Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: PML-N Picks Up Seats in Bye-Polls; Chinese Firm Seeks Review of Aynak Mining Contract

Topline

  • The PML-N makes modest gains in Thursday’s bye-elections, further padding its majority. Another Pakistani soldier was killed in cross-border fire in Kashmir on Thursday, and a civilian was wounded on Friday. Two aid workers kidnapped in Bamiyan province earlier this week have been freed by provincial security officials. At a sentencing hearing Thursday, Robert Bales offered apology but no explanation for the murder of sixteen Afghan civilians in Panjwai in March 2012. The Chinese firm operating the Aynak copper mine is seeking a review of its contract in order to escape obligations that it provide development assistance in the surrounding area. The Pakistani government has delayed a decision on privatizing Pakistan Steel Mills, in the face of protests from the opposition PPP.

Pakistan — Security

  • Another Soldier Killed at Kashmir Border: A second Pakistani soldier was killed in an exchange of artillery fire across the Line of Control on Thursday, Pakistani security officials reported yesterday. Each side accuses the other of opening fire first. Another Pakistani civilian was reportedly wounded on Friday. Pakistan summoned India’s ambassador to make a formal protest; the Foreign Ministry called upon India to “take steps to ensure that there are no more ceasefire violations or other provocations so that the cause of peace in the region is not undermined” and reiterated that “the government of Pakistan believes that the dialogue process must continue”. The Pakistani national assembly passed a resolution condemning the soldiers’ deaths. Despite the tensions, on Friday Pakistan released 337 Indian fishermen as part of a regular exchange of detainees held by each side for violating territorial waters. [ET] [ET]
  • Karachi Violence: Two people were killed and nine injured in a bombing near the Rangers Headquarters on Thursday evening; a second device was discovered and defused. Separately, Haji Abdul Razzak, a Baloch journalist missing since March 24, was found dead and with signs of torture in Karachi’s Surjani Town neighborhood. [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Peshawar Violence: A remote bombing struck a passing security convoy in Peshawar on Friday; no casualties were reported. Volunteer ‘peace committee’ militia members have reportedly increased patrols in the Peshawar suburbs in response to threats from militant groups.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Pakistan Steel Privatization: PPP opposition senators staged a protest walkout on Thursday over reported plans by the government to privatize Pakistan Steel Mills; the Economic Coordination Committee of the government met to review prospects for the mills on Thursday but delayed any decision.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Government Revives National Security Council [ET]
  • ‘Punjabi Taliban’ Commander Welcomes Dialogue Offer [AFP]
  • Contempt of Court Hearings Against Imran Khan to Resume August 28 [Dawn] [ET]
  • Zardari and Nawaz Meet, Discussing Capital Punishment and Border Tensions [Dawn] [APP]
  • Nawaz Sharif and Opposition Leader Khursheed Shah to Propose New Names for National Accountability Bureau Chief [The Nation]
  • Africa and Pakistan Face Polio Outbreaks, in Blow to Global Fight [NYT]
  • Ahmadi Family Forced Out of Gujranwala [NYT]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Aid Workers Freed: A Canadian woman and a Pakistani man working for the Agha Khan Development Network were freed in Bamiyan on Friday after being kidnapped on Tuesday, provincial police officials report. Four suspects were arrested after security forces conducted a raid to free them.
  • Bales Apologizes for Kandahar Massacre: Speaking at a sentencing hearing on Thursday, Staff Sgt Robert Bales said that his murder of sixteen Afghan civilians in Panjwai last March was “an act of cowardice” for which he is “truly, truly sorry”, which he acknowledged “isn’t good enough”. Bales’ apology, coming after two days of testimony from survivors and family members, came without an explanation; “I don’t know why”. [BBC] [AJE] [AP]

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Chinese Mining Firm Seeks Aynak Contract Review: China Metallurgical Group Corporation, which holds the mining contract for the stalled Aynak Copper Mine project in Logar province, has requested a “review” of its contract with the government, Minister of Mines Wahidullah Shahrani tells TOLO. The Chinese firm is reportedly seeking to escape obligations to provide local infrastructure development in the area and make $800 million in payments to the Afghan government.
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