Pakistani-Afghanistan Update: 43 Ismailis Killed in Karachi Bus Attack; Sharif and Ghani Pledge Joint Support

Topline

  • The TTP splinter group Jundullah claimed responsibility for an attack on a Karachi commuter bus on Wednesday, killing at least 43 members of the Ismaili Shia minority community. During a visit to Kabul on Tuesday, Prime Minister Sharif and Pres. Ghani pledged joint efforts to crack down on militancy based in each state’s territory; Sharif made a rare direct rebuke of the Afghan Taliban’s summer offensive, and suggested that “coordinated operations” would be undertaken to target militant bases along the shared border. Gunmen attacked a gathering of the Helmand Ulema Council in Lashkar Gah on Wednesday, killing as many as seven people. Pakistan will grant UK authorities access to a man they identify as the lead planner of the 2010 murder of former MQM leader Imran Farooq. PTI lawyers continue to challenge the printing of excess ballot papers during judicial commission proceedings investigating election rigging charges during the May 2013 general elections. A spokesman for Chief Executive Abdullah indicated Tuesday that an agreement had been reached on the appointment of a new chairman of the electoral reforms commission, although no details were offered. Prime Minister Sharif chaired a meeting of senior party leaders to discuss the China-Pakistan economic corridor project on Wednesday.

Pakistan — Security

  • 43 Ismaili Shia Killed in Karachi: At least six gunmen on motorcycles targeted a commuter bus in eastern Karachi on Wednesday, executing 43 members of the Ismaili Shia minority community and injuring 13. Sources tell Dawn the attackers were dressed as police. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan splinter group Jundullah claimed responsibility for the attack; Al Jazeera reports that pamphlets left at the scene claimed responsibility on behalf of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, to whom Jundullah pledged loyalty last November. Prime Minister Sharif condemned the attack as a “despicable attempt to spread anarchy in Pakistan”, as did many other political leaders; the Sindh provincial government and the MQM have called for a day of mourning on Thursday. Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif cancelled a planned trip to Sri Lanka to visit Karachi and review the security situation. [NYT] [WSJ] [Guardian] [BBC]
  • Imran Farooq Murder Investigation: On Tuesday, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan announced that Pakistan would grant British investigators access to Moazzam Ali Khan, a man accused of planning the murder of former MQM leader Imran Farooq  in London in 2010; it is unclear at this stage whether or not he will be extradited. [ET]
  • Defector Contributed to Bin Laden Surveillance: An AFP report, citing one unidentified former senior Pakistani military official and former ISI director Hamid Gul, suggests that a Pakistani military intelligence officer played a previously undisclosed role in conducting some form of surveillance confirming Osama bin Laden’s presence at the Abbotabad compound where he was found and in killed in May 2011. Those sources suggest that the officer has since defected to the U.S., and was not aware that he was targeting bin Laden.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Election Complaints: PML-N lawyers filed a complaint with the special judicial commission investigating election fraud on Wednesday, accusing PTI leader Imran Khan of interfering in the work of the commission through his frequent media appearances reiterating charges of election rigging. On Tuesday, PTI lawyers suggested that the printing of extra ballot papers prior to the May 2013 vote was concentrated in constituencies that supported the PML-N, in several cases in excess of the total registered number of voters; former Punjab election commissioner Mahboob Anwar attributed the decision to electoral returning officers. [ET] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • China Economic Corridor Project: Prime Minister Sharif chaired a meeting of senior party leaders in Islamabad on Wednesday to brief opponents on the proposed Pakistan-China Economic Corridor project, agreements on which were signed during Pres. Xi Jinping’s visit last month. India has formally registered a protest with Chinese officials over the route’s passage through parts of Pakistani-controlled Kashmir. [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • ADB Loan Approved: On Tuesday, the Asian Development Bank approved a $6 billion, five-year loan program to support Pakistan’s energy infrastructure, including several small hydroelectric dams and a 660-megawatt coal power plant in Jamshoro. ADB officials have refrained from supporting the DIamer Bhasha hydroelectric dam, however. [ET]
  • No MFN for India: Pakistan High Commissioner to India Abdul Basit told a Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry audience in Lucknow on Monday that Pakistan would not grant most-favored nation trading status to India in the near future, saying that Indian non-tariff barriers needed to first be removed and that “giving India the MFN status would have further sharpen the [trade] imbalance in favour of India”.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Sindh High Court Orders Rangers Response in MQM Extrajudicial Detentions Case [Dawn]
  • Federal Government to ‘Consult All Stakeholders’ on Sindh Governor’s Removal [ET]
  • Senate By-Election to Fill Vacant Seat of the Late Azam Khan Hoti [Dawn] [ET]
  • Commerce Minister Suggests NFC Will Not Apply to Coming Fiscal Year [Dawn]
  • Lawmakers Reject FATA Reforms Commission Proposals [ET]
  • Federal Water and Power Ministry and Sindh Government Clash Over Unpaid Bills [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Zulfiqar Mirza Receives Additional Bail [ET] [ET]
  • PTI Assembly Member Disqualified Over Failing to Disclose Assets [Dawn] [ET]
  • Lawyers Mark Anniversary of May 12 Clash in Karachi [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Government Seeks Court Approval for Appointment of Acting OGRA Head [Dawn] [ET]
  • Eight Senate Committee Heads Elected Unopposed [Dawn]
  • SNGPL Seeks Control of LNG Supply for CNG Stations [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Ulema Council Attacked: On Wednesday, gunmen opened fire on a gathering of the Afghan Ulema Council of Helmand at a mosque in Lashkar Gah, killing as many as seven people, including three police officers. The AFP reports that the head of the Helmand ulema council was among those killed, although details are still sketchy at this time. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • Hazara Hostage Exchange: A member of the Ghazni provincial council tells TOLO that, contrary to Pres. Ghani’s remarks on Monday, 26 prisoners were freed in exchange for the release of 19 Hazara hostages first kidnapped in Zabul in February, although he describes most as “underage youths” or women.
  • Other Attacks and Operations: A bomb was planted on a police vehicle near the Afghan attorney general’s office in Kabul on Wednesday morning, the third attack in the area in the past two weeks. No immediate claim of responsibility was reported, and there were no casualties. Afghan Interior Ministry spokesmen announced that a joint Afghan national security forces operation had retaken control of the Jawand district in Badghis province on Tuesday. Military operations led by Interior Ministry special forces continue in Baghlan province. [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Pakistani Leaders Visit Kabul, Pledge Joint Action: Speaking at a joint press conference with Pres. Ghani in Kabul on Tuesday, Prime Minister Sharif made a rare direct reference to the Afghan Taliban, saying that Pakistan “strongly condemn[s the] increase in violence and Operation Azm offensive by [the] Afghan Taliban,” and reiterating past formulations that “Afghanistan’s enemies will be treated as Pakistan’s enemies and Pakistan’s enemies will be treated as Afghanistan’s enemies”. Without offering further details, Sharif stated that a “coordinated operations will be planned and conducted on a mutually agreed basis to target militant hideouts along the border”; the WSJ notes that Pakistan also has persistent concerns that the Afghan National Directorate of Security may be offering covert support for the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, which Afghan officials deny. Pres. Ghani emphasized that Pakistan and Afghanistan “must work together to bring the peace, stability and welfare that both nations desire”. Sharif reportedly conveyed the same message during separate talks with Chief Executive Abdullah. Pakistani minister of states and frontier regions Abdul Qadir Baloch also tells the Guardian that “pressure is coming” for the Taliban. [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [Pajhwok]
  • Electoral Reforms: Without offering further details, a spokesman for Chief Executive Abdullah said Tuesday that an agreement had been reached with Pres. Ghani on the appointment of a new chief of the electoral reforms commission, and that they would be sworn in “soon”. The UN, meanwhile, indicated that it was reviewing its support for Afghan election authorities, in the absence of a clear schedule for parliamentary elections.

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Drug Addiction Rises: A survey conducted jointly by the Afghan ministry of health and the U.S. State department found a record high of three million drug users in Afghanistan, or around 11% of the total population, doubling from two years prior. The rate is higher in rural communities, around 13%, with opioids the most commonly used. [AFP]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan Overshadows Afghan Battlefield [RFE/RL]
  • Breshna Electric Utility Discloses Government Offices’ Unpaid Bills [TOLO]
  • Squalor and Misery Awaits Afghan Returnees Forced Out of Pakistan [AFP]
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