Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Attackers Strike Indian Consulate in Jalalabad; PTI to Continue Election Protests

Topline

  • A team of three attackers killed nine people near the Indian consulate in Jalalabad on Saturday; most of those killed or injured were Afghan children, and no Indian nationals were hurt. The Taliban denied involvement in the attack. The PTI says it will release a white paper within the next week detailing election rigging allegations; the PPP has vowed to oppose a PML-N proposal to redistribute natural gas allocations amongst the provinces. Security is on high alert in Islamabad and at several prison facilities across Pakistan. Amb. Dobbins has called for the completion of bilateral security agreement negotiations by the fall, before the Afghan presidential election begins in earnest; a spokesman for Pres. Karzai dismissed the need for deadlines. U.S. and Pakistani diplomats reportedly discussed proposals to shift Afghanistan peace negotiations to another forum, over concerns that the Doha process is effectively deadlocked. Concerned over the prospect of U.S. sanctions, Pakistan has asked Iran to fund the full cost of constructing the gas pipeline linking the two countries. Heavy monsoon rains have killed over 50 people in Pakistan over the weekend.

Pakistan — Security

  • Security Alerts: An anonymous Pakistani Taliban commander tells the Express Tribune that last week’s jailbreak in Dera Ismail Khan involved 125 fighters from three different factions, and freed 47 senior Taliban leaders. Anonymous members of the PTI-led Khyber Paktunkhwa government, which has come under criticism for its failure to respond to the jailbreak, say that they want to initiate investigations into last year’s jailbreak in Bannu, which freed prominent TTP commander Adnan Rasid. Based on intelligence reports of a possible new attack, officials have deployed additional police personnel at the Hyderabad Central Jail in Sindh; Khyber Paktunkhwa has appropriated Rs 198 million for additional security, and Rangers have been deployed to at least seven provincial jails in Punjab. Separately, police and military personnel in Islamabad carried out search operations around the Margalla Hills on Sunday, amid reports of a possible terror plot targeting Benazir International Airport.
  • Train Bombing: A bomb planted on the the Karachi-bound Shalimar Express train detonated as it was was passing through the town of Toba Tek Singh in Punjab on Monday; some reports indicate that three people have been killed, while other accounts say that 14 people have been injured, but that there have been no fatalities. No claim of responsibility has been reported.
  • Sectarian Violence: Sheikh Manzoor Hussain, the head of the local Shia Council in Bahawalpur division in south Punjab, was killed along with his son during a drive-by shooting on a Youm-e-Quds rally on Friday. No claims of responsibility have been reported.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • PTI Election Rigging Allegations: Following Imran Khan’s appearance in court on Friday, the PTI said it would release a white paper within the next week documenting election rigging allegations in more than 35 national assembly constituencies, which party leaders said would be submitted to the Election Commission and the Supreme Court. On Saturday, Pres. Zardari formally accepted Chief Election Commissioner Fakhruddin Ibrahim’s resignation. Chief Justice Chaudhry will nominate an acting election commissioner, who will likely preside over the upcoming August 22 by-elections. PPP opposition leader Khursheed Shah called on the other four members of the commission to resign as well. In a bid to preserve poll neutrality, the Election Commission has updated its code of conduct to bar the prime minister or chief ministers as well as their advisors from visiting constituencies where by-elections will be held. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Sharif in Saudi Arabia: Prime Minister Sharif arrived in Saudi Arabia on Thursday evening, and on Saturday met with the Saudi king and crown prince, among other officials. No details of their meetings have been released; Sharif was accompanied by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Iran Gas Pipeline: Foreign ministry officials say Pakistan conveyed a briefing paper to visiting Sec. Kerry last week in which they argued that the proposed Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline should not be subject to US sanctions. Pakistan’s Petroleum Minister Shahid Khan Abbasi told reports on Friday that the government now intends to request Iran finance the entire cost of construction of the Pakistani portion of the pipeline. Iran had previously agreed to finance half of the cost of the $1 billion construction project, but contracts have yet to be finalized in the absence of a sovereign guarantee from Pakistan. Pres. Zardari visited Tehran on Sunday for the swearing-in of Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani; both leaders pledged to continue support for the project. In remarks to journalists on Sunday, Prime Minister Sharif noted that the U.S. had warned that the pipeline project could incur sanctions.
  • Gas-Sharing: In his remarks on Friday, Petroleum Minister Abbasi suggested that the government might alter the national gas distribution formula between the provinces, which the PPP and JUI-F have both protested. [The Nation]
  • Monsoon Rains: Heavy monsoon rainfall across the country over the weekend has resulted in at least 51 deaths from drowning or electrocution. Power outages and flooding were reported in Karachi, where an emergency was announced and the army called in for assistance on Saturday. The chief administrator for Karachi, Hashim Raza Zaidi, was removed from his position by Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah on Saturday for failing to manage the response. Officials issued additional flash flood warnings for Khyber Paktunkhwa on Monday. [Dawn] [ET] [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Despite Administration Promises, Few Signs of Change in Drone Wars [NYT]
  • Khyber Political Administration Plans to Re-Open Access to Bara Area After Four Years [Dawn]
  • Indian Drone Report to Have Violated Pakistani Airspace [ET]
  • Audit Report Suggests Misappropriations by Benazir Income Support Program Managers [ET]
  • National Accountability Bureau Case Against Former PM Ashraf in Rental Power Scam Awaiting Sign-Off [ET]
  • New Punjab Governor Takes Oath of Office [Dawn] [ET]
  • Musharraf Supporters Claim He Will Be Released Soon [Dawn]
  • 10 Nominations for Sindh High Court and Balochistan High Court Proposed [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Power Tranmission Lines Attacked in Balochistan [Dawn]
  • Eight Killed in Karachi Violence [Dawn]
  • Imran Khan to File Lawsuit Against Fazlur Rehman in Response to ‘Jewish Agent’ Charges [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Attack on Indian Consulate Kills Nine: A team of three attackers struck near the Indian consulate in Jalalabad on Saturday; one detonated a suicide car bomb after they were stopped short at a checkpoint and the other two opened fire before being killed by Afghan police. It is the first major attack since the beginning of Ramazan. Nine others were killed and more than twenty injured; most of the victims were children attending classes at an adjacent mosque, and no Indian nationals were injured or killed. The Taliban denied any involvement in the attack, and while many Afghan and Indian analysts pointed to neighboring Pakistan, its foreign ministry issued a statement condemning the incident. Indian’s foreign ministry said that it would “not be deterred from its commitment to assist Afghanistan in its reconstruction and development effort,” adding that “the main threat to Afghanistan’s security and stability stems from terrorism and the terror machine that continues to operate from beyond its borders.” [WAPO] [BBC] [AP] [AJE] [TOLO]
  • Bagram Prison Detainees in Limbo: The Post notes the challenges of managing the 67 non-Afghan prisoners held at Bagram detention facility and the question of where to transfer them when the main U.S. military mission ends in Afghanistan in 2014. Unlike at Guantanamo, detainees held at Bagram have no habeas corpus rights with which to challenge their detention. Most are judged to be too dangerous to release, but Afghan officials are viewed as unlikely to allow the prison to remain open indefinitely.
  • Kandahar Market Bombing: Four people were killed and more than twenty wounded when a bomb planted in a marketplace in Kandahar city detonated on Monday; no claim of responsibility has been reported. [BBC]
  • Bilateral Security Agreement Negotiations: Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Dobbins visited Kabul on Friday; at a press conference, he said that the U.S. is hoping to resume and conclude the bilateral security agreement talks before October or November, by which point candidates will have registered for the upcoming Afghan presidential elections. A spokesman for Pres. Karzai said that “the US is in a hurry to sign the agreement,” but that a “deadline is not important for us, what matters to us is that our demands must be accepted”.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Taliban Talks: In his remarks on Friday, Amb. Dobbins placed the onus on the Taliban to agree to meet with the US and the High Peace Council in order to restart the Doha peace process. Pakistani officials speaking to the Express Tribune voice concern that the Doha track is effectively dead, and say that during Sec. Kerry’s recent visit, proposals for relocating the meetings had been floated.
  • Election Preparations: 259 out of approximately 7,000 polling stations have been identified as being under “serious” security threat by the Ministry of Interior, located in Ghazni, Wardak, Zabul, Nuristan, Helmand, Kandahar, Logar, and Farah. On Sunday, the Independent Election Commission’s spokesman expressed “great concern” that candidates facing human rights violation allegations against them could contest the upcoming presidential elections, but said that the IEC itself lacks the power to disqualify them absent a conviction in the court system.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • More Than 20 Police, Dozens of Taliban Reported Killed in Nangarhar Battle [TOLO] [AJE]
  • From Classrooms to Suicide Bombs: Children’s Lives in Afghanistan [Guardian]
  • A Day’s Toil in the Suicide Bombers’ Graveyard [NYT]
  • Report: The Northern Alliance Prepares for Afghan Elections in 2014 – “The political calculus of most of these former Northern Alliance leaders looking ahead to 2014 remains firmly centered upon maintaining and advancing their influence within the constellation of Kabul’s ruling political class.” [Mara Tchalakov, Institute for the Study of War]
  • Commentary: John Kerry’s Message to Pakistan – “Secretary of State John Kerry had several important messages to deliver to Pakistani leaders this week in Islamabad, but one stood out in terms of its strategic significance: The U.S. is not leaving Afghanistan any time soon.” [Omar Samad, Daily Beast]
  • Commentary: Ghor, a Province With Three Governments – “Thousands of armed men led by criminals and “freelance” commanders, as well as a growing number of Taleban, roam Ghor’s districts.” [Obaid Ali, AAN]

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