- A spike in cross-border fire has left at least nine civilians dead and more than 60 wounded across the Indian and Pakistani Line of Control in Kashmir. International military forces are continue to offer air support against Taliban forces in Musa Qala, Helmand, but verified details of the fighting there remain limited. Vice President Dostum arrived in Sar-e-Pul on Thursday, again vowing to clear Taliban fighters from the area, and suggesting he will travel to Kunduz next. Taliban commander Mullah Akhtar Mansour has reportedly dispatched additional fighters to Zabul to contest with Mullan Mansoor Dadullah, who opposes his leadership claim. The PML-N will not appeal recent election tribunal rulings and will contest by-elections in three constituencies, the party announced Thursday; Imran Khan has challenged Prime Minister Sharif to contest the polling himself. A new study suggests Afghan government-aligned forces were responsibility for a majority of the incidents of violence and harassment against journalists during the first six months of this year. On Friday, the Election Commission of Pakistan announced the schedule for local government elections in Islamabad, to be held November 30. PPP leaders continue to protest the arrest of Sindh Higher Education Commission head Asim Hussain. Former Afghan president Sebghatullah Mojadeddi announced the formation of a new ‘Council of Jihadi Party’ on Thursday.
Pakistan — Security
- India Border Clashes Kill Nine: At least nine civilians were killed — seven on the Pakistani side of the border and two on the Indian side — and more than 60 wounded in heavy exchanges of fire across the Line of Control near the Sialkot area on Friday; both sides lay blame on the other for firing first. Indian forces say they captured a Pakistani militant in northern Kashmir on Thursday, following a clash in which three other gunmen were killed; the suspect is the second to be captured alive on charges of infiltration in the past month. [AP] [Reuters] [ET]
- Counterterrorism Response: During visits with troops in the Shawal Valley area on Thursday, Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif praised the ongoing operation and vowed that the army would “not allow the killing of fellow countrymen and will expose all enablers”. On Thursday, Karachi police announced the arrest of four men that they charged with receiving training and support from Indian intelligence, who are alleged to have plotted to carry out an attack on a Shia mosque during the upcoming Muharram period, as well as plotting to assassinate MQM-Haqiqi chief Afaq Ahmed. Elsewhere, a man accused of Al Qaeda links killed himself and his wife and two sons when he detonated a suicide vest during a raid in Toba Tek Singh. Separately, officials have approved the creation of a separate counter-terrorism department for Gilgit-Baltistan. [Dawn]
- Balochistan Talks: Balochistan Chief Minister Abdul Qadir Baloch told reporters on Thursday that his government was planning to convene a “Grand Jirga” of tribal leaders and government leaders to reach out to the exiled Khan of Kalat and separatist leader Brahamdagh Bugti, welcoming recent statements by the latter professing a willingness to hold talks with the government. No time frame for the jirga’s formation was offered.
Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy
- PML-N Will Contest By-Elections After Tribunal Rulings: On Thursday, Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid announced that the PML-N had decided not to appeal election tribunal rulings that overturned the results in the NA-122 and NA-154 constituencies, and would instead proceed directly to by-elections for the seats. Former Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique will also reportedly withdraw his earlier appeal in the NA-125 constituency. Rashid challenged PTI chairman Imran Khan to run again in NA-122 Lahore, where he said former National Assembly Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq would run again; Imran in turn challenged Prime Minister Sharif to contest the seat against him, although both are already national assembly members elected from other constituencies. Dawn notes that the Election Commission has opted not to extend the contract of three election tribunal judges, including the Lahore tribunal judge who ordered re-election in NA-122.
- Local Elections: On Friday, the Election Commission announced the schedule for local government elections in Islamabad, which will be held on November 30. The deadline for filing nomination papers is October 27, and a final candidate list is due to be announced November 4. Following the announcement of a polling schedule for local government elections in Sindh earlier this week, the Sindh provincial government has frozen appointments and transfers. [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn]
- Corruption Investigations: On Friday, Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah met with the Director General of the Sindh Rangers Maj. Gen. Bilal Akbar, where he reportedly protested the recent arrest earlier this week of Sindh Higher Education Commission chief Asim Hussain. At a press conference on Thursday, PPP senior vice president Sherry Rehman refuted the terrorism financing charges against Hussain, saying that the party had “no objection whatsoever over the operation and will create no hurdle in its implementation” but that “it looks like politics of revenge is being carried out with the PPP as the sole target.” Former Prime Minister Gillani, who faces new non-bailable arrest warrants in cases related to the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan, said that he would appear before the court on August 31. [Dawn]
Pakistan — Remainders
- World Bank Approves $75M Loan for IDP Rehabilitation [ET]
- Punjab Plans Police Station Overhaul [Dawn]
- Khyber Paktunkhwa Complains of Being Bypassed in Decision on Afghan Refugee Extension [Dawn]
- Pakistan Deports Pakistani-American Convicted on Ohio Local Government Bribery Scam [Dawn]
- Sindh High Court Seeks Response on Detention of Pasban General Secretary [ET]
- Supreme Court Rejects Review Petition on 2009 Army Welfare Trust Land Deal Ruling [ET]
- Senate Chairman Rabbani Laments ‘People’s Disconnect with Parliament’ [Dawn] [ET]
- Sindh Chief Minister Orders Flood Relief Efforts for 58,000 Affected [Dawn]
- Report: A Normal Nuclear Pakistan – “This report takes a hard look at Pakistan’s nuclear weapon related programs and its ambitions to be viewed as a normal state possessing advanced nuclear technologies.” [Toby Dalton and Michael Krepon, Stimson / CEIP]
- Commentary: Making Pakistan’s Target for Education Financing a Reality – “In order to improve financing for education, Pakistan needs to focus on two areas: increasing available domestic resources, and implementing a needs-based formula for the distribution of funding within provinces.” [Rabea Malik and Pauline Rose, Brookings]
Afghanistan — Security
- Helmand Attacks: A spokesman for the U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan said Thursday that U.S. forces had conducted multiple airstrikes in Helmand’s Musa Qala district, targeting Taliban forces who have taken control of the area; there are no reliable estimates of casualties. Former Marines who served in Musa Qala during the peak surge era express dismay at the Taliban’s return to the area in interviews with the Post; analysts tell the Guardian that the district holds limited strategic significance, but the high-profile investment of UK and US forces in the area during previous years makes the area a significant concern, and the Taliban have touted their seizure of the district in video, audio, and photos. Separately, the U.S. military identified two soldiers killed in an apparent insider attack in Helmand earlier this week, both US Air Force air combat controllers who had been posted at Camp Antonik, a special forces base adjoining the former joint US/UK base Camp Leatherneck / Camp Bastion.
- Dostum in Sar-e-Pul: Vice President Dostum arrived in Sar-e-Pul on Thursday as part of his continuing high-profile heading of military clearance operations in northwestern Afghanistan, where he called on the Taliban to surrender immediately and suggested he would next travel to Kunduz, pending permission from Pres. Ghani. Local government officials reported Friday that they had retaken the Kohistanat district in Sar-e-Pul without a fight after Dostum arrived and Taliban forces withdrew; the provincial police had previously claimed to have retaken portions of the district last Saturday. [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press]
- Taliban Infighting: Khaama Press reports that Taliban commander Mullah Akhtar Mansour has deployed as many as 600 Taliban fighters to Zabul province to challenge Mullah Mansoor Dadullah, who has objected to Mansour’s succession to the top Taliban leadership position.
- Violence Against Journalists: A new study by the Afghan Journalists Safety Committee charges government-affiliated forces with responsibility for 72% of the violence against journalists recorded during the first six months of the year, which includes one murder, four cases of assault, 19 beatings, two detentions, and 13 cases of threats.
Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy
- Mojadeddi Announces New Party: On Thursday, former mujahedeen-era Afghan president Sebghatullah Mojadeddi announced the formation of the “Council of Jihadi Party”. Mohajadeddi indicated that eight other parties had joined to form the new group; TOLO reports that former vice president Karim Khalili is one such member, and notes the presence of special envoy Ahmad Zia Massoud, although his membership status is uncertain.
Afghanistan — Remainders