Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Pakistani Senate Elections Amendment Drafted; NATO Convoy Attacked in Kabul


  • The Taliban attacked a NATO convoy in Kabul on Thursday belonging to the NATO senior civilian representative, former Turkish ambassador Ismail Aramaz; he was not present at the time of the attack, but one Turkish soldier and one Afghan bystander were killed. The PML-N government has prepared draft constitutional amendments that would make senate elections open ballots in the provincial assemblies. Anonymous Taliban officials express frustration with the Chief Executive Abdullah’s public remarks on the prospects for direct peace talks between the government and the insurgency. In an ongoing crackdown against Afghan nationals living in Pakistan, Khyber Paktunkhwa police detained 27 Afghans suspected of living in Peshawar illegally; four were in fact Afghan diplomatic staff working at the Peshawar consulate, and all but one have been released. ISI Director Rizwan Akhtar met with his counterparts in the U.S. on Wednesday. Pakistani interior ministry officials have warned of retaliatory attacks by the sectarian terror group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. As many as 187 people have been killed in multiple avalanches in five districts in Panjshir.

Pakistan — Security

  • Crackdown on Afghan Nationals: Police in Peshawar detained 28 Afghan nationals in the city’s University Town neighborhood on Thursday, on suspicion of residing their illegally; four were in fact Afghan diplomats working at Afghanistan’s Peshawar consulate, and all but one have been released after supplying documentation proving their legal residency. Separately, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif told reporters that his administration was also preparing to expel Afghan immigrants living illegally in the country, whose presence he linked to terrorism, and said that 400 foreign students studying at madrassas in Punjab without proper documentation would also be deported soon. [BBC] [Dawn]
  • Intelligence Cooperation: Lt. Gen. Rizwan Akhtar met with his counterpart CIA chief John Brennan on Wednesday for talks on intelligence and security cooperation between the U.S. and Pakistan, as well as meetings with U.S. military officials at the Pentagon. He is also due to visit CENTCOM headquarters in Florida. Details of the discussions have not been disclosed.
  • Sectarian Violence: BBC’s Urdu service reported Wednesday that the Interior Ministry has advised provincial officials that Sunni sectarian terror group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi is working with the TTP and Al Qaeda to carry out reprisal attacks and kidnappings in retaliation for the execution of a number of LeJ members following the resumption of capital punishment earlier this year. The report identifies the lead LeJ commander tasked with organizing the attack as Abdul Rehman of Kabirwala, Punjab. [ET]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Elections: The government has drafted a constitutional amendment to hold senate elections through open rather than closed ballot, which also provides for the disqualification of assembly members in cases of defection from their party’s directives, as currently also holds cases for votes across party lines on finance bills. Consideration of the amendment may take place this weekend, ahead of next week’s senate vote. Separately, the PTI has challenged the senate nominations of two PML-N candidates for Islamabad senate seats who are not residents of the capital. Meanwhile, the Express Tribune reports that the Khyber Paktunkhwa assembly opposition has been unable to reach an agreement on a formula for voting in a single slate of senators. [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Foreign Secretary Talks: Speaking at a press briefing on Thursday, Pakistan’s foreign ministry said that “Kashmir, Siachin, Sir Creek and other issues would be discussed” with India’s visiting foreign secretary. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Energy Crisis: Prime Minister Sharif headlined the ninth annual Expo Pakistan trade fair in Karachi on Thursday, pledging action to resolve the country’s energy crisis and touting efforts to bring in Chinese investment and open up LNG imports. [ET]
  • Polio Crisis: Khyber Paktunkhwa health officials have reported a decline, by roughly a half, of polio vaccination refusal cases since its latest vaccination drive began ten days prior, which includes education components and outreach to local ulema. Roughly 27,000 refusal cases have been reported so far. Another case of polio was registered in Balochistan on Thursday, bringing the national total so far this year to 11. [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Pakistan Re-Qualifies for World Bank Lending [Dawn]
  • Musharraf Exempted from Appearing in Bugti Murder Case Hearing [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Death Sentences for TTP Mean Linked to 2012 Attack on Lahore Prison Staff [AFP] [ET]
  • ASWJ Leader Buried in Mansehra [ET]
  • Lyari Gang Leader Yet to be Extradited from Dubai [Dawn]
  • Pakistani Man Denies Al Qaeda Ties in New York Trial [Reuters]
  • MQM Condemns ‘Derogatory Language’ Against the Party [Dawn]
  • Maleeha Lodhi Assumes Post as UN Representative [ET]
  • Three FBR Employees Suspended on Corruption Charges [ET]
  • Government Considering Scrapping Auto Import Duties [ET]
  • Commentary: Implications of the National Action Plan – “The prime minister and the army chief should remember that even though the December 16 massacre united the entire nation against sectarian violence, terrorism and extremism, the security measures that are being taken in its aftermath are dividing the nation.” [Muhammad Tahir Mahmood Ashrafi, Express Tribune]

Afghanistan — Security

  • NATO Envoy Attacked: A suicide car bomber struck a NATO vehicle convoy in Kabul on Thursday, which had been protecting NATO senior civilian representative to Afghanistan and former Turkish ambassador Ismail Aramaz. At least one Turkish soldier, a driver, and one Afghan bystander were killed in the blast; Aramaz was not present in the vehicle at the time of the attack and was unharmed. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, initially describing it as a “convoy of U.S. troops”, but later said that “the embassy or any other country nationals were not [the] objective”. [BBC] [AJE] [TOLO]
  • Other Attacks: Three Afghan National Army soldiers were killed and another wounded in a roadside mine blast on the highway near Khost on Wednesday. Zabul tribal leaders are seeking the release of a group of 30 Hazara men taken hostage from a bus  earlier this week; ANA commanders attribute the kidnapping to the Taliban, who have not confirmed responsibility.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Taliban Talks: An anonymous Taliban official tells the Express Tribune that the insurgency group is unhappy with public comments by Afghan government officials on the prospect for peace talks, suggesting that Chief Executive Abdullah’s comments that talks would begin soon “has created an impression that the leaders of the national unity government are not on the same page”. A spokesman for Pres. Ghani said Wednesday that “views are being collected and there have been significant progress in the start of peace talks because fundamental works have been done in this regard,” emphasizing that “nothing will be hidden from the people and it will be transparent.”

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Avalanches in Panjshir Kill Scores: Panjshir provincial officials report that as many as 187 people have been killed after heavy snowfall beginning earlier this week led to a series of avalanches that hit five districts in the province, blocking roads and complicating rescue efforts. The Salang Tunnel, which links northern and southern Afghanistan, has been closed, and power cables feeding Kabul have been damaged. [BBC] [Reuters] [TOLO]
  • Water Dues: The Afghanistan Urban Water Supply and Sewage Corporation has charged all government ministries, with the exception of the ministries of defense and education, of unpaid dues to the utility totally Afs 400 million, and warned that it would take legal action if bills were not paid.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Corruption in Customs Service Widespread, High Office of Oversight and Anti-Corruption Says [TOLO]
  • Commentary: Because of Impunity: UN Reports Afghan Forces Still Torturing Afghans – “Despite a 14 per cent drop in the incidence of torture, one in three Afghans arrested in relation to the conflict is still being tortured, mainly, UNAMA argues, because torturers continue to enjoy impunity.” [Kate Clark, AAN]

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