- Pres. Obama disclosed on Thursday that Al Qaeda hostages Warren Weinstein and Giovanni Lo Porto were inadvertently killed in a January 15 Predator drone strike in North Waziristan. Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent deputy commander Ahmed Farouq was also killed in that strike, and Al Qaeda spokesman Adam Gadahn was killed in separate a January 19 strike; both are American nationals but do appear to have been targeted directly in the strikes. The MQM retained its hold on the NA-246 Karachi assembly seat during a special election held on Thursday, maintaining a roughly 70,000-vote margin of victory. Pres. Ghani will visit New Delhi next week, where Reuters suggests Indian officials are looking to “regain lost ground” in its relationship after rapprochement between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Details are minimal from Prime Minister Sharif and Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif’s talks in Saudi Arabia. The EU extended its Afghanistan police support mission for two years in an agreement on Thursday.
Pakistan — Security
- January Drone Strike Killed American and Italian Hostages: On Thursday, U.S. officials disclosed that a Predator drone strike carried out in Pakistan in January had inadvertently killed Warren Weinstein, a U.S. national kidnapped in Lahore in 2011 and held since by Al Qaeda, and Giovanni Lo Porto, an Italian aid worker kidnapped in 2012. Pres. Obama issued a statement and held a brief press conference expressing “tremendous sorrow” over their deaths, and taking “full responsibility for these operations”. The NYT identifies the strike as having taken place on January 15, in the Shawal valley region of North Waziristan, and was a “signature strike” based on “pattern of life” assessments of the compound under surveillance, without positive confirmation of the targets’ identities; officials said a previous presidential announcement that those types of strikes would not be carried out after 2014 was not enforced. U.S. intelligence services only confirmed the two men’s death after several weeks of assessments. Weinstein’s wife issued a statement laying “ultimate responsibility” for his death on his kidnappers, but also expressing concern over “inconsistent” U.S. efforts to free him and criticizing Pakistan for failing to make his rescue a priority. Pakistan’s foreign ministry issued a statement saying that “having lost thousands of innocent civilians in the war against terrorism, Pakistan can fully understand this tragic loss and stands with the families of Weinstein and Lo Porto in this difficult time.” In addition to Mr. Weinstein and Mr. Lo Porto, the January 15 strike killed Ahmed Farouq, identified as the deputy commander of Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, a dual Pakistan-U.S. national, and a separate January 19 strike killed Adam Gadahn, a U.S. national who had served as an Al Qaeda English-language spokesman. Neither man appears to have been intentionally targeted in the strikes, however. Criticism and scrutiny of the drone program and its limitations has heightened in the wake of Thursday’s disclosure; two separate White House reviews of the drone program are underway. [NYT] [WAPO] [BBC] [Guardian] [Reuters] [AJE] [WSJ] [AP] [Guardian]
- Saudi Talks: Prime Minister Sharif and Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif held a day of “low-key” talks with Saudi officials in Riyadh on Thursday, the details of which are limited. Prime Minister Sharif is reported to have reiterated Pakistan’s support for Saudi Arabia, and to have called for a “political solution to the conflict in Yemen”. He also met with ousted Yemeni president Mansoor al Hadi; Chief of Army Staff Sharif and Defense Minister Khwaja Asif met separately with Saudi defense officials. On Friday, the prime minister departed for the UK for meetings with Prime Minister Cameron.
Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy
- MQM Retains Karachi Seat in NA-246 Election: Election officials announced official results for the NA-246 special election held on Thursday in Karachi, reporting that the MQM had held on to the seat after former national assembly member Nabeel Gabol quit the party, and following a high-profile challenge from the PTI for the seat, amidst crackdowns on the party by the paramilitary Rangers. Overall voter turnout was reported to be 36.72% of registered constituency voters; MQM candidate Kunwar Naveed Jamil took 95,644 votes to the PTI’s 24,821. The Jamaat-i-Islami came in third with 9,056 votes. PTI leaders indicated their acceptance of the results as the MQM celebrated their victory, although the JI attributed the MQM’s win to “forged voter lists and bias of polling staff”. Limited incidents of violence were reported during the vote, which was held under hreavy security. [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn]
- Federalism Disputes: Finance Minister Dar met with the leaders of all parliamentary parties in Islamabad on Thursday, promising that Prime Minister Sharif would call a meeting upon his return from abroad to resolve complaints over the Pakistan-China Economic Corridor project and center-provincial tensions over revenue sharing in anticipation of the next National Financial Commission revenue-sharing formula negotiation. A committee to oversee the implementation of the 18th Amendment’s devolution of authority to the provincial governments has been reconstituted in the senate. [Dawn]
Pakistan — Economics and Development
- Energy Crisis: Nationwide power shortfalls have reportedly reached 3,000 megawatts, although Dawn notes that the government is no longer releasing public information on the issue. On Wednesday, the government officially separated the Central Power Purchasing Agency from the National Transmission and Dispatch Company, placing responsibility for settling payment dues on the CPPA. On Thursday, the government officially defined liquefied natural gas as a petroleum product, bypassing a requirement that its pricing be set through public hearing rather than through regulatory control. [ET]
Pakistan — Remainders
- Frontier Corps forms Peshawar Quick Response Force [ET]
- Five Injured in Peshawar Bombing [Dawn]
- FIA Ordered to Make Progress on Corruption Investigations [Dawn] [ET]
- Chinese Investments Skirt Diamer Bhasha Dam Proposal [Bloomberg]
- Judicial Commission on Election Complaints Seeks Responses from PML-N and MQM [Dawn] [ET]
- President Hussain Meets Turkish Officials [ET]
- Former Pres. Zardari Meets with Opposition Parties [ET]
- Five ‘Industrial Estates’ Planned for FATA [ET]
- FBR Seeks to Push Use of Credit Cards to Formalize Economic Transactions [ET] [ET]
- Polio Vaccinators Complain of Two Months’ Unpaid Wages [ET]
- Opponents Challenge Cybercrime Law [Dawn]
- Commentary: Warren Weinstein and the Long Drone War – “The heavy reliance—in time, dollars, and bureaucratic priorities—on a technological panacea for the problem of terrorism can cause a government to lose sight of the people on the ground.” [Steve Coll, New Yorker]
- Commentary: Happy to Play Second Fiddle – “In this story of Indian and Chinese investment in South and Central Asian countries, the United States is conspicuously missing in action.” [Michael Kugelman, South Asia Channel]
- Commentary: Courting China with Care – “Let’s understand that we are being offered a historic opportunity, but let’s also tally up the costs and benefits clearly upfront, and keep our commitment to procedures and transparency as we move forward to take advantage of this opportunity.” [Khurram Hussain, Dawn]
Afghanistan — Security
- Attacks: Sporadic rocket attacks were reported on several government compounds in Ghazni city on Friday, which had been announced as the official start to the Taliban’s annual spring offensive. No casualties have been reported.
- EU Extends Police Mission: On Thursday, the European Union Mission in Afghanistan announced a two-year extension of its EUPOL police training and support mission.
Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy
- Regional Relations: India will seek to “regain lost ground” in its relations with Afghanistan when Pres. Ghani visits New Delhi next week, Reuters analysis suggests, noting growing Indian concern over Chinese investment in Pakistan and Pakistani-Afghan rapprochement since Ghani’s inauguration. Meanwhile, Afghanistan’s ambassador to Pakistan told a Faisalabad audience that Afghanistan would open a consulate in Lahore soon.
- Government Formation: Pres. Ghani chaired the first full cabinet meeting of the national unity government on Thursday — minus the defense minister, who has yet to be named or confirmed, directing ministers to report back to him within the next three weeks on strategies for their first 100 days in office.
Afghanistan — Remainders
- New Plastic Chair Factory Could Mark Start of New Domestic Industry [TOLO]
- Commentary: Hazaras in the Crosshairs? A Scrutiny of Recent Incidents – “With the possible exception of the Zabul mass abduction, [there is] little to back up a notion of a new trend of ethnic or ‘racial’ targeting, but the reporting points to how vulnerable many Hazaras feel.” [Qayoom Suroush, AAN]