Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Helicopter Crash Kills Diplomats in Gilgit; Ghani and ISI Director Talk in Kabul

Topline

  • A military helicopter carrying a group of diplomats to the inauguration by the prime minister of a resort in Gilgit has crashed, killing at least seven people, including the ambassadors of Norway and the Philippines. Military officials indicated a technical fault was responsible, dismissing Taliban claims of responsibility; Prime Minister Sharif has announced a day of mourning. ISI director Lt. Gen. Rizwan Akhtar visited Kabul for talks with Pres. Ghani on Wednesday. Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah suggested on Thursday that his government might transfer cases against former home minister Zulfikar Mirza to the military court system. International travel restrictions on Pakistani travelers have been extended for three months.

Pakistan — Security

  • Diplomats Killed in Helicopter Crash: A Pakistani military MI-37 transport helicopter crashed in Gilgit-Baltistan on Friday, killing at least seven people on board and injuring the remaining ten passengers. The helicopter’s two pilots and a crew member, the ambassadors of Norway and the Philippines, and the two ambassadors’ wives were all killed in the crash; the ambassadors of Poland and Denmark were injured. The helicopter was one of three helicopters in a convoy traveling along with Prime Minister Sharif to inaugurate a new ski resort facility in the Naltar Valley. Prime Minister Sharif returned to Islamabad and has declared a day of mourning. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan issued a claim of responsibility, saying they had shot the helicopter down with an anti-aircraft rocket, but there has been no known TTP presence in the area and military spokesman indicated that the crash was due to technical faults. [WSJ] [WAPO] [BBC] [AJE] [Reuters]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Mirza Split: Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah indicated on Thursday that his government might transfer cases against former Sindh home minister Zulfikar Mirza to a military court for trial. The Sindh High Court has extended Mirza’s bail through May 9. Most of the town of Badin, where Mirza’s supporters have faced off against police and rival factions of the PPP, was shut down on Thursday after a strike call by the head of two trade associations, who accuse Mirza of attacking their shops. Dawn interviews Mirza on his split with the PPP.
  • MQM Under Pressure: On Friday, the Sindh High Court deferred a petition brought by the wife of former MQM gunman Saulat Mirza seeking a deferment of his execution, citing pending hearings in the Supreme Court. The MQM staged a protest at the Karachi Press Club on Thursday after remarks by British politician George Galloway, who had suggested that party leader Altaf Hussain would be arrested by British authorities soon. [ET] [ET] [ET]
  • Protest Ban: Citing traffic problems and security risks, the Sindh provincial government imposed a ban on Thursday on public gatherings in at the Teen Talwar traffic intersection in Karachi, the site of ongoing civil society activist protests against the murder of Sabeen Mahmud in late April. Organizers indicated they would continue at a different location.

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Polio Travel Restrictions Extended: The World Health Organization’s International Health Regulations Emergency Committee extended travel restrictions imposed on Pakistan for another three months at a meeting on April 24, acknowledging improved vaccination performance but citing the continued threat from the spread of polio in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Profile: PML-N Picks Loyalist as Punjab Governor [Dawn]
  • New Foreign Ministry Spokesman Reiterates Concerns Over ‘Indian Involvement’ [Dawn] [ET]
  • Government Planning $1B Bond Issue During FY2016 [ET]
  • Karachi Water Tankers Blame Government for Shortage [Dawn]
  • Jamaat-e-Islami Retains PK-95 Assembly Seat [Dawn]
  • National Assembly to Hold Public Hearing on Cybercrimes Bill [ET]
  • Report: District Education Rankings 2015 – “Two types of indices have been calculated: The first, an educational outcomes-based rankings measures district level performance on access, retention, learning and gender parity. The second, measures performance on availability of basic school level infrastructure.” [Alif Ailaan (pdf)]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Ghazni Attack: Four Afghan Local Police and eight militants were killed in an hours-long gunbattle in the Ab Band district of Ghazni on Thursday, Pajwhok reports.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • ISI Chief Visits Kabul: Pakistani ISI chief Lt. Gen. Rizwan Akhtar made an unannounced visit to Kabul for meetings with Pres. Ghani on the Afghan peace process on Wednesday, during which he reportedly reaffirmed Pakistani support for a dialogue process between the government and the Taliban. No further details of their discussion, which follows an unofficial meeting between government and Taliban representatives in Qatar over the past weekend, have been disclosed. Separately, Gen. John Campbell, commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, met with Pakistani Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif in Rawalpindi on Thursday, for discussions on border security cooperation.

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Mining Policy: Pres. Ghani met with ministry of mines officials on Thursday to reviewing the country’s mineral assets and mining policy, which Pajhwok quotes him as saying should “not be dependent on individuals” and should be developed through a “fair and transparent bidding process”.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Human Rights Activists Criticize Farkhunda Verdict [TOLO]
  • More Reporting on India-Iran Chabahar Port Agreement [Reuters] [TOLO]
  • Commentary: Too Late to Tango? Ashraf Ghani’s Risky Outreach to Pakistan – “The resurgence of fighting in Afghanistan might mean that Ghani’s strategy of reaching out to Pakistan is too little too late. But Ghani did not seem to have many other options.” [Scott Smith and Moeed Yusuf, South Asia Channel]
  • Commentary: U.S. Military Personnel Have Been Convicted of $50 Million Worth of Crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan – “Large cash transactions, loose military oversight, and deeply corrupted local cultures have lured more than a hundred service members to steal, rig contracts, and take bribes.” [Center for Public Integrity]
  • Commentary: Covering for Each Other in Zanabad: The Defiant Widows of the Hill – “The widows of Zanabad have challenged, with their unusual decision to take matters into their own hands, the pervasive idea that widows have no independent identity, cannot survive without protection and cannot be economically productive.” [Naheed Esar, AAN]
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