Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Lashkar-e-Jhangvi Commander Malik Ishaq Killed; New Mullah Omar Death Rumors Ahead of Talks

Topline

  • Lashkar-e-Jhangvi commander Malik Ishaq has reportedly been killed along with two of his sons and eleven other LeJ militants, after his arrest last week and what Punjab police say was an attempt by the LeJ to secure his release through an attack on a police station in Muzaffaragah on Tuesday evening. There are fresh rumors that Taliban movement leader Mullah Mohammad Omar is dead, apparently two years prior; the news comes as representatives of the Taliban and the Afghan government prepare to meet again in Pakistan this Friday, and coincides with reports of leadership divisions and challenges to Taliban deputy commander Mullah Akhtar Mansoor. Prime Minister Sharif has called a meeting today to discuss the JUI-F and MQM petition seeking the removal of PTI legislators from the national assembly. The Pakistani parliamentary committee on electoral reforms is seeking another month to complete its deliberations, Finance Minister Dar said Tuesday; the Election Commission, meanwhile, has rebuffed calls for the resignation of senior commissioners but has proposed instituting a system of specialization for its officers. The ECP has formally petitioned the Supreme Court to delay local elections in Sindh and Punjab by a month; on Wednesday, the national assembly passed the senate-amended version of legislation that will clear the way for local government elections in the Islamabad capital territory. TOLO reports that as many as 2,000 Afghan presidential staff have gone six months without pay. On Wednesday, the Nangarhar governor fired the district police chiefs in Achin and Hask Mina districts, as well as three customs officials. The State Bank of Pakistan confirmed receipt of a $336 million U.S. Coalition Support Fund payment on Tuesday.

Pakistan — Security

  • Lashkar-e-Jhangvi Leader Killed by Police: On Tuesday evening, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi commander Malik Ishaq, two of his sons, and as many as eleven other members of the Sunni terrorist group were reportedly killed in an encounter with Punjab police. Police accounts suggest that Ishaq, who was freed from a months-long detention last December, had been arrested last week and was being questioned about the details of a weapons cache when fellow LeJ militants attacked the police station in Shahwala, Muzaffaragah district, seeking to free him. Six police officers are reported to have been wounded. Ishaq has previously served extended prison sentences and has been implicated in hundreds of sectarian murders, but continued to operate relatively freely; demonstrations of supporters are reported in Rahim Yar Khan following news of his arrest. [NYT] [Guardian] [AP] [AJE] [Reuters] [The News] [ET]
  • Tensions with India: Pakistani ambassador to India Abdul Basit cancelled a visit to the city of Chandigarh planned for Wednesday, after the chief minister of Indian Punjab province reportedly refused to host Basit following Monday’s attack on a police station in Gurdaspur. At least two of Basit’s aides were also reportedly restricted from joining the trip. Indian police are stilling working to identify the gunmen from Monday’s attack and the origin of their operation, but said Tuesday that they were Muslim, not Sikh as some analysts have suggested might be the case. [TOI]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Karachi Crackdown: Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said that “no decision had been made” on granting UK investigators access to Mohsin Ali, a man Pakistani officials have charged was the principal coordinator of the 2010 assassination of former MQM leader Imran Farooq in London. Anonymous officials suggest access will ultimately be granted. A delegation of MQM leaders met with Chaudhry Nisar on Tuesday, voicing complaints that the paramilitary crackdown in Karachi was unfairly targeting their party. [ET] [ET]
  • PM Calls Meeting on PTI Status: On Wednesday, Prime Minister Sharif called a meeting of the heads of major political parties to discuss the judicial commission’s findings in its investigation of the 2013 general elections; the discussion follows the postponement of a vote on an MQM and JUI-F resolution seeking the de-seating of PTI legislators from the national assembly over their months-long boycott last year. PTI vice president Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that the PTI was not invited to the meeting.
  • Election Reform: The Election Commission has announced that it will “undergo an administrative reshuffle in which every officer will do a specific job rather than every officer performing every job”; the commission has ruled out resignations, as called for by the PTI. On Tuesday, PPP parliamentary opposition leader Khurshid Shah joined the PTI in calling for the resignation of senior ECP officials over their mismanagement of the polls. Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, Finance Minister Dar, who heads the parliamentary committee on electoral reforms, indicated that the committee was seeking another month to debate changes to the electoral law, and was considering at least 13 amendments to the constitution as part of the reform. [ET] [Dawn]
  • Local Elections: On Wednesday, the National Assembly passed the Senate-amended version of Islamabad local government legislation, clearing the way for its signature into law and the holding of elections in the capital territory. Also on Wednesday, the Election Commission formally petitioned the Supreme Court for a 30-day extension in the polling schedule for local elections in Sindh and Punjab. [ET] [ET]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Cell Phone Service Providers Agree to Share Data with Sindh Police [Dawn]
  • Eight More Hanged in Punjab Jails [Dawn] [ET]
  • Police Constable, Militant Suspect Killed in Peshawar [Dawn]
  • Islamabad High Court Summons Defense Secretary Over Missing Report [ET]
  • Tahirul Qadri Touts ‘Peace Curriculum’ at Islamabad Event [Dawn]
  • Cabinet to Seek Compensation from Karachi Electric Over Outages [ET]
  • Three Committees Formed to Resolve Tax Disputes [Dawn] [ET]
  • National Accountability Bureau Submits New List of Major Scandals Under Investigation [Dawn] [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Mullah Omar Death Rumors: Fresh reports emerged Wednesday that reclusive Taliban movement leader Mullah Mohammad Omar is dead, reportedly two years prior, of tuberculosis. Details are limited, but most reports appear to be sourced to the presidential palace, and in turn to Pakistani officials. The Fedayee Mahaz Taliban splinter group has in recent weeks renewed allegations that Mullah Omar was dead, claiming that rival Taliban leaders had killed him, and earlier this week The News reported that Omar’s son, Mullah Mohammad Yaqoub, was challenging deputy commander Mullah Akhtar Mansoor for control. Taliban spokesmen have yet to comment on the latest reports. The Express Tribune reports that “consultations for a new leader are under way” amongst the Taliban and that a successor would be announced prior to the next round of peace talks in Pakistan this week; Mullah Baradar Akhund, who was released from Pakistani detention in 2013 but appears to remain in a form of house arrest, is reported to be the leading candidate. At a press conference on Wednesday, a spokesman for Pres. Ghani said that the government had ordered an inquiry into the reports. [Reuters] [AJE] [TOLO] [BBC]
  • Attacks and Operations: The NYT and Reuters note the continuing surge in attacks across northern Afghanistan; police sources in the Kohistanat district in Sar-e-Pul, where local police surrendered control to the Taliban on Monday, say they received no air support despite requests. In Kunduz, local officials report that more than half the province is now under Taliban control, and local militia commanders also report a lack of support from the government. Two civilians were killed and eleven wounded when a bomb, apparently planted on a civilian vehicle, exploded outside the regional hospital in Kunduz city on Wednesday. [TOLO] [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • Border Tensions with Pakistan: A delegation of Afghan defense officials is visiting Peshawar today for meetings with their Pakistani counterparts, for discussions focused on cross-border shelling and border security. [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Taliban Talks: An anonymous senior Pakistani official tells Dawn that talks between the Afghan government and Taliban representatives will resume in Murree on Friday, insisting that this remains “an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace initiative” and that Pakistan is “here to facilitate”. The source indicates that “we expect both sides to discuss confidence-building measures, including steps to bring down the level of violence before they move on to discuss the more complex issues to end the conflict in Afghanistan”.
  • Nangarhar Officials Fired: The Nangarhar provincial government announced on Wednesday that governor Salim Khan Kundozi had fired three officials from the customs department as well as the district police chiefs of the Haska Mina and Achin districts, citing “non stop complaints from local residents”. [Pajhwok]
  • Presidential Staff Unpaid: A TOLO report claims that as many as 2,000 employees of the presidential palace and its office of administrative affairs have not received salary payments for the past six months, some of whom have since quit to work for former Pres. Karzai. A finance ministry spokesman brushed off the report, saying that “if their employees’ salaries are not paid then they can apply to the ministry and the ministry will solve their problem”.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Flooding Reported Across Twelve Provinces [TOLO]
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