Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: MQM Leader Splits with Sindh Governor; Taliban Announced Spring Offensive

Topline

  • MQM leader Altaf Hussain split with Sindh governor Ishratul Ebad on Wednesday, accusing him of representing the “establishment” rather than the party; Hussain’s move comes just a day ahead of the NA-246 special election in Karachi, where competition between the MQM, PTI, and JI is high. The Afghan Taliban formally announced the start of their spring offensive, which they have named “Azm”, or “Resolve”. Prime Minister Sharif and Chief of Army Staff Sharif will visit Saudi Arabia tomorrow to discuss bilateral relations. A local Islamabad court acquitted Lashkar-e-Taiba operative Zakiur Rehman Lakvhi of a six-year old kidnapping case brought against him last December. Ghazni police report a rising number of abductions and beheadings of Hazara men by Taliban militants, who officials suggest are using increasing brutality against the minority group in order to compete with ISIS affiliated militants. A spokesman for Pres. Ghani said that his office was no longer seeking or receiving cash payments from Iran or the United States, ending a long-standing practice by his predecessor. Pakistani opposition politicians continue to accuse the PML-N government of bypassing marginalized regions of the country in planning the route of the prospective China-Pakistan economic corridor.

Pakistan — Security

  • Saudi Relations: Prime Minister Sharif chaired a meeting of senior military and civilian officials to review the situation in Yemen on Wednesday, following the announcement on Tuesday by Saudi officials that they were officially ending their four week-long air campaign there. The prime minister and Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif will both visit Saudi Arabia on Thursday for a day-long visit to discuss the conflict and bilateral relations. [Dawn]
  • FATA Operations: Seven security personnel were injured in an attack on a checkpost in South Waziristan on Tuesday evening, and two were injured in a separate checkpost attack in Bajaur. On Wednesday, military spokesmen said that 22 militants had been killed in airstrikes in the Datta Khel region of North Waziristan.
  • Balochistan Operations: At least seven militant suspects and four soldiers were killed in separate clashes in Balochistan on Tuesday. Search operations continue in the wake of the Balochistan Republican Army attack on the Pasni radar station, with more personnel deployed to secure the site. [ET]
  • Lakvhi Acquitted in Kidnapping Case: On Tuesday, a Islamabad local court dismissed a six-year old kidnapping case that had been brought against Lashkar-e-Taiba operative Zakiur Rehman Lakvhi in December following an order releasing him on bail, citing the failure of the plaintiff to appear before the court and lack of evidence on the part of the prosecution. [ET] [Dawn]
  • Executions: Four more death row prisoners were executed at jails around the country on Wednesday, bringing the total to at least 95 since the resumption of capital punishment in December. The Post notes that at current pace, Pakistan is likely to be one of the “global leaders in state-sanctioned executions this year“, joining China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and the United States. [AFP] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • MQM Leader Splits with Sindh Governor: On Wednesday, MQM leader Altaf Hussain told party supporters that he was disowning long-serving Sindh governor Ishrat ul Ebad, accusing him of being a representative of the “establishment” rather than the party, and suggesting that he had failed to stop raids on MQM headquarters and party offices. Hussain’s announcement comes just a day prior from the NA-246 special election in Karachi, where the party faces off against the PTI and JI amidst crackdowns and pressure from law enforcement in both Pakistan and the UK. Dawn profiles the NA-246 candidates — none of whom reside in the Azizabad constituency under contest — and conducts an in-depth feature on MQM and PTI party activists preparing for the vote. The Election Commission issued orders on Tuesday barring the use of cell phones in polling stations, and allowing the use of expired national ID cards as their voter IDs. [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

Pakistan — Remainders

  • President Hussain to Visit Turkey [ET]
  • MQM and JUI-F Motion to De-Seat PTI Legislators [Dawn]
  • Former Sindh Home Minister Accuses Former Pres. Zardari of Laundering Money Through Model [Dawn]
  • PML-N Finalizes Cantonment Board Election Slates [ET] [ET] [Dawn]
  • India Seizes Heroin from Pakistani Fishing Boat [Dawn]
  • Report: Education and Attitudes in Pakistan – “Why do Pakistanis continue to hold a skewed assessment of the Taliban threat to their country? What underlies their attitudes toward the Taliban, the United States, India, and religious minorities? This report draws on author interviews and fieldwork undertaken in Punjab in 2013 and 2014 as well as on a detailed curriculum and textbook study to identify and trace the roots of these attitudes and suggest ways out of the dilemma for Pakistan’s policymakers.” [Madiha Afzal, USIP]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Taliban Announce ‘Spring Offensive’: On Wednesday, Taliban spokesmen officially announced the launch of their annual spring offensive, this year named “Azm”, or “Resolution”. The Taliban statement reiterated the group’s intention to target foreign and Afghan government targets, and made no mention of previously reported efforts by the government to engage in peace talks with the group. Anonymous government sources tell Pajhwok that the Afghan government is unsatisfied with Pakistani pledges to support reconciliation with the Taliban, and that a Pakistani suggestion to bring a delegation of Taliban representatives to Kabul for talks had stalled in the face of Afghan demands that Pakistan “first stop supporting the Taliban”. [Khaama Press]
  • Kidnappings: Ghazni police have reported at least ten Hazara men kidnapped in separate incidents had been found beheaded in the Ajristan district; legislator Shahgul Rezaye tells the NYT that “the Taliban are trying to send out a new message that they are similar in their brutality to ISIS”. 31 Hazara men kidnapped in February in Zabul remain missing. On Tuesday, the Ministry of Interior reported that 19 de-miners who had been abducted on Monday in Paktia had been freed after negotiations by local elders; the NDS issued a statement suggesting that they “were rescued” by Afghan intelligence officers and that the men had been kidnapped by the Haqqani network. [TOLO] [TOLO]
  • Other Attacks: Two people were killed and two injured in separate bombings in Nangarhar on Wednesday; in the Behsood district, deputy prosecutor Ghulam Haidar and his driver were killed in a roadside bombing, while in the Kama district two people, including a local police logistics officer, were wounded by a bomb planted on their vehicle. [TOLO] [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • Police Literacy: UNESCO officials report that around 60,000 Afghan police officers, or roughly 70% of the total force, are illiterate.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • No More Foreign Cash, Presidency Says: A spokesman for Pres. Ghani told the VOA on Wednesday that the president had not received or asked for funds from Iran during his recent visit to Tehran, or received them from any other source, reversing previous practices of the Karzai administration, which received regular cash payments from both sources. [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Suspects in Fuel Contract Scandal Deny Wrongdoing [TOLO]
  • Afghanistan Tries to Strike Balance in Escalating Iran-Saudi Rivalry [Guardian]
  • New Zabul Police Chief Appointed [TOLO]
  • Interior Minister Orders Police to Tackle Internal Corruption [TOLO]
  • Ministry of Interior Offers Reward for Farkhunda Murder Suspects [TOLO]
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