Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Rangers Raid MQM Headquarters Again; Ghani Re-Appoints Electoral Reform Commission

Topline

  • The Sindh Rangers again raided the Karachi headquarters of the MQM, arrested at least two senior leaders on charges of “facilitating speeches against the peace of Karachi”. On Friday, the SIndh provincial government extended the Rangers’ policing power for a full year, and removed the chief of Karachi police, head of the Karachi Municipal Corporation, and head of the Sindh Building Control Authority. Pres. Ghani re-formed the special commission on electoral reform on Thursday, to be headed by former Electoral Complaints Commission member Shah Sultan Akifi. In his Eid address on Friday, Ghani stressed that peace talks with the Taliban were “the solution”, and welcomed Mullah Omar’s apparent endorsement of the use of political negotiation. High Peace Council officials indicate that the next round of talks will take place July 30. The National Electric Power Regulatory Authority accused the distributor Karachi Electric of violating the terms of its privatization agreement, and threatened to impose fines or appoint an administrator to retake control of the company if it failed to make investments to improve its transmission network. Afghanistan was the deadliest country for aid workers in 2014, a new report indicates. Pakistani exports fell to a four-year low in 2014-15.

Pakistan — Security

  • NGO Crackdown: On Thursday, federal interior ministry officials reported to the Supreme Court that the government was working with provincial officials to monitor the activities of non-governmental organizations working within the country, and had collected data for more than 1,400 NGOs operating in Islamabad. [ET]
  • Banned Organizations: On Thursday, the Punjab apex committee met to review the implementation of the National Action Plan against terrorism, and among other steps ordered a “complete ban” on the collection of religious tithes by banned militant organizations. Meanwhile, the Sunni sectarian group Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat, which is nominally banned, announced plans to hold rallies around the country as a “day of solidarity with the armed forces”, condemning criticism of the security services in an apparent jab at the MQM; the ASWJ’s president, Aurangzeb Farooqi, remains under arrest by Punjab police, however.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • MQM Headquarters Raided Again: Early Friday morning, paramilitary Rangers personnel raided the MQM’s Nine-Zero headquarters in Karachi, the second such action so far this year; at least two members of the MQM’s central Rabita Committee leadership, Qamar Mansoor and Kaiful Warah, were reportedly detained in the raid, on charges of “arranging and facilitating hate speeches against the peace of Karachi”. MQM lawyers say no warrants were presented during the raid, and MQM leaders denounced the arrests. The action comes as MQM leader-in-exile Altaf Hussain has ramped up his public criticism of the Rangers over the past week; earlier on Thursday, Hussain accused both military and civilian leaders of conspiring against the party. On Friday, the Sindh provincial government formally extended the Rangers’ policing powers in Karachi for another year, reportedly at the urging of former Pres. Zardari. Dawn reports that Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah has also removed the heads of the Sindh Building Control Authority, Karachi Municipal Corporation, and the Additional Inspector General in charge of Karachi police. [Reuters] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [ET] [ET]
  • PTI Divisions: On Friday, the PTI formally expelled former Khyber Paktunkhwa minister of mines Ziaullah Afridi from the party, after his arrest on corruption charges last week. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Energy Crisis: A spokesman for the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority said Thursday that the Karachi Electric distribution company had violated the terms of its privatization agreement and licensing by failing to invest in its transmission system, and that the utility would face a fine of Rs 100 million or the appointment of a government administrator to take over the company. On Thursday K-Electric announced that it would exempt the city from load-shedding during the Eid ul Fitr period, expected to run Saturday through Wednesday, although small blackouts continue to be reported in parts of the city. [Dawn]
  • Export Drop: Pakistani exports totaled $23.9 billion during the 2014-15 fiscal year that ended in June, a four-year record low that was $1.3 billion less than the year prior and $3.1 billion short of budget targets. Imports grew to $46 billion.

Pakistan — Remainder

  • Lahore High Court Acquits Blasphemy Accused [ET]
  • Militant Group Surrenders in Sui [Dawn]
  • Hurriyat Leaders Divided Over Eid Invite [Dawn] [ET]
  • Punjab Board of Revenue Surpasses Rs 39.79 Billion Target [ET]
  • State Bank of Pakistan Sees ‘Visible Improvement’ in Third Quarter Report [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Government Approves Rs 480 Million Salary Payment for Pakistan Steel Mills [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Aid Workers Under Threat: A report by the consulting group Humanitarian Outcomes found that Afghanistan was the deadliest country for aid workers in 2014, with at least 54 reported attacks on aid staff out of 329 reports worldwide.
  • Attacks and Operations: Four children were killed when a bomb exploded near a home in the Syedabad district in Wardak province on Thursday; no claim of responsibility has been reported. Badakhshan provincial officials accuse Chechen and Tajik fighters of destabilizing parts of the province, but insist they are prepared to repel any attacks. [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Taliban Talks: High Peace Council officials tell TOLO that talks with Taliban representatives will take place on July 30, and that more Taliban representatives from the group’s Qatar office are expected to participate. The Afghan delegation’s membership has not been finalized, but officials will reportedly push for a ceasefire agreement. In his Eid address on Friday, Pres. Ghani said that “the negotiations are the solution, the way and this is what our nation wants, to end the bloodshed”, and welcomed the apparent endorsement in Mullah Omar’s Eid address of political talks, although that statement did not directly confirm participation in the Pakistani-brokered dialogue.
  • Electoral Reform Commission Re-Formed: On Thursday, Pres. Ghani again announced the formation of a special commission on electoral reform, whose previous establishment in March stalled in the face of objections from Chief Executive Abdullah over the commission’s membership and chairman. The new commission will be headed by Shah Sultan Akifi, a former member of the Electoral Complaints Commission and senator, and deputy chairman Sediqullah Tawhidi. [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Achin District Residents Escape Threat of Daesh Militants [TOLO]
  • Hundreds of Afghan Who Grew Up in UK Face Deportation [The Independent]
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