Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: PEMRA Regulators Divided on GEO Ban; Sultanzoy Endorses Ghani in Second Round

Topline

  • A group of PEMRA media regulators issued an order revoking three GEO channel operating licenses on Tuesday, but government officials on the PEMRA board subsequently disavowed that order, saying it was made without a proper quorum. Former presidential candidate Daoud Sultanzoy has endorsed Ashraf Ghani in the second round run-off. The Pakistani military carried out airstrikes in North Waziristan on Wednesday, killing 32 alleged militants. The Election Commission of Pakistan has agreed to investigate PTI charges of rigging in the NA-68 Sargodha constituency, which was won by Prime Minister Sharif last May.


Pakistan — Security

  • Military Strikes in North Waziristan: The Pakistani military announced on Wednesday that it had carried out air strikes on suspected terrorist hide-outs in North Waziristan, killing 32 militants, “including some important commanders”. No information on their identities has been reported, although local residents claim that at least ten civilians were among the dead. The strikes following a meeting between Prime Minister Sharif and Chief of Army Staff Sharif on Tuesday, although reports suggest that those talks were primarily focused on the COAS’ visit to Afghanistan on Monday. The Express Tribune notes Defense Minister Khawaja Asif’s absence from that meeting. [Dawn]
  • Karachi Violence: Five people were injured in a bombing near the Rangers headquarters in Karachi on Wednesday; no claim of responsibility has been reported. Eleven people, including two Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat supporters, were killed in separate shooting incidents overnight on Tuesday.


Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Divisions in PEMRA: A group of three Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority board members met on Tuesday and announced that they had suspended the operating licenses of three GEO TV channels until a future review session on May 28. However, a subsequent statement issued by PEMRA – which is operating without a chairman – disavowed that order, saying that the meeting had been held without a proper quorum and that a previous PEMRA ruling delaying action pending further response from the Law Ministry still stood. Government members of the PEMRA board did not attend the earlier session. [Guardian] [BBC] [Reuters] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Election Rigging Investigations: The Election Commission accepted petitions from the PTI to investigate charges of election rigging in NA-68 Sargodha, one of the seats won by Prime Minister Sharif in the 2013 general elections; the PTI claims that a number of polling stations recorded over 100% of registered voters on election day. [ET] [ET]


Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Budget Planning: Finance Minister Dar and Finance Secretary Waqar Masood presented the government’s medium-term budget framework and preliminary figures for the 2014-15 budget in a meeting with the senate and National Assembly committees on finance, drawing complaints from opposition committee members about a lack of consultation in preparing the budget. The draft budget reportedly sets a tax target of Rs 2.8 trillion, a fiscal deficit of 4.8% of GDP, and a 10% increase in defense spending.
  • Pakistan State Oil in Liquidity Crunch: Pakistan State Oil has halted fuel supplies to Pakistan International Airlines over Rs 7 billion in unpaid dues. PSO itself is owed Rs 159 billion from the power sector, prompting it to warn of fuel shortages based on an inability to pay its own suppliers effective May 24, absent the release of additional funds from the government.


Pakistan — Remainders

  • National Accountability Bureau Reserves Judgement in Cases Against Zardari Until May 28 [ET]
  • JUI-F Senator Blames ‘ISI within ISI’ for Balochistan Missing Persons [Dawn]
  • Confusion Reigns After Polio Guidelines [AFP]
  • Prime Minister Sharif Invited to Modi Inauguration [BBC]
  • Pakistan Inducts New F-16s [Dawn]
  • Center to Release Rs 3.4 Billion to Provinces Under NFC [ET]
  • Three Karachi Deputy Attorney Generals Submit Resignations [Dawn]
  • Sindh High Court Hears Petition on Musharraf Travel Restrictions [Dawn] [ET]
  • Commentary: Pakistan’s Tyranny of Blasphemy – “A blasphemy charge, once taken up by a religious activist, can legitimate myriad other interests, from petty personal needs to large political plans, and create an exhilarating free-for-all atmosphere.” [Ali Sethi, NYT]
  • Commentary: Who’s Killing Pakistan’s Shia and Why? – “The anti-sectarian groups, with their Punjab base, and their track record of successfully hitting high value military and civilian targets and even infiltrating the military, may well be a bigger concern to Washington than they are to either the civilian government in Islamabad or the army headquartered in Rawalpindi.” [Christine Fair, War on the Rocks]
  • Commentary: The War on ‘Vulgar, Western Eduction’ in Balochistan – “The Balochistan public education scenario reflects a grim picture and the future outlook, worryingly, remains equally bleak.” [Hina Baloch, Dawn]


Afghanistan — Security

  • Attacks: Nine Afghan National Army soldiers were killed in IED bombings on Tuesday, defense ministry officials reported, although they did not provide specific information on the incident. In Zabul, sixteen policemen who were taken captive by Taliban forces were found dead on Wednesday, eight of whom had been beheaded. Fifteen people were injured in a bombing at a shop in Faryab’s Pashtoon Kot district on Wednesday.


Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Sultanzoy Endorses Ghani: Daoud Sultanzoy, a presidential candidate in the first round who received roughly 0.5% of the vote, announced his endorsement of runner-up Ashraf Ghani on Wednesday. Both Ghani and frontrunner Abdullah Abdullah are preparing for second round campaigns, pledging to reach out to the village level. Both campaigns have called for reforms of the Independent Election Commission and Electoral Complaints Commission, and for more efforts to crack down on fraud that each alleges benefited the other. [TOLO] [TOLO]


Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Iran Rejects Reports of Afghan Refugee Recruitment for Syria [Khaama Press]
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