Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: US Withdraws Lahore Consulate Staff; Karzai Says Taliban Talks Should Take Place in Afghanistan

Topline

  • Pakistan remains on high alert as ten people are killed in a shooting outside a mosque on Quetta on Friday, and a would-be suicide bomber is killed in Islamabad. Non-essential U.S. consular officials in Lahore were withdrawn in response to “specific threats”, the State Department announced Friday. Prime Minister Sharif has ordered the completion of the government’s draft counterterrorism policy by August 13. In his Eid address, Pres. Karzai suggests that the Taliban cannot freely negotiate peace from abroad, and that talks should be moved to Afghanistan where they can act “like any other political party”. There are multiple profiles of SIGAR head John Sopko today, as well as reports of a new investigations of bribes and logistics contract fraud on the part of Hikmatullah Shadman, an Afghan national.

Pakistan — Security

  • Quetta Attacks Continue Amid Terror Alert: The death toll from yesterday’s bombing at a police funeral service at a Quetta mosque yesterday has increased to 38 people; on Friday, ten people were killed when gunmen opened fire as people were leaving an Eid prayer service. Ali Madad Jattak, a former PPP provincial minister, was inside during the attack and may have been the intended target; no claim of responsibility has been reported. Prime Minister Sharif met with Interior Ministry officials after the Thursday attack to review the security situation in the country, and vowed to handle terrorists “with an iron fist”. Interior Ministry Chaudhr Nisar Ali Khan will visit Balochistan, and has been ordered to finalize the government’s draft counterterrorism policy by August 13. Security forces in Islamabad and Rawalpindi are on high alert during the Eid holidays; on Friday, a would-be suicide bomber was killed as he attempted to enter an Islamabad mosque in the Bara Kahu neighboord. [ET] [BBC]
  • US Pulls Lahore Diplomats: State Department officials ordered the indefinite evacuation of non-emergency U.S. personnel at the Lahore consulate on Friday, citing “specific threats” that were not linked to the broader closure of U.S. embassies in the Middle East and Africa. Staff have been moved to the embassy in Islamabad. Consulates in other parts of the country were closed for Eid holidays but are scheduled to reopen Monday. [CNN] [Reuters] [BBC]
  • Kashmir Tensions: Prime Minister Sharif chaired a meeting of senior civilian officials on Thursday, releasing a statement afterwards that the “leaderships of both India and Pakistan have a responsibility to make sure the situation does not worsen further”, saying that ““Pakistan will persist in its efforts to improve relations with India through constructive dialogue on all issues”. [Dawn] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • PTI Divisions Threaten Overseas Donations: The News reports that Nasrullah Khan, a leading PTI donor coordinator in Texas, has threatened to cut support for the party over disputes with central leadership and the party’s failure to conduct an audit of its use of overseas donations. PTI officials deny the dispute and insist an annual audit procedure is underway.
  • National Assembly Committees: The government is expected to announce names for committee chairmanships in the national assembly beginning Monday. Opposition parties will collectively chair a dozen committees, and the PML-N eighteen; the PPP is expected to be offered the Public Accounts oversight committee.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Cabinet Authorizes Finance Ministry to Implement Economic Coordination Committee Decisions Without Direct Cabinet Approval [ET]
  • Senior Journalists Criticize Government Report on Secret Media Fund [ET]
  • Applications Received for PIA Managing Director [Dawn]
  • Commentary: Pakistan’s Political Picture – “Approximately three months out from the elections, with the annual summer and Ramazan- induced political lull approaching an end, the limits of the Sharif government’s mandate are beginning to show, as opposition parties have begun to find their footing.” [Colin Cookman, Pragati]
  • Commentary: A New Drone Deal for Pakistan – “The most likely explanation is that the secretary of state’s words reflect another round in a complicated negotiation over the drone campaign — not between Washington and Islamabad, but between the State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency.” [Dan Markey, Foreign Affairs]
  • Commentary: Pakistan’s Number One Threat – “Almost 12 years after it joined the rest of the world in fighting terrorism, Pakistan still remains uncomfortable with the idea of confronting the terrorists.” [Farahnaz Ispahani, AfPak Channel]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Karzai Calls for Ceasefires: In his Eid address, released Thursday, Pres. Karzai reiterated calls for the Taliban to lay down their weapons and enter into peace talks. Karzai called on the Taliban to “leave the homes of others,” suggesting that they could not freely negotiate unless talks were held in Afghanistan. Referring to diplomatic clashes over the Taliban’s usage of the title ‘Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’ and raising of a flag at the abortive Doha office opened in May, Karzai said that “your symbols were raised by others and brought down by others” and that “if you negotiate in Afghanistan, you will have an office in your own country like any other political party.”

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Aid Oversight: Both the NYT and Post profile John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction, who has led multiple critical investigations of U.S. military and civilian assistance projects in Afghanistan during his past year on the job, often clashing with administration officials who dispute his assessments but winning publicity and attention in Congress. Separately, the WSJ reports that SIGAR has opened a criminal probe into the activities of Hikmatullah Shadman, who allegedly bribed two foreign contractors in order to secure a logistics contract in southern Afghanistan, defrauding the government of more than $7 million. Shadman’s Afghan bank accounts, holding $77 million, were frozen by the Afghan attorney general at US request in January, but then reopened without explanation, allowing the transfer of funds abroad; the Justice Department froze $63 million of those funds in New York-based banks in an action in May.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • World Bank Approves $50 Million Grant to Afghanistan [TOLO]
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