- A Taliban attack on the Park Palace Hotel in Kabul has killed at least 14 people, including nine foreign nationals, four of whom have been identified as Indians and one American. In the wake of Wednesday’s attack on Karachi’s Ismaili community, Pakistani military and civilian officials held back-to-back meetings on Wednesday and Thursday to review security measures for the city, vowing to continue and expand the paramilitary Rangers’ targeting of criminal and terrorist groups. Indian Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry took the opportunity to warn that India was supporting terrorist activity in Pakistan; some Pakistani press reports suggest that two of the attackers were Afghan nationals or had received training from India, although there are no substantiating details at this point. NATO foreign ministers meeting in Turkey on Wednesday agreed to extend support for Afghanistan past the end of the Resolute Support mission after the end of 2016, in what they said would be a civilian-led mission with some elements of military support.
Pakistan — Security
- Karachi Attack Aftermath: Prime Minister Sharif chaired a meeting of senior military and civilian officials in Karachi on Wednesday in the wake of an attack earlier in the day on a bus carrying members of the Ismaili minority sect; on Thursday, Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif, who attended Wednesday’s meeting as well, chaired a meeting of the civil-military provincial apex committee to review the security situation in the province. Wednesday’s meeting directed the ongoing paramilitary operation in Karachi to target “not only criminal organisations but also their workers and abettors”; Thursday’s agreed that “across the board operations” would continue “with increased tempo”, and weekly meetings of the provincial apex committee going forward. Imran Khan told reporters on Thursday that the use of the Rangers alone “will only provide temporary relief”; in the Senate, the MQM staged a protest walkout against what they described as a failure of law enforcement agencies. Without providing further details, the Express Tribune suggests that the attackers “hail from Afghanistan”; at a press conference on Thursday, Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry reiterated warnings that Indian intelligence services were supporting terrorist activities in Pakistan. Khaama Press reports that Chaudhry accused RAW of training two of the Karachi attackers, although Dawn’s coverage of his remarks do not include that detail. Funeral services for the victims were held on Thursday, amidst a day of mourning called by the prime minister. [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET] [Khaama Press]
Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy
- PTI Wins Senate Seat: On Wednesday, Azam Khan Swati of the PTI was elected to a vacant senate seat for Khyber Paktunkhwa, raising the party’s strength in the senate to seven senators. Swati received 71 votes from the Khyber Paktunkhwa provincial assembly electoral college, while Haji Ghulam Ali of the JUI-F received 41 votes. [ET] [ET]
Pakistan — Economics and Development
- China Economic Corridor Project: During Wednesday’s conference of senior party leaders to discuss the Pakistan-China Economic Corridor project, Prime Minister Sharif and Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal defended the project and insisted that it would bring benefits to the whole country. A special parliamentary oversight committee will be established for the project. [Dawn]
- Polio Crisis: A new polio case was reported in Charsadda, Khyber Paktunkhwa on Tuesday, bringing the national total so far this year to 23 cases.
- Education Crisis: Pakistan’s overall literacy rate dropped to 58% in the 2013-14 fiscal year, according to Pakistan Bureau of Statistics surveys, driven by drops in both Sindh (56%, a 4% decline) and Balochistan (43%, a 3% decline).
Pakistan — Remainders
- Surveiling and Censoring the Internet in Pakistan [AJE]
- Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Challenge from Mumtaz Qadri [ET]
- Government Opposes Widening of Musharraf Case; Musharraf Exempted from Bugti Hearings [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [ET]
- Karachi Officer Rao Anwar Reinstated After Suspension [ET]
- Zardari Again Skips Accountability Court Hearings [Dawn]
- JUI-F Delegation Halted From Visiting Iran [Dawn]
- Power Utilities Workers Strike in Sindh and Khyber Paktunkhwa [Dawn] [ET]
- Commentary: What Pakistan Knew About the Bin Laden Raid – “It is this failure — explaining bin Laden’s presence in Pakistan, not the elaborate conspiracies Hersh alleges on the say-so of a single retired U.S. counterterrorism official — which has been a major disservice to truth.” [Husain Haqqani, Foreign Policy]
Afghanistan — Security
- Kabul Guesthouse Attacked: A team of Taliban gunmen attacked the Park Palace Hotel in Kabul on Wednesday evening before eventually being killed by Afghan security forces after an hours-long siege that ended early Thursday morning; some reports suggest only one gunman was involved, however. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, saying that they had targeted foreign citizens; earlier during the siege, presidential advisor Ahmad Zia Massoud had suggested that the Taliban had targeted the compound thinking the Indian ambassador was present, although he did not offer evidence. At least fourteen people are reported to have been killed in the attack, including nine foreigners and five Afghans. One American and four Indian nationals are confirmed to have been killed in the incident, which apparently took place during a party for a foreign group, with more than 50 people in attendance, although their identities have not been released. The BBC reports that Afghan singer Altaf Hussain was scheduled to give a performance at the hotel. Indian Prime Minister Modi spoke by phone with Pres. Ghani on Thursday, saying that “we are one when it comes to fighting terror”. [WSJ] [WAPO] [AJE] [Khaama Press] [TOLO]
- NATO Pledges Continued Support: At a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Turkey on Wednesday, the allies announced their commitment to continued support for Afghanistan after the end of the Resolute Support mission, currently scheduled to finish at the end of 2016. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that “our future presence will be led by civilians. It will have a light footprint. But it will have a military component” with the aim to “advise and instruct the Afghan security institutions, to help them become self-sufficient, and to build on what we have achieved so far, as part of the broader international effort.” [TOLO] [NATO Statement]
Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy
- Taliban Talks: Speaking at a conference of civil society and women’s rights representatives in Kabul on Wednesday, High Peace Council secretary Masoom Stanekzai pledged that the details of any peace process with the Taliban would shared with parliament, which would have “final decision” on the issue.
Afghanistan — Remainders