Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Abdullah Escapes Injury in Kabul Attack; GEO TV Receives Short-Term Punishment

Topline

  • Afghan presidential front-runner Abdullah Abdullah escaped injury when a double bombing struck a campaign convoy in Kabul on Friday; four people, including one bodyguard, were killed. The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority has suspended GEO TV’s operating license for a 15-day period and imposed a Rs 10 million fine; GEO has announced that it will sue PEMRA, the defense ministry, and the ISI for defamation. Pakistani diplomatic officials were granted access to MQM leader Altaf Hussain at the hospital where he was being held on Thursday; he is expected to be released for further questioning today. ISAF Commander Gen. Joseph Dunford has been nominated to become the next Marine Corps Commandant; no successor has yet been named. The Pakistani government is considering scrapping procurement rules that would require it to engage in transparent contract tenders in order to negotiate directly with Chinese and Middle Eastern firms.


Pakistan — Security

  • Rawalpindi Attack: Despite the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan’s responsibility for Wednesday’s suicide bombing in Rawalpindi, which killed two Pakistani army colonels, a member of the TTP’s intermediary negotiating committee, JUI-S spokesman Maulana Yousaf Shah, claimed that “the TTP has always been ready to resolve all issues with the government through a peaceful manner but it had suspended negotiations over the last two months”. Police have been unable to identify the bomber, suggesting that he “seems to be from a Central Asian state”.
  • TTP Infighting: At least seven militants were killed in fighting between the Khan Saeed Sajna (aka Khalid Mehsud) group and the Shehryar Mehsud group on Friday west of Miram Shah. [ET]
  • Karachi Bombing: Police report that at least one person was killed and four wounded when a bomb exploded near a mosque in Karachi’s Orangi Town neighborhood on Thursday. The Sunni sectarian group Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat had claimed that two of its members were killed and five injured in the bombing. [Dawn]


Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • GEO License Suspended: The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority met on Friday and suspended the operating license for GEO TV for a 15-day period, and also imposed a Rs 10 million fine, in response to complaints previously filed by the defense ministry. In the event of “repeated violations”, PEMRA indicated it would consider revoking GEO’s license entirely, as had been sought by military officials. GEO, in turn, has announced that it will sue the defense ministry, the ISI, and PEMRA for “defaming and maligning” the group. [AP] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Altaf Hussain Granted Consular Services: The acting Pakistani ambassador in London, Imran Mirza, was granted access to MQM leader Altaf Hussain at the hospital where he is being held for treatment, following his arrest on June 3. He is expected to be discharged today and will remain in custody for questioning afterwards. Federal Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid claimed that Hussain was issued a renewed passport and a National Identity Card for Overseas Pakistanis during this meeting, which he had applied for last month, but this was later amended in statements indicating that the documents would be issued at an unspecified future date. MQM party officials have indicated that they will continue sit-in protests in Karachi and Hyderabad until Hussain is free. [Dawn]
  •  ‘Honor Killing’ Fatwa: The Pakistan Ulema Council issued a ruling on Thursday condemning the practice of “honor killings,” saying that the practice was un-Islamic and without justification.


Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Government Considering Scrapping Procurement Rules: Dawn reports that the government is considering amending the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority ordinance of 2002 to grant it blanket powers to award contracts without the need for a transparent bidding process, in an apparent bid to allow direct negotiations with Chinese and Middle Eastern firms whose investment the government is seeking.


Pakistan — Remainders

  • Thirty Killed in Dera Bugti Operations [Dawn] [ET]
  • Larger Supreme Court Bench Sought for Missing Persons Cases [Dawn]
  • Election Commission Seeks Legislation to Enhance Powers to Punish Fraud [ET] [Dawn]
  • Planning Ministry Approves Land Purchases for Pakistan-China Economic Corridor Road Projects [ET]
  • Government Planning to Fix LPG Prices [ET]
  • Prime Minister Approves Health Insurance Program for Underpriveleged [APP] [ET]
  • Arguments Continue in Musharraf Treason Case [ET]
  • Sharif and Modi Exchange Gifts [AFP]


Afghanistan — Security

  • Bomb Targets Abdullah in Kabul: A double bombing in Kabul struck the convoy of presidential run-off frontrunner Abdullah Abdullah as he was traveling between campaign events in the city on Friday. Police sources suggest that one of the blasts may have been carried out by a suicide bomber and the second by a planted explosive. At least four people were killed, and as many as seventeen injured, including an Abdullah bodyguard; Abdullah was accompanied by former candidate Zalmay Rassoul at the time of the attack, and both were unhurt. Abdullah spoke afterwards at a campaign event in the Intercontinental Hotel, where he received the endorsement of the Hezb-e Wahdat-e Milli party; in a televised address, he said that “those who are killing the innocent people of Afghanistan, those who fire rockets, spread violence, carry blasts and suicide bombings are our enemies”. There has been no claim of responsibility reported for the attack, the most direct on any presidential candidate so far; under Afghan electoral law, if any presidential candidate is killed during the campaign period, the entire process must be conducted again from the start, although the law is vague on if this applies to a second round vote. Abdullah’s rival Ashraf Ghani and Pres. Karzai both issued statements condemning the attack. [BBC] [AFP] [AJE]
  • Dunford Nominated to Lead Marines: ISAF commander Gen. Joseph Dunford was formally nominated on Thursday to succeed retiring Marines Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos. Dunford had previously served as deputy commandant between October 2010 and December 2012, immediately prior to taking command of ISAF in February 2013. A schedule for his confirmation, and his replacement as ISAF commander, have not yet been announced.
  • Bergdahl Backlash: Speaking at a news conference in Brussels, Pres. Obama said that he would make “absolutely no apologies” for the negotiation of the release of former prisoner of war Bowe Bergdahl. Bergdahl’s exchange for five Taliban prisoners has come under heavy criticism from Congressional Republicans and from some members of his former unit who accuse him of desertion. A classified military report completed shortly after his capture in 2009 indicates that Bergdahl had left his assigned post on multiple occasions in the past, prior to returning, but does not definitively conclude that he intended to desert on the final occasion. The WSJ offers more background on the administration-Taliban negotiations that secured Bergdahl’s release. Senate Majority Leader Reid downplayed concerns about advance Congressional notification of the exchange, which the administration failed to provide, citing the risk that he would be killed if the deal was made public. A Taliban spokesman said Friday that Bergdahl was held in “good conditions”. [WSJ] [NYT]


Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Election Campaigning: Yesterday’s summary, while noting the endorsement of Ashraf Ghani by a group of Qayyum Karzai supporters, erroneously reported that Qayyum had endorsed Abdullah Abdullah; he has made no public endorsements, although his brother Mahmoud Karzai has endorsed Abdullah. Apologies for the error and thank you to a reader for pointing out the correction. Ghani, campaigning alongside former president Sebghatullah Mujaddadi, met with a group of Islamic scholars and anti-Soviet veterans on Thursday, securing their endorsement. Abdullah was endorsed by a group of Afghan women leaders, including Kazima Mohaqeq, former running mate to presidential candidate Daoud Sultanzoy. [Khaama Press] [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Twelve Taliban Commanders Hanged in Nuristan in Apparent Militant Infighting [Khaama Press] [TOLO]
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