Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Protests Continue Following Lahore Church Attacks; Taliban ‘Considering’ Talks with Govt

Topline

  • Protests continued, some violently, in the wake of yesterday’s bombings targeting two Lahore churches; family members of a man killed by a mob in the wake of the attacks deny that he had any connection to the attackers. Taliban spokesmen reiterate denials that they have engaged in any preparatory talks regarding negotiations with the Afghan government, but suggest that they are considering whether or not to take part in talks. Repatriation of families displaced by fighting in South Waziristan in 2009 began on Monday, with around 200 families initially taking part. The Sindh government replaced the head of its team re-investigating the 2012 Baldia factory fire. Elections for four senate seats from the FATA will be held March 20, the Election Commission of Pakistan has announced.

Pakistan — Security

  • Lahore Church Attacks Aftermath: Members of the Pakistani Christian community continued protest riots in Lahore, Faisalabad, and Gujranwala on Monday in the wake of Sunday’s double suicide bombing at two churches in Lahore. Protestors clashed with police, who dispersed them by force as they were blocking a major highway in Lahore; one protestor was killed and several injured after being hit by a car during the protests. Demonstrators withdrew in the evening following negotiations with police. At interfaith prayer services held on Monday, Church of Pakistan Bishop Samuel Azariah called on Christian community members to remain peaceful; several other peaceful protests have been held across the country. Separately, family members of a man who was lynched by a mob in the immediate aftermath of Sunday’s bombings on suspicion of aiding the attackers identified him as Naeem Saleem, and insist that he was an innocent bystander. Speaking at the national assembly on Monday, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said that the lynching was “the worst form of terrorism” and that the government would take action against those responsible. [Reuters] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Security Review: Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan told parliament on Monday that the government plans to review all major policies relating to arms licensing, armored vehicles, private security companies, prisoner exchange agreements, and travel controls in the next few months.
  • FATA Repatriation: Dawn reports that 206 families departed from IDP camps in the Tank district for South Waziristan on Monday, the first day of a repatriation program that will run through April 4. North Waziristan tribal elders protested outside the FATA Secretariat building in Peshawar on Monday, demanding their immediate repatriation; initial plans call for return to only a few select areas in the Mir Ali area later this month.
  • Executions: Twelve death row prisoners were hanged in separate executions around the country on Tuesday, including prisoners not convicted on terrorism charges. Reuters reports that at least 27 people have been hanged since the moratorium on capital punishment was withdrawn in December. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court rejected an appeal by MQM gunman Saulat Mirza. [ET] [Dawn] [ET] [BBC]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • MQM Under Pressure: On Tuesday, the Sindh government replaced the head of the new Joint Investigation Team investigating the 2012 Baldia factory fire, transferring Rapid Response Force chief Aftab Pathan to replace Crime Branch Additional Inspector General Khadim Hussain Bhatti. Representatives have also been appointed from the major military and civilian intelligence agencies. On Monday, MQM leader-in-exile Altaf Hussain denied that his party maintained any militant wing, insisting that “if some people are taking the law in their own hands, then it is their personal conduct”. Dawn notes that MQM parliamentarians were “subduedon Monday during the first parliamentary session since the raid on party headquarters last week; Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan deferred a speech on the issue. [ET] [Dawn]
  • Elections: On Monday, the Election Commission announced that it would hold an election for senators from the FATA on March 20; following the withdrawal of a presidential ordinance altering the vote formula for FATA national assembly members, the eleven FATA parliamentarians will vote on four senate seats. Meanwhile, political party leaders are beginning to prepare for local body elections in military cantonment areas and in Khyber Paktunkhwa. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Polio Crisis: World Health Organization officials credit the improved security and greater access to FATA residents for a reduction in polio cases so far this year; a new vaccination campaign in the tribal areas began on Monday. Security concerns postponed a new vaccination campaign in Quetta on Monday, but vaccination will continue in 29 out of 32 Balochistan districts. [ET] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Peshawar School Families Demand Answers From Government [ET]
  • Pakistani Man Held on Charges of Planning Attack on Toronto Consulate Held Without Bail [Reuters]
  • Prime Minister Convenes Council on Common Interest Meeting [Dawn]
  • Children Among Three Killed in Swat Bombing [Dawn]
  • Islamabad High Court Hears Government Challenge Against Former Chief Justice’s Perks [Dawn]
  • Planning Minister Reiterates No Change to Economic Corridor Route [ET]
  • Neelum-Jhelum Dam Will Not Be Completed Until 2016, Officials Say [Dawn]
  • Two Judges Confirmed for Peshawar High Court [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Attacks and Operations: Ministry of defense spokesmen say that operations in Helmand, ongoing for the past month, have killed 212 Taliban fighters and arrested 17; at least 19 Afghan National Army soldiers have been killed in the fighting. On Tuesday, military officials reported that they had killed the Taliban shadow district governor in Faryab’s Dawlat Abad district. On Monday, six Hazara travelers were kidnapped on the Herat-Farah highway, the third such incident in the past month; a search operation has been launched for their rescue. [AFP]
  • ALP Militias: The NYT profiles two ALP militia leaders in Ghazni, who have taken over as a local strongmen following the withdrawal of American special operations forces from the area, extorting residents and clashing with Taliban forces.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Taliban Talks: The WSJ reports that Afghan government officials had hoped to initiate direct talks with the Taliban prior to Pres. Ghani’s visit to Washington next week, but are unlikely to be able to reach any agreements to do so by that time; a Taliban source says that “we are considering the positive and negative consequences of accepting talks and of refusing the talks…a decision may [take] some more time.” Speaking at a seminar in Kabul organized by the Afghan ministry of foreign affairs’ Center for Strategic Studies and the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations on Monday, deputy foreign minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai said that talks would be held “in the near future”, and credited China with supporting the peace efforts. A Taliban spokesman disputed that, reiterating that contrary to multiple press reports, “representatives of the political office in Qatar have neither travelled to any country regarding peace talks nor discussed the issue”. Taliban spokesmen also denied that former military commander Abdul Qayyum Zakir had resumed his leadership role. [TOLO] [TOLO] [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Ministry of Mines Seeks to Stop Illegal Azur Mining in Badakshan [TOLO]
  • Ghani Expected to Visit India in Next Month [Khaama Press]
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