Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Taliban Confirm Mullah Omar’s Death, Name Mullah Akhtar Mansour as Successor; Challengers Remain

Topline

  • In a statement on Thursday, the Taliban confirmed that Mullah Mohammad Omar, the group’s founder and figurehead, had died “some time ago” of unspecified health issues, maintaining that he had never left Afghanistan. On Friday, the Taliban announced that deputy commander Mullah Akhtar Mansour had been nominated to succeed Omar, taking his title of Amir-ul-Momineen. Multiple reports note that Mansour faces opposition from rival military commander Abdul Qayyum Zakir, Qatar office head Tayyab Agha, and Omar’s brother and son. Rioting was report in Rahim Yar Khan following funeral services for Lashkar-e-Jhangvi founder Malik Ishaq, but Punjab authorities tell Dawn they believe the LeJ is “headless” and downplay the risk of major retaliation. The Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan is preparing to revoke the licenses of 23 out of 33 international NGOs registered in Pakistan for failing to submit financial audit statements. At a press conference on Thursday, Imran Khan reiterated calls for the removal of Election Commission officials he charged with mismanaging the 2013 general elections, and dismissed the MQM and JUI-F resolution calling for the de-seating of PTI legislators from the national assembly. Journalists were barred from entry at polling stations in Khyber Paktunkhwa during re-polling held on Thursday.

Pakistan — Security

  • Violence at Funeral for Lashkar-e-Jhangvi Leader: Police in Rahim Yar Khan report attacks on a Shia mosque and private property following the burial on Thursday of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi founder Malik Ishaq, after his death in a police encounter earlier this week. A heavy police presence of more than 5,000 officers has reportedly brought the demonstrations to an end. Anonymous Punjab authorities tell Dawn that Lashkar-e-Jhangvi is “headless” and suggest it has little capacity to carry out retaliatory attacks after the death of Ishaq and deputy Ghulam Rasool Shah and their sons. Meanwhile, the WSJ profiles the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat, the group’s political wing, which continues to operate openly in Karachi and other parts of the country.
  • NGO Crackdown: The Express Tribune reports that 23 out 33 international NGOs registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan are facing the revocation of their license to operate in Pakistan, over a failure to submit financial audit statements, including the British Council and Save the Children. 208 out of 643 domestic NGOs have also seen their licenses revoked.
  • Tensions with India: Speaking to parliament on Friday, foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz said that the government would raise allegations of Indian intelligence interference in Pakistan at the UN. The head of the Balochistan Frontier Corps reiterated allegations of Indian support for terrorist activities in Pakistan in remarks on Thursday. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Election Complaints: At a press conference on Thursday and in an open letter to the Election Commission, PTI leader Imran Khan reiterated his calls for the ECP to take action and remove polling staff who he said had failed to effectively administer the 2013 elections, preparations for which he described as inadequate. The JUI-F and MQM have maintained their stance on introducing a resolution seeking the de-seating of PTI legislators from the national assembly, which PPP parliamentary opposition leader Khurshid Shah said the PPP would vote against; the PML-N is reluctant to introduce the motion for a vote out of concerns of division within their party. At his press conference, Khan dismissed the motion, saying that the PTI would win back any seats it was removed from. Both Khan and Pakistan Awami Tehreek leader Tahirul Qadri denied that their sit-in movements had received any support from the ISI. [Dawn]
  • Local Elections: Polling ended in Khyber Paktunkhwa on Thursday in 350 polling stations where a re-vote had been ordered over irregularities during the May 30 local government elections; Dawn reports that journalists were denied access to the polling stations. Security was heavy, and at least two dozen arrests were reported, and at least one clash between rivals reported in Mansehra. The Express Tribune reports that unofficial results showed the PTI winning seven district council seats in Peshawar and the PML-N three.
  • Corruption Investigations: On Friday, the National Accountability Bureau decided to initiate a corruption investigation against former prime minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf in connection with the rental power project. The NAB is also investigating Sindh chief secretary Muhammad Siddique Memon and several Sindh board of revenue officers for alleged sale of government land.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Turkish President Erdogan to Visit Saturday [Dawn] [ET]
  • Pakistan and China Hold Strategic Dialogue Talks [APP]
  • Two Killed, 11 Arrested in Operation in Khuzdar [ET]
  • Five More Convicts Hanged in Punjab [Dawn]
  • 207,000 Personnel to be Hired for 2016 Census [ET]
  • OGRA Recommends Petroleum Price Cut [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Commentary: Anatomy of a Murder – “Without independently verifiable evidence, it is virtually impossible to successfully prosecute any accused on the basis of their confessions alone.” [Herald]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Taliban Confirm Mullah Omar’s Death: On Thursday, following weeks of rumors, the Taliban issued a statement confirming movement leader Mullah Mohammad Omar’s death. The statement maintains that Omar had died “some time ago”, of unspecified health troubles, and that he had never left Afghanistan in the fourteen years since the ouster of the Taliban regime. The NYT and Guardian have further obituaries. U.S. and Afghan officials tell the NYT that U.S. intelligence agencies had long since concluded that Omar played no operational role in the Taliban’s activities, leading them to effectively abandon a search for his whereabouts; the confirmation this week came from new statements by senior Taliban officials, driven by divisions over the leadership of deputy commander Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, who continued to issue statements in Omar’s name. The Post reports that CIA director Leon Panetta had, in 2011, confronted Pakistani officials with reports that Omar was undergoing treatment at a Karachi hospital, but otherwise echoes the assessment that Omar’s exact status was not a top American intelligence priority. [Dawn] [WAPO] [Guardian] [Khaama Press]
  • Mansour Replaces Omar as Taliban Leader: Coinciding with the confirmation of Mullah Omar’s death on Thursday, reports indicate that a shura of senior Taliban leaders met and elected deputy commander Mullah Akhtar Mansour to succeed him as leader of the Taliban. The BBC reported that Mansour has also taken the title of Amir al-Momineen, or “Leader of the Faithful”. On Friday, the Taliban issued a new statement confirming Mansour’s appointment and title; Maulvi Haibatullah Akhunzada and Mullah Sirajuddin Haqqani have been named deputies. The Guardian profiles Mansour. The Express Tribune reports opposition to the consolidation of Mansour’s leadership by longtime rival Mullah Abdul Qayyum Zakir, and by Omar’s son and brother, and Qatar office leaders Tayyab Agha and Qari Deen Mohammad. The NYT also reports continuing divisions within the movement over Mansour’s leadership and over participation Pakistani-brokered peace talks; the group’s Quetta-based shura leadership is reported to have come under heavy Pakistani pressure to accept negotiations. Talks scheduled for this week have been postponed, with no new date set. [AJE] [AP] [AFP] [Pajwhok] [TOLO]
  • Attacks and Operations: On Friday, a ministry of interior spokesman said that Afghan security forces retook control of the Nawzad district in Helmand, and that as many as 50 Taliban fighters had been killed. [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Electoral Reforms: The new electoral reform commission met with civil society and women’s groups on Thursday to hear reform proposals; the commission has also met with international elections experts; TOLO’s reporting indicates that early discussions have focused on electronic voting mechanisms and “rebuilding trust among the people of Afghanistan toward elections”.
  • Female Judge’s Appointment: Chief Executive Abdullah met with a group of female lawmakers, women’s rights activists, and civil society activists on Thursday, during which he pledged that the government would nominate another judge to the Supreme Court despite parliament’s vote not to confirm Anisa Rasouli, the first woman to be nominated to the position.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Court Rules Taliban Fighter Can Still be Held in Guantanamo [NYT]
  • UK Court of Appeals Rules British Forces Illegally Detained Afghan Suspects [Guardian]
  • NATO Commander Gen. Campbell Meets with Abdul Sayyaf [TOLO]
  • Kabul Hit with Gas Price Spike [TOLO]
  • Commentary: The Mullah Omar Myth – “Those who want to steward the movement away from conflict now have an opportunity to make Taliban confront the fact that they are engaged not in a religious war but in a power struggle.” [Michael Semple, Politico]
  • Commentary: After Mullah Omar, Taliban Leaders Face a Legitimacy Crisis – “Omar’s demise further diminishes the likelihood of a best-case outcome of a negotiated settlement with Taliban leaders that carries the support of the broadest number of its members.” [Michael Wahid Hanna, Al Jazeera]
  • Commentary: Mullah Omar and the AQ-ISIS War – “Mullah Omar was the centerpiece of al Qaeda’s rebuttal to ISIS’s demand for allegiance from jihadist groups around the world.” [J.M. Berger, Intelwire]
  • Commentary: Rivals and Power-Sharing Tensions Hamstring Ghani – “Unresolved domestic rivalries and newly institutionalized tensions created by last year’s power-sharing agreement have limited Ghani’s authority and ability to deliver on promised reforms.” [Colin Cookman, World Politics Review]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Mullah Omar Reported Dead Amid Succession Battle Rumors; Talks in Pakistan Postponed

Topline

  • On Wednesday, the Afghan National Directorate of Security announced that it had confirmed the death of Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, claiming that he had died in a Karachi hospital in 2013; the Afghan presidency issued a statement shortly thereafter affirming that conclusion, and saying that the “grounds for the Afghan peace talks are more paved now than before”. Breaking reports as of this writing indicate that Taliban deputy commander Mullah Akhtar Mansour has been named the group’s new supreme leader, and Sirajuddin Haqqani his deputy. On Thursday, the Taliban’s chief spokesman reiterated that the group’s political office had sole responsibility for political negotiations, and said that it was “unaware” of plans for a second round of Pakistani-brokered talks scheduled to take place tomorrow. The Pakistani foreign ministry announced Thursday that those talks were being postponed, “at the request of the Afghan Taliban leadership”, “in view of the reports regarding the death of Mullah Omar and resulting uncertainty”. Hundreds of people attended burial services for Lashkar-e-Jhangvi Malik Ishaq in Rahim Yar Khan on Thursday; the provincial head of the ASWJ was arrested at a protest in Quetta on Wednesday. The Taliban seized control of the Nawzad district in Helmand on Wednesday; operations are underway in Kunduz to retake the Khan Abad district. India’s home minister reported Thursday that the gunmen who carried out Monday’s attack in Gurdaspur had crossed the border from Pakistan. Prime Minister Sharif has urged the JUI-F and MQM to withdraw their petition seeking the de-seating of PTI legislators from the national assembly. Voting is underway in over 350 polling stations in Khyber Paktunkhwa for local elections where earlier results had been disputed.

Pakistan — Security

  • Malik Ishaq Buried: Hundreds of people are reported to have attended burial services for Lashkar-e-Jhangvi founder Malik Ishaq in his hometown of Rahim Yar Khan on Thursday. An anonymous ASWJ leader tells Dawn that the party will not protest Ishaq’s death, claiming that the ASWJ — of which Ishaq was named a vice president, but then reportedly removed from office after his most recent jailing — is a “peace-loving party” and suggesting that it had split with Ishaq over his militancy. Despite this claim, security officials are reportedly on guard against a possible backlash; two police officers were reportedly killed in an attack on a police station in Gujrat, and on Wednesday, Balochistan police arrested Hajif Raifq Mengal, the provincial head of the ASWJ, along with 16 other activists as he led demonstrations in Quetta against Ishaq’s killing.
  • Border Tensions with India: Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh told members of the Indian parliament on Thursday that the gunmen who carried out Monday’s attack in Gurdaspur, Indian Punjab, had come from Pakistan. Speaking at a weekly press conference on Thursday, Pakistani foreign ministry spokesman Qazi Khalilullah rejected those claims. Separately, Indian army officials reported that a soldier wounded in cross-border fire near Srinagar on Wednesday had succumbed to his wounds. [Reuters] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • PM Calls for Dropping PTI De-Seating Motion: During a meeting on Wednesday with the heads of all major parliamentary parties, with the exception of the PTI, Prime Minister Sharif urged the JUI-F and MQM to withdraw their motion seeking the de-seating of PTI legislators in the National Assembly over their four-month boycott of proceedings last fall. Sharif urged “the national political leadership [to] leave behind the bitter experiences of our past and embark upon new beginning with the passion of strengthening democracy”. Both MQM and JUI-F are reported to have been “adamant” in their position. PPP parliamentary opposition leader Khurshid Shah has backed the PPP’s continued membership in the assembly. [Dawn]
  • Local Elections: Voting is currently underway at over 350 polling stations around Khyber Paktunkhwa where the Election Commission had ordered a re-voting after irregularities during the first round of local government polls on May 30. Extra security personnel have been deployed for the purpose. [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Karachi Crackdown: Speaking before the National Assembly on Thursday, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said that the ongoing paramilitary operations in Karachi begun in September 2013 had resulted in a 43% drop in the number of targeted killings, a 37% decrease in murders, and the arrest of more than 58,000 suspects, of whom 731 had been suspected of murder and 517 of extortion. On Wednesday, the MQM accused Sindh police of abducting and extra-judicially detaining 12 party members and supporters who had traveled to Hyderabad on Tuesday to attend a wedding ceremony. Also on Wednesday, the Rangers told an anti-terrorism court that they could not comply with its order to provide detained MQM leader Qamar Mansoor with access to private medical care, saying it lacked the personnel needed to provide security. [Dawn] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Flooding: Prime Minister Sharif visited parts of Gilgit-Baltistan affected by flooding on Thursday, where he announced a Rs 150 million relief package and Rs 500 million for the reconstruction of damaged roads. Three more villages in Chitral were hit by flash flooding on Wednesday, inundating more than 100 homes. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Punjab Police Cracked Down on Fundraising by Banned Groups [Dawn]
  • UN Reiterates Call for Execution Halt [AFP]
  • Chief of Army Staff Continues Italy Visit [Dawn] [ET]
  • Five Killed in Attack on Bannu Checkpost [Dawn]
  • Opposition Parties Back Protest Over Withholding Tax Strike [Dawn]
  • Government Wants to Continue Supply Electricity to Karachi Electric [Dawn]
  • Musharraf Exempted from Appearing in Lal Masjid Murder Case [Dawn] [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Afghan Govt Says Omar Death Confirmed; Mansour Reported as Successor: Following an early Wednesday press conference at which presidential spokesmen said they were investigating new reports that Mullah Omar had died, the Afghan National Directorate of Security announced, and the presidential office subsequently confirmed, that Omar had died in a Pakistani hospital in Karachi in 2013. No details were provided on how that determination was made, or explanation given for the long gap during which Taliban and Afghan officials have continued to describe him as being alive; a White House spokesman said that they judged the report to be “credible” but declined to comment on specific details. Newsweek and the Express Tribune cite Taliban sources who instead claim Omar died in Afghanistan itself or “at his home in the border region”. The Post offers an extended obituary. Omar’s death has been reported multiple times in the past, and Taliban spokesmen have made limited denials to some news outlets of the report, although no major statement has been issued. Omar is not believed to have played an active role in directing Taliban activities for years, but he plays a major unifying role as the movement’s figurehead; the reports of his death coincide with intensified competition within the movement’s senior leadership as parts of it engage in a Pakistani-brokered negotiating process with the Afghan government. The Afghan presidency’s Wednesday statement confirming Omar’s death said that “[the] grounds for the Afghan peace talks are more paved now than before, and thus calls on all armed opposition groups to seize the opportunity and join the peace process.” Breaking reports as of this writing in the Pakistani press indicate that Mulla Akhtar Mansoor has been named the new supreme leader of the Taliban, and Sirajuddin Haqqani its deputy leader; no formal announcement has been issued by the Taliban. [WSJ] [Guardian] [Reuters] [TOLO] [Dawn] [GEO]
  • Attacks and Operations: Taliban forces seized control of the Nawzad district in Helmand on Wednesday, local officials confirmed; at a press conference on Thursday, army chief of staff for operations General Afzal Aman said that Afghan forces had “tactically stepped back” and would retake the district. The head of the Takhar provincial council warned on Wednesday that seven districts in the province were currently under threat of Taliban takeover; provincial police officials dismissed his concerns, saying they had adequate forces to protect the area. On Thursday, the Kunduz provincial police chief announced that at least ten villages in the Khan Abad district had been retaken from the Taliban after operations began on Wednesday. In Nangarhar, officials report that U.S. drone strikes killed as many as 20 militants linked to Daesh in the Haska Mina district. [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Taliban Talks Postponed: In a statement released on Thursday referring to recent media reports that the Taliban would take part in a second round of Pakistani-brokered talks with Afghan government officials, the Taliban’s main spokesman said that the group’s political office was “not aware of any such process” and reiterated that that office was responsible “for handling all its political affairs”. On Thursday, the Pakistani foreign ministry announced that “in view of the reports regarding the death of Mullah Omar and resulting uncertainty, at the request of the Afghan Taliban leadership, the second round of the peace talks has been postponed.” The statement adds that “it is further hoped that those forces, which due to their malafide intent wanted to undermine the peace talks, will not succeed in their designs.” The Express Tribune earlier reported that a six-member Taliban delegation arrived in Islamabad on Wednesday to take part in the talks; no names of participants were identified. U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Dan Feldman briefed members of the Pakistani press at the U.S. embassy in Pakistan on Wednesday, where he said that Pakistan had played an “important role in bringing the two sides to the table” and that the U.S. “will be happy to play the observer’s role or any other role we are asked in the next round”. [WSJ] [AP] [Reuters] [Khaama Press] [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Pres. Ghani Departs for Medical Treatment in Germany [Khaama Press]
  • Afghanistan Reportedly Considering Selling Consumption Share of TAPI [TOLO]
  • Integrity Watch Afghanistan Calls for Reform in Access to Information Law [TOLO]
  • Afghan Delegation Meets with Peshawar Corps Commander in Pakistan [ET]
  • Commentary: What Could Mullah Muhammad Omar’s Death Mean for the Taliban Talks? – “The death of Mullah Omar may allow Pakistan to put leaders it controls more fully in charge of the Taliban. It may also cause the Taliban to splinter.” [Barnett Rubin, New Yorker]
  • Commentary: Who’s In Charge of the Taliban? – “Though the Taliban’s leadership structure is purposely oblique, Akhtar Mohammad Mansour has long been seen as the insurgency’s second-in-command.” [Casey Garret Johnson, South Asia Channel]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Lashkar-e-Jhangvi Commander Malik Ishaq Killed; New Mullah Omar Death Rumors Ahead of Talks

Topline

  • Lashkar-e-Jhangvi commander Malik Ishaq has reportedly been killed along with two of his sons and eleven other LeJ militants, after his arrest last week and what Punjab police say was an attempt by the LeJ to secure his release through an attack on a police station in Muzaffaragah on Tuesday evening. There are fresh rumors that Taliban movement leader Mullah Mohammad Omar is dead, apparently two years prior; the news comes as representatives of the Taliban and the Afghan government prepare to meet again in Pakistan this Friday, and coincides with reports of leadership divisions and challenges to Taliban deputy commander Mullah Akhtar Mansoor. Prime Minister Sharif has called a meeting today to discuss the JUI-F and MQM petition seeking the removal of PTI legislators from the national assembly. The Pakistani parliamentary committee on electoral reforms is seeking another month to complete its deliberations, Finance Minister Dar said Tuesday; the Election Commission, meanwhile, has rebuffed calls for the resignation of senior commissioners but has proposed instituting a system of specialization for its officers. The ECP has formally petitioned the Supreme Court to delay local elections in Sindh and Punjab by a month; on Wednesday, the national assembly passed the senate-amended version of legislation that will clear the way for local government elections in the Islamabad capital territory. TOLO reports that as many as 2,000 Afghan presidential staff have gone six months without pay. On Wednesday, the Nangarhar governor fired the district police chiefs in Achin and Hask Mina districts, as well as three customs officials. The State Bank of Pakistan confirmed receipt of a $336 million U.S. Coalition Support Fund payment on Tuesday.

Pakistan — Security

  • Lashkar-e-Jhangvi Leader Killed by Police: On Tuesday evening, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi commander Malik Ishaq, two of his sons, and as many as eleven other members of the Sunni terrorist group were reportedly killed in an encounter with Punjab police. Police accounts suggest that Ishaq, who was freed from a months-long detention last December, had been arrested last week and was being questioned about the details of a weapons cache when fellow LeJ militants attacked the police station in Shahwala, Muzaffaragah district, seeking to free him. Six police officers are reported to have been wounded. Ishaq has previously served extended prison sentences and has been implicated in hundreds of sectarian murders, but continued to operate relatively freely; demonstrations of supporters are reported in Rahim Yar Khan following news of his arrest. [NYT] [Guardian] [AP] [AJE] [Reuters] [The News] [ET]
  • Tensions with India: Pakistani ambassador to India Abdul Basit cancelled a visit to the city of Chandigarh planned for Wednesday, after the chief minister of Indian Punjab province reportedly refused to host Basit following Monday’s attack on a police station in Gurdaspur. At least two of Basit’s aides were also reportedly restricted from joining the trip. Indian police are stilling working to identify the gunmen from Monday’s attack and the origin of their operation, but said Tuesday that they were Muslim, not Sikh as some analysts have suggested might be the case. [TOI]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Karachi Crackdown: Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said that “no decision had been made” on granting UK investigators access to Mohsin Ali, a man Pakistani officials have charged was the principal coordinator of the 2010 assassination of former MQM leader Imran Farooq in London. Anonymous officials suggest access will ultimately be granted. A delegation of MQM leaders met with Chaudhry Nisar on Tuesday, voicing complaints that the paramilitary crackdown in Karachi was unfairly targeting their party. [ET] [ET]
  • PM Calls Meeting on PTI Status: On Wednesday, Prime Minister Sharif called a meeting of the heads of major political parties to discuss the judicial commission’s findings in its investigation of the 2013 general elections; the discussion follows the postponement of a vote on an MQM and JUI-F resolution seeking the de-seating of PTI legislators from the national assembly over their months-long boycott last year. PTI vice president Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that the PTI was not invited to the meeting.
  • Election Reform: The Election Commission has announced that it will “undergo an administrative reshuffle in which every officer will do a specific job rather than every officer performing every job”; the commission has ruled out resignations, as called for by the PTI. On Tuesday, PPP parliamentary opposition leader Khurshid Shah joined the PTI in calling for the resignation of senior ECP officials over their mismanagement of the polls. Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, Finance Minister Dar, who heads the parliamentary committee on electoral reforms, indicated that the committee was seeking another month to debate changes to the electoral law, and was considering at least 13 amendments to the constitution as part of the reform. [ET] [Dawn]
  • Local Elections: On Wednesday, the National Assembly passed the Senate-amended version of Islamabad local government legislation, clearing the way for its signature into law and the holding of elections in the capital territory. Also on Wednesday, the Election Commission formally petitioned the Supreme Court for a 30-day extension in the polling schedule for local elections in Sindh and Punjab. [ET] [ET]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Cell Phone Service Providers Agree to Share Data with Sindh Police [Dawn]
  • Eight More Hanged in Punjab Jails [Dawn] [ET]
  • Police Constable, Militant Suspect Killed in Peshawar [Dawn]
  • Islamabad High Court Summons Defense Secretary Over Missing Report [ET]
  • Tahirul Qadri Touts ‘Peace Curriculum’ at Islamabad Event [Dawn]
  • Cabinet to Seek Compensation from Karachi Electric Over Outages [ET]
  • Three Committees Formed to Resolve Tax Disputes [Dawn] [ET]
  • National Accountability Bureau Submits New List of Major Scandals Under Investigation [Dawn] [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Mullah Omar Death Rumors: Fresh reports emerged Wednesday that reclusive Taliban movement leader Mullah Mohammad Omar is dead, reportedly two years prior, of tuberculosis. Details are limited, but most reports appear to be sourced to the presidential palace, and in turn to Pakistani officials. The Fedayee Mahaz Taliban splinter group has in recent weeks renewed allegations that Mullah Omar was dead, claiming that rival Taliban leaders had killed him, and earlier this week The News reported that Omar’s son, Mullah Mohammad Yaqoub, was challenging deputy commander Mullah Akhtar Mansoor for control. Taliban spokesmen have yet to comment on the latest reports. The Express Tribune reports that “consultations for a new leader are under way” amongst the Taliban and that a successor would be announced prior to the next round of peace talks in Pakistan this week; Mullah Baradar Akhund, who was released from Pakistani detention in 2013 but appears to remain in a form of house arrest, is reported to be the leading candidate. At a press conference on Wednesday, a spokesman for Pres. Ghani said that the government had ordered an inquiry into the reports. [Reuters] [AJE] [TOLO] [BBC]
  • Attacks and Operations: The NYT and Reuters note the continuing surge in attacks across northern Afghanistan; police sources in the Kohistanat district in Sar-e-Pul, where local police surrendered control to the Taliban on Monday, say they received no air support despite requests. In Kunduz, local officials report that more than half the province is now under Taliban control, and local militia commanders also report a lack of support from the government. Two civilians were killed and eleven wounded when a bomb, apparently planted on a civilian vehicle, exploded outside the regional hospital in Kunduz city on Wednesday. [TOLO] [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • Border Tensions with Pakistan: A delegation of Afghan defense officials is visiting Peshawar today for meetings with their Pakistani counterparts, for discussions focused on cross-border shelling and border security. [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Taliban Talks: An anonymous senior Pakistani official tells Dawn that talks between the Afghan government and Taliban representatives will resume in Murree on Friday, insisting that this remains “an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace initiative” and that Pakistan is “here to facilitate”. The source indicates that “we expect both sides to discuss confidence-building measures, including steps to bring down the level of violence before they move on to discuss the more complex issues to end the conflict in Afghanistan”.
  • Nangarhar Officials Fired: The Nangarhar provincial government announced on Wednesday that governor Salim Khan Kundozi had fired three officials from the customs department as well as the district police chiefs of the Haska Mina and Achin districts, citing “non stop complaints from local residents”. [Pajhwok]
  • Presidential Staff Unpaid: A TOLO report claims that as many as 2,000 employees of the presidential palace and its office of administrative affairs have not received salary payments for the past six months, some of whom have since quit to work for former Pres. Karzai. A finance ministry spokesman brushed off the report, saying that “if their employees’ salaries are not paid then they can apply to the ministry and the ministry will solve their problem”.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Flooding Reported Across Twelve Provinces [TOLO]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Ten Killed in Attack in Indian Punjab; Taliban Seize Sar-e-Pul District After ALP Defection

Topline

  • At least ten people were killed in an attack by unidentified militant gunmen in Gurdaspur, Indian Punjab, on Monday; some Indian officials have suggested that the gunmen infiltrated from Pakistan, which has condemned the attack. The Pakistani military, meanwhile, reports that it has recovered images and data from a surveillance drone shot down in mid-July, which it says proves the drone was spying on Pakistani border installations for the Indian army. Following reports of defections by an Afghan Local Police commander, the Taliban have reportedly taken control of the Kohistanat district in Sar-e-Pul province; Taliban forces have also reportedly seized as many as 80 villages in the Kunduz district of Khan Abad. The National Assembly has deferred an MQM and JUI-F resolution seeking the expulsion of PTI legislators who boycotted parliament for more than four months last fall. The Sindh Assembly will debate the extension of Rangers policing powers at a session on August 7. Punjab and Sindh have both formally proposed pushing back their local government elections until October. Pres. Ghani swore in Sayed Yousaf Haleem as the new Chief Justice of the Afghanistan Supreme Court on Monday.

Pakistan — Security

  • Indian Border Tensions: A team of at least three gunmen killed ten people, including three civilians, in an attack in Gurdaspur in the Indian province of Punjab on Monday that lasted twelve hours and ended in a police station siege. No claim of responsibility has been reported, and officials are still investigating the incident, but some Indian officials have alleged the militants infiltrated from Pakistan. Pakistan has condemned the incident. Separately, the Pakistani military announced that it had recovered images and data from a surveillance drone shot down in mid-July, which it said showed “irrefutable forensic evidence” that the quadcopter had been conducting surveillance of Pakistani military installations for the Indian army. [Dawn] [AJE] [WSJ] [ET]
  • Executions: Two more death row prisoners were hanged at jails in Multan and Attock on Tuesday. Separately, the British charity Reprieve has brought a legal suit seeking information on the grounds on which the UK waived human rights conditions to continue its assistance to Pakistan, saying that “the British public deserves to know how much of its money is funding hangings in Pakistan”.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Karachi Crackdown: A Sindh Assembly session called for August 7 will focus on the Rangers policing powers, which are currently due to expire the following day. The MQM staged a walkout in the National Assembly on Monday, protesting the ongoing crackdown against its leadership in Karachi. On Monday, an anti-terrorism court allowed MQM leader Qamar Mansoor to receive private medical treatment while under detention by the Rangers. [Dawn]
  • Election Rigging Investigation Aftermath: On Tuesday, National Assembly Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq deferred a vote on an MQM and JUI-F resolution seeking the de-seating of PTI assembly members who boycotted the assembly for more than four months last fall. On Monday, a spokesman for the Election Commission rebuffed Imran Khan’s call for its commissioners to resign. PTI vice president Shah Mehmood Qureshi told the national assembly on Monday that “PTI’s only objective behind the setting up of the judicial commission was to highlight chronic operational flaws of the Election Commission of Pakistan, and not to derail democracy”. Also on Monday, Prime Minister Sharif chaired a meeting of cabinet members and senior PML-N officials, at which he urged expedited electoral reforms. [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [ET] [ET]
  • Local Elections: On Monday, the Sindh provincial government formally proposed that local government elections in the province be held in three phases between October and November, citing delays due to monsoon flooding and the Hajj season in September. Punjab officials have also sought a one-month delay, shifting their polling date back into October. [ET] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Flooding: At least nine people have been killed in heavy rains in parts of interior Sindh on Monday. Chitral is reportedly facing a shortage of clean food and water after the past two weeks of flooding; roads to the district are closed, and are expected to take several weeks to reopen, leaving the district dependent on air resupply. Several hundred families evacuated their homes in Muzaffaragah on Monday after a dyke breach. [Dawn] [ET]
  • Gas Import: The head of the All Pakistan Compressed Natural Gas Association traders union expressed concern on Monday that Pakistan’s existing gas pipeline infrastructure could not handle the increased volume from imported of Iranian natural gas. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Chief of Army Staff Visits Italy [ET]
  • Former Minister, Nine Others Sent to Prison in Khyber Paktunkhwa Mining Case [ET] [Dawn]
  • Foreign Assistance for Power Sector Utilized at Slow Pace [ET]
  • Balochistan Home Secretary Disputes Missing Persons Reports [ET]
  • Five Convicted in Taseer Vigil Attack [Dawn]
  • US Report on Human Trafficking Censures Pakistan [Dawn] [ET]
  • Islamabad High Court Voids Over 300 Civil Service Promotions [Dawn]
  • Two Former Army Officers Charged in Bahria Town Blackmail Case [Dawn] [ET]
  • Chinese Ambassador Visits Gwadar [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Taliban Seize Districts: Provincial police officials in Sar-e-Pul report that an Afghan Local Police unit commander in the Kohistanat district defected to the Taliban on Monday along with at least seven men, and that additional forces had been deployed to the area to reinforce the remaining loyal ALP members. A member of the provincial council reported Tuesday that the district center had fallen into Taliban control. Separately, Taliban fighters reportedly seized control of as many as 80 villages in the Khan Abad district in Kunduz on Monday evening, following two days of fighting. The Ministry of Interior, meanwhile, is investigating reports that an ALP unit surrendered unnecessarily to the Taliban in Badakshan’s Warduj district over the weekend. [TOLO]
  • Border Tensions with Pakistan: Ministry of Interior officials report that Pakistani military forces fired artillery across the border into Paktika province on Sunday evening; no casualties have been reported.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Chief Justice Sworn In: On Monday, Pres. Ghani swore in Judge Sayed Yousaf Haleem as the new chief justice of the Afghan Supreme Court, following his confirmation by parliament earlier this month. The Post, meanwhile, profiles female judge Anisa Rasooli, whose nomination to join the court was rejected by parliament.
  • Kabul Bank Arrests: On Monday, a spokesman for the Attorney General’s office announced that two unidentified individuals who had defaulted on their debts to Kabul Bank had been arrested at the Kabul airport while seeking to leave the country for the UAE; they together owe $12,000 in debt, a small fraction of the total outstanding debt.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Former Balkh Provincial Council Member Arrested on Terrorism Charges [Khaama Press]
  • Two Daesh Commanders Killed in Nangarhar [Khaama Press]
  • 80 Prisoners Released in Herat [Pajwhok]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Deaths Reported in Pakistani Military Detention; Badakhshan Police Surrender Base to Taliban

Topline

  • Dozens of detainees have died in Pakistani military extrajudicial detention over the past year, the NYT reports. The mass surrender of an Afghan police outpost in Badakhshan on Saturday allowed the Taliban to take control of the facility; ministry of defense officials say that a large-scale operation in northern Afghanistan is planned “soon”. Pakistan will host the next round of talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government later this week; reports are mixed as to whether the groups’ Qatar diplomatic team will participate in the talks or not. Executions resumed in Pakistan on Monday after a Ramazan reprieve; Reuters reports that less than one in six of the 180 capital sentences carried out since December have a link to militancy. At a press conference on Saturday, Imran Khan indicated that the PTI would accept the special judicial commission’s findings that there was no systematic election rigging during the 2013 general elections, but reiterated criticisms of the Election Commission’s management of those polls. Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and the MQM have separately called for investigations into the PTI’s sit-in protests last fall. The Afghan electoral reforms commission announced Sunday that it would introduce “preliminary reforms” within two months to allow parliamentary elections to be scheduled. MQM leader Altaf Hussain shook up the leadership of the party’s Karachi coordinating committee again on Monday. Monsoon flooding continues in northern Pakistan, with Chitral the worst-hit district.

Pakistan — Security

  • Missing Persons: The NYT reports that “dozens” of detainees have died while being held in extrajudicial detention by the Pakistani military. A network of 43 internment centers, authorized under 2011 and 2014 laws that gave the army greater powers of detention in the FATA, have been established in Khyber Paktunkhwa and the FATA. There is no exact estimate of the number of detainees held in the system, although Amnesty International reports receiving reports of more than 100 deaths in military custody last year.
  • Border Tensions with India: Pakistani sources accused the Indian Border Security Forces of “unprovoked firing” across the Line of Control near Rawalkot on Saturday; on Sunday, Pakistani military spokesmen reported that a man injured in Saturday’s exchange of fire had died from his wounds. On Monday, India tightened its border security with Punjab after an attack on a police station in Indian Punjab, which killed at least two police officers and three civilians. [Dawn]
  • US Embassy Employee Killed: Iqbal Baig, an employee of the US Embassy in Islamabad, was killed outside his home in the city early Sunday morning by unidentified gunmen; police officials are investigating but no claim of responsibility has been reported. Baig, a member of the Ismaili minority sect, had been an employee of the US Drug Enforcement Agency’s embassy branch for 12-13 years.
  • Journalists Under Threat: The Post profiles Geo TV anchor Hamid Mir, who survived an assassination attempt in Karachi last year and has continued his work despite threats of a repeat attack. Reporters Without Borders highlights the many unsolved murders of Pakistani journalists, and criticizes limited action by police and security services to protect the media. On Friday, Geo TV’s Karachi Bureau chief, Fahim Siddiqui, was kidnapped for several hours by men wearing police uniforms, threatening him before ultimately releasing him; Karachi police officials say they are investigating.
  • Executions: Two death row prisoners were hanged at the Multan Central Jail on Monday, marking the end of the Ramazan moratorium on capital punishment. On Monday, a Karachi anti-terrorism court reissued the death warrant for Shahfqat Hussain; a Federal Investigation Agency investigation has dismissed his lawyers’ contention that he was a teenager at the time of his conviction. Reuters reports that fewer than one in six of the 180 executions carried out since last December have any connection to militancy. [ET] [Dawn]
  • Sectarian Violence: Syed Rais Jafferi, the custodian of a Shia mosque in Karachi, was killed by unidentified gunmen on Saturday. No claim of responsibility has been reported, although police suggest that Jafferi had been a subject of cases in the past and was listed under the Fourth Schedule as a suspect in terrorist activities. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • PTI Reacts to Election Rigging Report: Speaking at a press conference on Saturday, PTI chairman Imran Khan praised Chief Justice Nasir ul Mulk’s administration of the special judicial commission to investigate charges of election rigging in the 2013 general elections, and said he would accept the commission’s decision. Khan defended his party’s use of street protests to force the creation of the commission, and repeated criticisms that the Election Commission had exercised little control over the local administration of the polls, saying that the commission officials should resign. In a separate press conference on Saturday, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said that the report “has lessons for both PTI and the government that national issues are not resolved on the roads but in Parliament”. Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif suggested that “there should be public punishment for all those who were behind this waste of nation’s time and money”, and the MQM has called for an investigation into the funding sources of the sit-ins held by the PTI last fall. An article in The News claims that Prime Minister Sharif had “solid information” that former ISI Director General Zaheerul Islam had been active in organizing and supporting the sit-ins, in contrast to Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif, who the article describes as being supportive of the government. Separately, PTI lawyer Hamid Khan tells Dawn that “the party has been hijacked by the remnants of the (government of) former military ruler Gen Pervez Musharraf” and criticizes the party’s legal strategy before the commission. [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Karachi Crackdown: On Saturday, MQM leader-in-exile Altaf Hussain dissolved the party’s main leadership body in Karachi, leaving three members — Kaiful Wara, Abdul Haseeb, and Arif Khan — as members. On Monday, Hussain named four new members to the committee. Following their raid on a Clifton restaurant owned by MQM national assembly member Syed Ali Raza Abidi on Thursday, the Rangers announced that they had arrested a gunman, Yameen alias “AD”, who had been linked to at least ten murders. Abidi denounced the raid as “a message by [the Rangers] to harass me and hurt my business”. On Friday evening, Rangers and Federal Investigation Agency officials seized official land records from the Karachi Civic Center. On Saturday, the Rangers told anti-terrorism courts that they had detained Imran Haider Abidi, the head of the Home Vision cable network and several associates on suspicion of involvement in targeted killings. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET]
  • Elections: As previously noted, Election Commission officials tell the Express Tribune that they are seeking a one-month delay for local government elections in Sindh and Punjab, citing the advent of flooding and lack of available polling staff as a result. The ECP has also petititoned the Supreme Court to allow it hold the polls in phases. The News suggests that the PPP is seeking to take advantage of the divisions and pressure facing the MQM as it prepares for the upcoming polls. In Punjab, the PPP’s local chapter has called on party leadership to abandon their “reconciliation policy” towards the PML-N and “and play an active and vibrant role of opposition”. Meanwhile, the Express Tribune reports limited organizing by opposition parties ahead of the voting planned for several polling stations in Khyber Paktunkhwa on July 30. On Sunday, the PML-N won a special election for the PP-100 Gujranwala constituency, besting the PTI’s candidate by a margin of more than 10,000 votes according to preliminary counts. [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [ET]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Flooding Continues: More than 158,000 acres of land in Punjab have been flooded over the past week, with the Layyah district the worst-hit, officials report. On Saturday, 20 more bodies were reportedly found in Chitral, which continues to face heavy rains; the Khyber Paktunkhwa Provincial Disaster Management Authority reports that at least 29 people have been killed in the district since flooding began, the worst loss of life around the country. The Khyber Paktunkhwa provincial information minister appealed for the provision of helicopters to allow for the transportation of relief goods at a press conference on Sunday. At least 15 more people were reportedly killed in flash flooding in Khyber Paktunkhwa on Sunday. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Energy Crisis: On Friday, the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority ordered Karachi Electric to respond to charges that it had under-produced electricity, violating the terms of its privatization agreement, and had withheld information from regulators. [Dawn] [ET]
  • Economic Corridor Project: Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif visited the Panjgur and Turbat districts in Balochistan on Saturday to receive briefing on road construction projects by the Frontier Works Organization being undertaken as part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project; an army statement said that Pakistan was “acutely aware of our rivals’ campaign against the corridor project and vow that the armed forces are ready to pay any price to turn this long cherished dream into reality”. On Monday, Prime Minister Sharif chaired a review of the corridor project. [Dawn]
  • Iran Trade: An Iranian delegation will visit Pakistan in the first week of August to discuss bilateral trade, which officials hope can be boosted after the withdrawal of international sanctions. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Cellular Firms Ordered to Discontinue Blackberry Enterprise Services in Privacy Crackdown [Dawn] [Guardian]
  • Special Cabinet Committee Formed on Economic Policy [Dawn]
  • Iran Hands Over 192 Pakistani Nationals Arrested for Illegal Immigration [Dawn]
  • Government Convenes Jirga of Kurram Elders [ET]
  • Senate Panel to Hear Human Rights Petition from Khyber; Human Rights Committee Visits Quetta [ET] [Dawn]
  • Paramilitary Personnel Fired in Mohmand [ET]
  • Frontier Corps Leads Raids in Quetta and Sibi, Arresting 24; Bodies Found in Turbat [ET] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn]
  • 3,300 Cases Still Pending Before Sindh Anti-Terrorism Courts [Dawn]
  • Sindh Plan to Screen Private Security Companies Stalls [Dawn]
  • Two Sindh High Court Judges Expected to be Reappointed [ET]
  • Case Registered Against Bahria Town, Ten Years Later [Dawn]
  • Pakistan Received $5.6 Billion in Foreign Financing in 2015 [ET]
  • State Bank Keeps Discount Rate Unchanged at 6.5% [Dawn] [ET]
  • Traders Plan Strike Over Tax on Bank Transactions [Dawn]
  • Sindh Protests Steel Mills Gas Cut-Off [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn]
  • 12 Districts Identified at High Polio Risk [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Taliban Seize Warduj Police Base: Taliban fighters seized control of the Tirgaran joint military and police base in Badkhshan’s Warduj district on Saturday evening, following the mass surrender of as many as 180 National Police, Border Police, and Local Police members stationed at the outpost after at least three days of fighting. The provincial police chief told the AP that  roads to the base had been cut off by heavy rains, and that no reinforcements had been sent to the base despite three days of fighting. A Taliban spokesman said Sunday that 120 police officers had been freed, after pledges that they would not rejoin the services; some accounts suggest that the officers agreed to join the Taliban. A provincial police spokesman accused the head of the Border Police of surrendering unnecessarily; the Interior Ministry has ordered an investigation into the incident. [WSJ] [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • Other Attacks and Operations: On Sunday, Ministry of Defense spokesmen said that the army would launch “military operations for wiping out insurgents” in northern Afghanistan “soon”. On Saturday, the body of the former Kunar provincial council head was found in Nangarhar’s Khewa district; some reports suggest he was beheaded. Separately, two civilians and two police officers were injured in a bombing in Jalalabad. Drone airstrikes continue in eastern Nangarhar, although details are limited on the targets. Afghan officials claim to have killed three Taliban shadow district governors and an Uzbek militant commander in a helicopter airstrike in Faryab’s Almar district on Friday. On Saturday, unidentified gunmen reportedly abducted 14 passengers traveling in the Baghlan provincial capital district of Pul-e-Khumri; another six passengers were kidnapped in a separate incident on the Farah-Herat highway the same day. On Sunday, the NDS announced the arrest of nine members of a kidnapping ring in Lashkar Gah. [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Taliban Talks: Mohammad Nateqi, an Afghan government negotiator who attended the first round of talks between Afghan government and Taliban negotiators in Murree, Pakistan earlier this month, tells Reuters that the government will seek a ceasefire agreement as part of talks scheduled to take place later this week. Nateqi also suggests that members of the Taliban’s Qatar office will take part in the forthcoming meeting. The Express Tribune reported Saturday that the talks would be held in Pakistan again, rather than China or Qatar, which some reports had earlier indicated were under consideration as venues; an anonymous former Taliban minister says that more members of the Taliban leadership council will take part, and plays down the importance of the Qatar office. A spokesman for the Afghan High Peace Council said that the government wants the talks to be “broad-based” and for the Qatar office to be included. Meanwhile, RFE/RL reports on divisions within the Taliban over the talks, and quotes an aide to military commander Abdul Qayyum Zakir who says that Mullah Omar’s recent Eid message endorsing political negotiations was authored by Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, a rival of Zakir’s for leadership. Qatar office head Tayyab Agha is said to be leaning towards the Zakir faction, in part due to Pakistani harassment of Agha’s family members. [TOLO]
  • Electoral Reforms: On Sunday, the new electoral reforms commission announced that it will introduce and implement “preliminary reforms” for the parliamentary elections within the next two months, clearing the way for the scheduling of the polls.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Ministry of Information and Culture Plans Social Media Regulation as Part of Media Law [TOLO]
  • At Least 20 Killed in Clash Between Rival Commanders at Baghlan Wedding Party [NYT] [WAPO] [Reuters] [AFP] [Khaama Press]
  • Over 100 Schools Closed in Helmand by Security Threats [TOLO]
  • Activists Protest Ulema Opposition to Ghor Governor [TOLO]
  • India to Donate 1,000 Buses for Kabul Public Transport [TOLO]
  • Artifacts Unearthed at Ainak Copper Mine at Risk, National Museum Warns [TOLO]
  • AISA to Seek Amendments to Investment Law [TOLO]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Commission Finds No Systemic Fraud in 2013 Elections; Taliban-Govt Talks Planned Next Week

Topline

  • The Pakistani ministry of law published the final report of the special judicial commission headed by Chief Justice Nasir ul Mulk on Thursday, which concluded that despite some irregularities, no evidence had been presented to support the contention that the May 2013 general elections “were not a true and fair reflection of the mandate given by the electorate”. Prime Minister Sharif welcomed the ruling; Imran Khan has yet to comment extensively on the report. A press conference by members of the High Peace Council on Thursday confirmed that the next round of talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government is planned to take place next week, with Urumqi, China the “most likely” venue. China and Pakistan reportedly signed an agreement for the purchase of as many as eight Chinese submarines on Thursday, in one of China’s biggest ever defense deals; details are limited as to the final costs. Pentagon officials report that a U.S. airstrike in Paktika on July 11 killed Abu Khalil al-Sudani, a senior Al Qaeda official in charge of bombing operations. The Obama administration has formally notified Congress of its plans to release $337 million in Coalition Support Fund payments to Pakistan within the coming week. Flooding continues around Pakistan, with at least 15 people killed over the past week.

Pakistan — Security

  • Submarine Purchase: On Thursday, Pakistan and China are reported to have reached an agreement for the purchase of eight Chinese submarines; an official statement acknowledging meetings between Finance Minister Dar and the head of the state-owned China Shipbuilding & Offshore International Company Limited did not specify the number of vessels or the total cost of the agreement, which has been estimated at between $4-5 billion, which would make it China’s largest ever defense sale.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Judicial Inquiry Rejects Rigging Charge: On Thursday, the Ministry of Law published the inquiry report by the special judicial commission chaired by Chief Justice Nasir ul-Mulk, which investigated PTI accusations of systematic rigging during the 2013 parliamentary elections. The report concludes that “despite some lapses by the election commission, it cannot be said on the evidence before the commission that, on an overall basis, the elections were not a true and fair reflection of the mandate given by the electorate.” Speaking in an address to the nation on Thursday evening, Prime Minister Sharif said that “the door of allegations and accusations should be closed forever” and urged a focus on “prosperity and progress rather than towards backwardness.” Dawn reports that a meeting of senior PML-N leaders prior to Sharif’s address also concluded that the party should refocus on its governing performance. Speaking earlier at a press conference in Chitral, Imran Khan said that the PTI would “announce its future plan after reading the report,” and complained that the final findings had not been shared with his party. Former PTI president Javed Hashmi, who split with the party during its public rallies in Islamabad last fall, [NYT] [WSJ] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Final Commission Report (pdf)]
  • Karachi Crackdown: On Thursday evening, the Rangers raided a restaurant in Karachi’s upscale Clifton neighborhood owned by Ali Raza Abidi, an MQM national assembly member; at least two people, including the manager, were arrested. [Dawn]
  • Local Elections: The Express Tribune reports that the Election Commission is seeking a one-month delay for local government elections in Punjab and Sindh, pushing polls back until October; the ECP has also reportedly appealed to the Supreme Court to allow it to hold polling in phases.

Pakistan — Economics and Development

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Man Claiming Jamaat ud Dawa Affiliation Arrested on Attack Plot Charges [Dawn]
  • Detention of Former Khyber Paktunkhwa Mines Minister Extended [Dawn] [ET]
  • Hizbul Mujahadeen Disowns Splinter Faction over Kashmir Killings [Reuters]
  • TTP Militants Arrested in Balochistan Kuchlak District [ET]
  • TTP Suspect Sentenced to 14 Years on Extortion Charges [ET]
  • Russian Interest in Iran-Pakistan Pipeline Reported [ET]
  • Supreme Court Probes Defense Housing Authority Oversight [Dawn]
  • Fresh Death Warrants Issued for Mentally Ill Convict [Dawn]
  • Commentary: Pakistan’s Taliban Dilemma – “The elephant in the room is not Pakistan’s lack of will, but rather its likely inability to unify significant members of the Taliban in support of the process.” [Moeed Yusuf, Al Jazeera]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Al Qaeda Leader Killed in Paktika Airstrike: Pentagon officials announced Friday that a July 11 airstrike in the Bermal district of Afghanistan’s Paktika province had killed Abu Khalil al-Sudani, identified as a senior Al Qaeda shura member, associate of Ayman al-Zawahiri, and head of “suicide and explosives” operations. [NYT] [WAPO]
  • Attacks and Operations: Speaking on Thursday, Afghan Ministry of Defense spokesmen reiterated their need for continued financial and military assistance from the United States and other international donors. Despite reports that the Afghan national security forces are taking increasing casualties, defense officials claim that the number of volunteers increased over the past month. Elsewhere, unidentified gunmen attacked a police vehicle at the Salang Tunnel crossing, temporarily closing the tunnel. On Friday, security officials report repelling a Taliban attack on their checkposts in the Warduj district in Badakhshan, the second in as many days.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Taliban Talks: At a press conference on Thursday, Mohammad Ismail Qasimyar, a member of the High Peace Council, told the AP that the next round of talks between the government and Taliban representatives will take place in Urumqi, China on July 30, and that the government will request a cease-fire as part of the negotiations. The AFP quotes Qasimyar and other HPC officials saying that the decision on where to host the talks has not been finalized but the China will “most probably” be the venue. HPC spokesman Mawlawi Shahzad Shahid suggested that “a truce and the possible inclusion of the Taliban in the political system will constitute the theme of the discussion in the next round of the negotiations,” according to TOLO. A final list of attendees is still being developed, HPC officials indicated that at least one women would join the government team. On Thursday, Gen. John Campbell, head of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, met with Pakistani Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif, during which he is reported to have praised Pakistan’s mediating role in the talks. Meanwhile, Pajhwok reports that former Taliban official Syed Akbar Agha participated in an event sponsored by the “Afghanistan High Rescue Council,” that “‘biased neighbours’ and other foreign countries should not be allowed to meddle in the Afghan peace process”; the gathering instead stressed the need for Afghan unity and the need for Afghan mediators. [Reuters]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Iran Accused of Sending Afghan Prisoners to Fight Syrian War [TOLO]
  • UN Envoy Calls on Regional Neighbors to Support Afghanistan [Khaama Press]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Verdict Reportedly Near on Election Rigging; Afghanistan Protests Cross-Border Shelling

Topline

  • PML-N sources report that the special judicial commission investigating PTI charges of systematic election rigging during the May 2013 polls has completed its report and that its verdict exonerates the government; no formal announcements have been made, but Prime Minister Sharif is scheduled to address the nation later this evening. Afghan officials formally protested cross-border firing by Pakistani military forces along the border of Nangarhar and Kunar provinces. Bodyguards for Vice President Dostum were attacked by unidentified gunmen in Jowzjan on Wednesday; one attacker was killed and another arrested. The Election Commission of Pakistan has petitioned the Supreme Court to hold local elections in phases. Afghanistan’s electoral reform commission was formally inaugurated on Wednesday. The Sindh provincial government shuffled the portfolios of five ministers on Wednesday. MQM leader Altaf Hussain ordered the shut-down, then reopening, of all party offices on Wednesday. Sindh is on alert for potential flooding with heavy rain forecast for the next five days; Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif visited Dera Ghazi Khan on Thursday after a dyke breach led to flooding in several nearby villages. Prime Minister Sharif has reportedly been invited to a meeting in Washington with President Obama in October.

Pakistan — Security

  • Imran Backs Talks: Speaking after a meeting with families of the victims of the December attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar on Wednesday, the PTI’s Imran Khan reiterated his support for negotiations, suggesting that “if America can negotiate with the Afghan Taliban, Pakistan and Afghanistan should also negotiate with them”, and arguing that “the issue of militancy can be resolved only through dialogue”. [ET]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Judicial Commission Near Ruling on Election Fraud: PML-N sources claimed on Wednesday that the special judicial commission investigating charges of election fraud had submitted its report to the Ministry of Law and Justice, and in its final verdict rejected all of the PTI’s allegations of systematic and organized poll rigging. No official announcement has yet been made, and PTI lawyers say they have yet to receive copies of the judgment. Prime Minister Sharif reportedly received a legal briefing on the report, and is scheduled to address the nation today. [Dawn]
  • Elections: Election Commission officials tell the Express Tribune that they filed a petition with the Supreme Court before Eid to hold local government elections in Sindh and Punjab in phases, citing the large amount of administrative staff that would be needed to hold all voting simultaneously. [ET]
  • Sindh Leadership Shakeup: On Wednesday, the PPP-led Sindh provincial government reshuffled the portfolios of five ministers, covering the irrigation, information, education, local government, archives, works and services, information technology, public health, and rural departments, among others. Additional chief secretary Wasim Ahmed has also reportedly been appointed to head the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation, the third head of the body in the past month. [ET]
  • MQM Under Pressure: On Wednesday, a Karachi anti-terrorism court approved a 90-day detention under Rangers’ custody for Qamar Mansoor, a MQM leader arrested during last week’s raid on party headquarters, charging him with “involvement in targeted killing, extortion and other offences”. On Wednesday evening, party leader Altaf Hussain ordered the closure of all party offices, and was reported to be “extremely angry” with the party’s leadership committee over “certain organizational matters”.  The order was rescinded on Thursday. [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • US Relations: Special advisor to the prime minister Tariq Fatemi continued his meetings in Washington with U.S. officials, meeting with National Security Advisor Susan Rice, Senator Dianne Feinstein, and Senator John McCain, and others. Dawn reports that Pres. Obama has invited Prime Minister Sharif for a visit to Washington in October, following the UN general assembly session. [ET]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Customs Powers of Paramilitary Forces Extended for a Year [Dawn]
  • UK Deputy Minister Pledges Continued Aid Despite NGO Crackdown [ET]
  • Supreme Court Seeks Details of NGO Funding [APP]
  • Frontier Works Organization Touts Road Construction Linking Gwadar Port [Dawn]
  • Peshawar High Court Stays Arrests of Provincial Mining Secretary [ET] [ET]
  • Interior Minister Orders Inquiry into Travel Restriction on Prominent Lawyer’s Family [Dawn]
  • Developer Malik Riaz Alleges Extortion by Former Military Officers [Dawn] [ET]
  • Report: Revisiting Counter-terrorism Strategies in Pakistan – “The militarisation of counter-terrorism policy puts at risk Pakistan’s evolution toward greater civilian rule, which is itself a necessary but not sufficient condition to stabilise the democratic transition.” [ICG]
  • Report: Tipping the Scales: Security and Surveillance in Pakistan – “The Pakistani government has significantly expanded its communication interception activities. This Privacy International report covers the intelligence services plan to capture all IP-traffic in Pakistan and other initiatives, pointing to gaps in the laws governing surveillance.” [Privacy International]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Border Tensions with Pakistan: In formal protests to the Pakistani ambassador, Afghan officials report that at least four civilians were killed in cross-border mortar and heavy weapons fire by Pakistani forces along the border with Nangarhar and Kunar province over the past several days. [ET] [TOLO]
  • Dostum Bodyguards Attacked: Unidentifed gunmen reportedly attacked Vice President Dostum’s security detail in Sheberghan on Wednesday during his visit to Jowzjan province; one gunman was killed and another arrested, although no details have been reported on their identity. Dostum was not present at the time of the attack. [TOLO]
  • Badakshan Attack: Afghan security officials report that they have repelled an attack by Taliban militants on multiple checkposts in the Warduj district.
  • Mullah Omar Death Rumors: A spokesman for the Fidayee Mahaz, a Taliban splinter group, claimed on Thursday that Taliban deputy Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansoor was responsible for the murder of movement leader Mullah Mohammad Omar two years prior.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Presidential Conversation: Presidents Obama and Ghani, along with Chief Executive Abdullah, spoke by teleconference on Wednesday to discuss support for the Afghan national security forces and Afghan government negotiations with the Taliban. No details of the conversation have been reported. [Reuters]
  • Electoral Reform Commission Begins Work: Chief Executive Abdullah spoke at the inauguration ceremony on Wednesday for the new electoral reforms commission, welcoming its work and pledging the support of the national unity government for its efforts. UN officials are also participating in the commission’s deliberations in an advisory role.
  • Parliamentary Session Adjourns: The Wolesi Jirga adjourned its current session on Wednesday for a 45-day summer recess, leaving without taking votes on at least four pending bills and with appointments still vacant for the ministry of defense, supreme court, and attorney general.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Afghanistan Bans Toy Guns to ‘Curb Culture of Violence’ [AFP]
  • Kunduz Governor Alleges Embezzlement by Provincial Council Head [TOLO]
  • Kabul Journalist Reportedly Beaten by Second Deputy Speaker’s Bodyguard [TOLO]
  • Two Balkh Television Channels Shut Down Over Unpaid Taxes [Pajhwhok]
  • Ministry of Urban Development Concerned Over Illegal Construction in Kabul [TOLO]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: PM Sharif Visits Chitral Flood Relief Operations; At Least 20 Killed in Faryab Bombing

Topline

  • Prime Minister Sharif visited Chitral on Wednesday to view flood relief operations; at least 300,000 people have been affected by flash flooding in the district, and more flooding is reported in southern Punjab and parts of Sindh. At least 20 people have been killed in a suicide bombing at a marketplace in the Faryab district of Almar on Wednesday; the attack follows recent efforts by Afghan security forces to retake parts of the district from Taliban control. Overall ANSF casualties have increased by more than 50% compared to the first six months of 2014, with more than 4,100 Afghan soldiers and police killed. The Supreme Court of Pakistan has agreed to hear an appeal from Aasia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman sentenced to death on blasphemy charges in November 2010. Pakistani ambassador to India Abdul Basit hosted some Kashmiri separatist leaders for an Eid gathering on Tuesday, and expressed hope that India and Pakistan would resume foreign secretary-level talks soon. Vice President Dostum visited Jowzjan on Tuesday, where he sought to deflect reports that he was supporting the recreation of militia forces. An Express Tribune report suggests that China will host the next meeting between Afghan government and Taliban representatives, and that Pakistan has agreed to “guarantee” a peace agreement.

Pakistan — Security

  • Border Tensions with India: Lt Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, the Rawalpindi corps commander, visited the Line of Control in Kashmir on Tuesday, where he met with soldiers and exchanged Eid greetings. On Tuesday, Pakistani ambassador to India Abdul Basit hosted an Eid dinner with some members of the Hurriyat Conference; separatist leaders Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Yasin Malik boycotted the meeting. Basit expressed hope that the Indian and Pakistani foreign secretaries “will meet soon to start the dialogue process, and we would like to discuss all issues of importance between Pakistan and India”, saying that Pakistan is “committed to building on positivity which was reflected in Ufa” during the most recent meeting between prime ministers Sharif and Modi. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Border Tensions with Iran: Pakistani security sources report that Iranian border forces fired at least four mortar shells across the border in the Panjgur district in Balochistan on Tuesday; no casualties have been reported. No explanation for the strike has been reported. [Dawn]
  • Karachi Violence: Dawn reports that one of the suspects in the May attack on a bus carrying members of Karachi’s Ismaili community has agreed to testify under a plea agreement; Assadur Rehman, alias Malik, will reportedly also confess to targeting attacks on police officials. Separately, Sindh police report an overall drop in violence in Karachi during the first half of 2015, with 970 murders reported compared to 2,075 during 2014. They also report declines in robbery, extortion, and other major crimes.
  • Chaman Bomb Defused: Frontier Corps officials report that they discovered and defused a bomb planted near the Pakistani Customs office at the Chaman border crossing between Balochistan and Afghanistan on Tuesday. No suspects have been reported.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Supreme Court to Hear Aasia Bibi Plea: On Wednesday, the Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal plea from Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death on blasphemy charges in November 2010, whose case was taken up by the late Punjab governor Salman Taseer before his assassination in 2011. [Dawn] [Reuters]
  • Karachi Crackdown: The MQM disputed a Dawn report on Tuesday that five of the party’s national assembly members had gone into hiding after facing arrest on charges of facilitating hate speech after the broadcast of remarks by party leader Altaf Hussain criticizing the Sindh Rangers. The party is reportedly still debating whether or not to pursue a hunger strike by Hussain. Separately, PPP leaders met in Dubai on Tuesday for discussions on the recent administrative reshuffle of the Sindh provincial government, and plans for the upcoming local elections.
  • Local Elections: Initial voter lists were posted for local government elections in Sindh on Tuesday; polls are scheduled to be held on September 20. In Punjab, the PTI is beginning a voter registration drive. Special elections are scheduled for July 30 for more than 250 polling stations in Khyber Paktunkhwa that saw signs of irregularities during the first round of voting in May. [ET]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Flooding: On Wednesday, Prime Minister Sharif visited flash flood-affected areas in Chitral, which have affected at least 300,000 people; at least six people have died over the past week. The Jamaat-e-Islami and ANP have criticized the provincial government’s response to the flooding. Multan Corps Commander Lt. Gen. Ashfaq Nadeem visited the Layyah district in southern Punjab on Wednesday, where at least 150 villages have been inundated. Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif has ordered all field commanders to carry out flood relief operations; at least 73 civilians have been rescued in Chitral. Flooding is also reported in Sukkur and Khairpur in Sindh. The first monsoon rains of the season hit Karachi on Tuesday, shorting out power in parts of the city. [ET] [Dawn] [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Khan of Kalat Says Only ‘Grand Baloch Jirga’ Can Bring Him Back from Exile [Dawn]
  • Arrest of Khyber Paktunkhwa Mining Secretary Sought [Dawn]
  • Parents of Army Public School Victims Threat Protests Over Inadequate Support [ET]
  • JUI-F Reiterates Objections to Seminary Scrutiny [ET]
  • ‘Moral Brigade’ Active in Islamabad Again [Dawn]
  • Over 20% of Students Miss School Daily in Khyber Paktunkhwa [Dawn]
  • Report: Confronting Environmental Threats in Sindh – “For Sindh’s population, environmental health problems meant not only pain and suffering, but also an economic loss in the form of out-of-pocket medical expenses, lost wages, or time spent caring for sick relatives, among others. Collectively these costs are equivalent to about 10 percent of Sindh’s GDP.” [World Bank]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Attacks and Operations: As many as 20 people have been killed and more than 30 wounded in a suicide bombing at a market in Faryab’s Almar district, according to the acting provincial governor; both civilians and Afghan security forces were among the casualties, and at least one soldier has been killed. The Taliban have not issued a claim of responsibility as of this writing. The attack comes shortly after district officials claimed to have retaken control of parts of the district previously held by Taliban fighters. On the whole, the NYT assess that the Afghan security forces are “struggling to maintain a stalemate”; around 4,100 Afghan soldiers and police have been killed and 7,800 wounded during the first six months of the year, up more than 50% from levels last year that American commanders described at the time as unsustainable. Home visits by soldiers have reportedly been banned in most areas in a bid to stem desertion, and morale low. [AP] [AJE] [WAPO] [TOLO]
  • Militias in the North: Speaking at a press conference in Kabul on Wednesday, Interior Minister Noor-ul Haq Uloomi said that “Afghan forces are in the driving seat and there is no threat that any province will fall to militants”, saying that “Afghan security forces are able to foil any type of attack if they are properly equipped.” Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum visited his home province of Jowzjan on Tuesday, where he told local elders and security officials that he did not support the creation of militia forces, but did apparently back a “public uprising” against the Taliban.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Taliban Talks: An anonymous Pakistani official tells the Express Tribune that Pakistan is “willing to become guarantors for any peace agreement” between the Taliban and the Afghan government; the report also suggest that the Taliban were seeking Chinese and Pakistani guarantees for the formation of a “united national government” in Afghanistan as a condition for a ceasefire. The next round of talks between the Taliban and Afghan government representatives, scheduled for the end of this month, will reportedly take place in China.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Documents Allege Ariana Airlines Carried Armed Passengers from Iran to Iraq [Pajhwok]
  • Mohaqiq Reports ISIS Recruitment Near Kabul [Khaama Press]
  • Commentary: Lessons from Afghanistan and Mexico for Prosecuting Security Policy Through Proxies – “No matter what the original motivations and justification for militia formation, militias have a strong tendency to escape control by their overseers and engage in problematic and abusive behavior.” [Vanda Felbab-Brown, Brookings]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: UN Observers Visit Kashmir Border; Northern Leaders Say Not Seeking to Undermine Govt

Topline

  • UN observers visited villages near Sialkot on Monday in response to Pakistani protests against Indian cross-border artillery fire. Vice President Dostum and Deputy Mohammad Mohaqiq insist that their recent meeting in Mazar-e-Sharif calling for joint operations against insurgent forces in northern Afghanistan was undertaken in coordination with the national unity government, and is not meant to undermine the regular armed forces. The Sindh Rangers have reportedly arrested the general secretary of the Pasban party on Monday; the MQM continues to threaten to conduct a leadership hunger strike against the Rangers’ operations. The U.S. military has offered condolences for Afghan soldiers killed in a friendly fire strike in Logar on Monday, and pledged a joint investigation. A spokesman for Chief Executive Abdullah welcomed the appointment of a new electoral reforms commission and said his priority remained the removal of those officials accused of corruption in the 2014 presidential elections. Balochistan tribal leaders met with the exiled Khan of Kalat in London to seek his return to the political process. Flooding has been reported in northern Pakistan and parts of Punjab.

Pakistan — Security

  • Border Tensions with India: Members of the UN Military Observers Group in India and Pakistan conducted a fact-finding visit to villages near Sialkot on Monday which Pakistan military officials say have been most affected by the recent uptick in cross-border artillery fire at the Line of Control, inspecting damages and meeting with injured villagers. Separately on Monday, Indian 16 Corps commander Lt. Gen. KH Singh, who commands forces in Jammu, reiterated that responsibility lay with Pakistan for firing first, and told the Indian press that “there are certain elements across the border who want to create trouble on the Line of Control… we have to give them certain unexpected damage to so that they don’t repeat it in future.” [Dawn] [ET]
  • Balochistan Conflict: A delegation of senior Balochistan tribal leaders has met with the exiled Khan of Kalat, Mir Ahmed Suleman Daud Khan, in London, appealing for him to return to the province and rejoin the political process; Khan declined the request, calling on the state to “stop atrocities against the Baloch without any pre-condition”. Balochistan Chief Minister Abdul Malik Baloch nonetheless welcomed the meeting and indicated that he would seek further negotiations with the Khan. Meanwhile, nine militant suspects were killed in Frontier Corps search operations in the Awaran and Khuzdar areas of Balochistan on Monday. [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • NGO Crackdown: The National Assembly committee on states and frontier regions has called a hearing on Friday to review the activities of international and national non-governmental organizations working in the FATA.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Karachi Crackdown: Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah insisted that the provincial government had been under no pressure to renew the Rangers’ policing mandate in Karachi, and that legislation approving the extension would be passed in the provincial assembly within 60 days. Meanwhile, MQM party officials claim that Altaf Hussain is preparing to begin a hunger strike outside the UK prime minister’s office, joined by senior party leaders; the MQM is apparently waiting for “permission from British authorities” to begin the strike. At least five MQM national assembly members are reportedly in hiding, facing arrest on hate speech charges after they attend the broadcast of Hussain’s speech condemning the Rangers’ operations in Karachi. Separately, the Rangers arrested the general secretary of the Pasban party on Monday on unspecified charges; one son was arrested with him and another son has reportedly been missing since June. The Rangers have not confirmed the arrest, and Pasban leaders alleged that they were being targeted for their legal challenge against the creation of military courts and call for the creation of a separate province for Karachi. [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Local Elections: The presidential ordinance setting constituency delimitation boundaries in Islamabad for local government elections has expired, the Express Tribune notes, requiring new legislation to empower the Election Commission to replicate the process before polls are held. Final approval of legislation governing the polls is still pending national assembly approval, expected after Eid. [Dawn] [ET] [ET]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Flooding: At least four children have been killed and 46,000 acres of land submerged under floodwaters near Sirki, Punjab after an embankment was breached last week. Residents complain that the government has taken no steps to provide relief during the Eid period. Flooding is also reported in Chitral and parts of Kashmir, where Prime Minister Sharif ordered expedited relief efforts. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Tariq Fatemi Meets with US State Department Officials [Dawn] [ET]
  • Political and Military Leaders’ Condolences Fail to Solace Parents of Army Public School Victims [Dawn]
  • Security Official Injured in Attack on Tirah Valley Checkpost [ET]
  • Anti Narcotics Force Seizes 746 Kilos of Heroin in Balochistan [ET]
  • Weapons Seized At Charsadda Border [ET]
  • Sindh Seeks to Replicate Punjab Rescue Service in Karachi [Dawn]
  • Musharraf Close to Acquittal in Bhutto Murder Case, Lawyer Says [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Northern Alliance Reunites: Following meetings on Friday with Vice President Dostum, Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor, and foreign minister Salahuddin Rabbani that saw a pledge to unit in a joint operation against the Taliban insurgency in the north, Second Deputy Mohammad Mohaqiq insists that he remains supportive of the national government in an interview with TOLO, and that militia groups will only be supported “within the framework of the national unity government’s strategy”. A spokesman for Dostum also insists that his actions “are taken in coordination with the presidential palace”, and said that Dostum had given a one-week deadline for Taliban fighters in northern Afghanistan to join the peace process.
  • Friendly Fire: In a statement on Tuesday, the U.S. military offered its condolences for the deaths of at least seven Afghan National Army soldiers killed in an errant coalition helicopter strike on their outpost in Laghman province, pledging a “transparent, timely, and thorough” joint investigation. Pres. Ghani issued a statement of concern following the incident, insisting that foreign forces should “exercise utmost care during their operations to avoid harming Afghan forces and civilians”. [TOLO]
  • Peace Committee Member Killed: Salih Mohammad Hotak, a member of the Maidan Wardak provincial Peace Council, was killed by unidentified gunmen in Kabul on Tuesday. Hotak is originally from the Nerkh district in Wardak, and now serves as a mullah in a mosque in the Paghman district in Kabul. No claim of responsibility has been reported.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Electoral Reform: Shah Sultan Akifi, the new head of the special commission on electoral reform, said Monday that his top priorities would be amending the election law, and evaluating and redefining the duties of the electoral administration agencies. Akifi said that his commission would officially be inaugurated soon, and that he wants “the practical work to be started as soon as possible”. A spokesman for Chief Executive Abdullah welcomed the appointment of the commission and said that Abdullah’s priority was that “those involved in electoral fraud or [who] helped organized it must step down”.
  • Taliban Talks: A spokesman for the High Peace Council said Monday that preparations were underway for the second round of talks with Taliban representatives later this month. The Ministry of Interior’s spokesman expressed hope that the talks could lead to a reduction in insurgent violence.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Members of Parliament Call for Government End Use of Caretaker Officials [TOLO]
  • More Multi-Million Dollar Buildings Built and Barely Used by U.S. Military [WAPO]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Northern Alliance Leaders Reunite; India and Pakistan Continue Cross-Border Firing

Topline

  • Afghanistan and Pakistan marked the Eid ul Fitr holiday; news is light. On Friday, Vice President Dostum, First Deputy Mohaqiq, Balkh governor Atta Noor Mohammad, and Foreign Minister Rabbani met in Mazar-e-Sharif where they announced a joint effort to combat the insurgency in northern Afghanistan and criticized peace outreach to the Taliban. On Monday, as many as ten Afghan National Army soldiers were killed in an errant U.S. helicopter airstrike on their outpost in Logar province. Pakistani and Indian border security officials traded accusations that the other had initiated more cross-border firing along the Line of Control in Kashmir; at least five Indian civilians were reportedly wounded on Saturday. One of the two MQM leaders detained in a raid by the Rangers on MQM headquarters in Karachi on Friday has been freed, but the other remains in custody; party leader Altaf Hussain has threatened to begin a hunger strike in protest of the Rangers’ continuing crackdown on the MQM. U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Dempsey visited Kabul on Sunday; in meetings, Pres. Ghani offered for Afghanistan to serve as a “regional hub” in operations against Daesh.

Pakistan — Security

  • Border Tensions with India: On Friday, Pakistani military officials formally protested what it described as Indian ceasefire violations with the United Nationals Military Observer Group; sources on both sides also accuse the other of stalling visa permissions for diplomatic officials. Pakistani military spokesman accused Indian Border Security Forces of continued firing across the Line of Control on Saturday morning; Indian forces accuse Pakistani forces of firing first, injuring five civilians. A traditional exchange of sweets between rival guards at the Wagah border, which had been made in past years to mark the first day of Eid ul Fitr, was suspended. In a statement on Sunday, the Pakistani foreign ministry “expressed its deep concern at the unprovoked ceasefire violations by the Indian Security forces at the [Line of Control] and the offensive posture adopted during the past few days”, and Pakistan’s ambassador to India expressed hope that relations would improve. [AP] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Quetta Bombing: Two people were killed in a suicide bombing near the Sardar Bahadur Khan Women’s University in Quetta on Friday; the bomber was stopped by a guard before entering the Hazara Town neighborhood. Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif paid tribute to the guard, Talib Hussain, in a statement on Sunday. [ET]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • LNG Pipeline: In a Voice of America interview last week, Minister of Petroleum and Natural Resources Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said that construction would begin in October on a liquefied natural gas terminal in Gwadar, 85% of whose $2 billion cost of construction is being financed by China. The LNG facility includes plans for a 700 kilometer pipeline to other parts of the country, which Abbasi express hope will be linked into the prospective Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline as soon as sanctions on Iran are lifted.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Gilgit Activists Face Sedition Charges [AJE]
  • Railway Investigation Attributes Gujranwala Crash to Over-Speeding [Dawn]
  • Supreme Court Continues to Scrutinize National Accountability Bureau Investigations [Dawn]
  • Police Officer Killed in Swabi Shooting [Dawn] [ET]
  • Election Commission Moves to Fill Reserved Seats for Women After Khyber Paktunkhwa Local Government Polls [ET]
  • Complaints Registered Against Punjab Constituency Delimitation [Dawn]
  • Thar Braces for More Drought [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Northern Alliance Leaders Reunite: On Friday, acting Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor, foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani, First Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum, and First Deputy to the Chief Executive Mohammad Mohaqiq all attended an Eid ceremony in Mazar-e-Sharif, where they announced a joint effort on the part of the Jamiat-e-Islami, Junbish-e-Milli, and Islamic Unity parties to combat insurgents in northern Afghanistan. Noor criticized recent peace efforts with Pakistan, saying that “negotiations must be held in consultation with the people of Afghanistan and their political parties” and warned that “the process could be used to legitimize terrorist groups backed by foreign powers”. Dostum, who earlier visited Faryab and pledged to personally lead operations from the front line, said that “we support the negotiations, but we will not remain unaware of the situation … we also have the ability to put pressure and we will not remain silent.” Details of the new initiative are limited, but reports indicate that Mohaqiq also made veiled references to militia rearmament while peaking to supporters in Kabul on Saturday. [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [TOLO]
  • ANA Soldiers Killed in Friendly Fire: As many as ten Afghan soldiers have been killed in an errant strike by U.S. military helicopters on their outpost in the Baraki Barak district of Logar province on Monday. Local army commanders tell the Post the attack took place during the daytime while the outpost was flying the Afghan national flag, and the provincial governor tells the Guardian there was no active combat at the time; U.S. officials said they were investigating the incident. [NYT] [BBC] [AP] [AJE] [TOLO] [Pajhwok]
  • Other Attacks and Operations: A roadside bombing in the Gozara district in Herat province killed at least six police officers on Friday. Another bombing on Friday was planted near a mosque in Balkh’s Sholgar district on Friday, killing at least three people and wounding fourteen others. No claim of responsibility has been reported. [AFP] [TOLO] [TOLO] [TOLO]
  • Dempsey Visits: U.S. Joints Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey visited Kabul on Sunday, where he met with Pres. Ghani to discuss U.S. support for the Afghan national security forces. USA Today reports that Ghani offered Afghanistan’s services as a “regional hub” to target Daesh militants. Dempsey welcomed Afghanistan as a “credible and willing partner” but said it would be too early to determine what resources might be committed in the event that the U.S. pursues the offer. [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Karzai Influence Persists After Exit from Office [WAPO]
  • Former Taliban Finance Minister Motasim Welcomes Murree Talks [ET]
  • Ministry of Defense Claims Four Out of Ten Insurgents in Afghanistan Are Foreigners [Khaama Press]
  • Senior NDS Officials Visit Frontline Soldiers [TOLO]