Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Pakistani Prisoners Freed from Bagram; Iran Recruiting Afghan Refugees for Syria

Topline

  • The U.S. has released ten Pakistani nationals previously held at Bagram detention facility, but their lawyers say their whereabouts are now unknown after being transferred to Pakistani custody. GEO TV is facing fresh allegations of blasphemy, compounding the pending charges against it for accusing the ISI of involvement in last month’s attack on anchor Hamid Mir. Iran is recruiting Afghan refugees to serve in militia forces supporting the Syrian regime, the WSJ reports. Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah say they are ready for a run-off election, scheduled for June 14. A correspondent for Wakht News has been detained by the NDS on charges of aiding the Taliban. Another polio case has been recorded in Pakistan, in Jacobabad, Sindh.


Pakistan — Security

  • Bagram Detainees Released: The United States has freed ten Pakistani nationals previously held at the Bagram detention facility, their lawyers said Thursday, some of whom had been held for as many as ten years without charge. Their current whereabouts in Pakistan are unknown, their lawyers report, although they are believed to be in Pakistan custody. Foreign ministry officials say approximately 20 Pakistanis are still under detention in Bagram. [Reuters]
  • Rawalpindi Bombing: A bomb planted on a motorcycle exploded outside a restaurant in Rawalpindi on Thursday evening, wounding as many as sixteen people; there has been no claim of responsibility, although police suggest the attack was linked to extortion demands.


Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • GEO Faces Further Charges: The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority session that was scheduled to review the defense ministry’s petition seeking a revocation of GEO TV’s broadcasting license has been indefinitely delayed, pending further input from the law ministry. On Thursday, GEO came under fresh attack over allegations that it had broadcast ‘blasphemous programming’ on a morning show the day prior, during which the hosts “carried out untoward activities” during the course of a hymnal reading. The Sunni Ittehad Council has issued a fatwa against GEO, which has also come under criticism from the ASWJ’s Maulana Ahmed Ludhianvi. Another PEMRA complaint has been filed. [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • PTI Protests: PTI party activists protesting outside the Election Commission of Pakistan against alleged rigging during last year’s general election clashed violently with police on Friday. Speaking to reporters on Thursday, the Jamaat-e-Islami’s new leader Sirajul Haq said that the JI would not join its coalition partner in protests. [ET]


Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Budget Planning: The National Accounts Committee has provisionally estimated the GDP growth for 2013-14 at 4.1%, higher than IMF estimates but below the target set at 4.4%. Actual spending figures are likely to bring the growth down to at most 3.9%. Next year’s draft budget sets a growth target of 5.1%, the Express Tribune reports, with the goal of reaching growth of 7.2% by fiscal year 2016-17. [The Nation]
  • Polio Crisis: Another polio case, the 63rd reported this year, was identified in the Jacobabad district in Sindh on Thursday. As noted yesterday, Prime Minister Sharif has ordered mandatory vaccination for all children traveling outside the FATA in a bid to curtail the disease’s spread. [ET] [Dawn]


Pakistan — Remainders

  • Prime Minister Makes Rare National Assembly Appearance [Dawn]
  • Seven Wounded in Bannu Bombing [Dawn]
  • Threats Close Private Schools in Panjgur [Dawn]
  • Government Seeks to Tap Flare Gas to Boost Supply [ET]
  • FDI Falls 12.9% to $750.9M in First 10 Months of Fiscal Year [ET]
  • Moderate Earthquake Hits Balochistan [Dawn]
  • Commentary: How Islamic is Pakistan’s Constitution? – “Whatever its complex history, the institutionalization of Shari’a can today provide a stabilizing normative source for Pakistan.” [Corri Zoli and Emily Schneider, South Asia Channel]


Afghanistan — Security

  • Iran Reportedly Recruiting Afghan Refugees for Syria: The WSJ, quoting Iranian officials who confirmed the accounts, reports that Iran is recruiting “thousands” of Afghan refugees to serve as militias in Syria in support of the Assad regime, offering them $500 a month and Iranian residency in return. There are roughly a million registered Afghan refugees in Iran, and as many as two million unregistered migrants, most serving as illegal day laborers.
  • Journalist Detained for Supporting Taliban: Syed Rahman Bekore, a correspondent for Wakht News in Kunar, has been detained by the National Directorate of Security since April 27, on charges of “collaborating with enemy countries and terrorists” and couriering money from an unspecified “neighboring country” to the Taliban. Bekore’s colleagues dispute those charges; the NDS say he will be charged on May 17, although he has not had access to a lawyer.


Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Run-Off Preparations: Both Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah accepted the final results of the April 5 vote, announced yesterday, and vowed to carry on with their campaigns; observer groups welcomed the announcements, and called for efforts to ensure the second round would be free of fraud. Independent Election Commission officials say they are prepared to fire as many as 3,000 election staff implicated in fraud during the first round. Abdullah struck a triumphant note, suggesting that his 13.4% lead over Ghani meant that “the story is over”. The run-off has been scheduled for June 14, with final results to be announced by July 22; security officials say they are prepared to support the second round. [WSJ] [WAPO] [AP] [Guardian]


Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Russia to Transfer Helicopters Purchased in 2013 by October [Khaama Press]
  • Afghanistan Accuses Pakistan of Violating Trilateral Agreement [Khaama Press]
  • Commentary: Final Results’ Timeline Trumps Transparency – “The current high levels of lacking transparency by both commissions, if continued, may well undermine the legitimacy of the next round and  complicate the acceptance of a final result with only one winner.” [Martine van Bijlert, AAN]
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