Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Attack on Quetta Hazaras Kills Eight; Taliban Presence Spreading in Kunduz

Topline

  • At least eight people were killed in an attack on a bus carrying Hazara merchants in Quetta on Thursday. India and Pakistan continue to exchange artillery fire near Sialkot. Taliban forces are spreading in Kunduz and other northern provinces, the NYT reports, setting up parallel governance systems and threatening major cities. The PTI is scrambling to populate the Islamabad sit-in site after Tahirul Qadri called off the PAT’s participation there yesterday. Pres. Obama spoke with Pres. Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah by videoconference on Wednesday, extending an invitation to the White House. Pres. Ghani has accepted the resignation of Supreme Court chief justice Abdul Salam Azimi.

Pakistan — Security

  • Indian Border Tensions: Exchanges of fire between India and Pakistan continued near Sialkot on Thursday; no casualties were reported. Pakistan’s foreign ministry accused Indian forces of constructing bunkers within five hundred meters of the border line, in violation of a 2010 agreement between the two countries. PM Modi visited Siachen and Kashmir on Thursday to meet with Indian soldiers. Pakistani parliamentarians criticized recent statements by Indian defense officials during their session on Thursday, and the government’s response; a resolution was passed condemning India’s “unprovoked and indiscriminate” ceasefire violations. [ET] [Dawn]
  • Quetta Attacks: At least eight people were killed and two wounded on Thursday in an attack on a bus carrying Hazara vegetable merchants on the outskirts of Quetta; the local Hazara community has called for a strike on Friday. No claim of responsibility has been reported, although most press accounts note previous claims by Lashkar-e-Jhangvi for similar attacks in the past. A separate bombing attack targeted a Frontier Corps vehicle, killing two people and injuring as many as a dozen. [WSJ] [Reuters]
  • FATA Attacks and Operations: Rocket attacks on a camp for security forces near Data Khel, North Waziristan killed two personnel and wounded three on Wednesday. In Khyber, two Frontier Corps soldiers were killed in clashes with local militants. [Dawn] [ET]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Islamabad Protests: Speaking to supporters at the Islamabad sit-ins on Wednesday, Imran Khan thanked Tahirul Qadri and the Pakistan Awami Tehreek, reiterating that his protests would continue despite Qadri’s departure for other cities. PAT activists have reportedly constituted the majority of the sit-in presence since it began, and the PTI is now scrambling to populate the Islamabad site with local supporters. Prime Minister Sharif attended Wednesday’s parliament session, and met separately with party leaders, who are reported to have advised him not to accept the PTI’s still-pending resignations from the assembly. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
  • PPP Opposition: Reuters interviews Bilalwal Bhutto Zardari, who describes plans to “expand our vote bank, make gains, gain more seats” and pledged to take actions to alleviate poverty. He, like Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri, indicates that he plans to organize a series of rallies around the country to challenge the government’s performance. Separately, two former aides to the late Benazir Bhutto, former senator Safdar Ali Abbasi and Naheed Khan, have announced the formation of a “PPP Workers” splinter party. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • US Aid Oversight: In a long investigative report, the Post reports that the USAID Inspector General’s office removed some critical findings from a number of audit reports issued since 2011, under the tenure of acting inspector general Michael Carroll, who withdrew his 16-month- pending nomination on Wednesday. Some of those reports include a $44 million program intended to reduce waste and fraud in aid given to Pakistan, the funds for which a 2012 draft report found were largely spent on contractor benefits, salaries, and travel. Those findings were removed from a final report.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • No Celebrations of Malala Yousafzai’s Nobel for Fear of Taliban Attacks [Dawn]
  • Council of Islamic Ideology Condemns Sectarian Divisions Ahead of Muharram [ET] [ET]
  • Former Chief Justice Jillani Received ‘Prohibited Bore’ Weapons License [Dawn]
  • National Accountability Bureau Investigating 2010 Land Transfer Linked to PPP Leaders [ET]
  • Dim Hopes of Meeting $4B Privatization Revenue Targets [ET]
  • Water and Power Ministry Says Delay of Nandipur Power Project Cost Rs 113 Billion [Dawn]
  • Polio Worker Beaten in Lahore [ET]
  • Government Borrowing from Central Bank Falls [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Taliban Offensives in Northern Afghanistan: The NYT, reporting from Kunduz, notes spreading Taliban presence in parts of northern Afghanistan, an area that has not previously represented a major front in the conflict. The Taliban’s shadow governor in Kunduz is Mullah Abdul Salam, who was freed in a prisoner release by Pakistan last year; his forces are reported to have set up parallel courts, allowed schools to remain open, and to have allowed some international aid projects to continue. The Afghan security forces response has been fragmented, with many local police militias operating independently and regular forces relying on artillery to target areas of Taliban control.
  • Arrests for Spreading of Islamic State Propaganda: The Ministry of Interior said Wednesday that it had arrested a “group of individuals” caught on CCTV camera writing slogans in support of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria on the walls of Kabul University.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Foreign Relations: Pres. Ghani and Chief Executive Officer Abdullah spoke by videoconference with Pres. Obama on Wednesday, who invited them to visit the White House at an unspecified future date. Indian National Security Advisor Ajit Doval also met with the two Afghan leaders on Wednesday, reiterating “India’s commitment to assist Afghanistan build a strong, democratic and prosperous country.” Interior Minister Umer Daudzai, speaking at a conference in New Delhi on Wednesday, described India as an “all-weather friend” and reiterated accusations that Pakistan was sheltering Taliban militants. [TOLO] [TOLO]
  • Supreme Court Chief Justice Resigns: On Thursday, Pres. Ghani accepted the resignation of acting Supreme Court Chief Justice Abdul Salam Azimi, and awarded him the Ghazni Amanullah Khan medal for “his active role in maintaining and implementation of justice and law in the country”. Azimi had held the chief justice’s position since August 2006; no successor has been named.
  • Blasphemy Case: Afghan officials say investigations are ongoing but deny reports that arrests have been made in connection to blasphemy charges brought against the Afghanistan Express newspaper for an English-language opinion piece on “The Islam of the Taliban and ISIS,” published October 15. A former staffer with the paper tells the Post that several people have been detained.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Former British Army Chief Acknowledges Errors in Afghanistan Operations [BBC]
  • Parliamentarians Demand Electoral Reforms [TOLO]
  • Bond Set for Afghan Soldiers Who Fled to Canada [AP]
  • Commentary: Afghanistan’s Demographic Drought – “One of the most important lessons to be learned from the recent electoral crisis is to deal with the lack of demographic data in the country.” [Ali Karimi, South Asia Channel]
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