- Killings in Karachi have fallen during the first quarter of the year, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan reports. Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan reportedly discussed the extradition of suspects in the Imran Farooq murder case with UK officials earlier this week, but sought reciprocal crackdowns on Balochistan separatists and Hizb-ut-Tahrir activists in London. Afghan Interior Minister Noorul Haq Uloomi visited Badakhshan on Thursday to review security issues following the recent attacks on ANA outposts in the Jurm district. The Supreme Court of Pakistan has postponed the implementation of death sentences issued by military courts earlier this month, and rescheduled its first hearings on challenges against the new military courts system for April 22. Prime Minister Sharif and Chief of Army Staff Sharif held discussions on the possible expansion of military operations in Balochistan in the wake of the weekend attack on laborers in Turbat. Afghan cabinet nominees awaiting confirmation continue to testify before parliament. Afghanistan and Pakistan will hold talks at the end of the month on a potential prisoner exchange agreement. The special judicial commission investigating election rigging allegations held its first session on Thursday.
Pakistan — Security
- Death Sentences Stayed: Responding to a Supreme Court Bar Association petition, the Supreme Court agreed to temporarily suspend the execution of six prisoners convicted earlier this month under the military courts system, which the court is hearing a challenge against. Those hearings have been postponed until April 22. [Reuters] [ET] [Dawn]
- Indian Border Tensions: Pakistani Rangers reported Wednesday that Indian forces carried out “unprovoked shelling” across the Line of Control, damaging several houses, and that Pakistani forces responded in kind. No casualties were otherwise reported. [ET]
- Yemen Conflict: Pubjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and Foreign Advisor Sartaj Aziz met with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al Faisal in Jeddah on Wednesday, Pakistan’s foreign ministry also backed the UN Security Council’s resolution on Wednesday imposing sanctions on the insurgent Houthi militia and former president Ali Abdullah Saleh in Yemen.
- Balochistan Operations: Following Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif’s visit to Quetta on Wednesday, he met with Prime Minister Sharif to discuss security in Balochistan; the Express Tribune reports that the two leaders discussed the potential expansion of Operation Zarb-e-Azb into Balochistan to target insurgents there, following a weekend attack on laborers in Turbat that killed 20. An official readout of the meeting indicated that Pakistan would “mount pressure on Afghanistan to take action against safe havens of Baloch insurgents” in neighboring districts, charging the leader of the Baloch Liberation Army, which claimed responsibility for the attack, of sheltering in Afghanistan.
Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy
- Karachi Crackdown: Killings in Karachi over the last three months have fallen by more than 33% as compared to the same period last year, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan reported on Thursday; 532 people in all reportedly died during the January – March 2015 period. On Thursday, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan spoke by phone with Sindh governor Ishrat ul Ebad on the status of investigations into the 2010 murder of former MQM leader Imran Farooq, assuring him that the government was not deliberately targeting the MQM in its investigations. Anonymous sources claim that Chaudhry Nisar discussed the possible extradition of suspects in the Farooq murder case with UK ambassador Philip Barton, but sought “reciprocal cooperation” and a crackdown on Hizb ut Tahrir and Baloch separatists operating in London. Pakistan currently has no extradition treaty with the UK. Meanwhile, four MQM activists were arrested by the Rangers on Tuesday evening on charges of land theft and support for targeted killings. [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [ET]
- Elections: Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah suggested that he had been briefed on the Rangers’ request for biometric and CCTV systems in the upcoming Karachi special election, and express concern about the short time available to prepare for such measures. The PTI has called for all ballot papers for the election to be printed outside of Karachi, claiming that the local offices of the Printing Corporation of Pakistan were staffed by their MQM rivals. Separately, the ANP has reportedly broken with the JUI-F and PPP alliance in the Khyber Paktunkhwa local elections in the Tank district. [ET] [ET]
- Election Complaints: The judicial commission investigating charges of election rigging held its first hearings on Thursday, directing the Election Commission to submit a report within a week; the National Database and Registration Authority has been asked to submit its findings of 37 previous investigations within three days. Imran Khan submitted a statement before the commission, and was given a week’s time to submit additional information. Meanwhile, National Assembly Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq accepted an MQM petition seeking a vote on the PTI’s re-admittance to parliament despite their legislators’ earlier resignations and months-long absence from the house. [Dawn] [ET] [ET]
Pakistan — Economics and Development
- Privatization Plans: The Express Tribune reports that the government has dropped earlier plans seeking to revive and expand the long-struggling Pakistan Steel Mills and will instead move ahead with the privatization of the unit. PSM is currently operated at 50% of production capacity, which authorities are seeking to raise to 77% in anticipation of a sale.
Pakistan — Remainders
- Russia and Pakistan Agree on Joint Military Drills [ET]
- Karachi Police Officer Killed [Dawn] [ET]
- Kashmiri Leaders Rally in Muzaffarabad [Dawn] [Dawn]
- Tariff Rate Set for Nandipur Power Project [Dawn]
- Sindh Power Utility Workers Strike Over Privatization Plans [Dawn]
- Interview: Hamid Mir on the Attempt to Kill Him and What Came Next – “Frankly speaking, Geo is no more an independent news channel.” [Hamid Mir, Committee to Protect Journalists]
Afghanistan — Security
- ANA Operations: Interior Minister Noorulhaq Uloomi visited Badakshan on Thursday to review security issues in the wake of the weekend’s attacks in the Jurm district; in interviews with TOLO, critics lay the blame for the attacks on leadership vacancies in the defense ministry and at the ANA corps level. Meanwhile, Afghan National Army commander Hamid Saifi reiterated claims that the two-month operations in Helmand’s Sangin district had successfully eliminated insurgents from the area.
Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy
- Cabinet Confirmations: The nominees for the ministries of education, public works, transportation and civil aviation, and women’s affairs testified before parliament on Wednesday on their plans for their ministries. Abdul Bary Jahani, the nominee for minister of information, did not appear as scheduled after it emerged that he still held dual US-Afghan citizenship, which he is being given the option to renounce.
- Pakistani Relations: The Pakistani delegation to Kabul headed by Khyber Paktunkhwa Chief Minister Pervaiz Khattak met with Pres. Ghani on Wednesday, and with former Pres. Hamid Karzai. Khattak’s group also met with Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani and with Minister for Refugees and Repatriation Syed Hussain Alemi Balkhi; the latter meeting included discussions on an agreement to hold two-day talks beginning April 30 to discuss a prisoner exchange program. [TOLO] [ET]
- Russian Cooperation: National Security Advisor Hanif Atmar visited Moscow this week for a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, where he also signed cooperation agreements with Russia on counternarcotics programs.
Afghanistan — Remainders