Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Lashkar-e-Taiba Operative Granted Bail; Afghan Spy Service Complains of Under-resourcing

Topline

  • There are more survivor accounts from Tuesday’s attack on the Peshawar Army Public School and Degree College; the new government committee chaired by Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan will meet Friday to consider a plan of action. Afghan and ISAF officials pledged cooperation during meetings with Pakistani Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif on Wednesday. An Islamabad anti-terrorism court has granted bail to Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, a Lashkar-e-Taiba operative believed to have masterminded the 2008 Mumbai attacks; he has not yet been freed and prosecutors have the option to appeal. In testimony before the Afghan parliament on Wednesday, National Directorate of Security chief Rahmatullah Nabil attributed the limitations of the government’s ability to prevent the recent spate of attacks around the country to the withdrawal of international forces’ intelligence assets and technology, and also to politically favored groups’ ability to bypass arms and vehicle licensing restrictions. With the withdrawal of Pakistan’s moratorium on the death penalty, as many as 8,261 prisoners on death row now face the possibility of executions; sources in the prime ministers’ office say 17 convicted on terrorism charges, who are not otherwise identified, may be executed “in the next few days”. The IMF board has approved the release of a $1.1 billion combined tranche of loans for Pakistan.

Pakistan — Security

  • Peshawar Attack Aftermath: There are more accounts of survivors and those killed in Tuesday’s attack on the Peshawar Army Public School and Degree College, as the country continues to mourn. Dawn reports excerpts of a transcript of conversations between the gunmen and commander Umar Adizai, aka Umar Naray or Umar Khalifa, believed to be based in Afghanistan. As many as six attackers were reported to have detonated suicide vests as they battled with Special Services Group commandos, after the initial wave of killings. As reported yesterday, following a meeting of political party leaders in Peshawar on Wednesday, Prime Minister Sharif resolved to “continue the war against terrorism till the last terrorist is eliminated”, adding that “there will be no differentiation between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Taliban.” The government has asked that parties nominate members for a “plan of action committee” headed by Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan by Thursday; the committee is due to meet for the first time on Friday. The Pakistani military announced that it had killed 57 militants in airstrikes in Khyber on Wednesday; Islamabad police say they have arrested the owner of a vehicle used by the gunmen in the attack and are investigating his possible involvement. [WSJ] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Lashkar-e-Taiba Operative Granted Bail: On Thursday, an Islamabad anti-terrorism court which has been hearing charges against Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, a Lashkar-e-Taiba operative held since 2009 along with six others in connection to the 2008 Mumbai attacks, granted Lakhvi Rs 500,000 bail. Indian officials have repeatedly cited the slow prosecution as an obstacle to normalizing bilateral relations. Lawyers said Lakhvi might be released Monday or Tuesday, although prosecutors retain the option to appeal. Lashkar-e-Taiba and its political wing Jamaat-ud-Dawa remain active in Pakistan despite nominal bans; leader Hafiz Saeed has been an active presence in the wake of the Peshawar school attacks this week, conducting relief efforts and blaming India for the attack. [WSJ] [AFP]
  • Death Penalty Withdrawn: The government’s lifting of a 2008 moratorium on the use of the death penalty potentially clears the way for the resumption of executions; Pakistan currently has at least 8,261 prisoners on death row, the majority in Punjab; around 30% are estimated to have been convicted on terrorism charges. Sources in the prime minister’s office tell the Express Tribune that 17 convicted terrorists will be executed “in the next few days”. At least 120 mercy appeals are under consideration by the president; Khyber Paktunkhwa officials have expressed concern that militants may attempt jailbreaks to free prisoners before executions take place. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • PTI Calls Off Protests: Speaking to supporters in Islamabad on Wednesday, Imran Khan said that the PTI had “decided to end our protests” due in the wake of this week’s attack in Peshawar. Khan said that the party would continue to seek judicial commission investigations into election rigging charges, saying that “we have taken this decision for the sake of our country and want to see [the government] take the next step for the sake of democracy”. Prime Minister Sharif welcomed the move and said that PTI “reservations regarding last year’s elections would be addressed”. [Dawn] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • IMF Approves Loan Tranches: On Wednesday, the IMF board of directors approved the release of a combined $1.1 billion tranche of the Extended Fund Facility loan program, bringing total disbursments to $3.2 billion. The funds follow a consolidated fourth and fifth quarterly staff-level review, after earlier delays by the government in meeting reform benchmarks in the face of PTI opposition. IMF officials cautioned that “the measures taken by the authorities to address short-term macroeconomic vulnerabilities and implement structural reforms are bearing fruit, but continued efforts are needed to make the economic transformation more sustainable.” [IMF Statement]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Five TTP Militants Killed in Karachi [AFP]
  • Polio Case Confirmed in Sindh [Dawn]
  • Government Releases Rs 500 Million for Pakistan Steel Mills [APP]
  • Pakistan-China Bilateral Trade Rose to $12.8 Billion in Past Ten Months, Ambassador Says [ET]
  • World Bank Approves $138 Million for Sindh Irrigation System [Dawn] [ET]
  • Commentary: The Death Throes of the Pakistan Taliban – “Perhaps the most startling revelation of the Peshawar attacks is that, strategically, the TTP stood to gain little from them.” [Arif Rafiq, Foreign Policy]
  • Commentary: Avenging the Children of Peshawar – “It is time to dispense with delusions of threats from “foreign forces,” and the idea that our problems are elaborate conspiracies hatched by others.” [Mira Sethi and Shehrbano Taseer, NYT]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Afghan and ISAF Officials Pledge Cooperation with Pakistan: In meetings on Wednesday, Pres. Ghani told Pakistani Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif that “the time has come for Afghanistan and Pakistan to jointly counter terrorism and extremism effectively and sincerely.” Pakistani officials have sought assistance in targeting Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan leader Maulana Fazlullah and other top commanders believed to be based along Afghanistan’s eastern border. Pakistan’s military spokesman said that during their discussions, “[the] Afghan president assured Gen Raheel Sharif that Afghan soil will not be allowed for terrorists’ activities against Pakistan and any signature found in this regard will be immediately eliminated.” Chief Executive Officer Abdullah said Wednesday that “this crime shows that the criminals against humanity don’t know any border; terrorism and extremism is a joint enemy and must be fought with strong commitment and those who think that terrorisms is in their favor, it is not more than a thought and there are no good or bad terrorists.” [Khaama Press] [TOLO] [ET]
  • Spy Services Face ‘Intelligence Vacuum’: Rahmatullah Nabil, the head of the National Directorate of Security intelligence service, testified before parliament on Wednesday, facing questions regarding the spate of attacks around the country over the past month; he noted the withdrawal of foreign forces and accompany withdrawal of intelligence assets and technology. Nabil estimated that more than a hundred “terrorism hubs” operated in the vicinity of Kabul, which he said the government lacked the resources to monitor or guard completely against. Nabil also laid blame for insecurity on powerful officials possessing unlicensed weapons or vehicles who “are everywhere in the government, and never abide the law.”
  • Attacks Continue: A suicide car bombing attack on a police vehicle in Kabul on Thursday killing one police officer and injured three others; the Taliban claimed responsibility. Separately, Kabul police say they have arrested suspects in the shooting of Supreme Courty chief secretary Atiqullah Raoufi, without offering further details. [Khaama Press] [AJE] [Reuters] [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Remainders

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s