Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Punjab Home Minister Killed; Afghan Delegation Visits Pakistan for Talks

Note: The news is back to its regular daily update schedule from today; the following summary covers major developments over the past week. Apologies again for the interruption in service and resulting length of this brief. Thank you for reading.

Topline

  • A suicide bombing in Attock on Aug 16 killed Punjab Home Minister Shuja Khanazada; two Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan affiliates have claimed responsibility, although police officials have suggested the attack was carried in retaliation for the killing of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi commander Malik Ishaq in July. An Afghan delegation visited Pakistan on Aug 13 for talks after recent high-profile attacks in Kabul, which Afghan intelligence officials accused the Pakistani military of supporting. Details of the delegation’s discussions are limited, but Pakistan is reported to have urged the Afghan government to resume negotiations with the Taliban, who to date have rejected government outreach. Public criticism of Pakistan by senior Afghan officials has increased in the wake of the Kabul attacks. India and Pakistan continue to trade cross-border fire in Kashmir; national security advisor-level talks will take place on Aug 23. The MQM resigned from parliament and the Sindh assembly on Aug 12 to protest the continued crackdown in Karachi by the paramilitary Rangers; those resignations have not been formally accepted and JUI-F leader Fazlur Rehman has been tasked with negotiating with the party. Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri pledged loyalty to new Taliban commander Mullah Akhtar Mansour in an audio statement released on Aug 13. On Aug 18, senior MQM leader Rashid Godil was critically wounded by an unidentified gunman as he was traveling to join in the talks. The Rangers continue to raid MQM offices, arresting seven party workers on Aug 14. The Pakistani military courts system convicted seven men to death and one to a life sentence on Aug 13, most in connection to the December 2014 attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar. A German aid worker was reportedly kidnapped in Kabul on Aug 17. In Ghazni, local elders negotiated the release on Aug 15 of 17 people kidnapped in the Qarabagh and Jaghori districts. Judge Jawwad Khawaja was sworn in as the new Chief Justice of Pakistan on Aug 17; he will serve only 23 days before reaching the age of mandatory retirement. During Aug 13 hearings, Judge Khawaja rebuffed an Election Commission proposal to conduct local government elections in Sindh and Punjab in phases beginning in November, demanding further justification for the postponement. Pres. Ghani met with senior Afghan clerical leaders to seek their backing; the National Ulema Council condemned the recent Kabul attacks and challenged Mullah Mansour’s claims to legitimacy in a statement on Aug 14. Pakistani federal climate change minister Mushahid Ullah Khan resigned on Aug 15 after making allegations in a BBC Urdu interview that former ISI Director Zaheerul Islam had backed the PTI and PAT demonstrations against the government last summer. Deteriorating security and limited employment prospects have prompted an upsurge in Afghan passport and asylum applications, several reports suggest; at the same time, Iran and Pakistan have pushed more than 230,000 Afghan refugees back over the border in the past year. US defense officials told their Pakistani counterparts that Coalition Support Fund payments are unlikely to be extended past 2015 during a meeting on Aug 11. One of the suspects in the Kasur child sexual abuse case died in police custody on Aug 15; some family members of the victims accuse the police of harassing them and pushing them to recant their allegations.

Pakistan — Security

  • Punjab Home Minister Killed: On Aug 16, Punjab Home Minister Shuja Khanazada was killed in a suicide bombing at his political office in Attock; as many as 16 other people were also killed in the blast, which destroyed much of the building, and at least two dozen were injured. Punjab police initially reported that the attack was carried about by two bombers, although the initial police filing on the case does not include this detail. Claims of responsibility were made by the TTP splinter faction Jamaat ul Ahrar and the Khyber Agency-based Lashkar-e-Islam; Khanazada had been advised to restrict his movements following the killing of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi founder Malik Ishaq in late July, and the preliminary police report suggests that Khanazada had been targeted in relation for Ishaq’s death. The BBC reports a Lashkar-e-Jhangvi claim of responsibility, although other outlets have not confirmed the claim. Another report notes that Khanazada had limited control over provincial security operations, control over which was split between him, Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, and Law Minister Rana Sanaullah, and the NYT suggests that Khanazada had practiced lax security at his offices. Prime Minister Sharif and other top officials condemned the attack, and vowed to continue counterterrorism efforts. Dawn profiles the late minister. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Reuters] [WSJ]
  • Tensions with India: India and Pakistan continue to exchange cross-border fire along the Line of Control, each blaming the other for initiating the firing. UN observers visited the Sialkot area on Aug 12 to interview the families of those affected by earlier shelling, following Pakistani protests. At least four civilians were killed and nearly two dozen wounded on the Indian side of the border on Aug 15; at least two Pakistani civilians were also reportedly killed and six injured on the same day. Another woman was killed and eight wounded in firing on Aug 16. India summoned Pakistan’s ambassador on Aug 16 to protest the spike in ceasefire violations; Pakistan did the same on Aug 17. On Aug 13, Pakistani foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz confirmed that he would visit India on Aug 23 for talks with India’s national security advisor. In a statement marking India and Pakistan’s independence day, Pakistani ambassador Abdul Basit reiterated Pakistan’s support for the Kashmiri cause. On Aug 18, Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif and ISI Director General Rizwan Akhtar met with Prime Minister Sharif and other senior civilian officials to discuss the agenda for Aziz’s meetings with his Indian counterpart [AP] [AFP] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Military Courts Issue New Sentences: On Aug 13, Pakistani military spokesmen announced that secret military court proceedings had convicted eight men in connection with the December 2014 Peshawar school attack and a separate attack on the Sindh Rangers in Karachi, among other plots. Seven men received death sentences and another a sentence of life imprisonment. Six of the men were said to be affiliated with Tawhid wal-Jihad, a group linked to the late Abu Musab al-Zarqawi prior to his foundation of an Al Qaeda affiliate in Iraq. The sentences are the first to be issued since the Supreme Court upheld the military courts system; the convicts retain the right of appeal. PM Sharif praised the military courts in a statement on Aug 14; the Lahore Bar Association is reportedly considering further challenges to the Supreme Court’s upholding of the 21st Amendment, which created the courts. On Aug 11, the Senate passed an amendment to the Pakistan Army Act, which will reportedly provide court officials and witnesses protection from prosecution in any other court of law. [Reuters] [ET] [ET]
  • Internet Surveillance: Dawn reports that the National Assembly committee on information technology approved amendments on Aug 13 to the draft Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill 2015, which will allow investigating officials to access ISP user data without prior court permission, which must be secured within 24 hours afterwards.
  • FATA Attacks and Operations: Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif visited frontline soldiers in Waziristan on Aug 12, where he suggested that Operation Zarb-e-Azb was in its “final stages”. Military officials claimed that airstrikes in North Waziristan’s Shawal Valley region killed at least 40 militants suspects on Aug 16 and as many as 65 militants in North Waziristan and Khyber Agency on Aug 17; those reports cannot be independently verified. On Aug 12, three security personnel were killed in a roadside bombing in the Khyber Agency’s Tirah Valley region. On Aug 15, militants attacked a checkpost in the Frontier Region Bannu area; military officials say eight attackers were killed and no casualties sustained. [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Balochistan Attacks and Operations: A police officer was killed and at least three wounded in a bombing at a police station in Quetta on Aug 11. On Aug 14, top Balochistan security officials presided over an Independence Day ceremony in which as many as 400 Baloch militants are reported to have surrendered their weapons to the government. On Aug 16, three Frontier Corps soldiers were killed by unidentified gunmen in the Chaghi district; the attackers are alleged to have cross over the border from Afghanistan. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Karachi Attacks and Operations: Sindh Home Department officials report that the police had engaged in 935 shoot-outs with criminal gangs and individuals between January and July, compared to 869 such encounters in all of 2014. On Aug 12, the Pakistani military announced the arrest of a “foreign-sponsored gang” reportedly planning attacks timed to Independence Day celebrations in Karachi, including a man identified as the TTP’s deputy emir for Swat. On Aug 14, the Rangers arrested five members of an unidentified militant group from the Defence Housing Authority neighborhood in Karachi; on Aug 16, four suspected militants reportedly affiliated with the Balochistan Liberation Army were killed in a Rangers operation in the Memon Goth neighborhood. On Aug 17, an intelligence officer was killed during a Rangers raid targeting two militant suspects in the Gulshan-e-Iqbal neighborhood. Separately on Aug 17, the ASWJ district president for Karachi West, Dilshad Mavia, was killed in a driveby shooting in Orangi Town. [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • MQM Resign from Parliament: On Aug 12, the MQM announced their resignation from the National Assembly, Senate, and Sindh Assembly, protesting what they said was a targeted crackdown against the party in Karachi and harassment of its leadership. MQM leaders also accused the Rangers of “siding with and supporting activities of PTI with a view to impose it on Karachi by marginalizing [the] MQM.” The resignations have not been formally accepted and Prime Minister Sharif has reportedly sought to defer them until a negotiation solution can be reached; the party has reportedly told the government it will only rejoin the assemblies if a monitoring committee is established to oversee the Rangers-led crackdown in Karachi, a judicial commission is established to investigate the alleged extrajudicial killings of MQM activists, and MQM workers under alleged extrajudicial detention are freed. The Express Tribune reports that PM Sharif has agreed to the first condition “in principal”. A Dawn account suggests that the resignation move was the latest in a series of snap decisions and leadership shakeups undertaken by party leader-in-exile Altaf Hussain. JUI-F leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman has been tasked with reaching out to the MQM; he spoke with Hussain on Aug 15 and arrived in Karachi on Aug 17 for talks. On Aug 18, unidentified gunmen shot and critically wounded Rashid Godil, a senior MQM lawmaker, as he was traveling to join talks with Rehman; his driver died in the attack. No claim of responsibility has been reported for the attack, which was widely condemned. Talks took place despite the shooting; both MQM and JUI-F leaders described the discussions as “positive”, but no agreement was announced, and the MQM reiterated their demand for “impartiality” in the Karachi operations. Meanwhile on Aug 14, the Rangers raided multiple MQM party offices in the Landhi neighborhood, arresting at least seven party workers, who the Rangers charged with involvement in multiple targeted killings and other forms of organized crime. Speaking at a press conference on Friday, MQM leader Farooq Sattar accused the Rangers of backing the MQM-Haqiqi splinter group against the party. Separately, the Mushtaq Ahmed Mahar, the new Karachi police chief, has reportedly directed the city’s regional police commanders to place greater scrutiny on the backgrounds of station house officers who might be linked to corruption or organized crime; a separate report indicates that at least 1,000 Sindh police officers have criminal records and are facing potential punishments. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [Dawn]
  • New Chief Justice Sworn In: On Aug 17, Judge Jawwad Khawaja was sworn in as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, replacing the outgoing Judge Nasir ul Mulk. Khawaja is only expected to serve 23 days before reaching the age of mandatory retirement, to be succeeded by Judge Anwar Zaheer Jamali. [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET]
  • Local Elections: On Aug 12, the Election Commission formally submitted a revised local government election schedule for Sindh and Punjab, calling for three phases of polling beginning November 11, and continuing on November 29 and December 19. On Aug 13, Chief Justice-designate Jawwad Khawaja said the ECP proposal lacked empirical data, stopping short of rejecting it outright but ordering the ECP to provide further justification at the next hearings, scheduled for Aug 18. Separately, Khyber Paktunkhwa amended its local government law to require the election of local council nazims by a majority of all councilor votes, rather than those present for voting, and providing for a run-off in the event that a majority cannot be secured. Sindh also amended its local government law to allow for candidates with dual nationality to contest the polls; the number of reserved seats for women was also increased to two, and a reserved seat for a youth candidate was also set for union councils. The MQM has, meanwhile, filed a legal challenge with the Sindh High Court against constituency delimitations that the party alleges are biased against its vote bank; the court has sought a response from the government and adjourned until Aug 30. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
  • PTI Divisions: Speaking at a press conference on Aug 14, retired judge and dissident PTI leader Wajihuddin Ahmed reiterated calls for Imran Khan to oust Jahangir Tareen, Pervaiz Khattak, and other senior party leaders from the PTI, describing them as a “mafia” within the party. Ahmed suggested that he would organize a “national conference” of party workers to press the leadership to implement the recommendations of his election tribunal findings, but denied that he was forming a new bloc within the party, describing his efforts as focused on reform. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Minister Resigns After Alleging Military Intervention: Federal climate change minister Mushahid Ullah Khan told a BBC Urdu interviewer on Aug 14 that last year’s PTI and PAT protests against the PML-N government had been sponsored by then-ISI Chief Zaheerul Islam, claiming that Islam had also sought to oust Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif. Following refutations by the military’s chief spokesman and by Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid of Khan’s account, Khan offered his resignation on Aug 15. Prime Minister Sharif spoke with Khan on Aug 17 and accepted the resignation, but he will reportedly continue as a senator and PML-N information secretary. A petition has been filed in the Supreme Court to investigate Khan’s allegations. [Reuters] [AP] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Kasur Child Abuse Investigations: The head of the Punjab police, Mushtaq Sukhera, visited Kasur on Aug 11 to meet with villagers who allege that police ignored the activities of an organized child sexual abuse ring for years; the Express Tribune reports that protesting families clashed with police after Sukhera’s press conference. As of Aug 15 at least six police officials had been transferred or suspended from office on charges of negligence in the case, and at least twelve men have been arrested in connection to the abuse case. On Aug 17, one of the arrested men was reported to have died two nights prior while in police custody. Dawn reported on Aug 16 that family members of the victims had accused police investigators of harassing them and pushing them to recant their allegations, calling for the removal of the head investigating officer. Three more cases of child abuse were reported in Multan, Muzaffaragah and Sheikhpura on Aug 14. [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Other Political Activity: Unofficial results indicate that PML-N candidate Baber Nawaz won the NA-19 Haripur special election held Aug 16, beating out his PTI rival by over 38,000 votes. Turnout was reportedly low, particularly at women’s polling stations, despite high-profile campaigning by Imran Khan and his wife, Reham Khan. On Aug 12, PPP co-chairman Bilalalwal Bhutto Zardari addressed supporters in Karachi, vowing to lead the party to an electoral comeback in the future and dismissing suggestions that the party’s fortunes had diminished. The Express Tribune reports that PPP minister Mir Hazar Khan Bijarani refused an appointment to the Sindh Ministry of Education, leading to its reallotment to the former incumbent Nisar Ahmed Khuhro; Bijarani is reported to have resisted the appointment due to concerns over the influence of education secretary Fazlullah Pechuho, brother-in-law to former Pres. Zardari. [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • US Assistance: U.S. Principal Deputy Secretary of Defense Kelly Magsamen visited Islamabad for meetings of the US-Pakistan Defense Consultative Group on Aug 11, during which U.S. officials reportedly conveyed the message that payments of Coalition Support Fund assistance will likely end after 2015.
  • China-Pakistan Economic Corridor: On Aug 12, Finance Minister Dar approved a restriction on the bidding for two road construction projects linking Karachi and Lahore and upgrading the Karakoram Highway to Chinese companies; financing for the projects, which are project to cost a combined $3.5 billion, will be extended by the China Development Bank. The bids will reportedly be selected by the end of August from amongst four different Chinese state-owned firms. [ET] [Dawn]
  • Energy Crisis: In a statement on Aug 15, the Sui Southern Gas Company charged Pakistan Steel Mills with Rs 35 billion in unpaid dues, forcing the gas distributor to cut off supplies beginning in July. SSGC officials warned that, absent repayment, they would face the risk of default themselves. [Dawn] [ET] [ET]
  • Flooding: On Aug 13, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah approved an additional Rs 336 million in flood relief assistance; dyke breaches in the Thatta district on Aug 15 led to the inundation of over two dozen villages. At least 380,000 people have been affected by flooding in the Chitral district, and health officials report rising concern over water-borne illnesses. [Dawn] [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Pakistan Marks Independence Day [Dawn] [APP] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Former ISI Head Hamid Gul Dies of Brain Hemorrhage [NYT] [WAPO] [Reuters] [BBC] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Iranian Foreign Minister Visits, Seeking Economic Cooperation [Dawn] [ET]
  • Sindh Awaits Federal Guidelines Before Launching Crackdown on Banned Groups [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • National Assembly Passes Legislation on State Bank Independence [ET] [ET]
  • Gilgit Baltistan Legislators Seek Provincial Status [Dawn]
  • Former FATA Disaster Management Authority Head Arrested on Corruption Charges [Dawn]
  • Nine Arrested in Dera Ghazi Khan Seminary Searches [Dawn]
  • Government Considering Central Procurement Agency [ET]
  • Federal Government Rejects Khyber Paktunkhwa Demands for Water Compensation [Dawn]
  • Banks Charged with Evading Transaction Withholding Tax [ET]
  • Financing Agreement Reached on Thar Coal Mine [ET]
  • Former Khyber Paktunkhwa Mines Minister Remanded in Additional Case [Dawn]
  • Pakistan State Oil Managing Director Yet to Take Up Post [ET]
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Terminates Armored Vehicle Contract [Dawn]
  • PESCO Employees Protest Abbottabad Outages [ET]
  • Supreme Court Oks Remote Testimony by Overseas Pakistani Nationals [ET]
  • Commentary: How Pakistan is Tightening its Grip on the Taliban – “The Taliban leadership transition is an opportunity for Pakistan to finally assert its influence on the group and help bring peace to the region.” [Lisa Curtis, Heritage Foundation]
  • Commentary: Gangs of Karachi – “Uzair [Baloch] had been trying to transform himself from a gangster into a legitimate politician. His downfall shows just how provisional legitimacy can be in Karachi, and how deeply embedded gangs are in the city’s politics.” [Matthieu Aikins, Harper’s]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Kidnappings: An unidentified foreign national was reportedly kidnapped by unidentified gunmen in Kabul on Aug 17; an AFP report suggests that the victim was a German aid worker with the GIZ development agency. German officials have not confirmed that account, and no public claim of responsibility has been reported. On Aug 12, a group of as many as 17 people were kidnapped in Ghazni’s Qara Bagh district by unidentified gunmen; another nine people were reportedly kidnapped in the Jaghori district while en route to Ghazni city on Aug 14, although details are limited and it is unclear if the two incidents are separate. On Aug 15, local elders reported that they had successfully negotiated the release of all of the hostages. [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press]
  • Other Attacks and Operations: The district governor Kunduz’s Khan Abad district reported on Aug 12 that the Taliban had seized at least 60 villages in the area, calling for reinforcements. Taliban fighters are also reported to have taken control of the Burka district in Baghlan province. Attacks on security outposts were reportedly earlier in the week near the Baghlan capital of Pul-e-Khumri; local officials claimed to have killed more than 18 insurgents over three days of fighting as of Aug 17. The NYT reports from a Taliban-controlled area of Helmand’s Baghran district, where the group has reinstated social controls and ruled largely unchecked since 2004. On Aug 12, Taliban fighters disguised in police uniforms infiltrated a police outpost and killed at as many as 15 police officers in the Musa Qala district in Helmand; another insider attack on Aug 16 at an outpost on the outskirts of Lashkar Gah reportedly killed five officers. On Aug 13, at least 20 people were injured in a suicide bombing attack targeting an Afghan Local Police vehicle in Logar’s Mohammad Agha district. [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • Zawahiri Endorses Mansour: In an audio release on Aug 13, fugitive Al Qaeda leader Ayman Al Zawahiri endorsed Mullah Akhtar Mansour’s leadership succession as head of the Afghan Taliban and “commander of the faithful,” pledging his allegiance to Mansour as Osama bin Laden had previously done to Mullah Mohammad Omar. It is Zawahiri’s first public message since last September, and comes as the Islamic State has indirectly challenged the Taliban’s Islamic authority, which Al Qaeda has sought to leverage in its rivalry with Daesh. In a statement on Aug 15, Mansour welcomed Zawahiri’s pledge. Separately, the Zabul provincial governor reports that an NDS-led search is underway for Mullah Omar’s body. Meanwhile on Aug 13, rival Taliban factions are reported to have clashed in Herat, reportedly following divisions over Mansour’s succession. [BBC] [WSJ] [Khaama Press]
  • Daesh in Afghanistan: In a statement on Aug 12, the Taliban condemned a video released the day prior, in which fighters apparently aligned with the Islamic State are shown to be executing a group of Afghan civilians in Nangarhar province, describing the incident as “intolerable”. On Aug 17, the NDS announced the arrest of three Daesh members in Nangarhar, two of whom it identified as Pakistani nationals. [TOLO] [Guardian]
  • Local Police: On Aug 12, the National Security Council was reported to have approved a draft strategy to reform the Afghan Local Police; no details were disclosed, however.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Afghan Delegation Visits Pakistan Amidst High Tensions: A delegation of Afghan officials led by Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani, acting defense minister Masoom Stanekzai, and NDS head Rahmatullah Nabil visited Islamabad on Aug 13 for talks with senior Pakistani officials, including Prime Minister Sharif. Prior to their departure, Afghan sources suggested that the group would demand Pakistani authorities target Taliban leadership based in Pakistan and cut off financial support to the insurgency, and were seeking the arrest of Taliban commanders. The meetings follow remarks by Pres. Ghani on Aug 10 that accused Pakistan of responding to his outreach efforts with “messages of war” after a weekend of high-profile attacks in Kabul. Details of the discussions are limited, but Pakistan’s foreign ministry said that the talks were “candid”. Speaking to the press after the meeting, Pakistani Foreign Advisor Sartaj Aziz said that he hoped “misunderstanding between the two countries would be cleared soon”; the Pakistani side is reported to have urged the Afghan government to resume talks with the Taliban, which have broken down in the wake of succession struggles after the announcement of Mullah Omar’s death earlier this month. On Aug 11, the NDS blamed “elements within the Pakistani army” for supporting those attacks, saying that the explosives used were military-grade, and that “suicide bombers are still being trained in Pakistan to be used against Afghanistan”. Pres. Ghani has also described the attacks as being “orchestrated in Pakistan,” although he has not directly blamed the Pakistani military. In a statement on Aug 14, the Taliban denied responsibility for the truck bombing in the Shah Shaheedbad neighborhood a week prior, claiming that the blast had been the result of a “targeted air or missile attack” carried out by foreign military forces. The Taliban’s spokesman also confirmed that the other attacks had been carried out “to convey a message that the Emirate of Afghanistan is still intact and is capable of carrying out attacks on highly guarded installations”. In remarks from Faryab on Aug 15, Vice President Dostum charged the ISI with “organizing and financing” militant attacks in northern Afghanistan under the guise of the Taliban and Daesh. Dostum suggested that after clearing Faryab of militants, he would “present [his] report to the national security council” and then lead similar operations in Kunduz and Badakhshan. In a separate interview on Aug 12, Kandahar police chief Gen. Abdul Raziq touted the recapture of the Nawzad district in Helmand, saying that the war was being carried out by “Punjabis and Pakistan’s slaves”. On Aug 14, a gathering of tribal elders in Kabul called on the public to unite against Pakistan. On Aug 18, the Kunar provincial police chief accused Pakistani military forces of attacking an Afghan police outpost in the Narai district, killing an Afghan police officer and wounding two others. [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [Reuters] [Guardian] ET] [AP] [Khaama Press] [ET] [ [Khaama Press] [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [TOLO] [TOLO]
  • Ghani Seeks Ulema Backing: On Aug 14, Pres. Ghani met with the chairman and members of the National Ulema Council, calling on them to “raise their voice against the misinterpretation of Islamic principles” by insurgent groups. At the meeting, Maulvi Ghulam Rabbani Rahmani issued a declaration on behalf of the ulema condemning the recent attacks in Kabul, and rejecting Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour’s claims to legitimacy. [TOLO] [TOLO]
  • Election Reform: The special commission on electoral reform will present a report to the government before the next parliament recess on reform recommendations, the group’s deputy chief told TOLO on Aug 17. [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Migration: Deteriorating security and economic prospects — unemployment estimates range from 35-50% — has prompted an exodus of Afghan migrants seeking to leave the country. TOLO reports that nearly 5,000 Afghans apply for passports daily, while the UN reported a 65% increase in the number of Afghan asylum applications in 2014, the highest of any period since 2001. Meanwhile, the Post reports on the more than 232,000 Afghans who have been pushed back into the country by neighboring Pakistan and Iran over the last year, who have struggled to readjust and many of whom are also seeking a way out of the country. [TOLO]
  • Revenue Crisis: Speaking to a group of customs officials on Aug 17, Finance Minister Eklil Hakimi said that the government had failed to meet its revenue collection targets for the first six months of the current fiscal year, suggesting that there had been a shortfall of over $100 million.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • China Affirms Support for Afghan Peace Process [Dawn] [ET]
  • Opinion Polling Shows Slide in Support for National Unity Government [TOLO] [TOLO]
  • Lawyers Panel Calls for Retrial in Farkhunda Case [NYT]
  • Hezb-e-Islami Representative in Kabul for Talks [Khaama Press]
  • Ghani Maintains National ID Cards Not Ready for Distribution [TOLO] [TOLO]
  • 130 Drug Smuggling Arrests During First Four Months of 2015 [TOLO]
  • Sar-e-Pul Police Arrested Over Beating Video [Reuters]
  • IDLG Convenes Workshop to Assess Provincial Councils [TOLO]
  • New Journalists’ Advocacy Group Formed [TOLO]
  • Attorney General’s Office Finalizes Ministry of Urban Development Corruption Case [TOLO]
  • National Procurement Commission Approves Four Contracts Totaling Afs 2.4 Billion [Khaama Press]
  • Afghani Drops Almost 10% Against Dollar Over Two Months [TOLO]
  • Afghan Army Officer Goes Missing in Australia [Khaama Press]
  • AISA Pledges to Enforce Commercial Production Standards [TOLO]
  • Flash Floods Kill One, Eight Missing in Nangarhar Districts [TOLO]
  • Commentary: Four Steps to Afghan Reconciliation – “Our suggestions will undoubtedly require a U.S. military presence closer to current levels than the 1,000-person Kabul-based force previously planned for post-2016. The exact size of the force should be mission-driven, with the theater commander having the flexibility to determine its composition, deployment and use.” [Stephen Hadley and Andrew Wilder, WAPO]
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