Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: American Vice Principal Shot in Karachi; Blame Exchanged Over Northern Taliban Attacks

Topline

  • An American woman serving as a vice principal at the Karachi Jinnah Medical and Dental College was wounded in a shooting on Thursday; leaflets left at the scene claimed responsibility on behalf of the “Lions of the Islamic State”, although the authenticity of those claims has yet to be confirmed. Chinese Pres. Xi Jinping will visit Pakistan next week, where he is expected to sign infrastructure investment deals totaling $46 billion over the next fifteen years. Northern Afghan leaders accuse one another of failing to prevent recent attacks in Balkh and Badakhshan; governor Atta Mohammad Noor specifically accused the head of the NDS and Hezb-e-Islami members working in government of complicity in the Mazar-e-Sharif attack last week. Pres. Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah remain deadlocked on a defense minister nominee. Pakistan may send naval vessels to contribute to the enforcement of a UN-backed arms embargo on Houthi fighters in Yemen, Dawn reports. Khyber Agency officials claim that the leader of the Pakistani Islamic State affiliate was killed in an IED explosion on Thursday. Pakistan’s national assembly committee on information technology passed a new cybercrime bill out of committee on Thursday, which critics maintain will increase state powers of censorship. Pakistan’s commerce minister announced reduced screening for Afghan cargo imported through Karachi, aimed at speeding up transit times.

Pakistan — Security

  • American Wounded in Karachi Shooting: Debar Lobo, an American national and long-time Karachi resident who had been serving as a vice principal and professor of community health at the Jinnah Medical and Dental College, was shot and wounded by four unidentified gunmen on Thursday. Doctors reported that Lobo was out of critical condition as of Friday. Leaflets found at the scene of the shooting threatened further attacks on Americans and claimed that the attack had been carried out by the “Lions of the Islamic State”, a previously unknown group. Police said they were still investigating the authenticity of the claim. [WSJ]
  • Yemen Conflict: Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif returned from Saudi Arabia on Thursday to attend a meeting of senior civilian and military leaders chaired by Prime Minister Sharif. An official readout of the meeting indicated that the Pakistani delegation had conveyed that Pakistan “would fully participate and contribute to the implementation of the UNSC resolution” barring arms transfers to Houthi militia forces fighting in Yemen, without specifying how it would do so; Dawn reports that some Pakistan Navy vessels may be committed to the task. The government’s statement also “expressed its concerns over the reports of foreign support to the Houthis”, and reiterated calls for a resolution of the conflict through dialogue. [ET]
  • FATA Operations: Khyber Agency officials claim that Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, a former TTP commander from Orakzai who has been identified as the chief of the Islamic State’s local affiliate, was killed while planting an improvised explosive device in the Tirah Valley on Thursday. There has been no confirmation from the group’s spokesman. Air strikes in the Orakzai Agency killed ten militant suspects on Thursday, military officials report. [ET]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Chinese President to Visit: Pres. Xi Jinping is expected to visit Pakistan on April 20 — the first visit by a Chinese head of state in nine years — where he will address a joint session of parliament and sign a slew of agreements on economic and security partnerships. Infrastructure investments as part of the Pakistan-China Economic Corridor totaling $46 billion over the next 15 years are expected to be signed, including the addition of 10,400 megawatts of electricity by 2018; a $4-5 billion submarine sale is also under negotiation. Although limited details have been reported, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman indicated that funding would not come from China’s new Asian Infrastructure Development Bank or special ‘Silk Road’ fund. [Reuters]
  • Committee Passes Cybercrime Bill: The National Assembly committee on information technology passed the Prevention of Electronics Crime Bill 2015 out of committee through a vote on Thursday, with five of the six opposition members on the committee absent. Critics describe the law as “draconian,” noting new restrictions on the transmission of “any false intelligence, likely to harm or intimidate reputation or privacy of a person” and barring “[taking] a picture of any person and display[ing] or [distributing it] without his consent or knowledge in a manner that harms a person.” The bill also apparently offers loose permission for the government to block any website “in the interest of the glory of Islam or the integrity, security or defence of Pakistan or any part thereof, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency or morality”. [ET]
  • Elections: On Thursday, the Lahore High Court ruled that dual nationality holders could contest local government elections, and that restrictions only applied to national and provincial assembly elections. In Khyber Paktunkhwa, talks continue between the ANP, JUI-F, and PPP on slates for local government elections. The PTI has yet to begin issuing party tickets. Meanwhile, the PML-N has endorsed the Jamaat-e-Islami candidate in the NA-246 Karachi special election, who is facing off against the MQM and PTI. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET]
  • Karachi Crackdown: Five men, including a Sunni Ittehad Council leader and three Karachi Metropolitan Corporation officials, were detained for 90 days of questioning by the Rangers on Thursday; all are accused of involvement in targeted killings, kidnapping, and extortion. [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Kerry Conveys US Concerns Over Lakvhi Release to Sharif [Dawn]
  • Accountability Court Reopens Assets Investigation Against Former Pres. Zardari [Dawn] [ET]
  • Senate Strengthens Oversight Powers [Dawn]
  • Government Spent Rs 450 Million on Media Campaign During PTI-PAT Sit-Ins [ET]
  • Public Sector Development Program Cut Further to Cover Revenue Shortfall [Dawn]
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Chief Minister Says Kabul Visit ‘Very Fruitful’ [ET] [Dawn]
  • New Evidence in Investigation of Shafqat Hussain Case [Dawn] [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Allegations of Complicity in Northern Attacks: Following earlier reports that the local battalion commander was absent at the time of last week’s attack on Afghan National Army outposts in Badakhshan’s Jurm district, Badakhshan police officials have accused a number of parliamentarians and provincial council members of providing “covert support” to Taliban fighters. Military officials add that several armored vehicles and heavy weapons were seized during the attack. Meanwhile, Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor accused the head of the National Directorate of Security of failing to take action to stop the attack on the attorney general’s office in Mazar-e-Sharif last week, additionally blaming Hezb-e-Islami government employees of complicity in the incident.
  • Missing Defense Minister: Government critics continue complaints that divisions between Pres. Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah have stalled the selection of a defense minister, contributing to leadership vacancies as the peak fighting season approaches; Reuters reports that Abdullah is backing former deputy defense minister Atiqullah Baryalai for the post, to whom Ghani is reportedly strongly opposed.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Fuel Contract Investigations: TOLO, citing member of parliament Abdul Rahim Ayoubi, reports that 63 individuals, including former minister of finance Omar Zakhilwal, have been accused of involvement in the Afghan National Army fuel contract scandal; Ayoubi expresses public doubt that Zakhilwal will face serious prosecution, given his support for Pres. Ghani during the past presidential election campaign.

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Transit Trade: On Thursday, Pakistani Commerce Minister Khurram Dastgir Khan announced that only 20% of Afghan cargo imported through Karachi would be subjected to scanning, rather than 100% as previously practiced, in an attempt to speed up cargo transit times and clear 90% of goods within the first day of arrival.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Four People Kidnapped in Ghazni [Khaama Press]
  • Farkhunda’s Family Upset Over Delays in Arrests [TOLO]
  • Electricity Shortage Forces Closure of Kandahar Factories [TOLO]
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