- A coalition of religious parties organized rallies to protest against the French magazine Charlie Hebdo’s depictions of the Prophet Mohammad, which turned violent in Karachi, leaving three injured. The Pakistani military brought a delegation of ambassadors to North Waziristan on Thursday; military spokesmen reiterate the army’s intention to carry out “indiscriminate action” against terrorists. Pakistani senators are considering amendments to the country’s anti-money laundering and terrorist financing laws. NATO and Afghan officials cautioned against interpreting recent reports of ISIS recruiting in Afghanistan as signs of a major influx by the organization into the country. Imran Khan and the PTI continue to press the government for action on the formation of a judicial commission to investigate election rigging charges. Petroleum shortages continue in Punjab and Khyber Paktunkhwa, with further outages projected. Iran’s foreign minister is expected to visit Kabul next week for strategic partnership talks.
Pakistan — Security
- National Action Plan: Friday marked the one-month anniversary of the Peshawar Army Public School attack; the Express Tribune interviews survivors. The Khyber Paktunkhwa provincial home ministry issued directives on Thursday to all district and police officers to crack down on hate speech, terrorist activity, kidnapping, and extortion. The government has also ordered movement restrictions on “Afghan prayer leaders and criminals”. At the federal level, the head of the Financial Monitoring Unit testified to having already frozen Rs 1 billion in terrorist assets, over an unspecified period; the Senate finance committee is currently considering amendments to the anti-money laundering and terrorist financing law, at the government’s urging. On Thursday, army public affairs officials brought a delegation of foreign diplomats and UN representatives to Miram Shah, North Waziristan, to show off captured militant arms and hideouts. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki welcomed recent reports that Pakistan was preparing to crack down on the Haqqani network and other state-backed militant groups in a press conference on Thursday; in an interview in London on Thursday, the military’s head spokesman reiterated the army’s intention to take “indiscriminate action” against all terrorist groups. [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [Dawn]
- Military Court Proceedings: Islamabad police referred the murder cases of minister for minority affairs Shahbaz Bhatti and Benazir Bhutto prosecutor Chaudhry Zulfiqar to the new military court system on Thursday. Separately, the Lahore High Court acquitted four death row convicts linked to a 2002 suicide bombing attack on a Shia worship center, citing lack of evidence. On Thursday, two Supreme Court judges hit back at recent remarks by Prime Minister Sharif attributing “law and order issues” to a large backlog of cases before the courts, laying blame on prosecutors and the government itself. [AFP] [ET] [Dawn]
- Clashes Over French Magazine: A coalition of religious parties, including the Jamaat-e-Islami, Jamaat-ud Dawa, JUI-F, and Sunni Tehreek, organized rallies across the country in protest against the French magazine Charlie Hebdo’s depictions of the Prophet Mohammad. Protests outside the French consulate in Karachi led by the Jamaat-e-Islami’s student wing turned violent on Friday as police sought to disperse protestors with water cannons; at least three people were injured, including a photographer for Agence France-Presse who was shot but who is now in stable condition. [Reuters] [BBC] [Guardian]
- Malik Ishaq Detention: On Thursday, the Supreme Court rejected a request from the Punjab government to review the acquittal of Malik Ishaq and six other Lashkar-e-Jhangvi members in 2000, in connection to an attack on eight Iranian officials in Multan.
Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy
- PTI Protests: Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, Imran Khan called on the government to set a date by which to sign a memorandum of understanding for the establishment of a judicial commission to investigate the PTI’s allegations of election rigging. Khan’s comments suggested that the PTI had pulled back from earlier demands for a complete audit of individual constituencies and was instead willing to accept a commission tasked with a broader assessment of whether or not the elections had been manipulated. [Dawn] [ET]
Pakistan — Economics and Development
- Energy Crisis: The Express Tribune overviews the confluence of factors — including rising domestic demand, default at Pakistan State Oil, a refinery shutdown, and shipping delays — that have led to petroleum shortages in Punjab and Khyber Paktunkhwa. Despite the release of Rs 17 billion to help resolve the PSO financial crunch, a petroleum ministry official warns that “after week or two the country will be completely dry in all products… we will be facing blackouts within the next few days.” [ET]
Pakistan — Remainders
- Prime Minister Sharif Meets Saudi Crown Prince [Dawn]
- More Than Half of PPP Senators Expected to Retire Ahead of Upcoming Elections [Dawn]
- Pakistani Tribesmen Fear Losing Their Guns [WAPO]
- BNP-Mengal Leader Says Extremism Being Promoted to Undermine Nationalists [Dawn]
- Climate Change Poses Major Security Threat to Pakistan, Warns Military Advisory Council [Dawn]
- World Bank Projects Decelerating Growth for Pakistan [ET]
- Pakistan Seeking Strengthened Defense Ties with Russia [ET]
Afghanistan — Security
- Islamic State in Afghanistan: In an Army Times interview, Gen. John Campbell, the top US and NATO commander in Afghanistan, acknowledged reports that the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (Daesh) was attempting to recruit supporters in the country, but said that such efforts were a “hard message to sell”. However, “there are people who are disgruntled with the Taliban… there are people vulnerable to the Daesh message, and so we’re looking at it very hard.” A spokesman for the Ministry of Interior dismissed reports of ISIS recruiting as “the same members of the Taliban and the Haqqani Network … active under different names”.
- ANSF Operations: Acting Kunar provincial governor Shuja-ul Mulk Jalala reported on Friday that Afghan security forces, backed with international air support and Afghan special forces, are conducting fresh operations in the Dangam district, the site of a multi-week engagement in late December.
Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy
- Government Formation: Reuters analysis of the new Afghan cabinet nominees concludes that many veteran anti-Soviet mujahedeen leaders are being marginalized by the choice of appointments, particularly ethnic Tajik members of the former Northern Alliance. Chief Executive Abdullah reportedly met with Panjshiri supporters on Wednesday in an attempt to mollify criticism of the appointments. A Pajhwok report on Thursday criticized most cabinet nominees as lacking relevant professional experience or educational qualifications, although all have bachelors and more than two thirds higher degrees.
- Iranian Relations: Iranian foreign minister Jawad Zarif is expected to visit Kabul next week, and to extend an invitation to Pres. Ghani to visit Tehran to finalize a “comprehensive security pact” between Afghanistan and Iran.
Afghanistan — Remainders