Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Al Qaeda-Linked Lahore Ransom Hub Raided; VP Khalili Seeks Aid in New Dehli

Topline

  • Lahore police and intelligence services have arrested as many as thirteen people in a raid on an Al Qaeda-linked communications and ransom center. The Afghan foreign ministry says bilateral security agreement talks with the U.S. will be “accelerated”. A Pakistani army officer was killed in cross-border artillery exchanges in Kashmir on Tuesday evening. By-polls in the NA-25 Tank constituency have been suspended, with the Election Commission citing security concerns. Afghan Vice President Karim Khalili is in India for a three-day visit to discuss military and non-military aid. Pakistani finance officials say they have completed the last conditions for approval of an IMF loan agreement, as the State Bank has begun $100 million in open-market currency purchases to boost its reserves. The US Treasury department has blacklisted a Peshawar mosque linked to Al Qaeda and the Taliban. At least 118 people have died in rain and floods across Pakistan over the past week.

Pakistan — Security

  • Al Qaeda ‘Exchange’ Broken Up: Lahore elite police and intelligence officials arrested as many as thirteen suspects – at least four of them women – at an alleged Al Qaeda-linked ‘international technical hub’ used to coordinate telephone communications. The hub is reported to have been used to conduct ransom calls, including those for high-profile figures such as Ali Musa Gilani, Warren Weinstein, and Shahbaz Taseer. Dawn identifies it as being managed by the Dawood and Hassan Gul group. Separately, security officials tell the Express Tribune they arrested an operative linked to the Punjabi Taliban group who reported the group plans to kidnap Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif.
  • Officer Killed at Kashmir Border: A Pakistan army captain was killed in cross-border shelling at the Line of Control overnight on Tuesday, in what Pakistani officials again describe as “unprovoked” Indian artillery fire. Earlier on Tuesday, Pakistani government sources tell the Express Tribune that military and civilian officials had agreed not to respond to Indian allegations of repeated Pakistani violations of the Line of Control, and to exercise a “policy of restraint”. [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Peshawar Mosque Blacklisted: The U.S. Treasury Department has designated the Ganj madrassa in Peshawar as a “terrorist training center” supporting Al Qaeda and the Taliban, freezing any American assets and forbidding business interactions. It is the first time a madrassa school has been the target of American sanctions; the school is led by Fazeel-A-Tul Shaykh Abu Mohammed Ameen Al-Peshawari, aka Shaikh Aminullah, who has been designated as an Al Qaeda supporter since 2009. Anonymous school officials tell Dawn that Aminullah was “just a teacher” and had left the mosque eight months ago, and that sanctions are “unjustified and uncalled for”. [AFP]
  • Quetta Explosives Seized: Quetta Frontier Corps officials announced the discovery and seizure of more than 100 tons of explosives and bomb-making material at a warehouse in the New Addah neighborhood on Tuesday evening. Ten suspects have been arrested; their affiliation has not been disclosed, although police indicate that the material has been traced to recent bombings targeting Quetta’s Hazara community, most of which have been claimed by Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. [BBC]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • By-Polls: Citing security concerns, the Election Commission has suspended upcoming by-polls in the NA-25 Tank constituency, leading to strong protests from the JUI-F. Asmad Mehmood, son of JUI-F party leader Fazlur Rehman, had been contesting the seat. The ECP has also issued a ban on the use of cell phones inside polling booths. Imran Khan campaigned in Islamabad in support of the party’s candidate for the NA-48 seat there; in Peshawar, the PTI revoked the membership of Samad Mursaleen, who continued to contest the NA-1 seat there independently after being denied a party endorsement. [ET] [ET]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • IMF Loan: The State Bank of Pakistan has reportedly begun to purchase $100 million from the open market to build up its foreign exchange reserves, meeting a final key condition for a new IMF loan program, which Pakistani finance officials expect to be approved in September. State Bank reserves totaled $5.2 billion as of early August.
  • Polio Vaccinations: Medical officials have reported 14 new suspected polio cases in North Waziristan and the adjacent Bannu Frontier Region on Tuesday; 14 cases have previously been recorded this year in FATA. In Karachi, police arrested a man suspected of plotting to carry out an attack on polio vaccination teams.
  • Diamer Bhasha Dam: Finance Minister Dar told reporters on Tuesday that the World Bank and Asian Development Bank have agreed to help finance the construction of the $12 billion Diamer Bhasha dam project in Gilgit-Baltistan, after the Bank withdrew a requirement that Pakistan receive a no-objection certificate from India. Final agreements on financing have not been announced. [Dawn]
  • Monsoon Flooding: The death toll from rain and flooding across the country over the past week has reached 118, National Disaster Management Authority officials reported on Wednesday; as many as 30,000 homes have been damaged. [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Visiting Thai PM Vows to Double Trade with Pakistan to $2 Billion in Next Five Years [APP] [APP] [ET]
  • Court Upset Over Govt Decision to Privatize Lakhra Power Plant [Dawn]
  • Two Killed in Chaman Border Bombing [Dawn]
  • Two Killed, Four Bodies Recovered in Karachi [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • More Blame Traded in Islamabad Gunman Standoff [Dawn] [ET]
  • Report: Rethinking Pakistan’s Development Choices – “Pakistan must grow with more and better jobs, strive for inclusion and improve human capital, and enhance governance and accountability.” [World Bank]
  • Commentary: Getting Away With Murder – “It may well be that Bhutto’s assassination will be another unsolved case in the long history of impunity in Pakistan, and that the controversy surrounding her assassination will endure as much as her memory.” [Heraldo Munoz, Foreign Affairs]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Bilateral Security Talks: The Afghan Ministry of Affairs confirmed that national security advisor Rangin Dadfar Spanta and security transition chair Ashraf Ghani have been appointed to “accelerate” talks on the Bilateral Security Agreement with the United States. Those talks have not yet officially been announced to have resumed, but foreign ministry officials suggested they had “entered a new phase”.
  • Attacks on Journalists: Nai, an Afghan media group, reports that violence against journalists in Afghanistan has increased by 65% during the first seven months of 2013.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Khalili Visits India: Vice President Karim Khalili arrived in New Dehli on Tuesday for a three-day visit focused on Indian economic and military assistance to Afghanistan.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Suicide Bomber Kills Three in Logar [AP]
  • Bales Confronted by Massacre Victims at Sentencing Hearing [AP] [BBC]
  • Afghanistan and Pakistan Meet in Soccer Match [WSJ]
  • Commentary: The Race Heats Up: First Presidential Candidates Position Themselves – “Several political party councils and opposition alliances still struggle to find a joint front runner, while the incumbent appears not to have chosen his favoured successor either – although reports about his possible support for jihadi leader Sayyaf have created some ripples.” [Thomas Ruttig, AAN]

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