Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Prime Minister Sharif at UN; Taliban Fighters Enter Kunduz City

Topline

  • Taliban fighters entered parts of Kunduz city in a three-pronged offensive beginning early Monday morning; fighting is ongoing as of this writing, and Afghan security officials have announced the dispatch of reinforcements. Elsewhere in Nangarhar’s Achin district, officials report that a massed force of fighters affiliated with Daesh attacked multiple checkposts on Sunday; security officials say they repelled the attack and the NDS claims that as many as 85 were killed in retaliatory airstrikes, although there is no independent confirmation of those claims. Elsewhere, nine people were killed and more than 50 wounded in a suicide car bombing at a cricket match in Paktika on Sunday, and six Afghan Local Police affiliated with Vice President Dostum were killed in a suicide bombing in Faryab. Prime Minister Sharif arrived in New York for UN General Assembly talks, and held meetings with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, Sec. Kerry, and Chinese officials, among others. Pakistani press reporting on Sharif’s meetings emphasizes his raising of concerns over the disputed territory of Kashmir. At a meeting of regional neighbors and international partners of Afghanistan on Saturday, Pakistani foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz reiterated Pakistan’s willingness to facilitate talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban, “if the Afghan government desires”. Sindh police and Rangers announced on Sunday that they had arrested more than 800 people, from multiple political and religious organizations, on charges of coercively collecting animal hides during the Eid ul Azha holidays; the MQM accused the Rangers of seeking to sabotage the operations of the group’s charitable wing, and suspended collections on Sunday. The Election Commission of Pakistan announced Monday that it had requested the deployment of the army and Rangers for upcoming special elections in Lahore and Lodhran in Punjab.

Pakistan — Security

  • Karachi Crackdown: The Sindh Rangers and police announced on Sunday that they had arrested more than 800 people charged with coercively collecting hides from animals slaughtered for the Eid ul Azha holidays. Those arrested were reportedly affiliated with the MQM, Jamaat-e-Islami, Sunni Tehreek, Jamaat-ud-Dawa, ASWJ, and other parties. On Friday, the Rangers arrested a MQM sector in-charge in a raid in the Surjani Town neighborhood, charging him with targeted killings, extortion, and the illegal collection of hides. In a statement on Saturday, the MQM accused the Rangers of illegally seizing hides collected by the party’s Khidmat-i-Khalq Foundation charitable wing, and suspended collections on Sunday.
  • Executions: Lawyers for Ansar Iqbal, a Sargodha man facing execution for the 1999 murder of neighbor, tell Reuters that he was 15 at the time of his arrest, and that the court system has refused to review school records and birth certificate information.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • PM Sharif at UN: Prime Minister Sharif arrived in New York on Saturday to head Pakistan’s delegation to the UN General Assembly; Sharif attended the South-South Cooperation roundtable on Saturday, pledging “training and technical support” to developing countries in Africa and Afghanistan, among others, and touting the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project in a meeting with Pres. Xi Jinping. Sharif also met with German Chancellor Merkel, Swedish Prime Minister Stefen Lofven, and Sri Lankan Pres. Maithripala Sirisena, among others; Foreign Advisor Sartaj Aziz met separately with the Kuwaiti foreign minister and the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency as well. On Sunday, Sharif met with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, with whom he discussed Afghan peace initiatives and the status of the disputed territory of Kashmir, reiterating Pakistani calls for a UN-managed plebiscite. Pakistan’s mission to the UN raised concerns earlier this month over reported Indian plans to construct a wall along the Line of Control, converting it into a “quasi-international boundary”; Indian officials dismissed those reports. Sharif also met with Sec. Kerry for discussion focused on Pakistani counter-terrorism efforts and the prime minister’s upcoming visit to Washington in October. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [APP]
  • Elections: The Election Commission announced on Monday that it had requested the provision of security by the army and Punjab Rangers for by-elections being held in three national assembly and two provincial assembly constituencies in Punjab on October 6 and 11. In the NA-122 Lahore constituency, the number of registered voters has risen from 326,028 in the 2013 general elections to 488,529; the election was previously decided by a margin of 8,872 votes, the results of which were thrown out by an election tribunal earlier this summer. At a ceremony on Sunday, PTI Punjab organizer Chaudhry Muhammad Sarwar announced that more than 20 PML-N, PPP, and PML-Q supporters and former legislators had switched to join the PTI. [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Chief of Army Staff Visits Munich for Security Conference [Dawn]
  • Afghan Prayer Leaders, Foreign Students Ousted from Kohat Mosques and Seminary [Dawn]
  • Meetings Planned with Baloch Dissidents After Eid, Chief Minister Says [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Banned Sectarian Organizations Reportedly Active in Collecting Eid Hides in Gilgit-Baltistan [Dawn]
  • Interior Ministry Rejects Petition Seeking Declassification of Lal Masjid Investigation [ET]
  • No Ownership Records for Nearly 90% of Balochistan Land [ET]
  • 958 Lawmakers Yet to Submit Asset Details [ET]
  • Analysts Criticize Recent Eurobond Issue [ET]
  • Pakistan’s Mountain Boatmen Fear Loss of Livelihood [WAPO]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Taliban Enter Kunduz City: The Taliban entered parts of Kunduz city in a three-pronged offensive beginning early Monday morning at the city’s main entrances. The attack continues a major Taliban assault in districts surrounding the city earlier this spring; the Taliban’s spokesman claimed responsibility, and called on residents to remain indoors during the fighting. Taliban attempts to hold territory in the city are being contested by Afghan security services. At least a small force of fighters are reported to have raised flags in the city’s Zakhel neighborhood, and TOLO reports that the city’s provincial council building and High Peace Council offices have been occupied. The NYT reports that the Taliban entered the main city hospital in the Seh Darak neighborhood, but did not seek to establish a permanent position. Afghan army officials say they are preparing to send reinforcements to counterattack, and as of this writing Kunduz police spokesmen report that at least 20 Taliban fighters have been killed; TOLO reports that at least 14 police and seven civilians have also been killed, and nearly 50 wounded. [Guardian] [BBC] [AJE] [Khaama Press] [Pajhwok]
  • Achin Checkposts Attacked: On Sunday, three policemen were killed and eight wounded in an attack on multiple checkpoints in Nangarhar’s Achin district, which was claimed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria’s Khorasan affiliate; it appears to be the group’s first direct attack on Afghan national security forces. The AP cites National Directorate of Security and other Afghan security officials claiming to have killed as many as 85 Daesh-affiliated militants in retaliatory airstrikes, all of whom were alleged to have been Pakistani citizens. Khaama Press quotes the district governor, who says that 35 militants were killed and there is now “no resistance” in the area; in another report, he blames Pakistan’s ISI for organizing the attack. TOLO reports that U.S. aircraft provided air support to Afghan security forces. No independent verification of those claims has been established. Separately, Engineer Abdul Ghafar, a member of parliament from Nangarhar, was wounded along with four other people in a roadside bombing in Jalalabad on Saturday; a Khaama Press report cites a “online statement” that links the attack to Daesh, but provides no further details on that claim.  [AFP] [TOLO]
  • Other Attacks and Operations: A suicide car bomber struck a cricket match in Paktika’s Khair Kot district on Sunday, killing at least nine people and wounding more than 50; the Taliban are reported to have denied responsibility for the attack. Six Afghan Local Police members, including their commander, reported to be a close aide to Vice President Dostum, were killed in a suicide bombing at a checkpost in Faryab’s Shirin Tagab district on Sunday. Rockets hit near the house of Wolesi Jirga deputy speaker Abdul Zahir Qadir on late Sunday evening; no casualties or claim of responsibility were reported. Elsewhere, Pajhwok interviews residents of the Dand-e-Ghori district in Baghlan, where local tribal elders are reported to have negotiated a ceasefire agreement with the Taliban; residents report that the Taliban are actively taxing transit in the area and have established security posts within the market area, but that the agreement has so far been successful in minimizing violence. At a parliamentary session on Monday, officials ordered the creation of a commission to investigate the situation in the district. [TOLO] [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press]
  • Air Force Struggles: The NYT has an in-depth report on the struggles to supply the Afghan Air Force with combat aircraft. The country’s top pilot, Col. Qalandar Shah Qalandar, expresses dissatisfaction over the state of sixteen MD-530 scout helicopters, and their limited usefulness in providing close air support for Afghan forces given altitude and range limitations. Although four of the MD-530s have taken part in combat missions, and a number of Afghan pilots have now qualified to train others, maintenance continues to largely be conducted by American contractors. Meanwhile, only one of Afghanistan’s five Russian-built MI-35 gunships is still flying, as sanctions on Russia have halted the procurement of spare parts for maintenance, and MI-17 transport helicopters are often claimed for VIP transportation or grounded for repairs; 25 modified Cessna prop airplanes are “unacceptable to the geography of the country,” according to the Afghan Air Force’s chief of staff.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Taliban Talks: Speaking at an event on Saturday on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly alongside Sec. Kerry, Chief Executive Abdullah, Afghan foreign minister Salahuddin Rabbani, and Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi, among other regional and international diplomatic representatives, Pakistani foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz reiterated Pakistan’s willingness to facilitate talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government, “if the Afghan government desires”. At a trilateral U.S.-China-Afghanistan meeting, Sec. Kerry welcomed Chinese help in facilitating an Afghan peace process; Chief Executive Abdullah told the group that “Afghanistan is committed to leading a genuine and inclusive peace process and that through closely monitoring developments on the ground the government will expect to see the dismantlement of terrorist outfits wherever they may exist and seize upon trust building and peace building.” [ET] [Khaama Press] [TOLO]
  • Ghani Meets Constituents: Pres. Ghani met with tribal elders and representatives from Kandahar, Paktika, and other southeastern provinces on Saturday, where he voiced support for efforts to “ensure peace and stability” and the cause of national unity. On Friday, Ghani met separately with Kabul city officials to discuss urban development plans; with orphaned schoolchildren; and with women’s organizations, to whom he pledged a commitment to increase women’s representation in government. The LA Times interviews Afghans seeking visas abroad, who express their dissatisfaction with the national unity government’s failure to live up to its reform promises. [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Polio Crisis: Gates Foundation chairman Bill Gates met with Chief Executive Abdullah on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly on Sunday, praising the Afghan government’s vaccination efforts but calling for further action. World Health Organization officials report that polio is no longer endemic in Nigeria after a year without any reported cases, and Africa as a whole is now close to being certified polio-free, leaving only Afghanistan and Pakistan as countries where the virus remains endemic. On Monday, Ministry of Public Health officials reported the identification of three new polio cases in Nangarhar’s Achin and Shirzad districts.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Ministry of Interior to Asses ‘Ghost Forces’ [TOLO]
  • Finance Ministry Announces Chinese Delegation Visit [Khaama Press]
  • As Many as 2,000 Afghans Estimated to Cross Iranian Border Illegally Daily [Khaama Press] [TOLO]
  • ANA to Receive 55 Mobile Strike Force Armored Vehicles [Khaama Press]
  • Taliban Make Millions from Badghis Pistachio Fields [TOLO]
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