Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Human Rights Commission Lawyer Killed in Multan; Taliban Announce Spring Offensive

Topline

  • Rashid Rehman, a Pakistani lawyer and Human Rights Commission member who had defended clients accused of blasphemy, was killed by gunmen in his Multan offices on Wednesday. A roadside bombing in North Waziristan on Thursday killed as many as a dozen Frontier Corps soldiers. The Afghan Taliban officially announced that their annual spring offensive would begin May 12. Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission suggested that a runoff election would not be held by May 28, as would be required by the constitution, but have not yet announced a date. The PTI has yet to receive permission from local authorities to hold its planned protest rally in Islamabad this coming Sunday. The FBI agent detained on weapons charges in Karachi has reportedly been granted bail. Pakistan will seek a 15-day delay in the implementation of WHO-recommended travel restrictions on Pakistani nationals lacking proof of polio vaccination.


Pakistan — Security

  • Human Rights Lawyer Killed: Rashid Rehman, a lawyer and coordinator for the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, was killed by two gunmen inside his Multan offices on Wednesday. Rehman had recently taken up the defense of Junaid Hafeez, a professor at Bahauddin Zakariya University who had recently been accused of blasphemy by the Jamaat-e-Islami’s student wing.  Rehman had been threatened in open court for taking the case, and pamphlets distributed in Multan after his killing warned “all lawyers to be afraid of god and think twice before engaging in such acts,” although there was no direct claim of responsibility reported. The Multan district bar association announced a strike to protest Rehman’s killing. [BBC] [ET]
  • Soldiers Killed in North Waziristan: As many as a dozen Frontier Corps soldiers were killed in a roadside bombing in Miram Shah, North Waziristan on Thursday; no claim of responsibility has been reported. The military launched a search operation in the area afterwards, with helicopter gunship strikes reported; no casualties from those strikes have been reported. [NYT] [Reuters] [BBC]
  • More TTP Infighting: Another five militants were reportedly killed in the second consecutive day of clashes between rival Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan groups in North Waziristan on Wednesday. [Dawn]
  • FBI Agent Granted Bail: Dawn reports that the American FBI agent detained at the Karachi airport after ammunition was discovered in a travel bag — identified as Joel Cox of the FBI Miami Field Office — has been granted a Rs 1 million bail; as of this writing he has yet to be physically released. [AJE]


Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • PTI Protests: The PTI has yet to receive approval to hold its planned protests in Islamabad this Sunday to mark the one-year anniversary of last year’s general elections; the Express Tribune reports that an initial application to hold the rally was rejected. PTI vice president Javed Hashmi told reporters that the party was not seeking early elections but rather wanted to “exercise our constitutional right to protest against rigging”. On Thursday, the Supreme Court ordered the Election Commission to respond within 15 days to a PTI petition alleging rigging in the last election. In parliament, Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique instead proposed the establishment of a joint parliamentary fact-finding committee. [Dawn] [ET]


Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • WHO Travel Restrictions: Following a meeting of federal and provincial health officials in Islamabad on Thursday, the Pakistani government appealed to the WHO to grant a 15-day extension before imposing vaccination requirements on Pakistani nationals travelling internationally. Minister of National Health Services Saira Afzal Tarar told reporters that plans for issuing vaccination certificates would be finalized by that time. [Dawn] [ET]


Pakistan — Remainders

  • Fazlur Rehman Offered Federal Minister Status [ET]
  • PEMRA to Resume Hearing on GEO Case on May 14 [ET]
  • Four Injured in Peshawar Bombing [Dawn]
  • Finance Minister Dar Takes Part in IMF Review Talks [ET]
  • Special Treason Court Orders Investigators to Share Evidence with Musharraf Lawyers [ET]
  • Circular Debts Mount Within Power Sector [ET] [ET]
  • Textile Industry Seeks Bailout [ET]
  • Commentary: Pakistani Taliban Push Into Punjab – “For the elected government, relinquishing control over the strategic land corridor linking South Waziristan to South Punjab could set a dangerous precedent.” [Fahd Humayun, South Asia Channel]


Afghanistan — Security

  • Taliban Announce Spring Offensive: In a statement released on Thursday, the Taliban announced the official start of their annual spring offensive, beginning May 12. The group said it would target government officials, military and civilian contractors, and international military personnel, reiterating demands for the “unconditional withdrawal of all invading forces”. On Wednesday, security officials in Kandahar said they had arrested six would-be suicide bombers. [Guardian]


Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Runoff Delays: Citing the destruction of materials during pre-election attacks on the Independent Election Commission’s headquarters, IEC chief Ahmad Yousuf Nuristani suggested that a run-off election between Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani would likely be delayed from May 28, two weeks after the announcement of final results, as required by the constitution. IEC officials had previously suggested that the run-off vote could be held in June, although Nuristani did not specify a date. [TOLO] [TOLO]


Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Parliamentarians Strike Over Corruption Investigation Against Kabul Mayor [TOLO]
  • State Department Approves More Visas for Afghan Interpreters [WAPO]
  • Disaster Relief Efforts Continue in Abi Barak [TOLO]
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