Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Suspect Charged in Imran Farooq Murder; Soldiers Reportedly Beheaded in Badakhshan Attack

Topline

  • On Monday, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan announced the arrest of a man charged with facilitating the killing of former MQM leader Imran Farooq in London in 2010; he was identified in the press as Moazzam Ali Khan, and was placed in 90-day custody by an anti-terrorism court on Tuesday. Meanwhile, MQM leader Altaf Hussain appeared before London police on Tuesday to seek an extension of his bail in a money-laundering case against him. On Monday, Prime Minister Sharif issued a statement “clarifying” parliament’s resolution on the Yemen crisis, in which he stressed continued support for Saudi Arabia. There are more reports of the attack on Afghan National Army outposts in Badakhshan’s Jurm district over the weekend, with at least eight soldiers reportedly beheaded and 18 killed; sources continue to dispute the exact casualty figures, however. The Islamabad High Court has given the court hearing charges against Lashkar-e-Taiba operative Zakiur Rehman Lakvhi two more months to finish its long-stalled proceedings. Afghan cabinet nominees continue to testify before parliament, a process expected to finish by the end of the week.

Pakistan — Security

  • Yemen Conflict: In a statement on Monday evening following parliament’s resolution calling for neutrality in the Yemen conflict last Friday and further meetings with senior civilian and military advisors, Prime Minister Sharif reiterated Pakistan’s support for its “strategic ally” Saudi Arabia, saying that “”Pakistan does not abandon friends and strategic partners, specially at a time when their security is under threat.” Sharif said that the parliamentary resolution had “strengthen[ed] the hands of the government for playing a positive and constructive role” and suggested that Gulf criticism of the resolution “was based on an apparent misinterpretation”. Sharif backed the restoration of Yemeni President Mansur Hadi’s government, and said that he had urged Iranian foreign minister Javed Zarif to push Houthi rebels to negotiate. Visiting Saudi minister for religious affairs Sheikh Saleh bin Abdul Aziz held no formal meetings with government officials on Monday save with his counterpart, Sardar Mohammad Yusuf, but met separately with leaders from the Deobandi community and JUI-F leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Lakhvi Trial: On Monday, the Islamabad High Court ordered the anti-terrorism court hearing charges against Lashkar-e-Taiba operative Zakiur Rehman Lakvhi related to the 2008 Mumbai attacks to conclude its long-stalled hearings within two months. Government prosecutors have challenged Lakvhi’s bail in that trial, and filed a petition in the Supreme Court on Tuesday challenging the Lahore High Court’s ruling last week ordering his release. [ET]
  • Counterterrorism Operations: Karachi police report that they killed five militants linked to the Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent affiliate during operations in the Orangi Town neighborhood on Monday, including the group’s Karachi commander and deputy commander. Bomb-making equipment and other materials were seized in the raid. [ET]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • MQM Under Pressure: On Monday, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan announced that the government had arrested the “primary suspect” in the 2010 murder in London of former MQM leader Imran Farooq. The suspect, identified by the press as Moazzam Ali Khan, was placed in Rangers custody for 90 days on Tuesday; his wife has challenged his arrest in the SIndh High Court. Chaudhry Nisar suggested that two suspects wanted for questioning by UK police, Mohsin Ali Syed and Muhammad Kashif Khan Kamran, who are believed to have been in security services’ custody, were low-level hit men and that the suspect was responsible for organizing their trip to London. He also said that information on the case was being shared with UK officials. On Tuesday, MQM leader-in-exile Altaf Hussain appeared before London police to testify in a money laundering investigation against him and seek a renewal of his bail application; Hussain’s testimony is ongoing as of this writing. Meanwhile, two MQM activists arrested during raids on party headquarters last month were linked by eyewitnesses to the murder of two police officers in 2000; another accused MQM gunman, Faisal Mehmood, has challenged a death sentence issued in connection to the 2011 killing of Geo News journalist Wali Babar Khan. [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Election Complaints: On Tuesday, Prime Minister Sharif appointed a task force to work with the new judicial commission formed to investigate allegations of election rigging during the 2013 parliament polls. The Islamabad High Court dismissed a petition seeking the disqualification of PTI legislators who submitted resignations from the national assemblies, saying responsibility lay with the speaker of the house to determine the validity of those resignations, which were never formally accepted. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Energy Crisis: Electricity generation shortfalls – in part due to maintenance and breakdowns at a number of power generation plans, as well as financial disputes in some cases – have forced supply managers to cut power to urban areas for more than six hours at a time, violating a directive from the prime minister to minimize loadshedding. Rural areas are reportedly facing thirteen-hour outages. [ET] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Two Soldiers Killed in North Waziristan Bombing; Air Operations in Orakzai Kill Five [Dawn] [ET]
  • 25 Million Unverified SIM Cards Blocked [Dawn]
  • Priorities Committee Begins Meeting to Determine Budget Allocations [ET] [Dawn]
  • MQM and JI Form Alliance for Peshawar Cantonment Polls [ET]
  • Supreme Court Dismisses Drone Strike Petition [Dawn]
  • Seminary Boards ‘Undecided’ on New Registration Push [Dawn]
  • Witnesses Summoned in Benazir Murder Case [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Badakhshan Attack: More reporting on attacks against Afghan National Army outposts in Badakhshan’s Jurm district indicates that at least 18 Afghan police and soldiers were killed, with ten more still missing, although casualty figures continue to be disputed and information is limited. Several soldiers were reportedly taken hostage, with some reportedly freed through the intervention of local elders. Provincial officials report that eight of the casualties were beheaded by attackers. Afghan National Army sources claim that the attackers raised Daesh flags after seizing an outpost, and report the attack was carried out by a large mass of fighters, including foreign fighters; the Taliban have claimed responsibility for the attack. Parliamentarians castigated the government for neglecting the country’s security; Chief of Army Staff General Mohammad Karimi noted the absence of the unit’s commander at the time of attack. [AFP] [BBC]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Cabinet Confirmations: The nominees for minister of agriculture, energy and water, economy, commerce and industry, and communications and information technology testified before parliament on Monday about their plans for their ministries. Five of the sixteen nominees under consideration have yet to present before parliament, and are expected to do so by the end of the week.
  • Karzai Visits Kandahar: Former Pres. Karzai made his first visit to Kandahar since leaving the presidency on Monday, where he praised the national unity government’s peace efforts, and spoke positively about improved security and development in the province.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Two Civilians Killed in Kabul Shooting [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • Critics Call for Alternatives to Pakistani Trade Routes [TOLO] [TOLO] [TOLO]
  • NSC Briefs Families of Zabul Hostages [TOLO]
  • Report: Afghanistan Research Newsletter – “The aim, as in the past, is to provide information on recent papers and resources relevant for research on Afghanistan, be it for improving policy, improving programming or providing context and background for individuals and institutions working in and for Afghanistan.” [AREU]
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