Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Large Earthquake Hits Balochistan; Abdullah Reportedly Forms Afghan Presidential Ticket

Topline

  • A large earthquake has struck western Balochistan, killing at least 260 people and destroying hundreds of homes in outlying rural districts. A Pakistani Taliban spokesman has denied involvement in Sunday’s bombing of the All Saint’s Church in Peshawar. Abdullah Abdullah is reportedly planning on leading a presidential ticket accompanied by Hazara leader Mohamad Mohaqiq and Hezb-e-Islami leader Abdul Hadi Arghandiwal as vice presidential candidates. Indian Prime Minister Singh has confirmed he will meet with Nawaz Sharif on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

Pakistan — Security

  • Taliban Deny Involvement in Peshawar Church Bombing: Speaking to AFP, Pakistani Taliban spokesman Shahidullah Shahid denied any involvement in Sunday’s attack on All Saint’s Church in Peshawar, saying it was “an attempt to sabotage the atmosphere of the proposed peace talks.” Maulana Fazlur Rehman of the JUI-F echoed the claim, and called for a judicial probe.
  • Dam Attacked: Three employees working at the Gandau dam in the Mohmand tribal agency were killed when unidentified militants attacked the facility; at least seven were injured, and the facility was reportedly damaged.
  • Border Clashes: Pakistan’s foreign ministry has formally protested Tuesday’s reporter cross-border mortar attack from Afghanistan into North Waziristan, which officials say two civilians.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Singh Confirms Sharif Meeting: In a statement before departing for the UN General Assembly in New York on Wednesday, Indian Prime Minister Singh confirmed that he would hold a separate bilateral meeting with Nawaz Sharif.
  • Anti-Drone Campaign Lawyer Blocked from US Visit: Shahzad Akbar, a lawyer affiliated with the British anti-drone campaign organization Reprieve, tells the Guardian that his visa to visit the US for a special Congressional hearing next week to hear testimony from the survivors of an alleged CIA drone strike had been delayed. Akbar’s clients, who will testify, have been cleared to visit; he alleges interference by the State Department and CIA.

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Earthquake Hits Balochistan: A 7.7-magnitude earthquake in western Balochistan on Tuesday afternoon destroyed hundreds of homes in the remote and sparsely-populated Khuzdar and Awaran districts; military personnel have been dispatched to conduct disaster relief, and casualty reports on the second day of relief operations have jumped to more than 260 deaths. The uplift is reported to have created a small island formation off the cost of Gwadar port, approximately 100 feet wide and 40 feet above sea level. [NYT] [WSJ] [Reuters] [AP] [BBC] [ET]
  • Microfinance and Microfunding: The Express Tribune reports on Prime Minister Sharif’s newly-announced initiative to provide Rs 100 billion in small business loans to 100,000 borrowers this year, coming amid tight domestic credit market opportunities. Separately on Tuesday, the government released the first installment for the fiscal year of Rs 18.5 billion for the Benazir Income Support Program cash transfer program.
  • Polio Cases: Ten new cases of polio were reported in North Waziristan on Tuesday, bringing the number of confirmed cases in the agency to 25; 82% of reported cases are children under the age of one. Local commander Hafiz Gul Bahadur imposed a ban on local vaccinations in June 2012. In Rawalpindi, National Institute of Health researchers have reported finding polio strains in city sewer waters for the third time in the last three months.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Enforced Disappearances in Balochistan: An Unending Trend [Reuters]
  • Supreme Court ‘Dismayed’ Over Local Government Election Delays [Dawn]
  • British Home Secretary and Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Commit to Counterterrorism, Counternarcotics Cooperation [ET]
  • Rangers Assume Control of Five Karachi Police Stations [Dawn]
  • US Agrees to $23.5 Million in Additional Program Assistance [ET]
  • PTI Lawmakers Call for Review of Blasphemy Law [Dawn] [ET]
  • Former PPP Assembly Member Sentenced in Fake Degree Case [ET]
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Government Seeks to Block Use of Afghan SIM Cards [ET]
  • Commentary: How It Went Wrong for Nawaz Sharif – “Mr Sharif has stumbled badly, incurring widespread public anger as terrorism intensifies, the economy worsens and his government appears unable even to fill dozens of critically needed appointments such as senior bureaucratic positions, public corporation chiefs or ambassadors for key posts such as Washington and London.” [Ahmed Rashid, BBC]
  • Commentary: From Peace to Carnage – “This was not the first act of violence against Christians in Pakistan.  And unless the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif takes resolute action, it will not be the last.” [Knox Thames, AfPak Channel]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Election Preparations: The WSJ interviews Mohammed Mohaqiq after his announcement yesterday of his intention to step down from parliament and run for office in the upcoming presidential elections; Mohaqiq refused to confirm reports that he would join a ticket headed by Abdullah Abdullah; Hezb-e-Islami leader and economic minister Abdul Hadi Arghandiwal is rumored to be the other vice presidential member of the ticket, but also declined to confirm that his candidacy had been finalized. TOLO reports that Junbesh-e-Milli, led by Abdul Rasheed Dostum, has objected to the Abdullah candidacy under the “Afghanistan Electoral Alliance” banner. Independent Election Commission officials have warned that no candidacies have yet been filed for the provincial council elections in Nuristan or Zabul; the deadline for both presidential and provincial council candidacies is October 6. [TOLO]
  • High Peace Council Hosts Islamic Scholars Conference: On Tuesday, the High Peace Council hosted a conference of international Islamic scholars, who issued calls on the Taliban to cease their use of suicide attacks and halt violence against their fellow Muslims. Speaking at the conference, veteran jihadi leader Abdul Rasool Sayyaf blamed “foreign entities” for the violence.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Anonymous Intelligence Officials Accuse Government Officials of Smuggling Armored Vehicles [TOLO]
  • Pentagon IDs Green Berets Killed in Weekend Paktia Insider Attack [Army Times]
  • Afghan Chamber of Commerce Delegation to Visit Pakistan [TOLO]
  • Interview: Ismail Khan – “The Afghans have to take their fate into their own hands. A forced friendship cannot last.” [Der Spiegel]
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