Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Lyari Leader Zafar Baloch Killed; Former Senator Defects to Afghan Taliban

Topline

  • Zafar Baloch, a leader of the Lyari People’s Amn Committee, was killed in a drive-by shooting in Karachi on Wednesday. A former district governor and senator from Sar-e-Pul has defected to the Taliban, BBC reports. Prime Minister Sharif says plans for Mullah Baradar’s release have not yet been finalized. The PTI has won the NA-25 Dera Ismail Khan seat in a by-election contest against the JUI-F. The PML-N government is expect to make a 28% cut to the federal and provincial public sector development programs in order to reduce the fiscal deficit in line with the new agreement with the IMF.

Pakistan — Security

  • People’s Amn Committee Leader Killed: Zafar Baloch, the deputy leader of the Lyari-based People’s Amn Committee organization, was killed in a driveby shooting on Wednesday by unidentified gunmen. The PAC group, which was formally banned for alleged criminal activity, had clashed regularly with the MQM as well as with the PPP, with whom it had also been politically linked; speculation on Baloch’s killer has suggested gang rivalry, attacks by Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, or a political motivation. Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah condemned the killing, and local residents of Lyari expressed concerns about retaliatory violence or strikes. Separately on Wednesday evening, unidentified gunmen killed Saleem Nabi, a leader of the breakaway MQM-Haqiqi faction. On Thursday, the Supreme Court resumed hearings on law and order in Karachi, and is also scheduled to open an investigation into the March death of Orangi Pilot Project founder and social worker Perween Rehman. [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Counterterrorism Policy: Following Sunday’s attack on senior military officersand the TTP’s issuance of preconditions for talks, Information Minister Pervez Rashid told reporters on Wednesday that the government would continue efforts to open talks with the Pakistani Taliban, saying that “time is needed to improve the environment and we do not want to engage in war of words at this time. Patience should be shown.” The Express Tribune reports that the government is considering amendments to the 1997 Anti-Terrorism Act that will remove limitations on the use of deadly force in engagements with terror suspects, the definition of which will be expanded to included “target killers, extortionists, and kidnappers”. [The Nation]
  • Quetta Attack: A hand grenade attack in Quetta on Thursday wounded as many as seven people; the target of the attack is unclear, and no claim of responsibility has been reported. [ET]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • PTI Wins By-Election: Preliminary results indicate that PTI candidate Dawar Khan Kundi has won the NA-25 Dera Ismail Khan by-election, besting Maulana Asad Mahmood, the son of the JUI-F party leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman, who had originally won the seat in the May general elections but opted to serve from a different constituency. The PPP, PML-N, and ANP had all endorsed the PTI candidate. Separately, the Supreme Court has set a new deadline of September 23 for provincial governments to announce a schedule for local government elections. [Dawn] [APP]
  • Interior Ministry Audit Finds Free Spending: The Express Tribune, which does not elaborate on its sources, reports that the Interior Ministry under former minister Rehman Malik spent more than Rs 425 million from its “secret fund” during the past five years of the PPP government, which was used to pay for staff hotels and a farewell part for the minister. The fund is intended to only be used “to obtain or uncover sensitive information necessary to protect national security”.

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Development Spending: The government is expected to order a 28% total cut in the federal and provincial public sector development program budgets, from Rs 1.15 trillion to Rs 834 billion, in an effort to contain the fiscal deficit as part of new agreements with the IMF. A fiscal deficit target of 6.3% in the original June budget has been revised downward to 5.8% of GDP; the cuts are expected to contributed .5% of GDP in savings.
  • Energy Investments: Speaking at a conference in Islamabad on Wednesday, Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal said that electricity production had reached 16,000 megawatts, and that the government was continuing to focus on the energy sector’s recovery. Turkish rental power ships remain under detention in Karachi port after the Supreme Court cancelled their 2010 contracts; the Turkish subsidiary Karkey is seeking compensation through the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes. A planned Iranian-constructed oil refinery at Gwadar port is in limbo, the Express Tribune notes. [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Pakistan Protests Cross-Border Clashes with Afghanistan [ET]
  • Suspect in 2003 Musharraf Assassination Attempt Acquitted, But Refuses to Leave Jail [Dawn]
  • Harsh Words from Punjab University Vice Chancellor, But No Action Against IJT [ET]
  • Council of Islamic Ideology Recommends Death Penalty for False Blasphemy Accusations [ET]
  • ‘Complete Repatriation’ of Afghan Refugees Planned by 2015 [Dawn]
  • Sindh Government Proposes New Witness Protection Measures [Dawn]
  • Dengue Emergency Declared in Swat [AFP]
  • Government Censors Seek Help from Canadian Software Firm [Reuters]
  • Report: Parliament’s Role in Pakistan’s Democratic Transition – “The current legislature must resume the unfinished work of democratic reform if it is to fully restore parliamentary sovereignty and stabilise a volatile polity.” [ICG]
  • Commentary: Some Desi Electoral Data – “Simply put, no party can afford to ignore urban voters, regardless of which province they got their seats from.” [Umair Javed, Five Rupees]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Taliban Attacks and Recruits: Sixteen Afghan National Police officers were killed and more than twenty wounded in a Taliban ambush in northern Badakshan province on Wednesday, provincial officials report; around two dozen officers are reported to have been kidnapped after the attack. Separately, BBC reports that Qazi Abdul Hai, a former senator and district governor in Sar-e-Pul province, has defected to the Taliban, the highest-ranking government official known to have done so. The LA Times interviews would-be youth militants held at a juvenile detention center in Kabul. [Pajhwok]
  • Attacks on Press: The WSJ notes recurrent threats of violence and intimidation against Afghan journalists from government and security officials, with more than 60 cases reported so far this year; the piece focuses in particular on the experience of Nasratullah Iqbal, a journalist who was attacked by bodyguards for Parwan governor Abdul Basir Salangi after he criticized the governor. [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Baradar Release: Speaking to reporters in Turkey on Wednesday, Prime Minister Sharif said that the exact plan for Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar’s release had not been finalized, but that he would be released at some point this month. [The Nation]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Afghans Flock to Colleges, Even as Taliban Loom [AP]
  • MPs Call on Government to Uphold Human Rights [TOLO]
  • Ministry of Counternarcotics to Offer Provincial Incentive Projects for Curtailing Poppy Cultivation [TOLO]
  • Afghanistan’s Dancing Boys [IRIN]
  • Report: Randomized Impact Evaluation of Afghanistan’s National Solidarity Program – “The creation of CDCs by NSP has few durable impacts on the identity or affiliation of de facto village leaders, provision of local governance services to male villagers, or the role of representative bodies in local governance.” [World Bank]

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