Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Sweep Arrests in the Wake of Ismaili Attack; Some Victims in Kabul Hotel Attack Identified

Topline

  • Karachi police have conducted sweep arrests in the wake of Wednesday’s bombing of a bus carrying members of the Ismaili minority community; Prime Minister Sharif and former Pres. Zardari met on Thursday and reportedly agreed to a reshuffle of provincial administration, placing the police under the authority of the paramilitary Rangers. Anonymous and minimally-sourced allegations of Baloch or Indian involvement in the attack continue, despite a public claim of responsibility by the militant sectarian group Jundullah. Some of the victims of the Thursday attack on a Kabul hotel have been identified, but investigations are ongoing and the number of attackers remains in dispute. The Paktia provincial prosecutor was killed in an attack in Kabul on Thursday evening. Analysts lay blame on local officials and powerbrokers in both Badghis and Badakhshan for recent Taliban attacks on districts there. Former Pres. Karzai continues to cultivate supporters, particularly those alienated by the national unity government. Pakistan will seek a $1 billion loan from the Islamic Development Bank and the extension of a Chinese loan agreement in an effort to meet ambitious foreign exchange reserve targets for the next fiscal year.

Pakistan — Security

  • Karachi Attack Aftermath: Karachi police have reportedly arrested as many as 185 people in connection with Wednesday’s attack on a bus carrying members of the Ismaili minority community, and tell the Express Tribune that they believe that the attack may be linked to other recent attacks targeting activist Sabeen Mahmud, police officer Abdul Fateh Sangri, and academic Debra Lobo. Secretary Kerry condemned the attack in a statement on Thursday and offered U.S. assistance in bringing those responsible to justice. Prime Minister Sharif met with former Pres. Zardari in Islamabad on Thursday evening, where they reportedly held talks on the national political and security situation, the upcoming federal budget and National Finance Commission negotiations, and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. The Express Tribune reports the two leaders agreed to reshuffle the leadership of several Sindh provincial departments in the wake of Wednesday’s attack in Karachi, placing the province’s police closer under the control of the paramilitary Rangers. Anonymous sources further claim involvement by Baloch separatists and Indian intelligence in the attack. Reuters profiles Jundullah, the militant group that claimed responsibility for the attack, which last November pledged affiliation with the Islamic State; military intelligence officials dismiss claims from the group that it is receiving support from the Islamic State’s core organization. [ET] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn]
  • FATA Operations: An anonymous government official tells Reuters that the Pakistani military has begun a “massive military action against the Taliban militants and their allies in the Shawal mountains” of North Waziristan, described as one of the last major areas of the agency not held by security forces. Eyewitnesses report movements of ground troops. At least 17 militants were killed in airstrikes in the Shawal region on Friday. A bomb was defused in the adjacent Bannu district on Friday and two suspects arrested.
  • Balochistan Operations: The Frontier Corps began search operations in the Kalat, Mastung, and Panjgur district on Thursday, and report killing thirteen militants, including a Baloch Liberation Army commander. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Political Tensions in Sindh: On Friday, the Sindh High Court gave the Rangers until June 4 to submit a detailed report on the status of MQM activists the party says are being held without charge in the wake of the March raid on MQM headquarters in Karachi. Separately, an anti-terrorism court extended the physical remand of two MQM activists previously accused of cooperating with Indian intelligence to May 26. Meanwhile, another anti-terrorism court dismissed a challenge brought by former Sindh home minister Zulfikar Mirza against the principal investigator in charges against him for attacks on Badin police; the officer, Muahmmad Ahmed Qureshi, is also the brother of a local PPP leader. The court ordered Mirza to record testimony with the police in the cases, which he has to date resisted.
  • Election Complaints: During judicial commission hearings on Thursday, PML-N lawyers challenged the PTI’s contention that extra ballot papers had been printed only in constituencies won by the PML-N, citing similar cases in a number of constituencies won by the PTI. On Friday, the Election Commission restored minister Khawaja Saad Rafique’s standing in the national assembly, pending a Supreme Court resolution of his complaint against the election tribunal verdict ordering a reelection in his constituency. [ET] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • IDB Loan: Pakistan will reportedly seek to borrow $1 billion from the Saudi Arabia-based Islamic Development Bank during the next fiscal year, as well as rolling over a $1 billion Chinese loan originally obtained during the previous PPP administration that is currently due to expire at the end of June. Both measures are intended to build Pakistan’s gross official foreign currency reserves to meet an IMF target of $20.2 billion by the end of the next fiscal year; as of May 8, the State Bank of Pakistan held $12.55 billion in foreign reserves.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Quetta Shias Flee Pakistan [AFP]
  • Two Christian Women Attacked with Acid in Quetta [Dawn]
  • Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Mumtaz Qadri Appeal [ET]
  • Planning Minister Defends China-Pakistan Economic Corridor Route [Dawn]
  • Karachi Electric Seeks to Crack Down on Power Theft [ET]
  • Discrepancies Between Textile Unit Sale and Purchase Data Leads to Sales Tax Recovery [Dawn]
  • Petitioner Seeks to Bar Prime Minister from Leaving Country [Dawn]
  • Report: Charting Pakistan’s Internal Security Policy – “In highlighting key related strategic and operational issues, this report offers Pakistani policymakers ways forward on how best to ensure internal stability and security, reminding us that a balance in civilian and military institutions is vital for effective policy outcomes.” [Raza Rumi, USIP]
  • Report: Wake Up, Pakistan – “This Working Group, chaired by Thomas R. Pickering, and comprised of a broad and diverse assemblage of Pakistani and international figures deeply concerned about the country’s future, believes it is time for Pakistan to wake up to its responsibilities to address these problems, and for its international partners to assist where they can.” [Century Foundation]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Kabul Hotel Attack Aftermath: Police are still investigating the details of the attack on the Park Palace Hotel in Kabul, where eyewitnesses report that at least one gunman — the exact number of attackers is in dispute — went door to door targeting foreign nationals. The American national killed in the attack has been identified as Paula Kantor, a scientist working on a project studying wheat production for the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit. Italian media have identified another victim as Alessandro Abati and his wife Aigerim Abdulayeva, a Kazakh national [TOLO] [AREU Statement]
  • Other Attacks: On Thursday evening, Taliban gunmen killed the chief prosecutor for Paktia province, Najibullah Sultanzoi, outside his home in Kabul. The Taliban issued a claim of responsibility. On Friday, the acting Ghor provincial governor told TOLO that Taliban fighters and Afghan security forces were engaged in “heavy clashes” in the Charsada district. At a discussion in Kabul on Thursday, analysts blamed members of parliament and government officials for the deterioration of security in Badakhshan province, accusing them of having “deliberately allowed or facilitated security issues in the province in order to pursue their own political and economic objectives”. Likewise, anonymous local sources tell TOLO that unspecified local powerbrokers in the Badghis district of Jawand encouraged a Taliban takeover of the area, since repelled by Afghan security forces, due to clashes with the district administration. [TOLO] [Pajhwok] [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Karzai Legacy: The NYT reports that many Afghans, frustrated with the limited performance of the national unity government, now look to the administration of Hamid Karzai with nostalgia; Karzai himself is reported to be actively cultivating “those disposed by the new administration” from his office near the presidential palace, raising concerns on the part of both Pres. Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Pakistan Expels 29 Afghans in North Waziristan [ET]
  • Public Works Minister Submits Priorities for First 100 Days [TOLO]
  • Commentary: The Park Palace Attack: More Losses for Afghanistan – “The Taleban’s repeated use of the word ‘invaders’ as an apparent synonym for ‘foreigner’ in their claim of responsibility for the Park Palace attack (read a translation at the end of this dispatch) reads like a deliberate attempt to blur the distinction between military and civilian.” [AAN]
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