Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Military Train Derails in Gujranwala; Disputes Continue Over South Waziristan Border Clash

Topline

  • As many as nineteen people, including four army officers, were killed when a train carrying army personnel derailed and fell into a canal in Gujranwala after a bridge collapse; investigations are ongoing as to the cause of the incident. Afghan and Pakistani continue to formally protest and blame one another for the exchange of fire across the South Waziristan-Paktika border earlier this week. Afghan special forces raided a Medecins Sans Frontiers hospital in Kunduz earlier this week, Reuters reports, apparently searching for a suspect linked with Al Qaeda. Pakistan formally concluded (but did not announce at the time) the “Khyber II” operation on June 15, Dawn reports. Special elections scheduled for July 5 for disputed constituencies in the Khyber Paktunkhwa local elections have been put on hold as the Peshawar High Court agreed Friday to take up a petition challenging the elections. The PPP, led by co-chair Bilawalwal Bhutto Zardari, is aiming to reinvigorate and reorganize its Punjab chapter after several recent defections. Afghanistan and U.S. officials have extended negotiations on the tax status of U.S. defense contractors operating in the country until September 1; Afghanistan is seeking millions in back taxes.

Pakistan — Security

  • More Than a Dozen Killed in Military Train Derailment: As many as nineteen people were killed, including at least four army officers, when a train carrying army personnel derailed in the Gujranwala district in Punjab on Thursday as the bridge it was passing over collapsed. Pakistan Railways officials and railways minister Khawaja Saad Rafique disputed reports that the bridge was in dilapidated condition, and suggested that sabotage might be a possible cause; investigations are underway. [BBC]
  • FATA Operations: Dawn reports that military officials formally concluded – but did not publicly announced at the time – the ‘Khyber II” military operation in the Khyber Agency on June 15, after taking control of two out of the three mountain passes that allow access across the border to Afghanistan. Discussions are reportedly underway to recruit a new paramilitary levies force to augment security in the area cleared by military operations. [ET]
  • Police Rescue Couple from Mob: Punjab police reported Thursday that they had rescued a Christian couple from a lynch mob in the village of Makki on Tuesday, after local residents accused them of blasphemy; the principal accuser, a barber, is suspected of seeking to take ownership of their home. [Reuters]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Local Elections: On Thursday, Khyber Paktunkhwa provincial officials formally requested army assistance in providing security for the July 5 special elections for local government bodies. On Friday, however, the Peshawar High Court suspended the special elections schedule after agreeing to hear a PTI petition challenging the new polls. Meanwhile, the senate committee on the interior decided earlier this week that Islamabad local government elections should be held on the basis of party affiliation; the Election Commission has already scheduled the polls for July 25, despite the absence of a law governing the local bodies, arguing that they had to follow a schedule set by the Supreme Court. [Dawn]
  • Election Complaints: During arguments before the judicial commission investigating alleged rigging in the 2013 general elections, PML-N lawyers argued that missing forms and extra ballot papers were not evidence of malicious intentions or deliberate efforts to alter the results of the elections. [ET] [ET]
  • Other Political Activity: PPP co-chairman Bilalwal Bhutto Zardari met with party leaders in Karachi on Thursday to discuss membership drives and party reorganization in Punjab, where the party has seen the defection of several prominent party leaders in recent weeks. Bilalwal is reported to have pledged to visit “every district and constituency in Punjab” to resolve intra-party disputes. Dawn suggests that the ongoing PTI leadership reorganization has pushed former party spokeswoman Shireen Mazari into a more marginal role, although she now serves as the party’s whip in the national assembly. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Heatwave Emergency Lifted: On Thursday, Sindh health authorities formally lifted the heatwave emergency for the province, although five more deaths were reported in the province, bringing the total since June 20 to 1,271. A district and sessions court has reserved judgment on whether or not it will take up a PTI petition charging the provincial government with culpability for the deaths. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • ‘ISIS-Inspired’ Militants Arrested in Peshawar [Dawn]
  • Imran Khan Nephews Granted Bail [ET] [ET]
  • Finance Ministry Pledges More Tariff Adjustments in IMF Letter [Dawn] [ET]
  • Central Aviation Authority Director Removed [Dawn]
  • Pakistan Seeks Consular Access to Detained Commentator Zaid Hamid [ET]
  • Sindh Accuses Federal Government of Overbilling on Electricity [Dawn]
  • Parliament to Investigate Privatization of HEC, MCB Bank [ET]
  • Punjab Polio Vaccinators Protest Salary Delays [ET]
  • FBR Seeks Monthly Manufacturing Production Data [Dawn]
  • Savings Mobilization Rises During First 11 Months of Fiscal Year [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Border Clash: On Thursday, a delegation of senior Afghan military officials visited the site of clashes earlier this week between Afghan and Pakistani border security forces, in which at least one Afghan border police officer was confirmed to have been killed. On Friday, Pakistan formally protested what it said was “unprovoked firing” by the Afghan side earlier this week, following protests by Afghan diplomats the day prior; Pakistani officials also allege that an official of the Pakistan consulate in Kandahar was “forcibly detained” for several hours on Thursday, although details are minimal. [Dawn]
  • Afghan Special Forces Raid MSF Hospital: Afghan special forces conducted a raid on a Medecins Sans Frontiers hospital facility in Kunduz on Wednesday, a special forces commander tells Reuters, apparently in pursuit of an “Al Qaeda member” under treatment at the facility. MSF spokesmen said that the hospital had been temporarily closed in the wake of the incident, which “demonstrates a serious lack of respect for the medical mission, which is safeguarded under international humanitarian law”. It is unclear whether the suspect was detained or not.
  • Other Attacks and Operations: Taliban fighters have seized control of almost all of the Jalrez district in Wardak province, members of the provincial council reported on Friday, with the exception of some government buildings in the district center. [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Farkhunda Lynching Case: The family members of Farkhunda, the woman lynched by a Kabul mob in mid-March on blasphemy charges, denounced reports on Thursday that a Kabul court had overturned death sentences for four men in connection to the incident. Some accounts indicate that the court, which held closed deliberations, also acquitted the shrine caretaker previously found guilty of inciting the mob, but details remain limited. [Reuters] [Guardian]

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Contractor Taxes: U.S. and Afghan officials have extended a deadline until September 1 for negotiations over the tax status of U.S. defense contractors operating in Afghanistan, who Afghan officials maintain owe millions in back taxes, particularly focusing on logistics contractor Supreme — which is withdrawing from the country after its contracts end this year — DynCorp, and Raytheon.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Kabul Police Arrest More Than 200 in Anti-Crime Sweep [TOLO]
  • Former Bagram Purchasing Offer Pleads Guilty to Accepting Bribes [Reuters]
  • ‘Hero Soldier’ of Parliament Attack Arrested in Traffic Death [Reuters]
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