Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Lawyer for Shakil Afridi Killed; VP Dostum Complains of Marginalization

Topline

  • Gunmen killed the former lawyer for Dr Shakil Afridi, Samiullah Afridi, in a shooting in Peshawar on Tuesday; the TTP splinter groups Jamaat-ul Ahrar and Jundullah both claimed responsibility. On Wednesday, the TTP claimed responsibility for the killing of the PML-N’s Peshawar chapter president. Afghan Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum is increasingly frustrated that he is being marginalized in government decision-making, the NYT reports. A spokesman for Abdullah Abdullah suggests that the government might nominate its remaining cabinet ministers before he and Pres. Ghani depart for the U.S., or otherwise after their return. A former deputy to North Waziristan commander Hafiz Gul Bahadur, Maulvi Aleem Khan, has announced a peace agreement with the government in Datta Khel. Three polio vaccination campaign workers were killed in separate attacks in Mansehra and Bajaur on Tuesday and Wednesday. A Taliban suicide car bombing near the governor’s office in the Helmand capital on Wednesday killed at least seven people. The Rangers have filed a case against MQM leader Altaf Hussain, charging him with making threats following the raid on party headquarters last week; former Pres. Zardari spoke with Hussain by phone on Tuesday and affirmed that the PPP still sought to form a coalition government with the MQM in Sindh. The UN Security Council renewed the mandate for the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan for another year on Tuesday. Prime Minister Sharif will chair a meeting of the federal-provincial Council on Common Interests on Wednesday. Kabul will host a summit of TAPI partner countries on Thursday.

Pakistan — Security

  • Lawyer for Shakil Afridi Killed: On Tuesday, gunmen killed Saimullah Afridi, a lawyer for detained Pakistani doctor Shakil Afridi, who was earlier implicated in a CIA surveillance program that sought to confirm Osama bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad and who was sentenced on unrelated charges of supporting Khyber-based militant groups in 2012. Samiullah Afridi had received threats that led him to drop his representation of Dr. Afridi last year, and had only recently returned to the country after three months abroad; he was killed on his way home in Peshawar. Two Taliban splinter groups – Jundullah and Jamaat-ul-Ahrar — separately claimed responsibility for his assassination. [BBC] [ET] [ET]
  • North Waziristan Commander Reaches Peace Agreement: Maulvi Aleem Khan, identified as a former deputy to commander Hafiz Gul Bahadur who had split off to form his own militant faction, told RFE/RL on Monday that he had negotiated a peace agreement with the government on March 14, and that he would now “resist anyone who would attempt to create insecurity” in the Datta Khel region. Meanwhile, Pakistani military officials announced that they carried out new airstrikes in Khyber’s Tirah Valley, killing as many as 34 militants. [AP]
  • PML-N Leader Killed in Peshawar: On Wednesday, the PML-N’s Peshawar chapter president, Haji Sardar Mohmand Khan, was killed by gunmen in Peshawar; the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan claimed responsibility for the attack. [Dawn]
  • Lahore Church Attack Aftermath: Family members of the second victim of a mob lynching in the immediate aftermath of Sunday’s suicide bombing attacks on two Lahore churches came forward on Tuesday, identifying him as Babar Noman, a garment worker from Sargodha. Lawyers filed charges in the Lahore High Court on Tuesday seeking an inquiry into the mob violence that followed the attacks. Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif met with Christian community leaders on Wednesday, urging patience as the government seeks to confront domestic terrorism. [ET]
  • Executions: Nine more death row prisoners were executed on Wednesday, all having been sentenced on murder charges. The parents of Shafqat Hussain have appealed to the president for a clemency order, arguing that he had been convicted of murder as a teenager, and had been tortured by police to induce a confession. An EU spokesperson called for Pakistan to halt executions in a statement on Wednesday. [Dawn] [Reuters] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Polio Workers Attacked: Unidentified gunmen killed two female polio vaccination campaign workers near an Afghan refugee camp on the outskirts of Mansehra, Khyber Paktunkhwa, on Tuesday. Federal health officials expressed concerns in the aftermath that the three-day-long campaign in Mansehra had allowed militant organizers to plan for attacks during its later days, and are reportedly considering shifting to one-day vaccination campaigns. On Wednesday, a separate attack in Bajaur killed one vaccination worker and wounded another; the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan claimed responsibility. [Dawn] [ET]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Rangers File Charges Against Altaf Hussain: On Tuesday, the paramilitary Karachi Rangers filed a case against MQM leader-in-exile Altaf Hussain for alleged threats he made against the Rangers in remarks following their raid on party headquarters last week, charging him under Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act and section 506 of the Pakistan Penal Code. They are the first charges to be filed against Hussain since the passage of the 2007 National Reconciliation Ordinance. MQM party leaders aid they were “reviewing” the charges, noting he had faced similar charges in the past, and called on party members to “remain calm and united”. Despite the increasing pressure on the party, former Pres. Zardari reaffirmed the PPP’s desire to form a coalition government with the MQM in Sindh during phone conversations with Hussain on Tuesday; a meeting of Sindh PPP leaders also endorsed the coalition. Separately, the Express Tribune reports that the Sindh government plans to appoint Jam Mehtab Dahar, of the PPP, as home minister for the province, amidst a possible broader cabinet reshuffling. Meanwhile, a Karachi court issued an non-bailable arrest warrant for Rizwan Qureshi, a principal witness who earlier implicated MQM party leaders in the 2012 Baldia factory fire, who has failed to attend court hearings since late February. [ET] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Local Elections: On Tuesday, the Sindh government officially notified the number of union councils and union committees to be contested in upcoming local body elections, directing the Election Commission to begin the process of their delimitation. Election Commission officials say they have yet to receive the official notice, however. In Khyber Paktunkhwa, the PPP, ANP, and JUI-F have formed an alliance to challenge the ruling PTI-JI coalition in local government polls. [ET] [ET] [ET]
  • Council on Common Interest to Meet: Prime Minister Sharif will chair a meeting of the federal-provincial Council on Common Interest for the first time in ten months on Wednesday; Dawn reports that the agenda will likely cover the re-regulation of Liquified Petroleum Gas prices, water allocation for Islamabad and Rawalpindi, the absorption of federal civil service employees by provincial civil services following the devolution of federal ministries, the restoration of the executive magistracy system, and the conducting of a long-delayed national census, among other issues. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • OGRA Chairman Reinstated: On Tuesday, the Islamabad High Court overturned the government’s suspension of Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority chairman Saeed Ahmed Khan, allowing him to return to work after he was placed on forced leave following the January petroleum crisis. The court did not overturn a government reference seeking Khan’s dismissal by the Federal Public Service Commission, however, which is apparently still under review. [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Election Commission Begins Scrutiny of PTI Audits [ET]
  • PPP and PML-N Yet to Agree on Senate Committee Chairmen [Dawn]
  • Suspect in Daniel Pearl Murder Case Missing [ET]
  • Four Children Wounded by Grenade in Multan [Dawn]
  • Police Prepare Security for Pakistan Day Parade [Dawn]
  • Air Marshal Sohail Aman Appointed New Air Chief [ET]
  • Finance Ministry to Finance Plans to Spend Pakistan Development Fund Payments from Saudi Arabia [ET]
  • Pakistan and Austria Sign Tax Protocol [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Attacks: A suicide car bombing hit near the governor’s office in the Helmand capital of Lashkar Gah on Wednesday, killing seven people and wounding at least 21 others; a spokesman for the provincial governor was among those wounded, but the governor himself appears to be unhurt. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the blast, which comes amidst a monthlong Afghan National Army operation in the Sangin district. [TOLO] [AJE]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Government Formation: A spokesman for Abdullah Abdullah tells TOLO that the government hopes to nominate remaining cabinet ministers for confirmation before Abdullah and Pres. Ghani depart for their visit to the United States next week, or otherwise after their return. Meanwhile, the NYT reports frustration on the part of Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum, who has been vocal in government meetings of his complaints that he is being marginalized in government decision-making and who has attempt to start his own initiatives on establishing a paramilitary force — an initiative he has reportedly been dissuaded from — and, more recently, national fitness.
  • UN Mandate Renewed: On Tuesday, the UN Security Council endorsed the extension of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan’s mandate for another year. Speaking before the Security Council, UNAMA special representative Nicholas Haysom welcomed the government’s peace outreach to the Taliban, saying that Pres. Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah’s “collaborative leadership remains essential for any peace talks to progress.” [UN Resolution and Detailed Remarks] [Special Representative Quarterly Report (pdf)]

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • TAPI Summit: Representatives from Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India will meet in Kabul on Thursday for a summit on the implementation of the TAPI gas pipeline.
  • New Kabul Bank Sale: Pakistan’s Muslim Commercial Bank has reportedly approached the Ministry of Finance with a proposal to purchase the assets of New Kabul Bank, which the government has owned since the bank nearly collapsed in 2010 and has recently sought, unsuccessfully, to sell off. The chairman of the Wolesi Jirga finance and budget committee tells TOLO that parliament would block the bank’s sale to Pakistan.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Ministry of Interior Denies Police Chiefs Barred from Speaking with Press [TOLO]
  • Ghazni Demonstrators Protest Hazara Kidnappings [TOLO]
  • Counternarcotics Officials Report 508 Drug Trafficking Prosecutions in Past Year [TOLO]
  • Report: The A to Z Guide to Assistance in Afghanistan, 2015 – “The Guide provides: a wide-ranging glossary of assistance terms and actors, an overview of Afghanistan’s system of government, political provincial briefs, key primary documents, and an extensive contacts directory that includes government agencies, NGOs, donors, and international actors.” [AREU (pdf)]
  • Commentary: Talks with the Taliban, Again: This Time for Real? – “This push for direct talks with the Taleban reflects the president’s philosophy: Peace is a requirement for kick-starting the Afghan economy, which continues to be unsustainable and dependent on the West.” [Thomas Ruttig, AAN]
  • Commentary: Turning the Tide on Afghanistan – “At a time of security uncertainty, a renewed economic compact between Afghanistan and its largest international donor would signal strong support for the new government and instill confidence in the Afghan people.” [Ariella Viehe and Aarthi Gunasekaran, CAP]
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