Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Afghan Forces Called Kunduz Hospital Strike; Pakistan Supreme Court Hears Mumtaz Qadri Appeal

Topline

  • Speaking at a press conference on Monday, Gen. John Campbell indicated that Afghan forces had called in a U.S. airstrike that hit the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz on Saturday, not embedded U.S. special forces as initially reported. Sporadic fighting continues in Kunduz, although reports suggest that residents are returning to their normal routines, and the acting governor has returned to his office for the first time in a week. The Post reports that former Joints Chiefs Chairman Dempsey proposed the deployment of a force of 3,000-5,000 U.S. troops after the end of 2016 to serve as a part of a “global counterterrorism footprint”; the White House is reported to be seeking more details as it considers this alongside a variety of force level proposals from Gen. Campbell. The Supreme Court of Pakistan is hearing the appeal of Mumtaz Qadri’s death sentence; in remarks on Monday, Judge Asif Saeed Khosa suggested that criticism of the blasphemy law is not in and of itself blasphemous. Two PML-N ministers have been cited for violating the electoral code of conduct after appearing at campaign events in Lahore. Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani deferred accepting the resignations of MQM senators, suggesting that they may not have been “voluntary and genuine”. The Taliban claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in Kabul on Monday evening; attacks continue across several northern districts.

Pakistan — Security

  • FATA Attacks and Operations: In a statement on Monday, Pakistan’s chief military spokesman denied that a purported Pakistani ISI officer shown to have been hanged in a Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan video message reported by Reuters on Sunday was in fact an intelligence officer or a serving soldier, identifying him instead as a kidnapped Afghan national. On Monday, 233 displaced families were repatriated to their home villages in North Waziristan; in the Orakzai Agency, tribal elders met to discuss a repatriation program that will begin Tuesday. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Blasphemy Law: At a Supreme Court hearing of an appeal from Mumtaz Qadri, the former bodyguard who killed Punjab governor Salman Taseer, Judge Asif Saeed Khosa suggested that criticism of the country’s blasphemy law did not in and of itself amount to blasphemy, as Qadri and his lawyers have charged provided justification for Taseer’s murder. As many as 90 supporters of Qadri were arrested as they attempted to rally in support of him outside the court. [ET] [Dawn]
  • Elections: Prime Minister Sharif met with PML-N aides in Lahore on Monday to review the election campaign for the NA-122 and PP-147 seats; the party reportedly plans to hold an election rally in Lahore on October 7 and 8th. PPP activists protested outside the Lahore Election Commission offices on Monday against what they said was a failure to take action against the PML-N and PTI candidates for exceeding campaign spending restrictions. Two federal government ministers, Khawaja Saad Rafique and Abid Sher Ali, have been cited for violations barring the participation of sitting cabinet members from taking part in election campaigning. Voting is currently underway for a special election in Attock to fill the PP-16 provincial assembly seat, which was vacated after the assassination of Home Minister Shuja Khanazada in August; his son, Jahangir Khanazada, is contesting the seat under the PML-N ticket against an independent candidate, Mohammad Naeem. [Dawn] [ET]
  • MQM Under Pressure: Speaking at a press conference on Monday, Sindh Home Minister Sohail Anwar Siyal reiterated the provincial government’s support for the ongoing paramilitary crackdown in Karachi. On Tuesday, the Rangers announced the arrest of six criminal suspects and one alleged terrorist, but provided no further details. In a ruling on Monday, Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani ruled that MQM senators’ resignations would be considered pending, expressing doubts that they were fully “voluntary and genuine”; Rabbani indicated that if the MQM senators missed 40 consecutive sessions from the time the resignations were offered, their membership would be revoked, however. In London, MQM leader Altaf Hussain secured a further four-month bail extension in a money laundering case. [ET]
  • Tensions with India: Pakistani diplomatic officials report that backchannel communications were underway on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting in an effort to reopen talks between the Indian and Pakistani national security advisors or foreign ministers, but that those efforts again foundered over the question of whether the agenda would be limited to terrorism issues or would cover the relationship more broadly. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Government to Challenge Election Commission Freeze on Farmers’ Aid Package [Dawn] [ET]
  • Imran Khan Warns Lawmakers Against Opposing Conflict of Interest Legislation [Dawn] [ET]
  • Pakistan’s Battle Against Balochistan Separatists Sparks Anger and Suspicion [BBC]
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa to Split District Development Budgets Equally [ET]
  • National Accountability Bureau Reports 208 Corruption Cases and Rs 18 Billion in Recovered Funds in 2014 [Dawn]
  • Former National Logistics Cell Chief Challenges Dismissal [Dawn]
  • NEPRA Refuses to Under Cost Audit of Independent Power Producers [ET]
  • 234,000 ‘Ghost’ Students Enrolled in Balochistan [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • US General Says Afghan Forces Requested Kunduz Airstrike: Speaking at a press conference on Monday ahead of planned Congressional testimony on Tuesday, U.S. and NATO commander Gen. John Campbell indicated that the errant Kunduz airstrike that struck a Doctors Without Borders / Medecins Sans Frontieres hospital on Saturday was called in by Afghan forces, not to protect American forces in the city as initially reported. Campbell did not provide details on how close the U.S. special forces team coordinating the strike was to the hospital when the strike was called in, and it remains unclear why the Afghan forces requested the attack on the facility; hospital personnel have disputed Afghan claims that the Taliban were firing from nearby positions. MSF officials issued a new statement in response to Campbell’s remarks saying that “the U.S. military remains responsible for the targets it hits, even though it is part of a coalition,” and that “with such constant discrepancies in the U.S. and Afghan accounts of what happened, the need for a full transparent independent investigation is ever more critical.” A White House spokesman described the strike as a “profound tragedy”; Campbell did not directly apologize but pledged that “we’ll hold those responsible accountable and we will take steps to ensure mistakes are not repeated.” In comments on Tuesday, UN Special Representative Nicholas Haysom echoed calls for an “independent and impartial inquiry.” [WSJ] [BBC] [Guardian] [AJE] [Reuters] [MSF Statement]
  • Sporadic Fighting Continues in Kunduz: Acting Kunduz provincial governor Hamdullah Daneshi returned to his office for the first time in a week on Monday, and residents have reportedly begun reopening shops and returning to daily routines as Afghan security forces have largely retaken control of the city. At least 6,000 city residents are reportedly now homeless; some 400 demonstrated near parliament in Kabul on Monday. Speaking to reporters on Monday, deputy chief of staff of the Afghan National Army Lt. Gen. Murad Ali Murad claimed that “Pakistani generals” who he said were responsible for directing the attack on the city were now fleeing “wearing women’s burqas”, but pledged that they would be tracked down. On Tuesday morning, new clashes were reported near the city center; acting governor Daneshi tells Reuters that the Taliban are adopting hit-and-run tactics to “create fear among residents so they cannot resume their normal lives.” [AJE] [Pajhwok] [TOLO]
  • Force Levels: The Post reports that former Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey presented a plan to Pres. Obama in August that would keep 3,000-5,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan after 2016 to serve as part of a “global counterterrorism footprint” focused primarily on operations against Al Qaeda and the Islamic State, operating out of Bagram airbase and “one or two other airfields”. The administration is reportedly seeking more information on the plan, which comes in addition to a range of as many as five operations prepared by Gen. Campbell.
  • Other Attacks: The Taliban claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing attack in Kabul on Monday evening; the blast apparently took place near the homes of former Helmand governor and former deputy National Directorate of Security chief Naeem Baloch and presidential advisor Najibullah Nasery, and the exact intended target is unclear. Neither were present at the time of the blast, and the Taliban described their target as a branch of the NDS; Kabul police say they are investigating. In Faryab, officials claimed that thousands of Taliban fighters were involved in Monday’s attack on the provincial capital of Maimana, and claimed that the Taliban’s shadow governor for the province, identified also as a member of the Quetta leadership shura, had been killed in the fighting. In Baghlan, dissident provincial council members accuse the Taliban of violating a ceasefire agreement with local elders in the Dand-e-Ghori district; the head of the provincial council confirms that security checkposts were attacked but suggests that the agreement is still in place and that the perpetrators should be punished under it. [TOLO] [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • New ISIS Video Purports to Show Nangarhar Beheading [Khaama Press]
  • NDS Detain Would-Be Suicide Bomber in Kabul [Khaama Press]
  • Army Lawyers Submit Recommendations on Bergdahl Court Martial Case [WAPO]
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