Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Cross-Border Violence Flares in Kashmir; International Forces Continue Airstrikes in Musa Qala

Topline

  • A spike in cross-border fire has left at least nine civilians dead and more than 60 wounded across the Indian and Pakistani Line of Control in Kashmir. International military forces are continue to offer air support against Taliban forces in Musa Qala, Helmand, but verified details of the fighting there remain limited. Vice President Dostum arrived in Sar-e-Pul on Thursday, again vowing to clear Taliban fighters from the area, and suggesting he will travel to Kunduz next. Taliban commander Mullah Akhtar Mansour has reportedly dispatched additional fighters to Zabul to contest with Mullan Mansoor Dadullah, who opposes his leadership claim. The PML-N will not appeal recent election tribunal rulings and will contest by-elections in three constituencies, the party announced Thursday; Imran Khan has challenged Prime Minister Sharif to contest the polling himself. A new study suggests Afghan government-aligned forces were responsibility for a majority of the incidents of violence and harassment against journalists during the first six months of this year. On Friday, the Election Commission of Pakistan announced the schedule for local government elections in Islamabad, to be held November 30. PPP leaders continue to protest the arrest of Sindh Higher Education Commission head Asim Hussain. Former Afghan president Sebghatullah Mojadeddi announced the formation of a new ‘Council of Jihadi Party’ on Thursday.

Pakistan — Security

  • India Border Clashes Kill Nine: At least nine civilians were killed — seven on the Pakistani side of the border and two on the Indian side — and more than 60 wounded in heavy exchanges of fire across the Line of Control near the Sialkot area on Friday; both sides lay blame on the other for firing first. Indian forces say they captured a Pakistani militant in northern Kashmir on Thursday, following a clash in which three other gunmen were killed; the suspect is the second to be captured alive on charges of infiltration in the past month. [AP] [Reuters] [ET]
  • Counterterrorism Response: During visits with troops in the Shawal Valley area on Thursday, Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif praised the ongoing operation and vowed that the army would “not allow the killing of fellow countrymen and will expose all enablers”. On Thursday, Karachi police announced the arrest of four men that they charged with receiving training and support from Indian intelligence, who are alleged to have plotted to carry out an attack on a Shia mosque during the upcoming Muharram period, as well as plotting to assassinate MQM-Haqiqi chief Afaq Ahmed. Elsewhere, a man accused of Al Qaeda links killed himself and his wife and two sons when he detonated a suicide vest during a raid in Toba Tek Singh. Separately, officials have approved the creation of a separate counter-terrorism department for Gilgit-Baltistan. [Dawn]
  • Balochistan Talks: Balochistan Chief Minister Abdul Qadir Baloch told reporters on Thursday that his government was planning to convene a “Grand Jirga” of tribal leaders and government leaders to reach out to the exiled Khan of Kalat and separatist leader Brahamdagh Bugti, welcoming recent statements by the latter professing a willingness to hold talks with the government. No time frame for the jirga’s formation was offered.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • PML-N Will Contest By-Elections After Tribunal Rulings: On Thursday, Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid announced that the PML-N had decided not to appeal election tribunal rulings that overturned the results in the NA-122 and NA-154 constituencies, and would instead proceed directly to by-elections for the seats. Former Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique will also reportedly withdraw his earlier appeal in the NA-125 constituency. Rashid challenged PTI chairman Imran Khan to run again in NA-122 Lahore, where he said former National Assembly Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq would run again; Imran in turn challenged Prime Minister Sharif to contest the seat against him, although both are already national assembly members elected from other constituencies. Dawn notes that the Election Commission has opted not to extend the contract of three election tribunal judges, including the Lahore tribunal judge who ordered re-election in NA-122.
  • Local Elections: On Friday, the Election Commission announced the schedule for local government elections in Islamabad, which will be held on November 30. The deadline for filing nomination papers is October 27, and a final candidate list is due to be announced November 4. Following the announcement of a polling schedule for local government elections in Sindh earlier this week, the Sindh provincial government has frozen appointments and transfers. [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Corruption Investigations: On Friday, Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah met with the Director General of the Sindh Rangers Maj. Gen. Bilal Akbar, where he reportedly protested the recent arrest earlier this week of Sindh Higher Education Commission chief Asim Hussain. At a press conference on Thursday, PPP senior vice president Sherry Rehman refuted the terrorism financing charges against Hussain, saying that the party had “no objection whatsoever over the operation and will create no hurdle in its implementation” but that “it looks like politics of revenge is being carried out with the PPP as the sole target.” Former Prime Minister Gillani, who faces new non-bailable arrest warrants in cases related to the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan, said that he would appear before the court on August 31. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • World Bank Approves $75M Loan for IDP Rehabilitation [ET]
  • Punjab Plans Police Station Overhaul [Dawn]
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Complains of Being Bypassed in Decision on Afghan Refugee Extension [Dawn]
  • Pakistan Deports Pakistani-American Convicted on Ohio Local Government Bribery Scam [Dawn]
  • Sindh High Court Seeks Response on Detention of Pasban General Secretary [ET]
  • Supreme Court Rejects Review Petition on 2009 Army Welfare Trust Land Deal Ruling [ET]
  • Senate Chairman Rabbani Laments ‘People’s Disconnect with Parliament’ [Dawn] [ET]
  • Sindh Chief Minister Orders Flood Relief Efforts for 58,000 Affected [Dawn]
  • Report: A Normal Nuclear Pakistan – “This report takes a hard look at Pakistan’s nuclear weapon related programs and its ambitions to be viewed as a normal state possessing advanced nuclear technologies.” [Toby Dalton and Michael Krepon, Stimson / CEIP]
  • Commentary: Making Pakistan’s Target for Education Financing a Reality – “In order to improve financing for education, Pakistan needs to focus on two areas: increasing available domestic resources, and implementing a needs-based formula for the distribution of funding within provinces.” [Rabea Malik and Pauline Rose, Brookings]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Helmand Attacks: A spokesman for the U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan said Thursday that U.S. forces had conducted multiple airstrikes in Helmand’s Musa Qala district, targeting Taliban forces who have taken control of the area; there are no reliable estimates of casualties. Former Marines who served in Musa Qala during the peak surge era express dismay at the Taliban’s return to the area in interviews with the Post; analysts tell the Guardian that the district holds limited strategic significance, but the high-profile investment of UK and US forces in the area during previous years makes the area a significant concern, and the Taliban have touted their seizure of the district in video, audio, and photos. Separately, the U.S. military identified two soldiers killed in an apparent insider attack in Helmand earlier this week, both US Air Force air combat controllers who had been posted at Camp Antonik, a special forces base adjoining the former joint US/UK base Camp Leatherneck / Camp Bastion.
  • Dostum in Sar-e-Pul: Vice President Dostum arrived in Sar-e-Pul on Thursday as part of his continuing high-profile heading of military clearance operations in northwestern Afghanistan, where he called on the Taliban to surrender immediately and suggested he would next travel to Kunduz, pending permission from Pres. Ghani. Local government officials reported Friday that they had retaken the Kohistanat district in Sar-e-Pul without a fight after Dostum arrived and Taliban forces withdrew; the provincial police had previously claimed to have retaken portions of the district last Saturday. [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press]
  • Taliban Infighting: Khaama Press reports that Taliban commander Mullah Akhtar Mansour has deployed as many as 600 Taliban fighters to Zabul province to challenge Mullah Mansoor Dadullah, who has objected to Mansour’s succession to the top Taliban leadership position.
  • Violence Against Journalists: A new study by the Afghan Journalists Safety Committee charges government-affiliated forces with responsibility for 72% of the violence against journalists recorded during the first six months of the year, which includes one murder, four cases of assault, 19 beatings, two detentions, and 13 cases of threats.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Mojadeddi Announces New Party: On Thursday, former mujahedeen-era Afghan president Sebghatullah Mojadeddi announced the formation of the “Council of Jihadi Party”. Mohajadeddi indicated that eight other parties had joined to form the new group; TOLO reports that former vice president Karim Khalili is one such member, and notes the presence of special envoy Ahmad Zia Massoud, although his membership status is uncertain.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Islamic State Struggles to Make Progress in Afghanistan [AFP]
  • Rockets Strike Sayyaf’s House in Kabul; No Casualties [Khaama Press]
  • Head of National ID Card Project Protests Implementation Delays [TOLO]
  • Abdullah Meets Visiting Turkmenistan President [TOLO] [TOLO]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Balochistan Republican Party Leader ‘Open to Talks’; Fighting Continues in Musa Qala

Topline

  • Exiled Balochistan Republican Party leader Brahamdagh Bugti told a BBC Urdu interview on Wednesday that he was willing to negotiate with the Pakistani government, but reiterated demands for an end to military operations in Balochistan. Details are limited and contradictory regarding fighting in Helmand’s Musa Qala district; defense ministry officials say they are preparing a counterattack, backed by NATO airpower, after the district was seized by the Taliban earlier this week. After returning from Kazakhstan today, Prime Minister Sharif is expected to finalize plans for a ‘Grievance Redressal Committee’ in negotiations with the MQM, and to decide whether the PML-N will appeal recent tribunal rulings calling for re-elections in two high-profile constituencies or to move directly to contesting the by-elections. Dr Asim Hussain, a close aide to former Pres. Zardari and head of the Sindh Higher Education Commission, was arrested on Wednesday and remanded to Rangers custody for 90 days on Thursday.  Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, Afghan Independent Election Commission chairman Yousaf Nuristani suggested that parliamentary elections would be delayed until next year at least. Turkmenistan’s president visited Kabul on Thursday to sign several cooperation agreements.

Pakistan — Security

  • Balochistan Republican Party Leader ‘Ready to Talk’: On Wednesday, exiled Balochistan Republican Party leader Brahamdagh Bugti told BBC Urdu that he was willing to negotiate with the Pakistani government “if our friends, companions, political allies and finally the people are in favour of this”, the first time the separatist leader has signaled an openness to negotiations with the state. Bugti cautioned that “dialogue is difficult alongside violence and that is why we have demanded an end to the operation in Balochistan, and bringing all forces on board before talks could be initiated”, however. On Thursday, a general strike was observed in Quetta and several Balochistan towns to mark the death anniversary of Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti, Brahamdagh’s grandfather. At least five Balochistan Republican Army militants were reportedly killed by the Frontier Corps during operations in the Sui area on Wednesday, and Balochistan Liberation Army commander Daren Shambhani Bugti and an aide were arrested in Jacobabad on Wednesday on charges of plotting to bomb the Peshawar-Karachi train line. [WSJ] [Dawn]
  • FATA Operations: Two soldiers were killed in a roadside bombing in South Waziristan on Wednesday. On Thursday, Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif visited the Shawal area in North Waziristan to review ground operations there. Elsewhere on Thursday, a roadside bombing killed a pro-government tribal elder in the Bajaur Agency, Malik Gul Rahim; the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan claimed responsibility for the attack. [ET]
  • Helicopter Sale: The US Department of Defense announced Wednesday that it had approved a $581 million Bell Helicopter contract for the delivery to Pakistan of 19 AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters and 16 UH-1Y Venom utility helicopters, as well as auxiliary fuel kits; delivery is expected by August 2018.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • MQM Under Scrutiny: Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan met with his UK counterpart Theresa May in London on Wednesday, where he discussed prisoner exchanges and joint investigations and counter-terrorism cooperation. Also on Wednesday, a UK court has approved a three-month extension for London police to retain hundreds of thousands of pounds seized during a money laundering investigation targeting MQM leader Altaf Hussain last June. Separately, the Joint Investigation Team investigating the 2012 Baldia factory fire has received permission to travel to London for further interviews with the factory owners, Dawn reports. Prime Minister Sharif is expected to finalize plans today for the formation of a Grievance Redressal Committee to meet MQM demands and secure their return to the parliamentary assemblies; in remarks to supporters on Wednesday, Altaf Hussain reiterated charges that the Rangers-led operation in Karachi was targeted against him and the MQM. [Dawn]
  • Corruption Investigations: On Thursday, a Karachi anti-terrorism court remanded Dr Asim Hussain, chairman of the Sindh Higher Education Commission, to the Rangers’ custody for 90 days on terrorism and embezzlement charges. Hussain was initially detained by the Federal Investigation Agency for questioning on Wednesday, and is a close aide to former Pres. Zardari and former federal petroleum minister; the PPP protested his arrest. Separately on Thursday, a federal anti-corruption court issued warrants against senior PPP leaders Makhdoom Amin Fahim and former Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani in connection to a dozen new corruption cases related to the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan, for which they have previously been charged in a dozen cases last year. Separately, Sindh Chief Secretary Siddique Memon received bail in a National Accountability Bureau case related to a 1992 land sale. [Dawn]
  • Other Political Developments: The PML-N is reportedly considering skipping Supreme Court appeals and proceeding directly to by-elections to replace three senior PML-N legislators whose elections were overturned by tribunals rulings, two of them in the past week. Former National Assembly Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq has yet to file a Supreme Court appeal against the tribunal ruling, pending a decision by Prime Minister Sharif. Separately, the PTI is reportedly considering a protest letter to the Election Commission against plans to hold Punjab local elections in phases, and against indirect elections for reserved seats for women and minorities. The PML-Q is reportedly seeking to unite rival factions in a “United Muslim League” to contest local government polls against the PML-N, PTI, and PPP. [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Punjab to Withdraw Three Terrorism Cases from Military Courts [Dawn]
  • Pakistani Diplomats to Inform Host Countries of ‘India’s Involvement in Promoting Terrorist Activities in Pakistan’ [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Karachi Electric and Sui Southern Gas Company in Payment Dispute [ET]
  • Changes in Pension System Reduces Number of Pensioners by 600,000 [Dawn]
  • Entire Budget Allocation for Community Development Disbursed in 52 Days Ahead of Local Elections [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Attacks and Operations: The head of the Helmand provincial council, Mohammad Karim Atal, tells TOLO that at least 35 Afghan soldiers had been killed in fighting in Musa Qala district; reports are conflicting and details limited as to whether the Taliban have in fact taken control of the area or not, and a spokesman for the provincial governor claimed that only five soldiers had died. A ministry of defense spokesman tells Reuters that “the deputy defense minister is in Helmand right now and an operation is ongoing in full force to retake the district”; the NATO Resolute Support mission has supported the operations with ongoing airstrikes and training and assistance. Elsewhere, Nangarhar provincial police officials report that four “senior Taliban commanders” were killed in a drone airstrike in the Shirzad district on Thursday; security forces also claim to have detained the Taliban shadow district governor in Shirzad. [TOLO]
  • Haqqani Leader Sanctioned: On Wednesday, the US State Department formally sanctioned Aziz Haqqani, identified as the Haqqani network’s top operational planner following the death of his brother Badruddin Haqqani in 2012, as a foreign terrorist, subjecting him to sanctions and the freezing of any U.S. assets.
  • Afghans in Syria: The AFP interviews Afghan Shiites who have been recruited by Iran to fight in Syria against opposition Sunni rebels; some analysts estimate between 2000-3500 Afghans are currently fighting in the conflict, although the Iranian embassy in Kabul rejected the account as “completely baseless”.
  • Pakistani Embassy Lockdown: Pakistani embassy staff have restricted their movements after an attempted kidnapping in Kabul on Tuesday, the Express Tribune reports; embassy staff also report increased harassment from Afghan security services.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Election Delay: Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, Independent Election Commission chairman Yousuf Nuristani said that parliamentary elections were unlikely to be held within the coming year, blaming “budget issues” and “political games” by the national unity government. Nuristani downplayed the significance of the ongoing electoral reforms commission, and said that “announcing the election timeline is the legal right of the IEC, so the government should help the commission hold elections while we announce [a timeline] and prevent the irresponsible statements of people and groups.”
  • Turkmenistan President Visits: Turkmenistan President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow visited Kabul on Thursday, where he met with Pres. Ghani and signed five memorandums of understanding covering education, energy, sports, and other issues. Turkmenistan has pledged to increase electricity exports to Afghanistan by five-fold, and construction of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Tajikistan rail line is expected to be completed by February 2016. [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Afghanistan Hosts Economic Cooperation Organization Summit [TOLO]
  • Faryab Provincial Police Accuse Taliban of Using Schools and Hospitals as Bases [TOLO]
  • Balkh Survey Shows High Corruption Concerns [TOLO]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Election Tribunal Upholds Another PTI Challenge; Taliban Fighters Take Helmand’s Musa Qala

Topline

  • An election tribunal upheld PTI general secretary Jahangir Tareen’s challenge against his 2013 loss to Muhammad Siddique Khan Baloch in the NA-154 constituency, ordering re-polling. The election tribunal judge who ruled in favor of Imran Khan’s challenge against National Assembly Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq accused the PML-N government of threatening him. The PTI has renewed its calls for the ouster of Election Commission officials in the wake of the new verdicts. Meanwhile, the Election Commission announced the schedule for the first phase of local government elections in Sindh and Punjab. Taliban fighters have reportedly take control of the Musa Qala district in Helmand, although details are limited and some reports suggest the area is still contested by Afghan security forces; on Wednesday, two NATO soldiers were killed in an apparent insider attack in Helmand, but no further details have been released as to the location of the attack or the identity of the victims. In an interview with the Express Tribune, Mullah Omar’s brother Mullah Abdul Manan warned of “sever differences” if successor Mullah Akhtar Mansour rejects the mediation of Taliban clerics. Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif announced the formation of additional military courts in Karachi to try terrorism suspects. The MQM and the government are continuing negotiations over a ‘Grievances Redressal Committee’; meanwhile, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan arrived in London for talks with UK officials on investigations against MQM leader-in-exile Altaf Hussain.

Pakistan — Security

  • Border Tensions with India: A spokesman for the Pakistan Rangers told Dawn on Wednesday that the regular biannual meeting with the head of the Indian Border Security Force would take place as scheduled in New Delhi on September 9, despite the cancellation of national security advisor-level talks this past weekend. On Tuesday, intelligence agencies reportedly arrested a former Punjab Special Branch police officer, identified as Ilyas, who was charged with spying for India; a Punjab police spokesman denied the report. [ET] [APP]
  • Counterterrorism Crackdown: A spokesman for the Punjab Counterterrorism Department announced Wednesday that as many as 182 members of banned militant organizations had been arrested in search operations over the past two days. Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah said that “steps are being taken to ensure that every attempt at a terrorist attack is pre-empted”; he suggested that more than 13,700 seminaries were under surveillance in the province but that none had any links with militancy. Sindh authorities have reportedly identified 49 madrassahs across the province with links to terrorist organizations, out of 9,590 total.
  • Quetta Attack: At least four Lashkar-e-Jhangvi militants, including an unidentified commander, were killed at a checkpoint stop by the Balochistan Frontier Corps in Quetta on Tuesday. [Dawn] [ET]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Election Complaints: Speaking on talk shows on Tuesday, retired judge Kazim Ali Malik, whose election tribunal ruled against former National Assembly Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq on Monday, accused Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid of threatening him; in earlier comments, Rashid implied that Judge Malik had ruled against the PML-N after his son failed to win a party ticket. Malik refuted that charge; Imran Khan seized on the issue as “proof that the “PML-N used pressure tactics and bribes to fix election results.” At a press conference on Tuesday, Khan reiterated criticisms of the Election Commission, calling for the overhaul of its leadership; earlier, the ECP rebuffed Khan’s demands for a proposal to address the flaws documented in the earlier Supreme Court judicial commission investigation into charges of vote-rigging in the May 2013 general elections. Meanwhile, another election tribunal hearing PTI secretary general Jahangir Tareen’s challenge against Muhammad Siddique Khan Baloch in the NA-154 constituency ruled in favor of Tareen on Wednesday, ordering a re-election. [ET] [ET]
  • Military Jurisdiction: On Tuesday, Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif reportedly approved the creation of additional military courts in Karachi to hear terrorism cases; the announcement from the army’s spokesman does not specify how many. Separately, Minister of State for Water and Power Abid Sher Ali told the National Assembly on Tuesday that the federal government is considering tasking the Sindh Rangers with investigating power theft and unpaid electricity bills owed to the Sukkur Electric Power Company, which is facing line losses of as much as 90%, at a cost of Rs 1.15 billion to the national exchequer.
  • MQM Talks: Negotiations on Tuesday between the government and MQM to form a ‘Grievances Redressal Committee’ failed to reach a final agreement on the powers and composition of the committee; talks are expected to continue today. Meanwhile, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan arrived in London on Wednesday, where he is expected to discuss investigations against MQM leader-in-exile Altaf Hussain with British authorities.
  • Local Elections: The Election Commission finalized the list of returning officers who will supervise local government elections in Sindh and Punjab, and on Wednesday announced the schedule for the first phase of polling in the two provinces; nomination papers must be filed by September 11, candidate lists will be finalized by October 2nd, and voting will take place October 31st. During the first phase, voting will be held in the Lodhran, Vehari, Okara, Pakpattan, Bahawalnagar, Faisalabad, Bhakkar, Lahore, Kasur, Nankana Sahib, Gujrat, and Chakwal districts in Punjab, and the Khairpur, Sukkur, Ghotki, Larkana, Shikarpur, Qamber Shahdadkot, Jacobabad, and Kashmore Kandhkot districts in Sindh. Meanwhile, the PPP has decided to ally with the ANP and JUI-F in the formation of local district governments in Khyber Paktunkhwa.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • ADB Announces $1.2 Billion Annual Support Package Through 2019 [AFP] [ET]
  • CENTCOM Chief Meets Chief of Army Staff [Dawn] [ET]
  • PM Sharif Calls for Strengthening Economic Ties with Kazakhstan [APP] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Shahbaz Sharif Leads Delegation to Beijing [ET]
  • PML-N Charges Khyber Paktunkhwa Government With Misuse of Hydroelectric Funds [Dawn] [APP] [Dawn]
  • Anti-Narcotics Force Seeks Additional Staffing [Dawn]
  • Faisalabad Factories Shut Down in Labor Dispute [ET]
  • Doubts About LNG Supply in Winter [Dawn]
  • Former Khyber Paktunkhwa Mining Minister Jailed After Bail [Dawn] [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Taliban Seize Musa Qala: Taliban forces overran police and army checkposts in the Musa Qala district headquarters in Helmand, reports from the district governor suggest, although some provincial government forces suggest that fighting is still ongoing in the area, and international military forces are reportedly providing air support in the conflict. There are few confirmed casualty reports and details of the fighting are limited. [Reuters] [TOLO]
  • Insider Attack: Two NATO soldiers were killed in an attack by two men wearing Afghan army uniforms at an Afghan military base in Helmand on Wednesday, the Resolute Support mission headquarters announced; the nationality of the victims and the exact location of the attack have not yet been reported as of this writing, although most international soldiers in Helmand are American. The gunmen were killed themselves in return fire. No Taliban claim of responsibility has been reported; it is the third insider attack on international military personnel and contractors reported so far this year. [NYT] [AFP] [BBC] [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • Taliban Succession Struggle: In comments to the Express Tribune on Wednesday, Mullah Abdul Manan, brother to the late Mullah Mohammad Omar, warns that “if any one-sided decree is issued before the ulema’s decision” on the dispute over Mullah Akhtar Mansour’s succession to the Taliban’s top leadership position, “it could lead to severe differences”. Manan calls on Mansour to “avoid internal rift, and support mediation by the religious scholars who are making efforts to remove differences.”

Afghanistan — Politics and Development

  • Electoral Reform: On Tuesday, Electoral Reform Commission head Shah Sultan Akifi announced that initial drafts of proposed reforms to the electoral system would be shared with the national unity government within a week, covering modifications to the voters list, election monitoring, the role of women, electoral complaints, and other issues.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • ‘Kabul Taxi’ Satire Angers Officials, NDS Investigates Two Journalists as Suspected Authors [Reuters]
  • Afghan Woman’s Woman Led to Sound and Fury, But Little Justice [WAPO]
  • MPs Warn Against ‘Double Agents’ Within Government [TOLO]
  • Dostum Rejects Massacre Allegations During Operations in Northern Afghanistan [Khaama Press]
  • Cases Finalized Against Six Ministry of Urban Development Officials [TOLO]
  • ACCI Finalizes Plan for ‘Lapis Lazuli Corridor’ Linking Central Asia and Turkey [TOLO]
  • $440M Recovered in Kabul Bank Case, Attorney General’s Office Claims [Khaama Press]
  • Report: Economic Management in Afghanistan: What Worked, What Didn’t, and Why – “Despite Afghanistan’s current economic difficulties economic management – macroeconomic and public financial management in particular – has been an area of relative success.” [Bill Byrd, AAN]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: India and Pakistan Cancel Advisor-Level Talks; Twelve Killed in Kabul Bombing

Note: The news is back to regular daily updates from today. Apologies for the interruption in service and resulting length of this brief. Thanks for reading.

Topline

  • India and Pakistan called off a planned meeting of their national security advisors that was to have taken place Sunday, with Pakistan’s foreign ministry saying the meeting would “not serve any purpose” after India placed Kashmiri separatist leaders under house arrest and warned that it would not accept meetings by Pakistani foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz with the group prior to his meetings with counterpart Ajit Doval. At least three American DynCorp contractors and nine Afghan bystanders were killed in a suicide bombing attack in Kabul on Saturday; the Taliban have denied responsibility. Afghan officials continue to lambaste Pakistan for its failure to crack down on the Taliban, and bilateral tensions are high. Vice President Dostum survived an apparent ambush in Faryab province on Friday as he continues to preside over clearing operations there; security officials arrested three would-be suicide bombers near his residence on Monday. Airstrikes and militant attacks on military checkposts continue in North and South Waziristan; a lieutenant colonel was among the casualties, in an attack in the Shawal Valley area on Monday. Prime Minister Sharif chaired a cabinet review of national security on Monday; speaking at a press conference afterwards, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan claimed that “no militant network could now operate in Pakistan” as a result of counterterrorism crackdowns under the National Action Plan. The US Army has opened a criminal investigation into the deaths of as many as 17 Afghan civilians in Wardak’s Nerkh district between 2012-2013, alleged to have been killed after their detention at a U.S. Special Forces base. A Lahore election tribunal returned its verdict in the case of National Assembly Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq’s 2013 election, upholding PTI leader Imran Khan’s challenge and calling for new polls. The PTI has touted the ruling as vindication for its contentions that the 2013 polls were rigged; Sadiq’s lawyers indicate he will appeal. Following meetings with Prime Minsiter Sharif in Islamabad brokered by Maulana Fazlur Rehman, the MQM has agreed to reconsider its resignation from the assemblies, following the creation of a “Grievances Redressal Committee”, whose mandate has yet to be finalized. The Election Commission of Pakistan again delayed the schedule for local elections in Sindh and Punjab, the first phase of which is now due to be held October 31. Following trilateral talks with Afghan and UN officials in Kabul, Pakistan agreed on Saturday to extend the deadline for Afghan refugee repatriation until 2017.

Pakistan — Security

  • FATA Operations: Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif and Chief Air Marshal Sohail Aman met at the army’s General Headquarters in Rawalpindi on Monday to review joint forces coordination in Operation Zarb-e-Azb; on Friday, the Pakistani Air Force released photos touting Aman’s participation in air strikes in the Shawal Valley area of North Waziristan prior to the launch of ground operations last week. On Tuesday, army helicopters reportedly destroyed a militant training camp in the Shawal. Two army personnel, including a lieutenant colonel, were killed in an attack in the Shawal area on Monday; details are limited, although the military claims to have killed six militants in the engagement. Another three soldiers were killed in a checkpost attack in South Waziristan on Tuesday. A roadside bombing in the Bajaur Agency on Saturday killed three people, including two pro-government tribal elders; on Sunday, the local president of the PPP’s Mohmand chapter was killed in another bombing in Bajaur, and at least four guards injured. [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Counterterrorism Response: Prime Minister Sharif chaired a federal cabinet meeting on Monday focused on the national security situation; earlier on Saturday, Sharif also chaired a meeting to review Punjab’s implementation of the National Action Plan against terrorism. At Monday’s cabinet meeting, Sharif ordered a continuation of operations in Waziristan and Karachi, and for the interior ministry to “prepare a plan to de-weaponize society”; Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan told a press conference afterwards that “only the country’s law enforcement agencies will be allowed to use arms” and that an operation would be launched to disarm militia groups. Chaudhry Nisar claimed that “no militant network could now operate in Pakistan,” and maintained that “civil-military relations in the country had never been better” ; he acknowledged that Pakistan’s progress in curbing terrorism funding had been limited, “but we are determined to control it”. Speaking at an earlier press conference on Sunday, Chaudhry Nisar acknowledged that the investigation into the assassination of Punjab Home Minister Shuja Khanazada was still a “blind case”; security personnel were reported to have arrested at least three suspects in a raid on an Islamabad seminary on Thursday in connection to the bombing that killed Khanazada, and the khateeb of an adjoining mosque was reportedly arrested on hate speech charges on Friday after issuing a sermon criticizing the raid. Chaudhry Nisar later denied that the raid was connected to Khanazada’s assassination, however. During his Sunday press conference, Chaudhry Nisar announced that the Interior Ministry was assuming responsibility for the Exit Control List, and said hundreds of names had been removed from the travel blacklist, leaving around 6,350 names left. [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Military Courts: On Saturday, the Supreme Court registrar declined to hear a petition seeking records from military court proceedings that result in a death sentence conviction for Haider Ali, saying that the petitioner — Ali’s father — had failed to bring his petition to lower courts first. Lawyers for the family indicated they would re-submit the petition. On Tuesday, the Peshawar High Court suspended Ali’s execution to hear his petition. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • India and Pakistan Call Off Talks: In a statement issued late Saturday, Pakistan’s foreign ministry formally called off planned national security advisor-level talks with India that had been planned to take place on Sunday in New Delhi, saying that Indian insistence that Pakistani foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz not meet with Kashmiri separatist leaders meant that the talks would “not serve any purpose”. At a press conference earlier in the day, India’s foreign minister Sushma Swaraj had indicated India would not accept a meeting with the Hurriyat Council and had also insisted that the agenda for talks should remain limited to terrorism and cross-border tensions along the Line of Control. Pakistan blamed India for setting preconditions on the talks, and India blamed Pakistan for their cancellation. In an interview on Monday, Aziz said that “the whole nation is united that we cannot talk to India without Kashmir”. As of current writing, meetings between the directors general for military operations and Indian and Pakistani border security forces are still planned for September 6; Aziz said that Pakistan would be open to talks on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly but did not extend an invitation to India to do so. A civilian was reportedly killed on the Pakistani side of the border in an exchange of fire on Saturday evening. [NYT] [Reuters] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Election Tribunal Overturns Speaker’s Election: On Saturday, a Lahore election tribunal issued its verdict after two years of hearings of a PTI petition challenging the outcome of the May 2013 elections in the NA-122 Lahore constituency, voiding the election of National Assembly Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, who had won against Imran Khan. The tribunal ordered re-polling in the constituency, and Sadiq was de-notified from his membership in the National Assembly by the Election Commission on Monday. Deputy speaker Murtaza Javed Abbasi will assume the role of acting speaker in the interim; there is no immediate guidance on when a new speaker will be elected. Sadiq said that he would accept the tribunal’s decision, but his lawyer indicated he would appeal the ruling with the Supreme Court. Imran Khan and other PTI leaders touted the tribunal ruling as vindication of their contention that the 2013 elections had been rigged; NA-122 is one of four constituencies where the party initially alleged major manipulation of the results during the May 2013 polls. The PTI continues to call for the removal of Election Commission officials, citing their mal-administration of the polls; Khan threatened a renewed sit-in against the ECP following the Sadiq verdict if his demand for actions went unanswered. [ET] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • MQM Meets with PM: On Friday, the MQM issued a statement indicating that its resignation from the assemblies “was final,” suggesting that the party would refocus on the “establishment of a province and welfare activities.” Party activists protested new PEMRA media restrictions they said were aimed at censoring speeches by party leader-in-exile Altaf Hussain, and said that at least eight more activists had been arrested by the Karachi police and Sindh Rangers in the preceding 48 hours. Mediator Maulana Fazlur Rehman of the JUI-F spoke by phone with Hussain on Saturday, urging the party to resume negotiations with the government, and on Sunday the party indicated its willingness to meet with Prime Minister Sharif. Following a meeting with the prime minister on Monday, the party agreed to “reconsider” its resignations, after Sharif agreed to form a “Grievances Redressal Committee” in connection to the MQM’s complaints regarding the paramilitary crackdown in Karachi, but details of that committee’s mandate are limited as of this writing. Finance Minister Dar and other government representatives met with MQM leaders on Tuesday to discuss the terms of reference for the committee. Separately, Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif visited Karachi on Tuesday to review the security situation in the city. Meanwhile, investigations are continuing into the attempted assassination of MQM leader Rashid Godil; police say footage of the event indicates that at least two groups of gunmen were involved in the attack. [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Local Elections: Following an announcement last week that the first phase of local government elections would be held in Sindh and Punjab on October 12, the Election Commission announced on Friday that those polls would be delayed until October 31. The delay was attributed to continuing flood relief operations and the need for security resources to be devoted to protecting the Shia community during the Muharram period. A schedule for the polls is now due to be announced August 26. Voting will initially be held in twelve districts in Punjab and eight in Sindh during the first phase. [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Limited Protest by ASWJ After Malik Ishaq Death Shows Leadership Divide [Dawn]
  • Chinese Cyclist Kidnapped Near Dera Ismail Khan in May 2014 Freed [Reuters] [AFP]
  • Two Killed, One Injured in Gwadar Grenade Attack; Bodies of Three Laborers Found in Turbat [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Families of Kasur Victims End Investigation Boycott After Meeting with Chief Minister [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Militia Beheads Bombing Suspects in Landi Kotal [Dawn]
  • Bombing Suspect Escapes Police Custody at Karachi Anti-Terrorism Court Hearing [Dawn] [ET]
  • Prime Minister Sharif Departs for Kazakhstan [APP]
  • Finance Ministry Pushed to Clear Rs 72 Billion in Unpaid Subsidy Bills [ET]
  • Pakistan and Iran Seek to Boost Trade [Dawn]
  • Sindh to Replace 61 Federal Laws [Dawn]
  • Former Khyber Paktunkhwa Mining Minister Freed on Bail [ET]
  • Opposition Criticizes Chitral Flood Response [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Kabul Suicide Bombing Targets NATO Contractors: A suicide bombing in Kabul’s Macrorayan neighborhood on Saturday struck the vehicle of a group of military contractors working with DynCorp International, killing three Americans and nine Afghan bystanders, and injuring more than sixty people; several nearby buildings were damaged or destroyed in the blast. The Taliban denied responsibility for the attack, and there has been no public claim of responsibility. Pres. Ghani and other international officials condemned the blast, including the UN and Pakistan’s foreign ministry. On Sunday, four Afghan soldiers were wounded in a roadside bombing in the Kalakan district of Kabul province. [WSJ] [Reuters] [BBC] [Guardian] [AP] [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [TOLO]
  • Taliban Succession Struggle: Taliban commander Mullah Akhtar Mansour met with clerical mediators seeking to bridge the succession split within the insurgency on Thursday, a spokesman for the Taliban told Reuters on Friday, but those talks “didn’t reach a conclusion”. [Khaama Press] [TOLO]
  • Dostum Survives Attack: Vice President Dostum, who continues to preside over military clearance operations in Faryab province, reportedly came under ambush on Friday while traveling in an armored vehicle in the Qaisar district; he was uninjured and spokesmen and local officials claim that between 4-8 Taliban fighters were killed in the engagement, and another 13 arrested. On Monday, a group of would-be suicide bombers was reportedly arrested near Dostum’s residence in Qaisar. [AP] [Khaama Press] [Pajhwok] [TOLO] [NYT]
  • Civilian Casualty Investigation Reopened: On Monday, a spokesman for the US Army’s Criminal Investigation Command confirmed that the military had opened an criminal investigation into the deaths of 17 Afghan civilian murders between 2012-2013 in the Nekh district of Wardak province. Afghan officials had, at the time, blamed a U.S. Special Forces team deployed in the area for the murders, including an Afghan-American interpreter and at least thre U.S. soldiers. The interpreter, identified as Zakaria Kandahari, was arrested by Afghan officials, but the outcome of any trial for him has not been reported.
  • Other Attacks and Operations: On Monday, the NDS announced that airstrike in Kunduz’s Chahar Dara district had killed Abu Hazifa, identified as the chief of the terrorist group Jundullah in Afghanistan; no further details were released. U.S. aircraft are providing air support for Afghan army operations in Helmand’s Musa Qala district, where the district governor has called for more reinforcements; ANA spokesmen said that 31 Taliban fighters had been killed in an airstrike on a Taliban weapons depot, while Taliban sources claimed to have taken control of several army posts in the district on Sunday. On Saturday, officials announced that Afghan security forces had retaken control of several areas of the Kohistanat district in Sar-e-Pul, including the district center. [TOLO] [TOLO] [TOLO] [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Tensions with Pakistan: The AP overviews the deterioration in Pakistan-Afghanistan bilateral relations since the announcement of Mullah Omar’s death, collapse in Pakistani-brokered talks between the Taliban and government representatives, and the subsequent spike in high-profile attacks in Kabul. Speaking on Saturday after the most recent Kabul bombing, Pres. Ghani said that “Pakistan should have an understanding of the situation in Afghanistan and use the same definition of terrorism with regards to Afghanistan as it does domestically”. In an interview on Friday, Vice President Dostum reiterated calls for Afghanistan to “cut our diplomatic relations” with Pakistan. Speaking at a graduation ceremony on Sunday, Deputy Chief of Army Staff Lt. Gen. Murad Ali Murad said that “Pakistan’s rocket attacks which still continue in bordering areas of Afghanistan will not remain unanswered”. On Sunday, Pakistan formally protested what it said was rocket fire from the Afghan side of the border, killing four soldiers. Afghanistan cancelled a planned meeting of the Joint Economic Commission with Pakistan that was to take place Monday. [TOLO] [TOLO] [Reuters] [ET]
  • Refugee Repatriation: On Friday, Pakistani minister for States and Frontier Regions Abdul Qadir Baloch arrived in Kabul for trilateral talks with Afghan and UN officials on the status of the roughly 1.5 million registered and estimated one million unregistered Afghan refugees living in Pakistan. On Saturday, agreement was reached to extend the deadline for the refugees’ repatriation to 2017, while continuing encourage voluntary returns. [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [TOLO]
  • EU Suspends Funding for National ID Card: In a TOLO interview on Sunday, EU Special Representative to Afghanistan Amb. Franz-Michael Melbin confirmed that the EU had suspended its funding for the Afghan government’s electronic National ID Card project, citing a lack of implementation by the government so far.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • With U.S. Withdrawal Looming, a Nascent Afghan Press is in Peril [WAPO] [TOLO]
  • Electoral Reform Commission Meets with Senators [TOLO]
  • Ghazni Deputy Governor Warns of Purported New ‘Islamic Commandos’ Group [Khaama Press]
  • Herat Gas Terminal Explosion Kills 11 [Reuters] [TOLO]
  • NDS Arrests Six Principals of Logar Schools Charged with Taliban Links [TOLO]
  • Police Arrest More Than 200 Drug Addicts in Kabul [TOLO]
  • Study Estimates More Than $267M in Gem Stones Smuggled Annually [TOLO]
  • Commentary: The Teacher Crisis and the Quality of Education in Afghanistan – “The teachers who are supposed to facilitate the rapid growth of the sector are still often ill-trained, ill-equipped, badly paid, too few in numbers – and, increasingly unhappy about it.” [Qayoom Suroush and Christine Roehrs, AAN]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Pakistan Begins Ground Operations in Shawal; Mansour Hedges on Sucession Dispute Mediation

Topline

  • Pakistan’s military announced on Thursday it had begun ground operations in the Shawal Valley region of North Waziristan, one of the last major areas where such actions have not been carried out after the launch of Operation Zarb-e-Azb last summer. The Post reports that only around $300 million in U.S. Coalition Support Fund money will be held up by the Pentagon’s refusal to certify Pakistani action against the Haqqani network, but anonymous Obama administration sources suggest that this money “is not going to happen soon”. Mullah Akhtar Mansour has reportedly refused to guarantee that he will accept the ruling of a group of Taliban ulema seeking to mediate his leadership succession dispute with Mullah Omar’s family, delaying further talks. Tensions between Indian and Pakistani diplomats remain high ahead of next week’s planned national security advisor meeting in New Delhi; despite Indian criticism of Pakistani plans to meet with Kashmiri separatist leaders ahead of those talks, the meeting currently is still scheduled to proceed. Pakistan has cancelled a planned meeting of Commonwealth parliamentary representatives that it was to host in September, citing the presence of representatives from Indian Kashmir. Vice President Dostum has announced the clearing of several districts in Faryab province, where TOLO reports several hundred families are now returning after being displaced during as much as six months of Taliban control. Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah and the MQM voiced separate complaints of the federal government’s crackdowns in Karachi; despite Prime Minister Sharif’s bypassing of the MQM during his one-day visit to Karachi on Thursday, the MQM said that it would still take part in future negotiations in Islamabad. On Thursday, Pakistan’s information ministry introduced a new code of conduct for media organizations, restricting hate speech as well as a broad range of criticism of the army, judiciary, and other public institutions.

Pakistan — Security

  • Ground Operations in Shawal: On Thursday, the Pakistani military’s main spokesman announced that the military had begun ground operations in the Shawal Valley, one of the last remaining areas of North Waziristan where such operations have not been conducted since Operation Zarb-e-Azb was launched last summer. The announcement follows a week of daily airstrikes in the area, but there is no independent confirmation of the military’s claims to have killed more than 3,000 militants over the course of the past year’s operations. [NYT]
  • Counterterrorism Investigations: On Thursday, Punjab police announced the arrest the day prior of seven militant suspects, who are accused of facilitating the assassination last week of Punjab Home Minister Shuja Khanazada; the Express Tribune’s report suggests that the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi deputy commander for Punjab, Nadeem Inqlabi, was responsible for planning that attack. Meanwhile, the Express Tribune reports that Prime Minister Sharif, on the recommendation of Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, will appoint former Khyber Paktunkhwa police chief and current head of the National Police Bureau Ihsan Ghani to lead the National Counterterrorism Authority, replacing acting director Saud Aziz. During court hearings on Thursday, Chief Justice Jawwad Khawaja and other judges criticized the government for failing to provide adequate funds to NACTA and the Federal Investigation Agency to conduct counter-terrorism investigations. [Dawn] [ET]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Tensions Over Kashmir Continue Ahead of Aziz Visit: On Friday, India’s foreign ministry issued a statement saying that it would “not be appropriate” for Pakistani foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz to meet with the Kashmiri separatist Hurriyat Council leadership prior to his meetings with Indian national security advisor Ajit Doval next week; those talks thus far remain scheduled for the 23rd, however. In a statement on Thursday, Pakistan’s foreign ministry indicated that the Hurriyat meeting would go ahead, saying that “Kashmiris are important stakeholders in the context of Jammu and Kashmir dispute”. Meanwhile, Pakistan has cancelled a planned conference of Commonwealth parliamentary representatives that it was to host on September 30, objecting to the invitation to legislators from the Indian-administered state of Jammu and Kashmir. Separately, the Lahore High Court upheld a petition from Jamaat-ud-Dawa leader Hafeez Saeed, who sought to ban the screening in Pakistan of the Indian film “Phantom”, which depicts the 2008 Mumbai attacks, which Saeed is charged with organizing. [AP] [BBC] [Reuters] [AP] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • MQM Disappointed with PM’s Visit to Karachi: During separate meetings with Sindh governor Ishratul Ibad and Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah on Thursday, Prime Minister Sharif reviewed the ongoing crackdown in Karachi, affirming his support for the operation. In their discussions with the prime minister, Chief Minister Shah and Rangers chief Major Gen. Bilal Akbar are both reported to have objected to MQM calls for a “monitoring committee” to oversee the operation. Shah is reported to have reiterated his objections to investigations by federal agencies into corruption in Sindh, saying they had exceeded their jurisdiction. The MQM said that it was “disappointed” by Sharif’s visit, saying he had failed to address the party’s complaints; party leader Farooq Sattar said that the MQM would still take part in further negotiations mediated by Maulana Fazlur Rehman in Islamabad at an unspecified future date, however. Nine MQM party activists were reportedly arrested on Thursday. [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Media Code of Conduct: On Thursday, the federal information ministry issued a new amendment to the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority Rules, introducing code of conduct requirements that bar the media from broadcasting hate speech, or commentary “that is against the Islamic values, ideology of Pakistan or founding fathers of the nation”, among other restrictions.

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • CSF Assistance: Pakistan’s foreign ministry spokesman said that discussions were ongoing with the U.S. over the disbursal of Coalition Support Fund assistance, which has reportedly been frozen over the U.S. Defense Department’s refusal to certify Pakistani military operations in North Waziristan had damaged the Haqqani network. The Post reports that only around $300 million of the 2015 CSF pipeline would be affected by the de-certification; the Pentagon has not commented publicly on the issue, but an anonymous Obama administration official tells the Post that payment of the final $300 million “is not something that is going to happen soon. It’s just something that [the Defense Department] has reminded the Pakistanis of.”
  • Russian Gas Pipeline Construction: The WSJ reports on Pakistan’s growing ties with Russia, following yesterday’s announcement of a military helicopter sale, and noting plans for the state-owned Russian industrial conglomerate Rostec to finance, own and operate a gas pipeline linking Karachi and Lahore, an agreement that is expected to be signed within the next month.
  • Tax Revenues: Only 74,000 of the more than 351,000 people who were served notices from the Federal Board of Revenue during the 2014-15 fiscal year filed tax returns, the Express Tribune reports, resulting in a total of Rs 1.11 billion in tax payments against Rs 16.8 in payments sought by the FBR.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Ahmadi Man Killed in Taunsa [AFP]
  • Three Christians Charged with Blasphemy in Gujrat [AFP]
  • PTI Protests Plans for Phased Local Elections in Punjab [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Interior Minister Orders Action Against Forged ID Cards [ET]
  • Petition Challenges Military Court Death Sentence [Dawn]
  • Four Laborers Abducted in Turbat [Dawn]
  • Senate Continues Debate on Judicial Reform [Dawn] [ET]
  • Lawmakers Hesitant to Endorse Overseas Voting [Dawn]
  • Pakistan Launches Injectable Polio Vaccine [AFP]
  • Gas Tariff Hike Expected September 1 [Dawn]
  • Commentary: Iran and Pakistan: Back to Business – “The India-Iran relationship will continue to grow, but with China’s big bet on Pakistan – in the tens of billions of dollars – and Pakistan’s distancing itself from the regional sectarian war, Iran appears keen to partner with Pakistan rather than playing an antagonistic role in the country.” [Arif Rafiq, The Diplomat]
  • Commentary: A General’s Legacy – “While many of his contemporaries and successors feigned innocence when it came to the question of feeding militants, Gul unabashedly owned up to core policies of the security establishment.” [Ayesha Siddiqa, Express Tribune]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Attacks and Operations: TOLO reports that “hundreds” of displaced families are returning to their homes in Faryab following recent high-profile military operations presided over by Vice President Dostum, which are reported to have ousted Taliban militants from the Qaisar and Ghormach districts where they had been in control for the past six months. In an RFE/RL interview, Dostum said that “negotiations are under way with Pashtun tribal leaders” to win their support; other accounts have charged that his militia network has harassment and extortion. Meanwhile, the Badakshan deputy governor tells TOLO that Taliban militants have cut off transit routes to the Zebak, Eshkkashim, Shighnan, and Wardak districts, warning of major food shortages and the potential for mass starvation. On Friday, three school children were killed in a rocket attack on their school in Paktika’s Sar-e-Rawza district. Two policemen and one civilian were killed and another policeman wounded in two separate bombings in Baghlan on Friday; another local policeman and civilian were killed in a separate bombing in Kunduz.
  • Taliban Succession: In meetings on Thursday, a panel of Taliban clerics failed to secure an agreement from Mullah Akhtar Mansour that he would accept their decision in mediating his succession dispute with the family of Mullah Mohammad Omar, the Express Tribune reports. Mansour is reported to have “sought some more time to apprise the members of the [Taliban] leadership council and his other aides before taking any decision.”

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • TAPI Pipeline: Pakistan’s minister of petroleum and natural resources told reporters on Thursday that the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India natural gas pipeline would be inaugurated in December, and construction would be completed in the next three to four years. Afghanistan is expected to earn $500-600 million in annual transit royalties from the pipeline, the total construction cost of which is now estimated at $25 billion.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Jamiat-e-Islami Leaders Criticize Government Electoral Reform Progress [Pajwhok]
  • Head of National ID Card Program Reiterates Calls for Implementation [TOLO]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: DOD Will Not Certify Pakistani Action Against Haqqanis; Pakistan Protests Afghan ‘Blame Game’

Topline

  • The US Department of Defense will not certify to Congress that Pakistani military operations in North Waziristan are damaging the Haqqani network, blocking the next tranche of Coalition Support Fund assistance, Pakistani foreign ministry sources report. Pakistan formally protested the “blame game” by senior Afghan officials, and refuted Afghan charges that Pakistani military cross-border artillery fire had been responsible for the deaths of several Afghan border security forces. Kashmiri separatist leaders were briefly placed under house arrest on Thursday, ahead of Pakistani foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz’s planned meeting with them next week. Khaama Press reports that the Taliban council of ulema will issue a decision today in its mediation of the dispute over Mullah Akhtar Mansour’s succession as the group’s senior leadership. The Election Commission of Pakistan reportedly plans to announce a new schedule for local government elections in Sindh and Punjab on Friday, beginning with an initial phase on October 12. Objections from senators may lead the Pakistani government to revise a proposed amendment that would introduce criminal penalties for tax evasion exceeding Rs 10 million, the Express Tribune reports.

Pakistan — Security

  • US Finds Pakistani Action Against Haqqanis Inadequate: Dawn, citing anonymous foreign ministry officials, reports that the U.S. Department of Defense will not certify to Congress that Pakistani military operations in North Waziristan had damaged the Haqqani network, blocking the disbursal of the next planned tranche of Coalition Support Fund assistance. The last payment, of $337 million, is reported to have been last month. Meanwhile, Pakistani airstrikes continued in North Waziristan’s Shawal Valley area on Wednesday for the fourth straight day since Punjab Home Minister Shuja Khanazada’s assassination, reportedly killing 25 militant suspects; another 43 are reported to have been killed in airstrikes on Thursday. There is no independent confirmation of those accounts. [Reuters]
  • Tensions with India: Pakistani military officials accused Indian Border Security Forces of killing a civilian in cross-border artillery firing in the Kotli district on Wednesday evening; earlier in the day, Pakistan’s foreign ministry summoned India’s ambassador to formally protest continued ceasefire violations, the fourth such protest in the past week. Pakistan’s foreign ministry confirmed on Thursday that foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz would meet with Kashmiri separatist leaders prior to his meetings with Indian national security advisor Ajit Doval next week; the leaders of the Hurriyat Council were briefly placed under house arrest on Thursday, but later released. [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Russian Defense Deal Signed: Dawn reports that Pakistani and Russian officials finalized a defense deal that has been under negotiation for the past year; details are limited, but the agreement reportedly involves the sale of four Mi-35 attack helicopters.
  • Travel Restrictions: The Express Tribune reports that at least 21,000 people have been removed from the Exit Control List, freeing them to travel outside the country. No details have been provided, but sources say that most of the individuals were from Khyber Paktunkhwa and the FATA and “had been added on court, police and secret service agency directives”.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Local Elections: At a meeting on Wednesday, Election Commission officials are reported to have decided to modify the schedule for local government elections in Sindh and Punjab yet again, now setting the first phase of polling for October 12. The full schedule will reportedly be announced Friday. [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Corruption Charges: On Wednesday, the Sindh provincial government’s Anti-Corruption and Establishment Committee ordered investigations against 58 government officials for their alleged involvement in embezzling funds through the collection of ‘ghost’ employee salaries; most are from the health, education, and local government departments. Another 67 individuals are reportedly under scrutiny and may face charges after a further meeting on August 24.
  • MQM Under Pressure: Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, MQM party leaders protested the continued arrest of party activists, saying that the Rangers-led operation in Karachi was ignoring militant threats against the party. MQM leader Rashid Godil remains under critical condition after an assassination attempt on Monday. Sindh Home Minister Suhail Anwar Siyal suggested that Godil had been provided with police security, but had “transferred their services to someone else without informing the competent authority”. Investigations continue in the case but no suspects have been identified. The MQM leadership has deferred setting a date for the next round of talks with the government over their return to parliament, citing Godil’s condition. Prime Minister Sharif is visiting Karachi on Thursday to review the security situation but does not appear to have meetings scheduled with MQM leadership. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Judicial Appointments: On Wednesday, the senate held open debate on judicial appointment policies and practices; various constitutional amendments were proposed, including the direct election of judges and police, a modification to the existing system of appointments to give greater power to parliament in nominations, and restrictions on the Supreme Court’s use of suo moto jurisdiction. Debate is expect to continue Thursday.

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Lawmakers Push to Remove Tax Evasion Penalties: Facing objection from lawmakers in the Senate Finance Committee, the Express Tribune reports that the government is planning to review or modify a planned amendment to the 2010 Anti-Money Laundering Act, which would introduce criminal penalties for those charged with tax evasion exceeding Rs 10 million.
  • Sharif Inaugurates Nuclear Plant: On Thursday, Prime Minister Sharif visited the Karachi Nuclear Power Plant, where he inaugurated the K-2 plant, a project to add an additional 1,100 megawatts of generation that is being supported by the China National Nuclear Corporation.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • ISI Investigating NADRA Issuance of Fake ID Cards [AFP]
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Governor Inaugurates FATA Civilian Courts [Dawn] [ET]
  • Army Pledges Support for Balochistan Polio Vaccination [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Supreme Court Upholds Ban on Houbara Bustard Hunting [Dawn] [ET]
  • Human Rights Commission Investigation Upholds Accounts of Abuse in Kasur [Dawn]
  • Electoral Reform Committee Proposes Increase in Campaign Spending Limits [ET]
  • Chief Justice Refuses Security Protocol [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Tensions with Pakistan: On Wednesday, Pakistan’s foreign ministry summoned Afghan ambassador to Islamabad Janan Mosazai and formally protested recent public allegations by senior Afghan government officials of Pakistani support for Taliban attacks in Afghanistan, saying that “Pakistan has been acting with maximum restraint and avoiding any blame-game”. Pakistan also protested the death of three Frontier Corps personnel in cross-border artillery fire on August 16 and 17, and refuted claims that its own soldiers had killed Afghan border security forces in return, which Afghanistan’s foreign ministry had formally protested the day prior in Kabul. Meanwhile, Vice President Dostum, who continues to preside over military operations in Faryab province, claimed that an “ISI general” had been killed fighting alongside Taliban militants. [Dawn] [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • Mansour Succession Struggle: Khaama Press reports that the Taliban council of ulema mediating between current commander Mullah Akhtar Mansour and his rivals is preparing to announce their decision on the succession question today. The report also claims that Mansour and his deputy Haibatullah Akhunzada “has gone missing during the past few days”, without elaborating. A separate report suggests that Mansour recently conveyed condolence messages following the death of former ISI director Hamid Gul, however.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Refugees: The UN High Commissioner for Refugees representative in Afghanistan warned on Wednesday that increasing conflict in Afghanistan was displacing a greater number of Afghans, both internally and as external refugees. On Wednesday, Iranian, Afghan, and UN officials signed new cooperation agreements on legal and illegal Afghan immigrants to Iran.
  • Mohaqiq Visits Iran: Deputy chief executive Mohammad Mohaqiq visited Iran on Thursday for meetings with Ali Akbar Velayati, advisor to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Velayati affirmed Iranian support for the Afghan government’s efforts to target Islamic State-affiliated militants. [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Remainders

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Sartaj Aziz to Meet Kashmiri Leaders Prior to India Talks; Afghanistan Protests Kunar Firing

Topline

  • Pakistani foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz will meet with Kashmiri separatist leaders prior to his meetings with his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval on August 23, reports indicate. On Tuesday, another Pakistani civilian was killed in an exchange of cross-border fire. Sec. Kerry spoke with Prime Minister Sharif on Tuesday to discuss the regional security situation. Afghanistan formally protested the death of eight border security personnel from Pakistani military shelling in Kunar on Monday. Maulana Fazlur Rehman briefed Prime Minister Sharif on his talks with MQM leaders, as he seeks to mediate their return to parliament; negotiations are expected to continue in Islamabad, but no date has been set. The German aid agency GIZ has reportedly suspended operations in Afghanistan and evacuated foreign staff after the kidnapping of a foreign aid worker in Kabul on Monday. The NYT reports on Vice President Dostum’s efforts to revive militia supporters in northern Afghanistan. Afghanistan marked its Independence Day with ceremonies on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Pakistan — Security

  • Tensions with India: A civilian was killed during an exchange of cross-border fire near Sialkot on Tuesday; Pakistani officials accuse Indian border security forces of firing first. Sec. Kerry spoke with Prime Minister Sharif by phone on Tuesday to discuss the regional security situation; earlier on Tuesday, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon released a statement calling on India and Pakistan to “exercise maximum restraint and take all feasible steps to ensure the protection of civilians”. Meanwhile, Pakistan’s embassy in India has invited leaders of the Kashmiri separatist Hurriyat Council to a meeting with foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz on August 23, prior to his meeting with his counterpart Ajit Doval the same day; India called off planned talks between their foreign secretaries last year after meetings with the Hurriyat group.
  • Attock Attack Investigations: Speaking to the press on Wednesday, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said that more time was needed for investigations into the suicide bombing in Attock on Sunday that killed Punjab Home Minister Shuja Khanazada, but claimed that security officials were “closing in” on the suspects.
  • Al Qaeda Suspects Killed: The two militant suspects killed in a shootout with Karachi police and Rangers during a raid on Tuesday — which also killed an intelligence officer — were subsequently identified as the head of Al Qaeda operations in Karachi, Abdul Ahad, and an aide, Mohammad Saleh, according to anonymous security sources speaking with Dawn.
  • FATA Attacks and Operations: Continuing airstrikes in the Shawal Valley region of North Waziristan on Tuesday killed at least 18 militant suspects, according to a Pakistani military statement. Separately on Tuesday, kidnappers released the son of PPP leader Akhunzada Chattan, after kidnapping him in Bajaur a day prior.
  • Counterterrorism Response: Anti-terrorism courts in Sindh brought convictions in only 23.7% of cases in June 2015, officials reported during a review session on Tuesday, prompting criticism by Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah of prosecution efforts, who appointed a four-member committee to oversee the issue.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • JUI-F and MQM Continue Talks: JUI-F leader Fazlur Rehman briefed Prime Minister Sharif on Wednesday following his talks the day prior with MQM leaders in Karachi, as he sought to mediate their return to parliament. Talks are expected to continue in Islamabad at an unspecified future date. The Express Tribune also reports that the government has dropped its plans to seek legal action by British authorities against Altaf Hussain over his criticism of the Pakistani security services. Rashid Mehmood Soomro, the JUI-F’s general secretary for Sindh, announced his resignation on Tuesday, citing opposition to Rehman’s outreach to the MQM. Meanwhile, MQM leader Rashid Godil remains in critical condition following an assassination attempt against him on Tuesday. [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Local Elections: Supreme Court hearings on Tuesday saw heavy criticism by the three presiding judges of the Election Commission’s petition to delay local government elections in Sindh and Punjab and to conduct the polling in phases; court reporting suggests that the judges stopped short of rejecting the petition, however, with Chief Justice Jawwad Khawaja directing the ECP to consult with political parties on the issue.
  • Electoral Reforms: The parliamentary committee on electoral reforms adopted recommendations that polling center Returning Officers be required to compile election results within 72 hours of the end of voting, and removing the officers’ discretionary power to issue additional ballot papers to a polling station. [Dawn]

Pakistan —Remainders

  • ARY News Takes Over BOL Media Network [Dawn] [ET]
  • Supreme Court Pushes for NAB Investigation Into NLC Scam [Dawn]
  • Kasur Victims’ Families Plan Protest March, Clash with Police [Dawn]
  • Election Tribunal Reserves Verdict on Petition Against National Assembly Speaker [ET]
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Chief Minister Files Petition Against PESCO [ET]
  • PPP’s Shazia Sobia to Replace Alizeh Iqbal Haider in National Assembly Reserved Seat [ET]
  • China and Pakistan Agree on Space Technology Cooperation [APP]
  • Supreme Court Orders Joint Review Committee to Push Official Use of Urdu [ET]
  • Commentary: The Plot Thickens – “The prime minster can hardly afford to go back to the collision course when the balance of power has already shifted to the GHQ.” [Zahid Hussain, Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Tensions with Pakistan: Afghanistan summoned Pakistan’s ambassador to Kabul on Tuesday to formally protest cross-border shelling in Kunar province on Monday, which local officials report killed eight Afghan security personnel. Following his visit to Pakistan last week in an attempt to revive bilateral outreach, TOLO quotes acting defense minister Masoom Stanekzai, who suggested that open Taliban meetings in Pakistan and continuing attacks in Kabul were a sign that “undeclared war has turned into a declared war”. Speaking at an Independence Day ceremony in Islamabad on Tuesday, Afghan Ambassador to Pakistan Janan Mosazai reiterated that Pakistan’s role in supporting Afghan peace was “essential”. [ET] [Khaama Press] [Reuters]
  • German Aid Group Halts Operations: TOLO reports that the German aid agency GIZ has temporarily suspended all operations in Afghanistan and evacuated its foreign staff to Dubai following the kidnapping of a female aid worker in Kabul on Monday; the German foreign ministry has yet to confirm the identity of the woman or that she is a German national, but said that “we’ll report to the public as soon as we can”.
  • Attacks and Operations: Interior Minister Noor ul Haq Uloomi visited Ghazni on Tuesday to review the security situation, where he vowed that “the government security forces are ready and will eliminate the insurgents who are involved in destructive activities”. Speaking later at an Independence Day ceremony in Kabul on Tuesday, Uloomi said that “with the death of Mullah Omar, [the Taliban] must know that they were the instrument of strangers and without any cause have killed innocent people” and stressed that “they cannot reach their goals in Afghanistan”. Reuters reports that Afghan forces have “tactically retreated” from the Naw Zad district in Helmand, shifting the district governor’s office after the previous compound was overtaken by Taliban forces. The Kandahar attorney general, Tayabullah, and an unidentified police officer were killed after they clashed in a dispute on Tuesday; details are limited. [Khaama Press]
  • Dostum Rallies Militias: The NYT overviews Vice President Dostum’s efforts over the past several months to reposition himself as an active military commander in northern Afghanistan, where he has taken part in recent weeks in military operations and sought to reactivate support amongst his militia networks, who have clashed both with Taliban insurgents, the regular armed forces, and themselves.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Independence Day: Pres. Ghani commemorated Independence Day on Wednesday, attending a wreath-laying ceremony at the Azadi Memorial in Kabul to mark the 96th Anniversary of the treaty establishing full independence of Afghanistan from the British. [Khaama Press] [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan Raises Regional Security Concerns [WSJ]
  • Army Investigation Faults Discipline at Kandahar Outpost Prior to 2012 Bales Massacre [WSJ] [WAPO] [Reuters] [Army Times] [Stars and Stripes]
  • Baghlan Leadership Rallies in Support of Security Services [TOLO]
  • Kabul Municipality Sees Revenue Shortfalls [TOLO]
  • Report: The Death of Mullah Omar and the Rise of ISIS in Afghanistan – “Widespread knowledge of Mullah Omar’s death will exacerbate existing fractures within the Taliban and accelerate a power grab among several prominent individuals who have fundamental disagreements over the objectives of the movement.” [ISW (pdf)]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Punjab Home Minister Killed; Afghan Delegation Visits Pakistan for Talks

Note: The news is back to its regular daily update schedule from today; the following summary covers major developments over the past week. Apologies again for the interruption in service and resulting length of this brief. Thank you for reading.

Topline

  • A suicide bombing in Attock on Aug 16 killed Punjab Home Minister Shuja Khanazada; two Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan affiliates have claimed responsibility, although police officials have suggested the attack was carried in retaliation for the killing of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi commander Malik Ishaq in July. An Afghan delegation visited Pakistan on Aug 13 for talks after recent high-profile attacks in Kabul, which Afghan intelligence officials accused the Pakistani military of supporting. Details of the delegation’s discussions are limited, but Pakistan is reported to have urged the Afghan government to resume negotiations with the Taliban, who to date have rejected government outreach. Public criticism of Pakistan by senior Afghan officials has increased in the wake of the Kabul attacks. India and Pakistan continue to trade cross-border fire in Kashmir; national security advisor-level talks will take place on Aug 23. The MQM resigned from parliament and the Sindh assembly on Aug 12 to protest the continued crackdown in Karachi by the paramilitary Rangers; those resignations have not been formally accepted and JUI-F leader Fazlur Rehman has been tasked with negotiating with the party. Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri pledged loyalty to new Taliban commander Mullah Akhtar Mansour in an audio statement released on Aug 13. On Aug 18, senior MQM leader Rashid Godil was critically wounded by an unidentified gunman as he was traveling to join in the talks. The Rangers continue to raid MQM offices, arresting seven party workers on Aug 14. The Pakistani military courts system convicted seven men to death and one to a life sentence on Aug 13, most in connection to the December 2014 attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar. A German aid worker was reportedly kidnapped in Kabul on Aug 17. In Ghazni, local elders negotiated the release on Aug 15 of 17 people kidnapped in the Qarabagh and Jaghori districts. Judge Jawwad Khawaja was sworn in as the new Chief Justice of Pakistan on Aug 17; he will serve only 23 days before reaching the age of mandatory retirement. During Aug 13 hearings, Judge Khawaja rebuffed an Election Commission proposal to conduct local government elections in Sindh and Punjab in phases beginning in November, demanding further justification for the postponement. Pres. Ghani met with senior Afghan clerical leaders to seek their backing; the National Ulema Council condemned the recent Kabul attacks and challenged Mullah Mansour’s claims to legitimacy in a statement on Aug 14. Pakistani federal climate change minister Mushahid Ullah Khan resigned on Aug 15 after making allegations in a BBC Urdu interview that former ISI Director Zaheerul Islam had backed the PTI and PAT demonstrations against the government last summer. Deteriorating security and limited employment prospects have prompted an upsurge in Afghan passport and asylum applications, several reports suggest; at the same time, Iran and Pakistan have pushed more than 230,000 Afghan refugees back over the border in the past year. US defense officials told their Pakistani counterparts that Coalition Support Fund payments are unlikely to be extended past 2015 during a meeting on Aug 11. One of the suspects in the Kasur child sexual abuse case died in police custody on Aug 15; some family members of the victims accuse the police of harassing them and pushing them to recant their allegations.

Pakistan — Security

  • Punjab Home Minister Killed: On Aug 16, Punjab Home Minister Shuja Khanazada was killed in a suicide bombing at his political office in Attock; as many as 16 other people were also killed in the blast, which destroyed much of the building, and at least two dozen were injured. Punjab police initially reported that the attack was carried about by two bombers, although the initial police filing on the case does not include this detail. Claims of responsibility were made by the TTP splinter faction Jamaat ul Ahrar and the Khyber Agency-based Lashkar-e-Islam; Khanazada had been advised to restrict his movements following the killing of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi founder Malik Ishaq in late July, and the preliminary police report suggests that Khanazada had been targeted in relation for Ishaq’s death. The BBC reports a Lashkar-e-Jhangvi claim of responsibility, although other outlets have not confirmed the claim. Another report notes that Khanazada had limited control over provincial security operations, control over which was split between him, Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, and Law Minister Rana Sanaullah, and the NYT suggests that Khanazada had practiced lax security at his offices. Prime Minister Sharif and other top officials condemned the attack, and vowed to continue counterterrorism efforts. Dawn profiles the late minister. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Reuters] [WSJ]
  • Tensions with India: India and Pakistan continue to exchange cross-border fire along the Line of Control, each blaming the other for initiating the firing. UN observers visited the Sialkot area on Aug 12 to interview the families of those affected by earlier shelling, following Pakistani protests. At least four civilians were killed and nearly two dozen wounded on the Indian side of the border on Aug 15; at least two Pakistani civilians were also reportedly killed and six injured on the same day. Another woman was killed and eight wounded in firing on Aug 16. India summoned Pakistan’s ambassador on Aug 16 to protest the spike in ceasefire violations; Pakistan did the same on Aug 17. On Aug 13, Pakistani foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz confirmed that he would visit India on Aug 23 for talks with India’s national security advisor. In a statement marking India and Pakistan’s independence day, Pakistani ambassador Abdul Basit reiterated Pakistan’s support for the Kashmiri cause. On Aug 18, Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif and ISI Director General Rizwan Akhtar met with Prime Minister Sharif and other senior civilian officials to discuss the agenda for Aziz’s meetings with his Indian counterpart [AP] [AFP] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Military Courts Issue New Sentences: On Aug 13, Pakistani military spokesmen announced that secret military court proceedings had convicted eight men in connection with the December 2014 Peshawar school attack and a separate attack on the Sindh Rangers in Karachi, among other plots. Seven men received death sentences and another a sentence of life imprisonment. Six of the men were said to be affiliated with Tawhid wal-Jihad, a group linked to the late Abu Musab al-Zarqawi prior to his foundation of an Al Qaeda affiliate in Iraq. The sentences are the first to be issued since the Supreme Court upheld the military courts system; the convicts retain the right of appeal. PM Sharif praised the military courts in a statement on Aug 14; the Lahore Bar Association is reportedly considering further challenges to the Supreme Court’s upholding of the 21st Amendment, which created the courts. On Aug 11, the Senate passed an amendment to the Pakistan Army Act, which will reportedly provide court officials and witnesses protection from prosecution in any other court of law. [Reuters] [ET] [ET]
  • Internet Surveillance: Dawn reports that the National Assembly committee on information technology approved amendments on Aug 13 to the draft Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill 2015, which will allow investigating officials to access ISP user data without prior court permission, which must be secured within 24 hours afterwards.
  • FATA Attacks and Operations: Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif visited frontline soldiers in Waziristan on Aug 12, where he suggested that Operation Zarb-e-Azb was in its “final stages”. Military officials claimed that airstrikes in North Waziristan’s Shawal Valley region killed at least 40 militants suspects on Aug 16 and as many as 65 militants in North Waziristan and Khyber Agency on Aug 17; those reports cannot be independently verified. On Aug 12, three security personnel were killed in a roadside bombing in the Khyber Agency’s Tirah Valley region. On Aug 15, militants attacked a checkpost in the Frontier Region Bannu area; military officials say eight attackers were killed and no casualties sustained. [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Balochistan Attacks and Operations: A police officer was killed and at least three wounded in a bombing at a police station in Quetta on Aug 11. On Aug 14, top Balochistan security officials presided over an Independence Day ceremony in which as many as 400 Baloch militants are reported to have surrendered their weapons to the government. On Aug 16, three Frontier Corps soldiers were killed by unidentified gunmen in the Chaghi district; the attackers are alleged to have cross over the border from Afghanistan. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Karachi Attacks and Operations: Sindh Home Department officials report that the police had engaged in 935 shoot-outs with criminal gangs and individuals between January and July, compared to 869 such encounters in all of 2014. On Aug 12, the Pakistani military announced the arrest of a “foreign-sponsored gang” reportedly planning attacks timed to Independence Day celebrations in Karachi, including a man identified as the TTP’s deputy emir for Swat. On Aug 14, the Rangers arrested five members of an unidentified militant group from the Defence Housing Authority neighborhood in Karachi; on Aug 16, four suspected militants reportedly affiliated with the Balochistan Liberation Army were killed in a Rangers operation in the Memon Goth neighborhood. On Aug 17, an intelligence officer was killed during a Rangers raid targeting two militant suspects in the Gulshan-e-Iqbal neighborhood. Separately on Aug 17, the ASWJ district president for Karachi West, Dilshad Mavia, was killed in a driveby shooting in Orangi Town. [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • MQM Resign from Parliament: On Aug 12, the MQM announced their resignation from the National Assembly, Senate, and Sindh Assembly, protesting what they said was a targeted crackdown against the party in Karachi and harassment of its leadership. MQM leaders also accused the Rangers of “siding with and supporting activities of PTI with a view to impose it on Karachi by marginalizing [the] MQM.” The resignations have not been formally accepted and Prime Minister Sharif has reportedly sought to defer them until a negotiation solution can be reached; the party has reportedly told the government it will only rejoin the assemblies if a monitoring committee is established to oversee the Rangers-led crackdown in Karachi, a judicial commission is established to investigate the alleged extrajudicial killings of MQM activists, and MQM workers under alleged extrajudicial detention are freed. The Express Tribune reports that PM Sharif has agreed to the first condition “in principal”. A Dawn account suggests that the resignation move was the latest in a series of snap decisions and leadership shakeups undertaken by party leader-in-exile Altaf Hussain. JUI-F leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman has been tasked with reaching out to the MQM; he spoke with Hussain on Aug 15 and arrived in Karachi on Aug 17 for talks. On Aug 18, unidentified gunmen shot and critically wounded Rashid Godil, a senior MQM lawmaker, as he was traveling to join talks with Rehman; his driver died in the attack. No claim of responsibility has been reported for the attack, which was widely condemned. Talks took place despite the shooting; both MQM and JUI-F leaders described the discussions as “positive”, but no agreement was announced, and the MQM reiterated their demand for “impartiality” in the Karachi operations. Meanwhile on Aug 14, the Rangers raided multiple MQM party offices in the Landhi neighborhood, arresting at least seven party workers, who the Rangers charged with involvement in multiple targeted killings and other forms of organized crime. Speaking at a press conference on Friday, MQM leader Farooq Sattar accused the Rangers of backing the MQM-Haqiqi splinter group against the party. Separately, the Mushtaq Ahmed Mahar, the new Karachi police chief, has reportedly directed the city’s regional police commanders to place greater scrutiny on the backgrounds of station house officers who might be linked to corruption or organized crime; a separate report indicates that at least 1,000 Sindh police officers have criminal records and are facing potential punishments. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [Dawn]
  • New Chief Justice Sworn In: On Aug 17, Judge Jawwad Khawaja was sworn in as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, replacing the outgoing Judge Nasir ul Mulk. Khawaja is only expected to serve 23 days before reaching the age of mandatory retirement, to be succeeded by Judge Anwar Zaheer Jamali. [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET]
  • Local Elections: On Aug 12, the Election Commission formally submitted a revised local government election schedule for Sindh and Punjab, calling for three phases of polling beginning November 11, and continuing on November 29 and December 19. On Aug 13, Chief Justice-designate Jawwad Khawaja said the ECP proposal lacked empirical data, stopping short of rejecting it outright but ordering the ECP to provide further justification at the next hearings, scheduled for Aug 18. Separately, Khyber Paktunkhwa amended its local government law to require the election of local council nazims by a majority of all councilor votes, rather than those present for voting, and providing for a run-off in the event that a majority cannot be secured. Sindh also amended its local government law to allow for candidates with dual nationality to contest the polls; the number of reserved seats for women was also increased to two, and a reserved seat for a youth candidate was also set for union councils. The MQM has, meanwhile, filed a legal challenge with the Sindh High Court against constituency delimitations that the party alleges are biased against its vote bank; the court has sought a response from the government and adjourned until Aug 30. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
  • PTI Divisions: Speaking at a press conference on Aug 14, retired judge and dissident PTI leader Wajihuddin Ahmed reiterated calls for Imran Khan to oust Jahangir Tareen, Pervaiz Khattak, and other senior party leaders from the PTI, describing them as a “mafia” within the party. Ahmed suggested that he would organize a “national conference” of party workers to press the leadership to implement the recommendations of his election tribunal findings, but denied that he was forming a new bloc within the party, describing his efforts as focused on reform. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Minister Resigns After Alleging Military Intervention: Federal climate change minister Mushahid Ullah Khan told a BBC Urdu interviewer on Aug 14 that last year’s PTI and PAT protests against the PML-N government had been sponsored by then-ISI Chief Zaheerul Islam, claiming that Islam had also sought to oust Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif. Following refutations by the military’s chief spokesman and by Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid of Khan’s account, Khan offered his resignation on Aug 15. Prime Minister Sharif spoke with Khan on Aug 17 and accepted the resignation, but he will reportedly continue as a senator and PML-N information secretary. A petition has been filed in the Supreme Court to investigate Khan’s allegations. [Reuters] [AP] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Kasur Child Abuse Investigations: The head of the Punjab police, Mushtaq Sukhera, visited Kasur on Aug 11 to meet with villagers who allege that police ignored the activities of an organized child sexual abuse ring for years; the Express Tribune reports that protesting families clashed with police after Sukhera’s press conference. As of Aug 15 at least six police officials had been transferred or suspended from office on charges of negligence in the case, and at least twelve men have been arrested in connection to the abuse case. On Aug 17, one of the arrested men was reported to have died two nights prior while in police custody. Dawn reported on Aug 16 that family members of the victims had accused police investigators of harassing them and pushing them to recant their allegations, calling for the removal of the head investigating officer. Three more cases of child abuse were reported in Multan, Muzaffaragah and Sheikhpura on Aug 14. [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Other Political Activity: Unofficial results indicate that PML-N candidate Baber Nawaz won the NA-19 Haripur special election held Aug 16, beating out his PTI rival by over 38,000 votes. Turnout was reportedly low, particularly at women’s polling stations, despite high-profile campaigning by Imran Khan and his wife, Reham Khan. On Aug 12, PPP co-chairman Bilalalwal Bhutto Zardari addressed supporters in Karachi, vowing to lead the party to an electoral comeback in the future and dismissing suggestions that the party’s fortunes had diminished. The Express Tribune reports that PPP minister Mir Hazar Khan Bijarani refused an appointment to the Sindh Ministry of Education, leading to its reallotment to the former incumbent Nisar Ahmed Khuhro; Bijarani is reported to have resisted the appointment due to concerns over the influence of education secretary Fazlullah Pechuho, brother-in-law to former Pres. Zardari. [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • US Assistance: U.S. Principal Deputy Secretary of Defense Kelly Magsamen visited Islamabad for meetings of the US-Pakistan Defense Consultative Group on Aug 11, during which U.S. officials reportedly conveyed the message that payments of Coalition Support Fund assistance will likely end after 2015.
  • China-Pakistan Economic Corridor: On Aug 12, Finance Minister Dar approved a restriction on the bidding for two road construction projects linking Karachi and Lahore and upgrading the Karakoram Highway to Chinese companies; financing for the projects, which are project to cost a combined $3.5 billion, will be extended by the China Development Bank. The bids will reportedly be selected by the end of August from amongst four different Chinese state-owned firms. [ET] [Dawn]
  • Energy Crisis: In a statement on Aug 15, the Sui Southern Gas Company charged Pakistan Steel Mills with Rs 35 billion in unpaid dues, forcing the gas distributor to cut off supplies beginning in July. SSGC officials warned that, absent repayment, they would face the risk of default themselves. [Dawn] [ET] [ET]
  • Flooding: On Aug 13, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah approved an additional Rs 336 million in flood relief assistance; dyke breaches in the Thatta district on Aug 15 led to the inundation of over two dozen villages. At least 380,000 people have been affected by flooding in the Chitral district, and health officials report rising concern over water-borne illnesses. [Dawn] [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Pakistan Marks Independence Day [Dawn] [APP] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Former ISI Head Hamid Gul Dies of Brain Hemorrhage [NYT] [WAPO] [Reuters] [BBC] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Iranian Foreign Minister Visits, Seeking Economic Cooperation [Dawn] [ET]
  • Sindh Awaits Federal Guidelines Before Launching Crackdown on Banned Groups [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • National Assembly Passes Legislation on State Bank Independence [ET] [ET]
  • Gilgit Baltistan Legislators Seek Provincial Status [Dawn]
  • Former FATA Disaster Management Authority Head Arrested on Corruption Charges [Dawn]
  • Nine Arrested in Dera Ghazi Khan Seminary Searches [Dawn]
  • Government Considering Central Procurement Agency [ET]
  • Federal Government Rejects Khyber Paktunkhwa Demands for Water Compensation [Dawn]
  • Banks Charged with Evading Transaction Withholding Tax [ET]
  • Financing Agreement Reached on Thar Coal Mine [ET]
  • Former Khyber Paktunkhwa Mines Minister Remanded in Additional Case [Dawn]
  • Pakistan State Oil Managing Director Yet to Take Up Post [ET]
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Terminates Armored Vehicle Contract [Dawn]
  • PESCO Employees Protest Abbottabad Outages [ET]
  • Supreme Court Oks Remote Testimony by Overseas Pakistani Nationals [ET]
  • Commentary: How Pakistan is Tightening its Grip on the Taliban – “The Taliban leadership transition is an opportunity for Pakistan to finally assert its influence on the group and help bring peace to the region.” [Lisa Curtis, Heritage Foundation]
  • Commentary: Gangs of Karachi – “Uzair [Baloch] had been trying to transform himself from a gangster into a legitimate politician. His downfall shows just how provisional legitimacy can be in Karachi, and how deeply embedded gangs are in the city’s politics.” [Matthieu Aikins, Harper’s]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Kidnappings: An unidentified foreign national was reportedly kidnapped by unidentified gunmen in Kabul on Aug 17; an AFP report suggests that the victim was a German aid worker with the GIZ development agency. German officials have not confirmed that account, and no public claim of responsibility has been reported. On Aug 12, a group of as many as 17 people were kidnapped in Ghazni’s Qara Bagh district by unidentified gunmen; another nine people were reportedly kidnapped in the Jaghori district while en route to Ghazni city on Aug 14, although details are limited and it is unclear if the two incidents are separate. On Aug 15, local elders reported that they had successfully negotiated the release of all of the hostages. [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press]
  • Other Attacks and Operations: The district governor Kunduz’s Khan Abad district reported on Aug 12 that the Taliban had seized at least 60 villages in the area, calling for reinforcements. Taliban fighters are also reported to have taken control of the Burka district in Baghlan province. Attacks on security outposts were reportedly earlier in the week near the Baghlan capital of Pul-e-Khumri; local officials claimed to have killed more than 18 insurgents over three days of fighting as of Aug 17. The NYT reports from a Taliban-controlled area of Helmand’s Baghran district, where the group has reinstated social controls and ruled largely unchecked since 2004. On Aug 12, Taliban fighters disguised in police uniforms infiltrated a police outpost and killed at as many as 15 police officers in the Musa Qala district in Helmand; another insider attack on Aug 16 at an outpost on the outskirts of Lashkar Gah reportedly killed five officers. On Aug 13, at least 20 people were injured in a suicide bombing attack targeting an Afghan Local Police vehicle in Logar’s Mohammad Agha district. [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • Zawahiri Endorses Mansour: In an audio release on Aug 13, fugitive Al Qaeda leader Ayman Al Zawahiri endorsed Mullah Akhtar Mansour’s leadership succession as head of the Afghan Taliban and “commander of the faithful,” pledging his allegiance to Mansour as Osama bin Laden had previously done to Mullah Mohammad Omar. It is Zawahiri’s first public message since last September, and comes as the Islamic State has indirectly challenged the Taliban’s Islamic authority, which Al Qaeda has sought to leverage in its rivalry with Daesh. In a statement on Aug 15, Mansour welcomed Zawahiri’s pledge. Separately, the Zabul provincial governor reports that an NDS-led search is underway for Mullah Omar’s body. Meanwhile on Aug 13, rival Taliban factions are reported to have clashed in Herat, reportedly following divisions over Mansour’s succession. [BBC] [WSJ] [Khaama Press]
  • Daesh in Afghanistan: In a statement on Aug 12, the Taliban condemned a video released the day prior, in which fighters apparently aligned with the Islamic State are shown to be executing a group of Afghan civilians in Nangarhar province, describing the incident as “intolerable”. On Aug 17, the NDS announced the arrest of three Daesh members in Nangarhar, two of whom it identified as Pakistani nationals. [TOLO] [Guardian]
  • Local Police: On Aug 12, the National Security Council was reported to have approved a draft strategy to reform the Afghan Local Police; no details were disclosed, however.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Afghan Delegation Visits Pakistan Amidst High Tensions: A delegation of Afghan officials led by Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani, acting defense minister Masoom Stanekzai, and NDS head Rahmatullah Nabil visited Islamabad on Aug 13 for talks with senior Pakistani officials, including Prime Minister Sharif. Prior to their departure, Afghan sources suggested that the group would demand Pakistani authorities target Taliban leadership based in Pakistan and cut off financial support to the insurgency, and were seeking the arrest of Taliban commanders. The meetings follow remarks by Pres. Ghani on Aug 10 that accused Pakistan of responding to his outreach efforts with “messages of war” after a weekend of high-profile attacks in Kabul. Details of the discussions are limited, but Pakistan’s foreign ministry said that the talks were “candid”. Speaking to the press after the meeting, Pakistani Foreign Advisor Sartaj Aziz said that he hoped “misunderstanding between the two countries would be cleared soon”; the Pakistani side is reported to have urged the Afghan government to resume talks with the Taliban, which have broken down in the wake of succession struggles after the announcement of Mullah Omar’s death earlier this month. On Aug 11, the NDS blamed “elements within the Pakistani army” for supporting those attacks, saying that the explosives used were military-grade, and that “suicide bombers are still being trained in Pakistan to be used against Afghanistan”. Pres. Ghani has also described the attacks as being “orchestrated in Pakistan,” although he has not directly blamed the Pakistani military. In a statement on Aug 14, the Taliban denied responsibility for the truck bombing in the Shah Shaheedbad neighborhood a week prior, claiming that the blast had been the result of a “targeted air or missile attack” carried out by foreign military forces. The Taliban’s spokesman also confirmed that the other attacks had been carried out “to convey a message that the Emirate of Afghanistan is still intact and is capable of carrying out attacks on highly guarded installations”. In remarks from Faryab on Aug 15, Vice President Dostum charged the ISI with “organizing and financing” militant attacks in northern Afghanistan under the guise of the Taliban and Daesh. Dostum suggested that after clearing Faryab of militants, he would “present [his] report to the national security council” and then lead similar operations in Kunduz and Badakhshan. In a separate interview on Aug 12, Kandahar police chief Gen. Abdul Raziq touted the recapture of the Nawzad district in Helmand, saying that the war was being carried out by “Punjabis and Pakistan’s slaves”. On Aug 14, a gathering of tribal elders in Kabul called on the public to unite against Pakistan. On Aug 18, the Kunar provincial police chief accused Pakistani military forces of attacking an Afghan police outpost in the Narai district, killing an Afghan police officer and wounding two others. [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [Reuters] [Guardian] ET] [AP] [Khaama Press] [ET] [ [Khaama Press] [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [TOLO] [TOLO]
  • Ghani Seeks Ulema Backing: On Aug 14, Pres. Ghani met with the chairman and members of the National Ulema Council, calling on them to “raise their voice against the misinterpretation of Islamic principles” by insurgent groups. At the meeting, Maulvi Ghulam Rabbani Rahmani issued a declaration on behalf of the ulema condemning the recent attacks in Kabul, and rejecting Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour’s claims to legitimacy. [TOLO] [TOLO]
  • Election Reform: The special commission on electoral reform will present a report to the government before the next parliament recess on reform recommendations, the group’s deputy chief told TOLO on Aug 17. [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Migration: Deteriorating security and economic prospects — unemployment estimates range from 35-50% — has prompted an exodus of Afghan migrants seeking to leave the country. TOLO reports that nearly 5,000 Afghans apply for passports daily, while the UN reported a 65% increase in the number of Afghan asylum applications in 2014, the highest of any period since 2001. Meanwhile, the Post reports on the more than 232,000 Afghans who have been pushed back into the country by neighboring Pakistan and Iran over the last year, who have struggled to readjust and many of whom are also seeking a way out of the country. [TOLO]
  • Revenue Crisis: Speaking to a group of customs officials on Aug 17, Finance Minister Eklil Hakimi said that the government had failed to meet its revenue collection targets for the first six months of the current fiscal year, suggesting that there had been a shortfall of over $100 million.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • China Affirms Support for Afghan Peace Process [Dawn] [ET]
  • Opinion Polling Shows Slide in Support for National Unity Government [TOLO] [TOLO]
  • Lawyers Panel Calls for Retrial in Farkhunda Case [NYT]
  • Hezb-e-Islami Representative in Kabul for Talks [Khaama Press]
  • Ghani Maintains National ID Cards Not Ready for Distribution [TOLO] [TOLO]
  • 130 Drug Smuggling Arrests During First Four Months of 2015 [TOLO]
  • Sar-e-Pul Police Arrested Over Beating Video [Reuters]
  • IDLG Convenes Workshop to Assess Provincial Councils [TOLO]
  • New Journalists’ Advocacy Group Formed [TOLO]
  • Attorney General’s Office Finalizes Ministry of Urban Development Corruption Case [TOLO]
  • National Procurement Commission Approves Four Contracts Totaling Afs 2.4 Billion [Khaama Press]
  • Afghani Drops Almost 10% Against Dollar Over Two Months [TOLO]
  • Afghan Army Officer Goes Missing in Australia [Khaama Press]
  • AISA Pledges to Enforce Commercial Production Standards [TOLO]
  • Flash Floods Kill One, Eight Missing in Nangarhar Districts [TOLO]
  • Commentary: Four Steps to Afghan Reconciliation – “Our suggestions will undoubtedly require a U.S. military presence closer to current levels than the 1,000-person Kabul-based force previously planned for post-2016. The exact size of the force should be mission-driven, with the theater commander having the flexibility to determine its composition, deployment and use.” [Stephen Hadley and Andrew Wilder, WAPO]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Ghani Denounces Attacks, Criticizes Pakistani Inaction; MQM Protest Extrajudicial Crackdown

Note: The news will be on vacation hiatus from Wednesday, August 12 through Sunday, August 16. A full summary of developments during the intervening period will return as soon as possible at the start of next week. Apologies for the interruption in service, and thank you for reading.

Topline

  • At a press conference on Monday, Pres. Ghani condemned recent the recent attacks in Kabul, vowing “no leniency” for insurgents who continued to carry out attacks resulting in civilian casualties. Ghani also criticized Pakistan for failing to make good on pledges to crack down on Taliban organizing, despite his high-profile outreach efforts, and warned that “the decisions that Pakistani government will be making in the next few weeks will be as significant to affect bilateral relations for the next decades”. An Afghan delegation will reportedly visit Pakistan later this week for further discussions on counter-terrorism efforts. Pakistan’s foreign ministry issued a statement pledging support for a “cooperative approach” against terrorism. MQM lawmakers staged a walkout in the national assembly on Monday to protest the extrajudicial detention and killing of party activists; Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan rebuffed accusations that state security services were targeting the MQM for extrajudicial action. On Monday, Vice President Dostum visited Faryab in military uniform, accompanied by his sons, to oversees military search operations. More arrests have been made in the Kasur child sex abuse case. Iran’s foreign minister will visit Pakistan on Thursday.

Pakistan — Security

  • Militia Leader Killed: Dilawar Jan, the head of a local pro-government militia in the Maidan area of Lower Dir district, was killed in a bombing on Monday, police report.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • MQM Under Pressure: MQM lawmakers staged a token walkout from the National Assembly on Monday to protest what they said was the extrajudicial detention and killing of party activist Muhammad Hashim; in the Senate, MQM Senator Nasreen Jalil alleged that 41 party workers had been killed since the start of paramilitary operations in Karachi in 2013 and roughly 150 “missing persons” had been abducted by the security services within the past three months. Responding to the charges, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan insisted that “no one should go missing, we do not and will not pursue a policy of missing persons in the present government”, and criticized MQM leader-in-exile Altaf Hussain, calling on the party to undertake “damage control”. Separately on Monday, the Balochistan provincial assembly passed a unanimous resolution condemning Hussain for “hate speeches against the state and its armed forces”. Meanwhile, the Rangers announced the arrest of six MQM party activists, some in local leadership positions, who they charged with involvement in targeted killings. On Tuesday, former MQM national assembly member Nabeel Gabol appealed for extra security from the Rangers, saying he had received death threats from the MQM after splitting with the party earlier this year. [ET] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • More Arrests in Kasur Child Abuse Case: Punjab police arrested five more people in connection to weekend reports of an organized child sex abuse ring in Kasur, allegedly involving as many as 280 children over a period of multiple years. Parents tell Reuters that their complaints were rebuffed for years by local police due to the high-profile political connections of the chief suspect. The Lahore High Court turned down a request from Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif to investigate the incident, citing ongoing police investigations; on Tuesday, the LHC took up a petition seeking for the case to be tried under the rules of the Anti-Terrorism Act. Both houses of parliament passed resolutions condemning the abuse on Monday. [Dawn] [Guardian] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET]
  • Iranian Foreign Minister to Visit: Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif will visit Pakistan on August 13 for a day of talks; in meetings with Pakistani energy officials on Monday, Iran’s ambassador renewed offers to increase its energy exports to Pakistan, to 3,000 megawatts from a planned 1,000 megawat agreement currently under negotiation. On Tuesday, Iranian border security officials handed over 188 Pakistani nationals held on immigration violations. [Reuters]
  • Elections: A notification on the election schedule for local government polls in Islamabad will be issued within the next 15 days, Election Commission officials told the Supreme Court on Monday. Opposition parties met in Lahore on Monday to discuss the creation of a “grand alliance” to challenge the PML-N in local government polls in Punjab. Imran Khan and his wife Rehman Khan campaigned in Haripur on Monday, ahead of the special election scheduled for August 16.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Sharif Signs MOUs in Belarus [ET] [Dawn]
  • Balochistan Frontier Corps Chief Reiterates Allegations of Indian, Afghan Interference [Dawn]
  • Seven Bodies Found Near Quetta and Pishin [Dawn]
  • Death Sentence Issued in Murder of Gilgit Cleric [ET]
  • Supreme Court Seeks Records on NLC Scam [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Hafeez Saeed Challenges Distribution of Indian Film [ET]
  • Traders Association Plans Further Tax Protests [Dawn]
  • Privatization Commission Sets Higher Minimum Price for NPCC Share Sale [ET]
  • NEPRA Approves Tariff for Port Qasim Coal Plant [ET] [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Dostum Visits Faryab: Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum donned a military uniform and joined security forces on a patrol in the Almar district in Faryab on Monday, accompanied by two sons. A local lawmaker credit Dostum’s leading of the operation with clearing “major parts” of the district of insurgents. [TOLO] [Pajhwok]
  • Attacks and Operations: A spokesman for the Nangarhar provincial governor claimed that nearly 250 Taliban and Daesh-affiliated fighters had been killed in 17 drone strikes in the province over the past month, insisting that their had been no civilian casualties. No independent confirmation of these figures is available. [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Ghani Denounces Kabul Attacks, Criticizes Pakistan for Inaction: Speaking at a press conference on Monday following four major attacks in Kabul city since Friday, Pres. Ghani condemned “cowardly attacks against innocent people” carried out by the Taliban, offering condolences for the victims. He also took a notably more critical tone towards Pakistan, saying that despite his repeated outreach efforts — which have faced considerable domestic political backlash — “Pakistan still remains a venue and ground for gatherings from which mercenaries send us messages of war.” Ghani said that further discussions on an “action plan against terrorism” would be held in Islamabad by an Afghan delegation visiting on Thursday, adding that “the decisions that Pakistani government will be making in the next few weeks will be as significant to affect bilateral relations for the next decades”. Ghani gave little mention to reconciliation with the Taliban, promising “no leniency with those who have our people’s blood on their hand and those who respond the peace call with war and criminality,” and indicating that his primary demand of Pakistan was now a crackdown on Taliban operations, not pushing its members into peace talks. Sec. Kerry spoke by phone with Ghani on Monday; State Department spokesman John Kirby said that “it is in the urgent interest of both countries to eliminate safe havens and to reduce the operational capacity of the Taliban on both sides of the border.” Speaking at a meeting of the Council of Ministers on Monday, Chief Executive Abdullah echoed Ghani’s criticisms, saying that Pakistan “issued good statements, but those who commit crimes against our people are financed there, they are armed there, and … openly hold new leadership meetings on order to restore their identity under the leadership of a new criminal, to gain legitimacy and continue their carnage.” On Monday, Pakistan’s foreign ministry issued a statement saying that “Pakistan is committed to maintaining good neighbourly relations with Afghanistan and all other regional countries” and that “terrorism is our common enemy and a cooperative approach is needed to combat this menace.” [WAPO] [AJE] [RFE/RL] [TOLO] [TOLO] [TOLO] [Ghani Press Conference Transcript Translation]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Balkh Lawmakers Accused of Protecting Smugglers [TOLO]
  • Uruzgan Health Official Arrested Over Insurgent Links [TOLO]
  • Commentary: The Triple Attack in Kabul: A Message? If So, to Whom? – “The Taleban have plenty of reasons to want to show that they are strong militarily, first to the Afghan government – one of whose demands at the Murree talks was a reduction in violence in the Afghan capital – and secondly to their own ranks to boost morale at a difficult time.” [Kate Clark, AAN]
  • Commentary: Unpredictable Peace: Taliban’s Internal Instability – “Instead of pooling their resources and influence, the [Taliban clerical] mediators are working separately in three groups and in the process, they’re causing confusion.” [Rahimullah Yousafzai, AJE]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Multiple Bombings Strike Kabul; Child Abuse Ring Under Investigation in Punjab

Topline

  • Three major attacks hit security targets in Kabul on Friday, beginning with a massive truck bombing near an Afghan army base early Friday morning and continuing with a suicide attack on police academy recruits and an attack on a U.S. Special Operations base; in total, more than fifty people were killed and hundreds injured. On Monday, a suicide bombing near the entrance to the Kabul airport targeted a foreign convoy, killing at least five people. On Saturday, a suicide bomber targeted a meeting of local militia fighters in Kunduz’s Khan Abad district, killing 29. Residents of Kasur clashed with police amidst reports of a ring of organized child sexual abuse alleged to have involved as many as 25 men and more than 280 victims over an eight-year period; although Punjab police initially downplayed the reports, provincial Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has ordered an investigation. India and Pakistan’s national security-advisor level meetings will continue as scheduled, Indian officials indicated, despite heightened tensions; a Pakistani woman was critically injured in cross-border fire on Sunday. Afghanistan’s ambassador to Pakistan met with Maulana Sami-ul Haq on Saturday to discuss outreach to the Taliban; Prime Minister Sharif and Pres. Ghani discussed the issue by phone on Sunday, but Taliban sources tell the WSJ that “without unity” within the Taliban, “there can be no peace”. Taliban-affiliated clerics were reported to be meeting with Mullah Akhtar Mansour on Friday, although there are no details of their ongoing efforts to mediate the split over his succession. The father of one of six men sentenced to death under the new Pakistani military court system has appealed his sentence with the Supreme Court, arguing that his son was 14 at the time of his arrest in 2009. Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah extended the Rangers’ policing mandate in Karachi for four months on Saturday; the MQM issued a strike call over the discovery of the death of a party activist detained extrajudicially in March, but withdrew it Monday after promises from the Rangers that they would investigate. On Friday, the IMF and Pakistan concluded their eighth quarterly staff-level review, clearing the way for another $500M loan tranche after board approval.

Pakistan — Security

  • Tensions with India: Indian officials indicated Saturday that the planned national security advisor-level meeting between Indian and Pakistan would take place as scheduled, despite heightened tensions over increased cross-border artillery exchanges and militants attacks in India. Reuters reports that India plans to present Pakistan with a “dossier of evidence of its involvement in militant attacks”. Pakistani foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz told reporters on Saturday that Pakistan was “preparing its agenda for the meeting and consultations for that are underway”. On Saturday, India released 16 Pakistani prisoners. On Sunday, a Pakistani woman was critically injured in an exchange of fire across the Line of Control near Jandrot; both sides blame the other for firing first. [ET] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Military Courts: On Saturday, the father of Haider Ali, one of six men who had been sentenced to death under the new military courts system, filed a Supreme Court petition challenging his sentence; the petition maintains that Ali was 14 at the time of his arrest in 2009, and had been held in extrajudicial military detention for six years before a closed-door trial in April of this year. Although the court judges upheld the creation of the military courts system in its ruling last week, their ruling affirmed the Supreme Court as a final avenue of appeal. In a statement on Friday, the International Commission of Jurists criticized the court ruling. [ET] [Dawn]
  • NGO Crackdown: Dawn reports that the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan has struck the names of 23 international NGOs from the list of registered companies, after they earlier failed to comply with audit and registration requirements. A separate report suggests that the British NGO Save the Children, which received interim permission to continue operations earlier this summer after a temporary shutdown, has not registered with the SECP.
  • Security Services: Dawn reports that the special protection unit being established within the Punjab police department to protect public sector infrastructure, as well as Chinese and other investors, is in the process of recruitment and will charge fees to both public and private groups for its service.
  • FATA Repatriations: On Monday, the FATA Disaster Management Authority will begin the repatriation of members of the Malik Din Khel tribe displaced from their homes in Bara, Khyber Agency, officials reported.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Child Abuse Ring Uncovered in Punjab: On Saturday, The Nation reported the discovery of what is reported to be the largest ever case of organized child sexual abuse in Pakistan’s history, involving a gang of as many as 25 men charged with abusing more than 280 children between 2006 – 2014, as well as distributing videos of the assaults. Outraged protestors clashed with police in Kasur amidst reports that the primary suspect had bribed his way out of arrest. At least seven suspects have been arrested, and Dawn reported Monday that the principal suspect had been arrested, who reportedly acknowledged being present at the time of the abuse but denied taking part himself. Punjab law minister Rana Sanaullah initially described the reports as “baseless”, claiming that the charges were related to a land dispute, and police downplayed the scale of the abuse in remarks to reporters on Saturday, suggesting that the victims were “teenagers”. On Sunday, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif ordered the creation of a special judicial commission to investigate the issue, saying “those involved will be severely punished”; Prime Minister Sharif echoed that pledge in a later statement. [ET] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET]
  • Karachi Crackdown: On Saturday, Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah extended the special policing powers of the Sindh Rangers for 120 days, coming at the end of their previous one-month extension in July. A spokesman for the Chief Minister indicated that he still intends to seek legislation in the assembly to ratify these powers. Speaking on Friday, Karachi Corps Commander Lt. Gen. Naveed Mukhtar reiterated that the ongoing operations in Karachi are “apolitical, indiscriminate and free of any compromise”. Reuters notes a decline in murders and other crimes of 50% or more, but also reports allegations of extrajudicial executions by police and Rangers. On Sunday, the MQM called for a citywide strike over the death of party activist Muhammad Hashim, who was arrested and held without access on May 6; his body was found Sunday evening. The strike call was withdrawn Monday after the party received pledges from the Rangers to investigate the death; the party carried out protests in the Sindh Assembly. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Corruption Arrests: On Saturday, the National Accountability Bureau arrested former PPP Punjab chapter president and former Punjab Assembly opposition leader Qasim Zia, on charges of stock market fraud and embezzlement. The NAB has also approved filing cases against several Balochistan health officials, amongst six new inquiries. On Friday, a new case was filed against former Khyber Paktunkhwa mines minister Ziaullah Afridi. [Dawn] [ET] [ET]
  • Other Political Activity: Speaking on Saturday at a convention of farmers near Multan, Imran Khan suggested that the PTI might resume street protests if the Election Commission of Pakistan failed to address the party’s complaints regarding electoral administration. The Express Tribune reports that JUI-F leader Fazlur Rehman is cultivating his son Maulana Asad Mehmood to succeed him as party leader. The PTI and the PML-N are campaigning for a special election in the NA-19 Haripur constituency; the Express Tribune reports some internal dissent within the PTI over the prominent campaign role assumed by Reham Khan, Imran Khan’s wife. [ET] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Flooding Continues: More than 1.2 million people have been affected by flooding throughout the country, the National Disaster Management Authority reported Friday. On Saturday, Prime Minister Sharif visited Mianwali and announced Rs 1.3 billion in assistance for flood relief efforts; PPP party leaders visited the Sukkur area to review relief operations in Sindh on Sunday. Over 7,000 homes have been destroyed and 350,000 acres of crops inundated in Sindh alone. [ET] [ET] [ET]
  • IMF Tranche Approved: On Friday, Pakistan and the IMF completed their eighth quarterly review of the three-year Extended Fund Facility program, clearing the way for the release of the next $500 million tranche after board approval, which will bring total disbursals to $4.2 billion. The IMF granted Pakistan waivers on the conditions set for reducing its budget deficit and borrowings from the State Bank of Pakistan; Finance Minister Dar attributed the missing of budget deficit targets to the provincial government’s inability to maintain planned surpluses. No agreement was reached on a Pakistani proposal to shift to a bi-annual rather than quarterly review and disbursal schedule. [Dawn] [IMF Statement]
  • Energy Crisis: Pakistan is seeking to secure $400 million in loans from the Asian Development Bank, $500 million from the World Bank, and $100 million from Japan, all aimed at energy sector reform. Separately, protestors attacked a grid station in Mardan on Friday, protesting continued power outages. [Dawn] [ET] [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Pakistan Protests North Waziristan Drone Strike [ET]
  • Jamaat-ud-Dawa Plans ‘Protection of Pakistan Ideology’ Movement [Dawn]
  • Seminary Association Protests Government Search Operations [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Prime Minister Departs for Belarus Trip [Dawn]
  • Anchor Moeed Pirzada Arrested in Abu Dhabi [Dawn] [ET]
  • Peshawar University Teachers Threaten Walkout Over Removal of Vice Chancellor [ET]
  • Two More Suspects Arrested in Connection to Ismaili Bus Attack [Dawn]
  • TTP Suspects Arrestd in Quetta, Orakzai [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • 11 Arrested in Balochistan Search Operations [ET]
  • Over 257,000 Pakistanis Deported Worldwide Over Past Four Years [ET]
  • Islamabad Bar Association to Verify Lawyers’ Degrees [Dawn]
  • Senate to Review Islamabad Slum Clearance Operation [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Balochistan Provincial Apex Committee Pledges Narcotics Treatment Support [Dawn]
  • Commentary: Rewriting History – “Recent constitutional record tells us the opposite of what the judicial majority wants to tell us: parliament can and has done bad things, but it has done bad things under pressure from other institutions.” [Cyril Almeida, Dawn]
  • Commentary: ‘Almost’ Pakistan: Gilgit-Baltistan in Constitutional LimboEvery few years, the debate is repeated without any definitive conclusion: is Gilgit-Baltistan constitutionally part of Pakistan or not?” [Zulfiqar Ali, Tariq Naqash, and Jamil Nagiri – Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Multiple Attacks Hit Kabul: Multiple bombings hit Kabul on Friday, beginning with the previously-reported truck bombing that hit near an Afghan National Army base in the Shah Shaheed neighborhood around 1:00 AM early Friday morning, killing at least 15 people, injuring hundreds and destroying surrounding shops and housing. Later Friday evening, a suicide bomber dressed in police uniform detonated outside the Kabul police academy, killing at least 26 recruits and injuring more than two dozen. Further on into Friday evening, a team of militant gunmen attacked Camp Integrity, a U.S. Special Operations base near the Kabul airport; at least one American soldier and eight Afghan security guards were killed in that attack. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the latter incidents in a statement on Saturday. In total, more than 50 people were killed and hundreds injured in the three attacks, the deadliest single day of attacks in the capital since 2011. NYT analysis credits Afghan special forces with an effective near-simultaneous response to the three attacks on Friday, none of which breached their targets’ inner defenses. On Monday, another car bombing struck near the entrance to the Kabul airport, killing at least five people and wounded sixteen; some accounts indicate that the target was a foreign convoy of vehicles. UN Special Representative Nicholas Haysom issued a statement saying that “those responsible for suicide and complex attacks in civilian-populated areas can no longer shrug off the disproportionate harm to the civilian population they cause,” and told the BBC that he believed the attacks were being driven by the Taliban’s succession battle, an assessment echoed by other analysts. Kabul residents held a candlelight vigil on Saturday to condemn the Shah Shaheed truck bombing. [NYT] [Guardian] [Reuters] [AP] [LA Times] [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [TOLO]
  • Other Attacks and Operations: A suicide car bombing in Kunduz’s Khan Abad district on Saturday, where Afghan national security forces have struggled with the Taliban for control, killed 29 people and injured at least 19. The attack targeted a gathering of “locals [who] had gathered to discuss the deteriorating security situation,” TOLO reports; the district administrative chief tells the AP that the gathering was a “meeting of illegal armed groups”. The NYT reports that the group was a militia force led by commander Qadir, at least a portion of which was fighting on behalf of the government. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. Elsewhere, two civilians were killed in a roadside bombing in Kandahar’s Maiwand district on Saturday. Also on Saturday, a drone strike in Nangarhar’s Haska Mina district was reported to have killed ten militant suspects; in Kunar, two members of the TTP splinter group Jamaat-ul Ahrar were arrested in the Khas Kunar district; and in Ghazni, the Taliban deputy shadow governor was killed in the Aab Band district. On Monday, six policemen were killed overnight in the Gereshk district in Helmand in an apparent insider attack. [Khaama Press] [TOLO] [TOLO] [TOLO] [TOLO] [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • Border Tensions with Pakistan: The Kunar provinicial governor, Wahidullah Kalimzai, reported Sunday that at least 43 Pakistani rockets had been fired across the border “over the past few days”, killing one civilian and wounding a child.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Taliban Divisions: On Sunday, Prime Minister Sharif and Pres. Ghani spoke by phone to discuss Afghan reconciliation efforts; Taliban members and Pakistani diplomats tell the WSJ that Pakistan is “pushing for a rapid restart to talks” but sources close to Mansour say that “without unity, there can be no peace” and that it could take months for the Taliban’s new leadership to assert control. Afghanistan’s ambassador to Pakistan, Janan Mosazai, met with Maulana Sami-ul Haq on Saturday, following reports that Haq had agreed to play a mediating role in the Taliban’s internal leadership feud between Mullah Akhtar Mansour — to whom Haq has publicly pledged loyalty — and the family of Mullah Mohammad Omar. Mosazai said afterwards that “we are satisfied with the assurances of Maulana Samiul Haq regarding his role in resuming the dialogue process between the Afghan government and Afghan Taliban”; a spokesman for Haq’s Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary said that he had  “agreed to help bringing a negotiated solution to the Afghan conflict”. Meanwhile, Abdul Manan Niazi, a spokesman for the Omar family faction, told the Express Tribune on Friday that the delegation of clerical leaders mediating the dispute would meet with Mansour’s representatives that day. Meanwhile, a former spokesman for Omar claims that “95%” of the leadership council was backing Mansour. [Dawn] [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Monitoring and Evaluation Committee Criticizes Government’s Anti-Corruption Efforts [TOLO]
  • US Court Finds ‘Soviet Taliban’ Fighter Guilty of Terrorism [AJE]
  • Zabul Police Officials Claim Education Funds Stolen by Insurgent Groups [TOLO]
  • Some Afghans Mourn Taliban Founder, Though They’re Reluctant to Admit It [WAPO]
  • Religious Pilgrims Under Scrutiny Following Kabul Gathering [TOLO]
  • Ghani Approves Four Procurement Contracts Worth $11.3 Million [Khaama Press]