Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Karzai Suspends Top Police Special Operations Commanders; Waziristan Offensive Continues

Topline

  • Pres. Karzai has suspended three top Afghan police special forces commanders, the Guardian reports. The Pakistani military has continued military operations in North Waziristan, conducting air strikes and ground search operations. Local commander Hafiz Gul Bahadur has warned that he is reconsidering the 2007 peace agreement with the government in response; Dawn suggests the operations are targeting Uighur militant groups. Ahmad Zia Massoud and Sebghattulah Mojadedi have endorsed Ashraf Ghani; Amrullah Saleh and Jamil Karzai have endorsed Abdullah Abdullah. A Taliban offensive in Badakshan’s Yamgan district has killed a number of police officers and led to the kidnapping of at least 27. The Pakistan law ministry has deferred authority to PEMRA to rule on challenges against GEO TV; it will meet May 28. Responding to PTI protests, the Election Commission of Pakistan has attributed an extra 7,100 votes recorded in one Sargodha polling station last May to a typing error rather than fraud.


Pakistan — Security

  • North Waziristan Operations: Military officials claim to have killed as many as sixty militants in search operations, artillery and airstrikes in the Mir Ali area on Wednesday, during which five soldiers, including in army major, were killed. Airstrikes continued near Miram Shah on Thursday, which Dawn reports targeted the Uighur militant group the East Turkestan Islamic Movement; there were no confirmed casualty figures. A spokesman for the local Hafiz Gul Bahadur group said that his group was meeting to “reconsider” its 2007 non-agression treaty with the government in light of the attacks, citing civilian deaths in the operations; the TTP Mohmand chapter has also vowed to “avenge the blood of our tribal Muslim brothers”. [Reuters]


Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • GEO Under Fire: The law ministry responded to requests for comment from the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority on Wednesday, concluding that PEMRA holds the authority to decide the issue of challenges to GEO TV’s operating license related to charges of blasphemy and defaming the ISI. Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid said that his ministry “would not interfere” in PEMRA’s decision-making. The regulatory body will meet May 28 to consider a ruling after an interim order by some of its members to suspend the license was disavowed by the rest of the board. The BBC overviews the debate over GEO to date; many cable operators have already stopped carrying the channel. [Guardian] [Dawn]
  • Rigging Charges: Responding to PTI complaints, the Election Commission reviewed data from the NA-68 Sargodha constituency and concluded that 7,879 votes recorded in a single polling station for Nawaz Sharif had been the result of a typing error, not deliberate fraud. [ET] [The Nation]


Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • 3G/4G Licenses Awarded: Prime Minister Sharif officially awarded new operating licenses for 3G and 4G wireless service in a ceremony on Thursday, following their auction last April. Service is scheduled to begin Friday. [ET] [Dawn]
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Faces Budget Shortfall: Shortfalls in federal tax collections have reduced transfers to Khyber Paktunkhwa province below budget expectations, finance minister Sirajul Haq warned on Wednesday, producing a Rs 22 billion shortfall for the current fiscal year, which ends in June. [ET]


Pakistan — Remainders

  • Council on Islamic Ideology Endorses Underage Marriage [Dawn]
  • Foreign Office Says No Decision on Attending Modi Inauguration [Dawn] [ET]
  • Militant Group Forces School Closure in Panjgur and Turbat [Reuters] [Dawn]
  • PPP Considers Regional Structure Reorganization [The Nation]
  • Planning Commission Seeks Powers to Approve Projects Under Rs 10B [ET]
  • FBR Says No Plan to Raise Sales Tax [ET]
  • Government Begins Distribution of Polio Vaccination Certificates [ET] [ET]
  • Government Falls Short of Investment and Savings Targets [ET]
  • Pakistan Steel Receives Rs 4.2 Billion Tranche of Restructuring Bailout [ET]
  • Pakistan and China Sign Agreement on Lahore Metro Train [ET]
  • Commentary: Two States in a Nation – “As I was leaving Pakistan, my thoughts were on the warmth I had received, the many friendly people I had met but equally so on the intimidation I had faced from some quarters.” [Meena Menon, The Hindu]


Afghanistan — Security

  • Karzai Suspends Special Forces Commanders: The Guardian reports that Pres. Karzai suspended three special police force commanders in April, halting all special operations raids by police commandos around the country on the grounds that these were being carried at the direction of US and UK forces “to serve foreign rather than Afghan aims”. The three commanders, who have not been identified by name, headed the 333 Commando unit, the Crisis Response Unit, and the Director of Operations for the special forces. They face trial on a number of minor charges, and reportedly intend to appeal; the move against them reportedly comes over the opposition of Interior Minister Umer Daudzai.
  • Badakshan District Attacked: Officials in Badakshan’s Yamgan district report that at least 27 policemen have been abducted by Taliban militants, and that they are preparing an operation to retake control of the area. The deputy governor of the province tells the NYT that as many as 40 government and security officials had been trapped in the area as of Wednesday night, and accuses ISAF of failing to support the embattled forces there. ISAF officials say they did provide close air support and surveillance capabilities. [TOLO]


Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Election Run-Off: Ahmad Zia Massod, the former first vice president and opposition leader, who competed as a vice presidential candidate for Zalmay Rassoul, has endorsed Ashraf Ghani in the second round run-off; Rassoul earlier endorsed frontrunner Abdullah Abdullah. Ghani also won the backing of former president Sebghatullah Mojadedi. Abdullah in turn won the endorsements of former National Directorate of Security leader Amrullah Saleh, and Jamil Karzai, a cousin to the president and businessman. Ghani has challenged Abdullah to a “religious debate” after derogatory comments regarding his faith on Afghan social media; Abdullah dismissed the offer. On Wednesday, Afghan security officials met to review preparations for the upcoming run-off, during which they accused Pakistan of conducting cross-border missile attacks and support for Taliban disruption of the polls. In Helmand, officials say they plan to open 80 additional polling centers. [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [TOLO]


Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Afghan Lawmakers Condemn Iran Over Refugee Recruiting Reports [WSJ]
  • Officials Fail to Register Assets for Anti-Corruption Efforts [TOLO]
  • Commentary: How Disenchantment with General Dostum Split the Uzbek Vote Bank – “The Jombesh party that has dominated the provinces of northern Afghanistan with strong Uzbek and Turkmen populations for more than two decades has fared much less successfully than expected in this year’s elections.” [Obaid Ali and Thomas Ruttig, AAN]
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