Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Taliban Retain Hold on Kunduz; PTI Delays Islamabad Protest, Will Rally in Lahore

Topline

  • The Taliban still hold large portions of Kunduz as Afghan security forces have struggled to retain their position on its outskirts; government security forces were ousted from the Bala Hisar hiltopl on Wednesday, and faced heavy attacks on their base at the city airport on Tuesday. U.S. and NATO special forces have deployed to support the Afghan security forces, and two more U.S. airstrikes were carried out overnight in the area. Casualty reports are sketchy, but a Doctors Without Border hospital reports that it is overwhelmed, and is treating more than 170 people. Afghan security forces claim to have killed the Taliban shadow governor for Kunduz, but there is no confirmation of this. The Nangarhar provincial police chief accused the Pakistani ISI of directing Daesh-affiliated fighters in the Achin district, and claimed that a hundred fighters had been killed after attacks on security outposts in the Achin district. The PTI has postponed a planned rally in Islamabad and will instead rally in Lahore two days prior to the by-election being held there on October 11. Speaking at the UN, Pakistani foreign secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry voiced support for the Afghan government and said that “the solution does not lie in blame game, rather it lies in cooperation” between Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Quami Watan Party formally agreed to rejoin a coalition government with the PTI in Khyber Paktunkhwa after a meeting in Islamabad on Tuesday. The IMF has disbursed the latest $500 million quarterly loan tranche to Pakistan after board approval at the start of the week.

Pakistan — Security

  • Terrorism Investigations: In a notification on Tuesday, the Interior Ministry formally authorized the Federal Investigation Agency’s counterterrorism wing to register terrorism cases under the Protection of Pakistan Act, Anti-Terrorism Act, or other laws, and also granted the FIA detention powers under those laws.
  • Tensions with India: In remarks to the Indian press on Tuesday, the head of the Indian Border Security Force rejected Pakistani allegations that India was constructing a border wall along the Line of Control. On Wednesday, Indian courts sentenced five men to death and seven to life sentences in connection to the 2006 Mumbai train bombings, which police linked to Lashkar-e-Taiba. [BBC]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Elections: On Tuesday, the PTI announced that it would postpone its planned rally in Islamabad for October 4 seeking the resignation of the members of the Election Commission, and would instead hold a rally in Lahore on October 9, shortly before the by-elections being held there for the NA-122 seat. Imran Khan suggested that the Islamabad rally would be held after the NA-122 by-elections; Khan also criticized the PML-N’s “running away” from the NA-154 by-elections, after the Supreme Court suspended the elections to hear a challenge from Siddique Baloch against his dismissal by an election tribunal. Elsewhere, the Election Commission modified the boundaries of local union council constituencies in several districts in Sindh in an order on Tuesday, following a Sindh High Court ruling; officials expressed confusion about the impact on candidates who initially registered in rural councils that now fall under urban councils, as the date for submitting candidate nominations has already passed. [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Quami Watan Party Rejoins Coalition: As reported yesterday, the Quami Watan Party and PTI announced their return to coalition government in Khyber Paktunkhwa in a ceremony in Islamabad on Tuesday. A liaison committee between the two parties will be established over the course of the next month, and the QWP is expected to receive two ministerial positions and two special advisor positions within the government. [ET]
  • MQM Tensions: Dr. Shehla Amir, the wife of the brother of Sindh governor Ishratul Ebad Khan, filed a case with Karachi police against MQM leader Rauf Siddique, accusing him and other party allies of harassing and threatening her family following a monetary dispute.

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • IMF Disburses Loan Tranche: Following earlier staff-level quarterly review, the IMF executive board approved the release of the latest $504.8 million loan tranche to Pakistan in a meeting on September 28, and the disbursal of the loan was announced by the Fund on Tuesday. The board approved a waiver on performance criteria for budget deficits and borrowing from the State Bank of Pakistan. [Dawn] [IMF Statement]
  • Energy Crisis: Pakistan State Oil’s receivables have reached Rs 215 billion as of May this year, officials told the Public Accounts Committee at a hearing on Tuesday, of which Rs 128 billion is dues from the power sector, Rs 13 billion dues from PIA, and Rs 11.8 billion dues from government agencies.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Prime Minister Continues UN Meetings, to Address Assembly Today [Dawn] [ET]
  • PPP and PTI Seek to Block Draft Cybercrimes Bill [ET]
  • TTP ‘Facilitator’ of Attock Bombing Arrested [Dawn]
  • Supreme Court to Consider Jurisdiction Over Court Martial Appeal [ET]
  • Peshawar High Court Seeks Response Over Missing Persons [ET]
  • Pakistan to Switch to Bivalent Oral Polio Vaccine as Part of Global Shift [Dawn] [ET] [ET]
  • Riverine Police Force Planned for Indus [Dawn]
  • Public Accounts Committee Clears Auditor Objections Over PPL Appointments Under PPP Govt [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Taliban Retain Hold on Kunduz: Reports as of this writing indicate that the Taliban have retained hold of most of Kunduz city for a second day, as Afghan reinforcements have been slow to retake areas of the city. The main police station and provincial prison were briefly reported to be under government control, but on Wednesday afternoon, the Taliban took control of Bala Hisar hill, a high point overlooking the city; the WSJ quotes unidentified Afghan officials who say they expect to evacuate the airport soon. Roads leading to the city are reported to be blocked or mined by Taliban forces, slowing reinforcements from surrounding provinces. Heavy fighting was reported around the city airport on Tuesday evening, the main bastion of Afghan security forces, but the Taliban are reported to have eventually retreated from that area. U.S. military spokesmen reported two further airstrikes overnight, and confirmed that U.S. and NATO special forces were present to advise the Afghan security forces, and that they had engaged in combat overnight. No details on the number of coalition forces present have been disclosed. One NATO soldier died on Tuesday, and although spokesmen have not provided further details, they emphasized that it was due to a “non-battle cause” and not connected to the Kunduz offensive. The AP reports that the Taliban are conducting house-to-house searches in the city for government workers, and to be coercing young men to join their ranks; the Guardian quotes residents who say that the Taliban are not harming most local residents, however. UN Special Representative Nicholas Haysom expressed concern over reports “of extrajudicial executions, including of health care workers, abductions, denial of medical care and restrictions on movement out of the city.” Doctors Without Borders reports that their hospital in the city has been overwhelmed, and that they are treating at least 171 people, including 46 children, as of Tuesday evening. On Wednesday, Ministry of Public Health officials reported that at least 30 people had been killed and 200 injured in the fighting. Local security officials claim that hundreds of Taliban fighters have been killed in the fighting and through the U.S. airstrikes. The NDS reported on Tuesday that the Taliban shadow governor for Kunduz, Maulvi Salam, had been killed in fighting near the airport, along with 15 fighters and a member of the Pakistani group Lashkar-e-Taiba; there is no independent confirmation of these claims, and the Taliban have not confirmed his death. NDS director Rahmatullah Nabil appeared before parliament on Tuesday to answer closed-door questions on the security collapse; many members of parliament continue to allege collusion on the part of the local government with the Taliban. Kunduz governor Mohammad Omar Safi, who was in Tajikistan at the time of the attack, is reported to have fled the country for the UK. [AJE] [BBC] [Guardian] [Reuters] [TOLO] [TOLO] [TOLO]
  • Nangarhar Attacks: The Nangahar police chief, Fazal Ahmad Shirzad, tells Khaama Press that ninety percent of Daesh-affiliated fighters in the province are Pakistani nationals, and accuses the ISI of leading the group. Speaking to TOLO, Shirzad claims that at least 100 Daesh fighters were killed and more than 50 injured after they attack police outposts in the Achin district on Tuesday, and that there have been no civilian or security forces casualties. There is no independent confirmation of these claims.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Tensions with Pakistan: The Pakistani press notes Chief Executive Abdullah’s UN address, in which he calls for Pakistan to crack down on militant groups sheltering in its territory. Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Pakistani foreign secretary Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry said that “Afghanistan is being run by a democratically elected and legitimate government and occupation of its territory by any group is unacceptable”, and called for greater cooperation between the two countries, adding that “the solution does not lie in blame game, rather it lies in cooperation”. Speaking at a security conference in Munich on Tuesday, Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif voiced support for reconciliation in Afghanistan, and called for a revival of talks between the Taliban and the government. [APP]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Germany Open To Delaying Troop Withdrawal [Reuters]
  • Abdullah Cuts Short US Trip Over Kunduz Situation [Khaama Press]
  • Afghani Value Drops Over Security Concerns [TOLO]
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