Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: PM Sharif Visits Chitral Flood Relief Operations; At Least 20 Killed in Faryab Bombing

Topline

  • Prime Minister Sharif visited Chitral on Wednesday to view flood relief operations; at least 300,000 people have been affected by flash flooding in the district, and more flooding is reported in southern Punjab and parts of Sindh. At least 20 people have been killed in a suicide bombing at a marketplace in the Faryab district of Almar on Wednesday; the attack follows recent efforts by Afghan security forces to retake parts of the district from Taliban control. Overall ANSF casualties have increased by more than 50% compared to the first six months of 2014, with more than 4,100 Afghan soldiers and police killed. The Supreme Court of Pakistan has agreed to hear an appeal from Aasia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman sentenced to death on blasphemy charges in November 2010. Pakistani ambassador to India Abdul Basit hosted some Kashmiri separatist leaders for an Eid gathering on Tuesday, and expressed hope that India and Pakistan would resume foreign secretary-level talks soon. Vice President Dostum visited Jowzjan on Tuesday, where he sought to deflect reports that he was supporting the recreation of militia forces. An Express Tribune report suggests that China will host the next meeting between Afghan government and Taliban representatives, and that Pakistan has agreed to “guarantee” a peace agreement.

Pakistan — Security

  • Border Tensions with India: Lt Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, the Rawalpindi corps commander, visited the Line of Control in Kashmir on Tuesday, where he met with soldiers and exchanged Eid greetings. On Tuesday, Pakistani ambassador to India Abdul Basit hosted an Eid dinner with some members of the Hurriyat Conference; separatist leaders Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Yasin Malik boycotted the meeting. Basit expressed hope that the Indian and Pakistani foreign secretaries “will meet soon to start the dialogue process, and we would like to discuss all issues of importance between Pakistan and India”, saying that Pakistan is “committed to building on positivity which was reflected in Ufa” during the most recent meeting between prime ministers Sharif and Modi. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Border Tensions with Iran: Pakistani security sources report that Iranian border forces fired at least four mortar shells across the border in the Panjgur district in Balochistan on Tuesday; no casualties have been reported. No explanation for the strike has been reported. [Dawn]
  • Karachi Violence: Dawn reports that one of the suspects in the May attack on a bus carrying members of Karachi’s Ismaili community has agreed to testify under a plea agreement; Assadur Rehman, alias Malik, will reportedly also confess to targeting attacks on police officials. Separately, Sindh police report an overall drop in violence in Karachi during the first half of 2015, with 970 murders reported compared to 2,075 during 2014. They also report declines in robbery, extortion, and other major crimes.
  • Chaman Bomb Defused: Frontier Corps officials report that they discovered and defused a bomb planted near the Pakistani Customs office at the Chaman border crossing between Balochistan and Afghanistan on Tuesday. No suspects have been reported.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Supreme Court to Hear Aasia Bibi Plea: On Wednesday, the Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal plea from Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death on blasphemy charges in November 2010, whose case was taken up by the late Punjab governor Salman Taseer before his assassination in 2011. [Dawn] [Reuters]
  • Karachi Crackdown: The MQM disputed a Dawn report on Tuesday that five of the party’s national assembly members had gone into hiding after facing arrest on charges of facilitating hate speech after the broadcast of remarks by party leader Altaf Hussain criticizing the Sindh Rangers. The party is reportedly still debating whether or not to pursue a hunger strike by Hussain. Separately, PPP leaders met in Dubai on Tuesday for discussions on the recent administrative reshuffle of the Sindh provincial government, and plans for the upcoming local elections.
  • Local Elections: Initial voter lists were posted for local government elections in Sindh on Tuesday; polls are scheduled to be held on September 20. In Punjab, the PTI is beginning a voter registration drive. Special elections are scheduled for July 30 for more than 250 polling stations in Khyber Paktunkhwa that saw signs of irregularities during the first round of voting in May. [ET]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Flooding: On Wednesday, Prime Minister Sharif visited flash flood-affected areas in Chitral, which have affected at least 300,000 people; at least six people have died over the past week. The Jamaat-e-Islami and ANP have criticized the provincial government’s response to the flooding. Multan Corps Commander Lt. Gen. Ashfaq Nadeem visited the Layyah district in southern Punjab on Wednesday, where at least 150 villages have been inundated. Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif has ordered all field commanders to carry out flood relief operations; at least 73 civilians have been rescued in Chitral. Flooding is also reported in Sukkur and Khairpur in Sindh. The first monsoon rains of the season hit Karachi on Tuesday, shorting out power in parts of the city. [ET] [Dawn] [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Khan of Kalat Says Only ‘Grand Baloch Jirga’ Can Bring Him Back from Exile [Dawn]
  • Arrest of Khyber Paktunkhwa Mining Secretary Sought [Dawn]
  • Parents of Army Public School Victims Threat Protests Over Inadequate Support [ET]
  • JUI-F Reiterates Objections to Seminary Scrutiny [ET]
  • ‘Moral Brigade’ Active in Islamabad Again [Dawn]
  • Over 20% of Students Miss School Daily in Khyber Paktunkhwa [Dawn]
  • Report: Confronting Environmental Threats in Sindh – “For Sindh’s population, environmental health problems meant not only pain and suffering, but also an economic loss in the form of out-of-pocket medical expenses, lost wages, or time spent caring for sick relatives, among others. Collectively these costs are equivalent to about 10 percent of Sindh’s GDP.” [World Bank]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Attacks and Operations: As many as 20 people have been killed and more than 30 wounded in a suicide bombing at a market in Faryab’s Almar district, according to the acting provincial governor; both civilians and Afghan security forces were among the casualties, and at least one soldier has been killed. The Taliban have not issued a claim of responsibility as of this writing. The attack comes shortly after district officials claimed to have retaken control of parts of the district previously held by Taliban fighters. On the whole, the NYT assess that the Afghan security forces are “struggling to maintain a stalemate”; around 4,100 Afghan soldiers and police have been killed and 7,800 wounded during the first six months of the year, up more than 50% from levels last year that American commanders described at the time as unsustainable. Home visits by soldiers have reportedly been banned in most areas in a bid to stem desertion, and morale low. [AP] [AJE] [WAPO] [TOLO]
  • Militias in the North: Speaking at a press conference in Kabul on Wednesday, Interior Minister Noor-ul Haq Uloomi said that “Afghan forces are in the driving seat and there is no threat that any province will fall to militants”, saying that “Afghan security forces are able to foil any type of attack if they are properly equipped.” Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum visited his home province of Jowzjan on Tuesday, where he told local elders and security officials that he did not support the creation of militia forces, but did apparently back a “public uprising” against the Taliban.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Taliban Talks: An anonymous Pakistani official tells the Express Tribune that Pakistan is “willing to become guarantors for any peace agreement” between the Taliban and the Afghan government; the report also suggest that the Taliban were seeking Chinese and Pakistani guarantees for the formation of a “united national government” in Afghanistan as a condition for a ceasefire. The next round of talks between the Taliban and Afghan government representatives, scheduled for the end of this month, will reportedly take place in China.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Documents Allege Ariana Airlines Carried Armed Passengers from Iran to Iraq [Pajhwok]
  • Mohaqiq Reports ISIS Recruitment Near Kabul [Khaama Press]
  • Commentary: Lessons from Afghanistan and Mexico for Prosecuting Security Policy Through Proxies – “No matter what the original motivations and justification for militia formation, militias have a strong tendency to escape control by their overseers and engage in problematic and abusive behavior.” [Vanda Felbab-Brown, Brookings]
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