Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Family of Mullah Omar Pledges Loyalty to Mullah Akhtar Mansour; India and Pakistan Trade Fire

Topline

  • In a statement on Tuesday, the Taliban reported that Mullah Omar’s brother and son have pledged loyalty to Mullah Akhtar Mansour’s leadership, ending a breach following the announcement of Omar’s death; Reuters reports that the family has been granted the authority to name the head of the Taliban’s leadership council, which will now reportedly rule by consensus. Firing continues along the Line of Control near Rawalkot, where a Pakistani army soldier was killed on Tuesday and a civilian was wounded on Wednesday. The head of Kabul’s Paghman district Criminal Investigation Division was killed in a suicide car bombing at the district police headquarters on Wednesday, along with three others. Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan rebuffed Imran Khan’s call for paramilitary security forces to lead corruption investigations in Punjab, saying to do so would be unconstitutional. A PPP candidate backed by the JUI-F and ANP beat out the Jamaat-e-Islami for election to a Khyber Paktunkhwa Assembly seat in Upper Dir in voting on Tuesday. At a press conference on Tuesday, Pakistani Petroleum Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi laid blame on other ministries and the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority for delays in finalizing a purchasing agreement for the import of liquefied natural gas from Qatar, while also alleging that he had been subjected to threats from the “oil mafia”.

Pakistan — Security

  • Cross-Border Firing Continues: Pakistani military spokesmen report that a Pakistani Army soldier was killed in an exchange of cross-border fire with Indian border security forces near Rawalkot on Tuesday. Indian officials blame Pakistan for initiating the exchange. Firing continued on Wednesday, injuring at least one civilian on the Pakistani side of the border. [ET] [ET]
  • FATA Attacks and Operations: A roadside bombing near Wana, South Waziristan killed a paramilitary Frontier Corps soldier and wounded five early Tuesday morning; security forces responded with a search operation backed by helicopter gunships, and reportedly razed “dozens of shops belonging to suspected militants” at a market at the Wana by-pass road; the town itself has been placed under curfew.
  • Sectarianism Law: Ulema Council chairman Maulana Tahir Ashrafi tells the Express Tribune that, following last week’s meeting with the government, a meeting of the Council of Islamic Ideology and various religious scholars will take place after Eid ul Azha to draft legislation intended to counter sectarianism, which among other steps will reportedly criminalize the act of declaring another Muslim an apostate.
  • NGO Crackdown: The Sindh civil-military provincial apex committee has decided to order the re-registration with the provincial government of all foreign and local NGOs, and also plans to create a code of conduct for private security companies. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Corruption Investigations: Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan hit back at PTI leader Imran Khan’s call for the paramilitary Rangers to conduct an anti-corruption campaign in Punjab, saying that doing so would be unconstitutional and would “divert the military’s focus from the true purpose of the ongoing operation in Karachi”. During senate debate on Tuesday, chairman Raza Rabbani warned that the 2006 Charter of Democracy between the PPP and PML-N was “under the cloud”, and several PPP senators warned of a “disconnect” between the civilian and military leadership, which PML-N representatives denied. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • MQM Under Pressure: Former MQM leader Hammad Siddiqi and at least five other party activists were declared “proclaimed absconders” by a Karachi anti-terrorism court on Tuesday after they failed to respond to court orders to appear in connection to charges related to a 2012 attack on a rally of Sindhi nationalist parties; Amir Ali, an MQM activist arrested during the Rangers raid on MQM headquarters earlier this spring, had implicated Siddiqi in ordering the attack. Separately, London Metropolitan police published a summary of their investigations into the 2010 death of former MQM leader Imran Farooq, the fifth anniversary of which is today. [Dawn]
  • Other Political Activity: Shahibzada Sanaullah, a PPP candidate backed by the JUI-F and ANP, won election to the PK-93 Upper Dir provincial assembly seat, defeating the Jamaat-e-Islami’s candidate, who was also backed by the PTI; reports suggest that some PTI voters split to support the PPP candidate, however. Low turnout was reported, and while some women did take part in voting, only around 1,500 votes were cast by women. On Tuesday, candidate applications from former national assembly leader Sardar Ayaz Sadiq and his PTI rival Abdul Aleem Khan were accepted for the NA-122 special election in Lahore. The Sindh High Court heard arguments on Tuesday from petitioners from the MQM and other groups challenging the delimitation of constituencies for the upcoming local government elections. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Petroleum Minister Reports Threats in LNG Negotiation: In a press conference on Tuesday, Petroleum Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi claimed that he had received threats from the “oil mafia” while negotiating the construction of a liquefied natural gas import terminal and a purchasing agreement with Qatar, without offering further details. Abbasi attributed the failure to secure a long-term gas purchasing agreement with Qatar to the failure of the ministries of finance, petroleum, and power to finalize a payment agreement, and by the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority’s failure to set a tariff rate for LNG.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Supreme Court Seeks Report on Jail Conditions [Dawn] [ET]
  • Civil Service Reform Plan Under Development [ET]
  • Explosive Materials Seized in Pishin District [Dawn]
  • Senate Committee Calls for Promotion of Arms Industry [Dawn]
  • Following Protests, Prime Minister Orders Action on Private School Fees [Dawn] [APP]
  • Foreign Direct Investment Rises to Nearly $120 Million During First Two Months of Fiscal Year [ET]
  • Judge Recuses Himself from Lal Masjid Murder Case [ET] [ET]
  • Senator Mushahid Hussain Elected Head of China Pakistan Corridor Oversight Committee [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Attacks and Operations: The Criminal Investigation Department chief for Kabul’s Paghman district was killed along with three other people in a suicide car bombing on Wednesday at the district police headquarters; at least 41 others were reportedly wounded, most with light injuries. Helmand provincial officials report clashes with the Taliban in the Kajaki district over the past two days, in which they claim to have killed at least 30 Taliban fighters. Fighting is also reportedly underway in Uruzgan’s Chenarto district. Afghan army officials announced an operation to clear portions of the Kabul-Jalalabad highway in eastern Kabul on Monday. [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Taliban Say Leadership Divisions Resolved: In a statement on Tuesday, the Taliban announced that Mullah Abdul Manan and Mullah Yaqoob, the late Mullah Omar’s brother and son, had pledged loyalty to the leadership of Mullah Akhtar Mansour, and that Mansour in turn had pledged to “fully respect” and consult them. A Taliban source tells Reuters that Mansour has also promised to “protect [Omar’s family] from any threats”, and that the family will choose the new head of the Taliban leadership council, which will now reportedly rule by consensus. Manan confirmed the pledge of loyalty in a comment to the AP; Yaqoob had issued an audio statement over the weekend pledging his willingness to take steps for reconciliation. Other Mansour rivals, including Abdul Manan Niazi and Mullah Mansour Dadullah, have yet to comment. Speaking to journalists in Islamabad on Tuesday, acting Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Jarret Blanc said that the U.S. was “hopeful” that negotiations could resume between the Taliban and the Afghan government but that “it is for Taliban to decide on talking to their government”, noting broad regional consensus in support of talks and what he said was a willingness on the part of the Afghan government to engage. [Dawn] [ET] [Khaama Press] [APP] [ET]
  • National ID Cards Stalled: A spokesman for Chief Executive Abdullah said that registration for new national ID cards would start “in the near future”, but that Abdullah and Pres. Ghani first had to resolve “a number of issues”.
  • Refugee Exodus: During senate debate on Tuesday, members of the upper house of parliament called on the government to take action to curb the flight of Afghan refugees from the country, particularly members of the educated youth population.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Chief Executive to Represent Afghanistan at UN General Assembly [Khaama Press]
  • Two Former Kabul Mayors Summoned on Corruption Charges [TOLO]
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