- Tuesday’s border clash killed at least one Afghan border police officer and injured two Pakistani soldiers, officials indicate; the cause of the conflict appears to have been Pakistani construction of an outpost facility on their side of the disputed Durand Line border. The Punjab home minister claimed that a police raid in Sheikupura on Monday killed the head of Al Qaeda operations in Pakistan. The Sindh Rangers arrested sixteen MQM party members on Thursday, charging them with coercively collecting religious tithes. A closed-door court hearing has reportedly reversed the death penalty sentences issued in May in connection to the lynching of an Afghan woman outside a Kabul mosque, sentencing four men to 20- or 10-year prison terms instead.
Pakistan — Security
- Tensions with India: A spokesman for the U.S. State Department said Wednesday that he was unaware that any evidence had been shared so far by Pakistan with U.S. officials about alleged Indian support for militant or terrorist activities within the country, which Pakistani officials have made increasing public charges of over the past several months. Spokesman John Kirby stressed that “we want tensions between India and Pakistan to be reduced. We want them to work together bilaterally to resolve some of these differences.” Meanwhile, Pakistan’s foreign ministry spokesman said that Prime Ministers Modi and Sharif might meet on the sidelines of an upcoming Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Russia, but that no formal plans for discussions had been made. Modi is visiting Central Asia this month, where he is expected to hold talks pushing for a start to the TAPI gas pipeline. India and Pakistan exchanged lists of prisoners as part of a bi-annual confidence-building exercise on Wednesday; India has detained 278 Pakistani nationals and Pakistan 403 Indians.
- Al Qaeda Leader Reportedly Killed in Raid: Punjab Home Minister Shuja Khanzada told reporters yesterday that the leader of the team of four militants killed in a police raid in the Sheikhupura district on Monday, identified as “Abdali,” was the head of Al Qaeda operations in Pakistan, and that the group had been planning an attack on the provincial Intelligence Bureau headquarters.
Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy
- Karachi Tensions: In a statement on Wednesday, the MQM expressed disappointment with Prime Minister Sharif’s visit to Karachi, saying that he had shown a “lack of interest in solving the basic problems of the city”. On Thursday, the Rangers announced the arrest of sixteen members of the MQM, on charges of coercively collecting religious tithes; the MQM denied the charges, despite evidence that the party had issued receipts to those it had collected from. Meanwhile, the National Accountability Bureau is expanding its investigations into corruption in different departments of the Sindh provincial government, opening new cases against officials on the Workers’ Welfare Board and the revenue department of Karachi’s Gadap town district. Elsewhere, Ali Hassan Zardari, a cousin to the former president, was freed on bail in a case involving the alleged misuse of vehicles originally donated to serve as ambulances. [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
- Election Complaints: On Thursday, PTI leader Arif Alvi backed away from the party’s charges that Punjab caretaker chief minister Najam Sethi had facilitated rigging during the 2013 general elections, a stance that was immediately discounted by PTI leader Jahangir Tarin. Alvi’s remarks apparently followed a Geo TV interview in which Imran Khan suggested that the charges were “political talk”. Meanwhile, the PPP has called on the special judicial commission investigating election rigging to order the opening of election ballot bags in other disputed constituencies around the country, saying that the large number of missing polling station results “calls into the question of the entire election”. [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET]
- Other Political News: Former minister Sumsam Bokhari of the PPP joined the PTI on Wednesday. Several hundred PTI party activists protested against Vice Chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s leadership in demonstrations in Multan on Wednesday. Two nephews of Imran Khan, Azeem and Abdullah, were arrested in Lahore on traffic violation charges and threats of violence against the arresting officer. [Dawn]
Pakistan — Economics and Development
- Polio Crisis: A new polio case was registered in Quetta on Thursday, the 26th so far this year; the child’s father had reportedly refused eight previous efforts to conduct vaccination treatment. Meanwhile, federal health officials say they are seeking assistance from the U.S. Center for Disease Control to conduct routine immunization for other diseases and polio eradication. [Dawn]
Pakistan — Remainders
- Clinton Emails Show Advisors Pushed for Targeted Sanctions of Pakistani Military Officials [Reuters]
- Suspects in Sabeen Mahmud Murder, Ismaili Attack, “Inspired by ISIS” [Dawn] [ET]
- Three Killed in Quetta Shooting [Dawn]
- ANP Party Leader in Attack on Charsadda Office [ET]
- Senate Committee Rejects Amendment Withdrawing Constitutional Immunity for President [Dawn]
- Supreme Court Criticizes Lack of Government Data on NGO Operations [Dawn]
- Railways Losses Increase to Rs 32.5 Billion [Dawn]
- Inflation Halves in FY2015 to 4.53 Percent [Dawn]
- Report: Pakistan’s Economic Disarray and How to Fix It – “Although Pakistan’s economic freedom has advanced modestly in recent years, led by upticks in investment freedom, monetary freedom, and trade freedom, these gains have been largely counterbalanced by deteriorations in labor freedom and business freedom.” [James Roberts and Huma Sattar, Heritage Foundation]
Afghanistan — Security
- Border Clash: At least one Afghan border police officer has been confirmed killed and two Pakistani soldiers injured in cross-border firing along the border between Paktika and South Waziristan on Tuesday. The WSJ reports that the clash was sparked by Pakistani construction of a new outpost along the disputed Durand Line border, in what Afghan officials say is a violation of the terms of an agreement between the two countries not to initiate new construction; while there is no independent confirmation on which side started the firing, Afghan Ministry of Interior statements suggest that Afghan forces may have intervened first. Pakistani officials maintain that the facility is being constructed on their side of the border; Afghanistan formally summoned Pakistan’s ambassador to Kabul on Thursday to protest the incident. [Khaama Press] [Dawn]
- Foreign Fighters: A spokesman for the National Directorate of Security said Wednesday that the NDS had formed a “special force” to directly target fighters loyal to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Meanwhile, Badakhshan provincial officials blame Tajik and Chechen militants for the influx of fighters into the Warduj district.
Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy
- Death Penalty Reversed in Farkhunda Case: A “secret trial” concluded on Wednesday reportedly reversed death sentences issued by the Kabul Primary Court in May in connection to the mob lynching of an Afghan woman outside a Kabul mosque, sentencing three men to 20-year prison sentences and one to a ten-year sentence instead. The caretaker of shrine, accused of inciting the riot, is now reported to have been acquitted. [AJE]
Afghanistan — Remainders
- Afghanistan Leans on ‘Abusive’ Local Police as Taliban Advance [AFP]
- Taliban Supply Commander Arrested in Faryab [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
- New Ghor Governor Takes Office, Pledging to Improve Security and Empower Women [Pajhwok]
- Breshna Utility Disputes SIGAR Report that Tara Khel Thermal Power Station Unused [TOLO]
- Ministry of Haj Claims $10M in Savings [TOLO]
- Commentary: What I Saw in Afghanistan – “The intervention in Afghanistan was a counter-terrorist intervention. That, not analytical errors or bureaucratic politics, is why some U.S. policies proved to be obstacles to peace and stability.” [Barnett Rubin, New Yorker]