Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Daesh Commander Reportedly Killed in Nangarhar; Sindh Apex Committee Backs Karachi Operation

Topline

  • The Afghan National Directorate of Security intelligence agency reported Saturday that Hafiz Saeed Khan Orakzai, identified as the commander of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria’s Khorasan province in Afghanistan and Pakistan, was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Nangarhar on Friday. ISIS spokesmen dispute the reports. On Sunday, at least 25 people were killed in a suicide car bombing outside the gates of Camp Chapman in Khost city. The Sindh civil-military provincial apex committee met on Sunday to review the Rangers operation in Karachi, which officials pledged to continue; MQM leader-in-exile Altaf Hussain charged the Rangers with continuing “atrocities against Mohajirs” and illegal arrests of MQM party activists. Pakistan and India were both granted membership status at Friday’s meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. The Afghan Taliban are divided over last week’s talks between the Afghan government and Taliban representatives in Murree, with some members chafing under Pakistani pressure to take part in talks. Former Pres. Karzai is continuing to cultivate opposition to the Ghani administration, the Guardian reports, positioning himself as an alternative power center. Karachi continues to suffer blackouts, with back-to-back outages on Saturday and Sunday. Punjab counter-terrorism officials aim to track as many as 1,600 suspects linked to terrorist organizations through ankle bracelet monitors.

Pakistan — Security

  • Counter-Terrorism Response: Punjab Counter-Terrorism Department officials tell Dawn that they plan to place tracking ankle bracelets on as many as 1,600 suspects linked to banned terrorist organizations, to as to track their movement; the trackers have been purchashed and official say implementation will begin after Eid.
  • FATA Operations: At least four security personnel were killed and five injured in an attack on a patrol in the Pir Gar area of the Shawal Valley in South Waziristan, near the border with North Waziristan, on Saturday; the military claims to have killed nine militants in the search operation. [Dawn]
  • Balochistan Violence: On Friday, at least six former members of an unidentified banned militant group were killed in an attack by rival gunmen in the Nasirabad area of the Turbat district in Balochistan. Separately on Friday, Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif visited Quetta for briefings on the local security situation. [Dawn] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • SCO Summit: Speaking at the opening of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Ufa, Russia, on Friday, Pres. Putin announced that both India and Pakistan had joined the group as full members. In remarks on Friday, Pres. Xi Jinping welcomed both India and Pakistan’s entry into the SCO but also stressed that “China firmly supports Pakistan’s efforts in safeguarding national security and will continue to provide support and help for Pakistan to improve relevant capabilities”. Prime Minister Sharif met individually with the presidents of China, Russia, and Afghanistan, in addition to his meeting with Prime Minister Modi. Pakistani opposition political parties criticized Sharif’s outreach, charging him with failing to raise the cause of Kashmir or alleged Indian interference in Balochistan, accusations which information minister Pervaiz Rashid disputed. In the run-up to the Modi-Sharif talks, Pakistan’s ambassador to India is reported to have postponed an iftar meeting with Kashmiri separatist leaders scheduled for July 4, which is now reportedly being planned for July 21. Meanwhile, Lashkar-e-Taiba operative Zakiur Rehman Lakvhi has refused to provide a voice sample to Indian investigators seeking his indictment in connection to the 2008 Mumbai attacks, his lawyer said Saturday. Briefing the Pakistani press on Monday, Pakistani foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz said that “additional information” was needed to expedite Lakvhi’s trial, as sought by India. [Reuters] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Karachi Operations: In remarks on social media on Friday, Sindh Rangers director general Major Gen. Bilal Akbar said that the ongoing paramilitary crackdown on organized crime and militancy in Karachi would continue “till its logical conclusion is achieved”; Akbar’s comments follow the one-month extension of the Ranger’s policing mandate in the city. Anonymous sources tell the Express Tribune that they will pull the Rangers from Karachi if the Sindh provincial government does not request a further extension to their deployment, as a means of inviting a court order mandating their presence. On Sunday, MQM leader Altaf Hussain accused the Rangers of violating the army code of conduct, charging them with “committing atrocities against Mohajirs, and illegal arrests, torture and extrajudicial killings of MQM workers “. The civil-military Sindh provincial apex committee met on Sunday and “agreed on continuing the operation against criminal elements in Karachi”, according to provincial information minister Sharjeel Memon. The Express Tribune reports that military officials at the meeting criticized the Sindh government for slow implementation of the National Action Plan against terrorism. PPP co-chairman Bilalwal Bhutto Zardari met with senior military officials in Karachi prior to the apex committee gathering, where he was reportedly assured that “all action will be taken with consultation of the Sindh government”. Separately, Dawn reports that Sindh government officials have ordered the provincial ministry for katchi abadis (slums) to either “regularise the slums on site or prepare a settlement plan for them ‘to utilise commercial potential of prime pieces of land’”, with officials describing the katchi abadis as “centers of crime”. [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Local Elections: On Friday, the Election Commission formally halted its planned schedule for local government elections in Islamabad; a new schedule has not yet been announced, pending the final enactment of legislation governing the elections, and officials say an announcement will most likely take place no sooner than 45 days after the legislation is passed. [ET]
  • Other Political Activity: PPP co-chairman Bilalwal Bhutto Zardari met with senior party leaders in Gujranwala on Friday, following defections by the party’s Punjab vice president and around two dozen other PPP activists to the PTI last week. On Satuday, PTI Punjab organizer Chaudhry Sarwar extended the deadline for party activists to submit their nominations for party tickets in the upcoming local body elections, and said that final party candidates would be announced August 20. Dawn notes that the party’s successful recruitment of defectors from other parties has excerbated divisions within the PTI between party loyalists and new ‘electables’. In Khyber Paktunkhwa, mines minister Ziaullah Afridi accused governor Pervaiz Khattak of pushing for his arrest on corruption charges over political disputes. [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Energy Crisis: Karachi saw its third major blackout in the past week on Saturday, after a repeat breakdown at the Bin Qasim thermal power plant, cutting of power to large portions of the city. Karachi Electric officials attributed the outage to high humidity around the power lines connecting the power station to parts of the city grid. Shortly after the restoration of power, another blackout hit the city on Sunday evening. [Dawn] [ET] [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Joint Chiefs Chairman Nominee Notes US-Pakistan Shared Interests [Dawn] [ET]
  • Prime Minister Sharif Visits Saudi Arabia, Meets Saudi King [ET] [APP]
  • Police Officer Injured in Attack on Ahmadi Mosque in Dera Ghazi Khan [Dawn]
  • Government Tells Supreme Court it Will Promote Official Use of Urdu [Dawn] [ET]
  • Government and Pakistan Broadcasters Association Negotiate Code of Conduct [Dawn]
  • Karachi to Install Solar Street Lights, Wifi, and CCTV Cameras [ET]
  • NAB Submits Revised List of Corruption Cases to Supreme Court [Dawn]
  • Former PESCO Chief Arrested on Corruption Charges [ET]
  • Presidential Ordinance Reduces Tax on Bank Transactions Until September 30 [Dawn] [ET]
  • Public Wins Right to See National Assembly Member Attendance Record [Dawn]
  • More Than 4,000 Quetta Parents Refuse Polio Vaccination for Children [Dawn]
  • Rawalpindi Metro Bus Drivers Strike Over Unpaid Salaries [Dawn]
  • Report: Financing Education in Pakistan: Opportunities for Action – “The Government of Pakistan has increased its overall spending on education in recent years. However, resource allocations to education as a proportion of GDP are far below the government’s target of 4%. To achieve this target, there is an urgent need to increase overall tax revenues in the country.” [Oslo Education Summit (pdf)]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Daesh Leader Reportedly Killed: The National Directorate of Security announced on Saturday that Hafiz Saeed Khan Orakzai — identified as the head of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria’s Khorasan province affiliate in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and a former commander with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan — had been killed in a U.S. airstrike in Nangarhar on Friday, the latest in a string of senior commanders in the regional affiliate to be killed over the past week. Pentagon officials have confirmed carrying out a “precision strike” in the Achin district but declined to provide further details on the target. Islamic State-affiliated sources have disputed the reports of Saeed’s death, which has not otherwise been independently confirmed, and on Monday the Islamic State’s website released an audio tape that purported to demonstrate that Saeed was still alive. NDS spokesmen said that Saeed’s death, along with his deputy Gul Zaman and former TTP spokesman Shahidullah Shahid earlier last week, had “destroyed the base of ISIS” in Afghanistan. One self-identified spokesman tells the Express Tribune that Shahid was indeed killed in earlier strikes, but says the movement will transfer the nom de guerre to its next spokesman. [WAPO] [BBC] [Reuters] [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [Pajhwok] [TOLO]
  • Other Attacks and Operations: The NDS announced Saturday that it had arrested Mawlawi Faizullah, identified as an “active member” of the Taliban’s Quetta shura military commission, in a  raid in Zabul. Fighting is ongoing in the Dai Chopan district in Zabul, where at least four soldiers and 16 Taliban militants have reportedly been killed. On Sunday, at least 25 people were killed in a suicide car bombing near the entrance to the Camp Chapman NATO base in Khost city. The target of the attack appears to have been the Khost Protection Force, a former CIA paramilitary unit reportedly under the control of the NDS. The majority of those killed were Afghan civilians, and the Taliban have yet to confirm responsibility for the attack; some sources report that as many as 30 people were killed. Elsewhere, at least ten civilians were killed in a roadside bombing in Kapisa’s Tagab district on Sunday, and three killed in another roadside bombing targeting a police vehicle in Kunduz city. Continuing airstrikes on Sunday in Nangarhar’s Achin district reportedly killed 12 Taliban militants, including the shadow governor for the Kot district. [AJE] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [TOLO] [TOLO] [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Taliban Split Over Talks: The WSJ reports that last week’s meeting between Afghan government officials and Taliban representatives in Murree, Pakistan has deepened divisions within the insurgency. None of the Taliban’s senior Quetta or Qatar-based leadership are reported to have participated in the talks. RFE/RL and the WSJ both note the publication of an op-ed piece on the Taliban’s website on July 9, which describes the gathering as “nothing more than Pakistan delivering a few individuals from the Islamic Emirate to speak in their personal capacity”, and warns that Pakistan’s “failure to persuade the Islamic Emirate on peace talks has already shown the limits of its influence over the Talban leadership”. The article has since been taken down from the Taliban website but can be viewed in cached version here. The AFP interviews a number of Taliban field commanders, who express varying views on peace talks. [TOLO] [AP]
  • Karzai Challenges Government: The Guardian reports that former Pres. Karzai is continuing to cultivate local political leaders and rivals to the Ghani and Abdullah administration, raising tensions as Pres. Ghani moves to oust his former patrons from official positions, and potentially positioning himself for a return to political power as the “only viable alternative” to the national unity government.

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • TAPI Pipeline: Following meetings with Prime Minister Modi at the sidelines of the SCO summit, Turkmenistan president Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov told reporters on Saturday that a consortium leader for the construction the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India natural gas pipeline would be chosen in September, with construction potentially beginning by December.
  • Energy Dues: The head of the Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkhat electricity utility said Friday that government institutions in Herat owed as much as Afs 900 million in unpaid electricity bills, saying that they had begun cutting electricity supplies to those who had refused to make payment.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Ghani Seeks Help in Combating Daesh at SCO Summit [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [TOLO]
  • New Parliament Building to Be Inaugurated in 5-6 Months [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • Badakhshan MPs Warn of Influx of Weapons [TOLO]
  • Flooding in Badakhshan Displaces Nearly 300 Families [TOLO]
  • Parliamentary Vote on Water Legislation Delayed Due to Lack of Quorum [TOLO]
  • Report: The Politicization of Afghanistan’s High Schools – “The report found that among politically active students, radical organisations of Islamist leanings predominated. These organizations are all, to various degrees, opposed to the status quo, although none of the most active organisations openly endorses armed struggle in Afghanistan.“ [Antonio Giustozzi and Ali Mohammad Ali, AREU]
  • Commentary: Copper and Peace: Afghanistan’s China Dilemma – “Facing what is a now over a two year-long delay in the opening of the Ainak copper mine, the Afghan government has indicated that it is considering to re-advertise the contract for the project which had been won by a consortium of Chinese state-own companies. This turnaround has the potential to grow into a major foreign policy embarrassment and could put the government in a dilemma.” [Thomas Ruttig, AAN]
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