of an expected military operation there, following an attack that killed three security personnel over the weekend; on Wednesday, a local tribal militia agreed to cooperate with the military against the militants. Only 1,100 out of approximately 45,000 verified displaced families have yet received cash grant assistance through a mobile SIM transfer program, Dawn reports; FATA Disaster Management Authority officials blame Zong Telecom, the implementing partner. At a press conference on Tuesday, Minister for States and Frontier Region retired Lt. Gen. Abdul Qadir Baloch insisted that the government was taking action to aid the displaced. [Reuters] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [APP]
  • Drone Strike: A Predator drone strike near the Datta Khel area of North Waziristan on Wednesday has killed as many as twenty militant suspects, officials report; no details on the targets have been reported at this stage. It is the fifth strike reported so far this year. [Dawn] [Reuters]


Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • PTI Protests: Following a meeting with senior PML-N party leaders on Tuesday, Prime Minister Sharif has reportedly decided to allow the PTI to proceed with its planned protest march in Islamabad; speaking at the inauguration of a road project in Chakwal, however, Sharif said that “unrest” on independence day would not be allowed. At a Tuesday press conference, Imran Khan revised his demands for an investigation into four constituencies where rigging was alleged and instead said that a “complete audit of votes” from the 2013 elections was necessary, citing the example of neighboring Afghanistan. Former Pres. Zardari endorsed an investigation into the four constituencies identified by the PTI in a statement on Tuesday. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Lahore Clash Investigation: Three police constables linked to firing against Pakistan Awami Tehreek protestors in Lahore last month were arrested on Tuesday after recording statements before the Joint Investigation Team. A forensic report has concluded that five supporters of Tahirul Qadri opened fire on the police during the clash.


Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Energy Protests: A protest organized by the Khyber Paktunkhwa chief minister in Peshawar against energy shortages broke into the WAPDA headquarters in the city on Wednesday. At a press conference on Wednesday, the PML-Q’s Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi blamed the energy crisis on the Sharif government.


Pakistan — Remainders

  • Sectarian Militant Groups Make Inroads in Sindh [NYT]
  • Karachi Security Officials to Shift Focus to Militant Groups [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Jamaat-e-Islami Challenges Protection of Pakistan Act in Supreme Court [ET] [Dawn]
  • Federal Board of Revenue Denies Tahirul Qadri’s Request for Extension on Asset Reporting [ET]
  • Islamabad High Court Suspends PEMRA Acting Chief’s Appointment [ET]
  • Pakistan State Oil Seeks Higher Borrowing Limit [ET]
  • Foreign Direct Investment Rises 12%, to $1.63 Billion [ET]
  • China Offers $300M Loan for Neelum Jhelum Hydropower Project [ET]


Afghanistan — Security

  • Paktika Car Bombing Death Toll Revised: The death toll from yesterday’s suicide car bombing at a Paktika marketplace rose to 89, the defense ministry announced Tuesday, making it one of the deadliest attacks in the country since 2001; provincial officials put the toll at 43 dead, however, and the defense ministry subsequently revised its casualty figures to 42 killed on Wednesday. The Taliban have denied involvement in the blast. Afghan security forces claim to have disrupted a planned Taliban attack in Paktia’s capital city of Gardez overnight Tuesday, killing twenty Taliban fighters.
  • Aid Workers Kidnapped: Four aid workers working for an unidentified U.S. NGO group carrying out educational projects in Herat were reportedly kidnapped in the Gozara district on Tuesday. No claim of responsibility has been reported.


Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Election Audit: The process of transferring ballot boxes to Kabul and auditing of the results is currently stalled, officials say, and the Post reports that Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani’s campaigns now argue that international bodies should “take charge” of the audit or play a “supervisory role”, respectively. Independent Election Commission officials had indicated that the audit would begin midweek. Concerns remain over the stability of the compromise agreement; Abdullah’s first vice presidential running mate, Mohammad Khan, tells Reuters that “if we find any sign of fraud … we will not accept the results. It’s too early to say what our next plan is.” Both Abdullah and Ghani met again on Tuesday at Ghani’s residence, although few details have been reported of their conversations.


Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Afghanistan Pledges $500,000 in Aid for Gaza [Khaama Press]
  • 61 Rockets Reportedly Fired into Kunar [Khaama Press]
  • Senate Rejects Law Proposing Pensions for Former Legislators [TOLO]