Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Police HQs Attacked in Lahore and Logar; COAS Visits Kabul, Turkish PM Visits Islamabad

Topline

  • A blast at the Lahore police headquarters on Tuesday killed at least eight people; the Jamaat-ul-Ahrar TTP splinter group claimed responsibility. A separate attack on Tuesday on the provincial police headquarters in Afghanistan’s Logar province killed as many as twenty police officers. At meetings in Karachi on Monday, Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif and Prime Minister Sharif affirmed continuing “indiscriminate” security operations against militant and criminal targets; Gen. Sharif also urged that police postings be made through the new political-military apex committee. The Turkish prime minister arrived in Islamabad on a two-day visit on Tuesday; General Sharif and ISI Director Rizwan Akhtar visited Kabul for a one-day trip the same day. Chief Executive Abdullah presided over a council of ministers meeting on Monday, the first since the confirmation of some ministers last month, and defended the government after criticism from anti-Soviet veteran Abdul Rassoul Sayyaf. The bodies of four out of five members of a polio vaccination team that went missing in Balochistan’s Zhob district were found on Tuesday.

Pakistan — Security

  • Lahore Police Headquarters Bombed: A blast at the Lahore police headquarters in the Qila Gujjar Singh neighborhood on Tuesday afternoon has killed at least eight people and wounded dozens more. Reports are unclear at this point as to whether a bomb was planted or delivered by suicide bomber, although some accounts suggest that the bomber was stopped outside the building by security. Punjab Police Inspector General, Mushtaq Sukhera, estimated that roughly 5-8 kilograms of explosives were used. The TTP splinter group Jamaat-ul Ahrar claimed responsibility for the attack. [Reuters]
  • Counterterrorism Response: Protests were held in Islamabad and Karachi on Tuesday to mark the two-month anniversary of the Peshawar Army Public School attack, with participants vowing to “Never Forget” and calling on the government take crack down on terrorist and sectarian groups. During his visit to Karachi on Monday, Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif met with paramilitary Rangers officials, and vowed to continue “an indiscriminate operation against all criminals beyond all ethnic, political, religious, sectarian affinities”. Gen. Sharif also urged that provincial police postings be made “without interference”, through the new joint political-military provincial apex committee established last month. A meeting of the Sindh apex committee, also presided over by Prime Minister Sharif and other senior political and military officials, resolved to crack down on banned organizations, unregistered madrassas and illegal immigrants, and the creation of more checkpoints on the Sindh-Balochistan border, among other steps. Separately, security officials say that Bakht Raaj, alias Asadullah, a TTP commander and financier active in Karachi and Buner, was killed in operations in Buner on Tuesday. [ET] [ET] [ET] [Dawn]
  • School Security: UN envoy for global education Gordon Brown spoke with Prime Minister Sharif on Tuesday, proposing a number of measures to strengthen school security, including additional guards, boundary walls, checkpoints, and in some cases the consolidation of remote schools. [Dawn] [ET] [ET]
  • Parade Security: At least 41 Islamabad seminaries will be shut down from March 18-24 as part of security measures for the March 23 Pakistan Day military parade, city administration officials report. Madrassa leaders interviewed by the Express Tribune say they have yet to receive any such order. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Turkish PM Visits: Prime Minister Sharif hosted Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Tuesday, with both sides touting the strength of the relationship. Davutoglu also met with Chief of Army Staff Sharif and President Hussain. Besides economic and security cooperation agreements, talks are expected to include discussion of Turkey’s role as a facilitator for Afghanistan peace talks. [ET]
  • Elections: The Election Commission of Pakistan will remove around half a million names from voter rolls judged to have deceased or otherwise been disqualified from voting, and begin registering an estimated 7.8 million people who have become eligible to vote since general elections were held in 2013. The changes will include the addition of roughly 1.2 million new voters in Khyber Paktunkhwa, which is due to hold local elections in May. Separately, a shortage of funding for the Gilgit-Baltistan Election Commission may delay legislative assembly elections scheduled to take place in May there. [Dawn]
  • PPP Divisions: Sindh provincial information minister Sharjeel Memon told the press on Tuesday that the PPP had “disowned” former home minister Zulfiqar Mirza, who has recently spoken out publicly against former Pres. Zardari’s leadership of the party.

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Polio Crisis: The bodies of two security guards and two polio vaccination workers were found in the Zhob district on Tuesday, after a team of five went missing in the area on Friday. No claim of responsibility for their kidnapping and death has been issued, and no details on the fate of the fifth team member have been reported. The Frontier Corps carried out search operations in the area the day prior, arresting seven militant suspects and killing two. [ET] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Reverses Hiring of 800 Prison Wardens [Dawn] [ET]
  • Gilgit-Baltistan Governor Takes Office [Dawn] [ET]
  • ASWJ Charged with Hate Speech After Islamabad Rally [ET]
  • Supreme Court Chief Justice Suffers ‘Minor Heart Attack’, Under Treatment [Dawn] [ET]
  • New Sindh High Court Chief Justice Takes Office [Dawn] [ET]
  • OGRA Seeks Legal Cover for Gas Rate Hike [ET]
  • Petitioners Say Minority Appointments Quota Not Being Enforced [ET]
  • Commentary: Game of Thrones? – “This latest JIT report will only be used as a bargaining chip by other players to negotiate with the MQM before being forgotten.” [Babar Sattar, Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Security Operations: A spokesman for the Ministry of Defense said Monday that the Afghan National Army was currently conducting operations in at least 13 provinces, saying that “the national army is fully prepared to chase the enemy anywhere until their complete elimination”. Provincial police chiefs from all over the country met in Kabul on Tuesday for a three-day security seminar, attended by senior officials from the Ministries of Defense and Interior and the NDS. [AFP]
  • Attacks: A team of four suicide bombers wearing police uniforms attacked the Logar provincial police headquarters during the lunch hour on Tuesday, killing as many as 20 policemen and wounding at least eight. The Taliban confirmed responsibility for the attack. Separately, one person was reportedly wounded when a bomb planted on a vehicle detonated in Kabul on Tuesday; details of the incident are otherwise limited. [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • Pakistani Security Chiefs Visit: Pakistani Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif and ISI Director General Rizwan Akhtar made a one-day visit to Kabul on Tuesday for meetings to discuss counterterrorism cooperation and border security. [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Government Formation: On Monday Chief Executive Abdullah presided over the first Ministers’ Council meeting of the cabinet since the confirmation of some members last month; he took the opportunity to praise the legacy of the anti-Soviet mujahedeen vow that “jihad values are the everlasting values of the people of Afghanistan, which were gained by rendering heavy sacrifices… this would not be violated under any circumstance, including egoism.” Abdullah’s remarks follow criticism by Abdul Rassoul Sayyaf of the composition of the national unity government. [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Development Spending: A spokesman for the ministry of finance said Monday that the government would now release funds for large development projects gradually rather than in lump sums, to avoid waste and corruption, and said that “if any of the development projects are not completed correctly by a ministry, then the dedicated development budget of that ministry will be handed over to the ministry who will complete the project”. The 2015 development budget identifies 443 projects in various stages of completion.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • 4,250 Cases of Violence Against Women Recorded in Past Nine Months [TOLO]
  • Herat Chamber of Commerce Accuses Customs Department of Corruption [TOLO]
  • Wrong Man Shown in Photo of Mullah Abdul Rauf Khadim [NYT]
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