Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Paktika Market Bombing Kills Dozens; Pakistani Troops Enter Mir Ali

Topline

  • A suicide car bombing at a marketplace in Paktika on Tuesday has killed fifty or more people, with the death toll expected to rise further; there has been no claim of responsibility. Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani are expected to meet again today for further talks on the shape of a “national unity government”; the Independent Election Commission announced that planning has begun for the full audit of all presidential ballots, but that the actual process is unlikely to begin before mid-week. Pakistan’s chief military spokesman announced that ground operations have begun in Mir Ali, and that 447 militants and 26 soldiers have been killed in the North Waziristan operation to date. The head of the FATA Disaster Management Authority was suspended on Monday amid complaints of the slow disbursal of cash grants for internally displaced persons. Four more polio cases were registered in Pakistan on Monday, bringing the mid-year total to 92, just shy of last year’s annual total.


Pakistan — Security

  • Waziristan Operations: Pakistan’s chief military spokesman, Maj. Gen. Asim Bajwa, held a press briefing on Tuesday, announcing that ground operations had begun in Mir Ali, and would continue to “completely eliminate” terrorist sanctuaries in North Waziristan. Bajwa said that 447 militants and 26 soldiers had been killed in fighting since mid-June, although no independent confirmation of those figures is available. The Express Tribune reports that further targeted operations are now being planned for Bajaur Agency, where three soldiers were killed over the weekend. The army has reportedly sought Rs 22 billion in funds for its operational expenses; ministry of finance sources tell the Express Tribune that the government has “partially” met the funding request and has asked the military to cover the remainder, “which the federal government would pay later on”. Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif visited Bannu on Monday, where he met with displaced tribal leaders and Khyber Paktunkhwa Governor Sardar Mahtab Ahmad Khan and pledged Rs 500 million in assistance for IDPs. Also on Monday, the head of the FATA Disaster Management Authority, Arshad Khan, was suspended after complaints that cash assistance for IDPs has been delayed. Rs 346 million has been disbursed to IDPs by the National Disaster Management Authority thus far. In a statement on Monday, former Pres. Zardari criticized the government for showing a “callous attitude” to the needs of the displaced, calling on the government to seek and accept support from international donors. The UN Development Program currently plans to spend $3.75 million to help local authorities support the influx of IDPs. [Dawn]


Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Prime Minister Defends Tenure: Speaking on Tuesday, Prime Minister Sharif criticized opposition calls for protest marches and “revolution”, defending his government’s efforts to resolve the country’s energy and economic crises and saying that “constructive politics” were necessary. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]


Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Polio Crisis: Four more child polio cases were registered on Monday, three from Khyber Agency and one in Sindh’s Sanghar district. The total number of cases so far this year has now reached 92, just shy of the annual total of 93 registered last year. [Dawn]
  • Energy Crisis: Federal Minister for Water and Power Khawaja Asif held a press conference with State Minister Abid Sher Ali on Monday, apologizing for electricity shortfalls and power outages during the month of Ramazan. Dawn reports that the shortfall has surpassed 10,000 megawatts, resulting in 10-12 hours of outages in urban areas and 12-16 hours in rural areas. [Dawn]


Pakistan — Remainders

  • Judicial Commission Submits Report on Khuzdar Mass Grave [Dawn]
  • Lahore Joint Investigation Team Receives Telephone Records of Chief Minister, Others [Dawn] [ET] [ET]
  • Pakistan Activists Protest New Security Law [AJE]
  • TTP Commander, Four Others Killed in Karachi Police Encounter [Dawn]
  • Moody’s Revises Pakistan’s Bond Rating to ‘Stable’ [ET]


Afghanistan — Security

  • Car Bombing Kills Dozens: At least 38 people and as many as 50 have been killed in a suicide car bombing at a market in Paktika’s Orgun district on Tuesday; at least fifty have also been wounded and the death toll is expected to rise further. The intended target of the blast is unclear, and there has been no claim of responsibility from the Taliban. [TOLO] [AJE]
  • Kabul Bombing: Two unidentified employees of the presidential palace were killed and five injured in a roadside bombing in Kabul on Tuesday morning; the Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. [TOLO]


Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Audit to Begin This Week: Planning for the full audit of presidential run-off ballots agreed to by Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani over the weekend began yesterday, but Independent Election Commission officials say the audit itself will not begin until Wednesday, pending the arrival of international observers to monitor the process. As noted yesterday, leaders in both campaigns have expressed differing views on the substance of the commitment by both Abdullah and Ghani to a “government of national unity”, which will reportedly involve some formal role, with powers yet to be determined, for the losing candidate; both candidates are reportedly planning to meet Tuesday for further talks. In an AP interview on Monday, Ghani said that the deal “should show you our commitment to inclusiveness,” discounting comparisons to the deadlock in Iraq. The NYT provides additional background on actions by Abdullah supporters prior to the weekend’s agreement, which it reports “had already gone beyond talk to a plan of action” to seize control of the presidential palace and other provincial headquarters. Direct conversations between Pres. Obama and Abdullah are credited with halted that movement, which U.S. Ambassador to Kabul said would have been a “disaster for the country”. [TOLO]


Afghanistan — Remainders

  • In Taliban Heartland Where U.S. Once Fought, Afghan Forces Triumph – For Now [WAPO]
  • Bergdahl Returns to Active Duty [WAPO] [WSJ] [Army Times]
  • Commentary: Has Kerry Saved the Day? – “The question remains whether there will now be a real impetus from both the political elites and Afghanistan’s international backers to get working electoral institutions and close holes in the electoral system in Afghanistan or whether Kerry’s intervention will end up having saved ‘the day’ only and we will see the same crises played out in the future.” [Kate Clark, AAN]
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