Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Taliban Attack Near Ghazni; Official Results Announced for Lahore By-Polls

Topline

  • Taliban fighters intensified attacks around the Ghazni provincial capital on Monday, but were repelled by Afghan security forces; the Kabul-Kandahar highway was reportedly blocked and its current status is unclear. Clearing operations continue around Kunduz. Officials results were announced Monday for the NA-122 and PP-147 Lahore by-elections, confirming former national assembly speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq’s reelection to his national assembly seat and the PTI’s upset win for the provincial assembly seat. Sindh provincial officials plan intensified security preparations during the upcoming month of Muharram; on Tuesday, the Ulema Council issued a code of conduct for all clerical leaders, urging interfaith harmony. Pres. Ghani appointed five new provincial police chiefs on Monday. MQM leader Altaf Hussain has reportedly objected to the terms of the agreement reached for the creation of a Grievances Redressal Committee, stalling the party’s return to the assemblies. The NYT reports on the activities of militants affiliated with ISIS in Nangarhar’s Achin district.

Pakistan — Security

  • Sectarian Tensions: On Tuesday, the Ulema Council issued a code of conduct for the Muharram period, urging all clerical leaders to refrain from criticizing other sects and proposing the creation of interfaith peace committees in high-tension areas of the country. In Karachi, the interfaith Milli Yakjehti Council met on Monday to commit to peace during Muharram. Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah chaired a meeting to review security preparations on Monday, which will include the deployment of over 64,000 police personnel in addition to intensified investigations by the Rangers and intelligence agencies against sectarian militant groups. Separately on Monday, three members of the Ahmadi community were wounded in a shooting incident in Karachi; no claim of responsibility has been reported. Speaking before the senate interior committee on Monday, Sindh police chief Ghulam Hyder Jamali reported that a group affiliated with the sectarian militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi was responsible for the attack on the Ismaili community in Safoora earlier this May, and that those involved had also established linkages with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Elsewhere, the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat chapter president has petitioned the Lahore High Court’s Rawalpindi branch to appeal a six-month prison sentence on hate speech charges. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Elections: On Monday, official results were announced for the NA-122 and PP-147 by-elections in Lahore, certifying former PML-N national assembly speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq’s win with 74,525 votes in the national assembly contest, and Shoaib Siddiqi of the PTI’s win with 31,964 votes in the provincial assembly vote. Voter turnout was reported at 43.1% in the NA-122 poll and 44.42% in the PP-147 poll. 1,858 votes were rejected in NA-122 and 1,065 in PP-147, but despite some reports of polling irregularities or code of conduct violations, no complaints were filed regarding election rigging. Both parties found reason to celebrate their wins, Dawn reports, but also have cause for concern in the results. Speaking at a press conference on Monday, PTI Punjab organizer Chaudhry Sarwar said that the party would accept the outcome “with reservations”; PTI leaders charged the National Database and Registration Authority with shifting PTI voter registrations outside the constituency. PPP candidates secured less than a thousand votes in either contest, and attributed their losses to code of conduct violations by the PTI and PML-N and a late decision to contest the seats; PPP parliamentary opposition leader Khurshid Shah dismissed the significance of the party’s poor performance. Separately, arguments began in the Supreme Court on Monday over the PTI’s challenge to Election Commission code of conduct restrictions against election campaigning by sitting members of parliament. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [ET]
  • MQM Halts Return to Parliament: The Express Tribune reports that MQM leader-in-exile Altaf Hussain has objected to the terms of the agreement forming a Grievances Redressal Committee and ending the MQM’s boycott of the national and provincial assemblies, stalling the party’s return to parliament. [Dawn]
  • Tensions with India: Speaking to reporters on Monday, foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz said that tensions between India and Pakistan were “hazardous to world peace”, and would be a subject of discussion during Prime Minister Sharif’s visit to the U.S. later this month. Aziz reiterated allegations that India was intervening in Pakistan’s internal security, and dismissed charges that Pakistan was supporting “state or non-state actors” carrying out attacks against India. [ET]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Energy Crisis: In a response to senate questioning, the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority reiterated that the Ministry of Power and Water was responsible for poor electricity metering by state-owned electricity distribution companies that was resulting in consumer overcharging, but clarified that the issue only applied to around 3% of consumers using Time-of-Use meters. During the senate debate Minister of Water and Power Khwaja Asif accused power plants of selling subsidized fuel oil on the open market, and suggested that “vested interests” were resisting government efforts to introduce cheaper fuel sources such as LNG. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Chief of Army Staff Visits Turkey, Pledging Support Against Terrorism [Dawn] [ET]
  • Three Gunmen Arrested in Karachi [ET]
  • Security Officials Call on Bara Tribe to Surrender Arms [Dawn]
  • Khyber Officials Tout New Polio Vaccination Efforts [Dawn]
  • Shakeup in FBR Leadership Under Consideration [ET]
  • Pakistan Receives $4.96 Billion in Remittances During First Three Months of Fiscal Year [ET]
  • Finance Ministry Seeks Focal Person on Taxes for Overseas Nationals [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Taliban Threaten Ghazni: The AFP reports intensified fighting around the Ghazni provincial capital on Monday, prompting the closure of schools and shops; the deputy provincial governor reports that as many as 2,000 Taliban fighters attacked from multiple directions, but were pushed back from the city by Afghan forces. The offensive has reportedly closed a section of the Kabul-Kandahar highway in the Qarabgah district, blocking traffic. In Kunduz, house-to-house searches continue for Taliban fighters; police officials say that they control the entirety of the city but that operations are ongoing in the outlying Dasht-e-Archi district and along the Takhar-Kunduz highway. One police officer was killed and four injured when their vehicle struck a mine on Monday. The presidential commission to investigate the Taliban offensive on the city began work on Monday; at a separate press conference, acting defense minister Masoom Stanekzai suggested that Al Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and other foreign militant groups took part in the attack on Kunduz, including those who had been displaced by Pakistani operations in North Waziristan. [NYT] [Reuters] [AJE] [Khaama Press]
  • ISIS in Afghanistan: The NYT reports on how militant factions affiliated with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria have made inroads in eastern Nangarhar province, particularly the Achin district’s Maamand Valley region. Despite apparently limited operational linkages to the Daesh core, the group has adopted many of their brutal methods, and has clashed with the Taliban as well as local tribal leaders and the government.
  • Five Police Chiefs Appointed: On Monday, Pres. Ghani formally appointed five new provincial police chiefs for Sar-e-Pul, Laghman, Ghazni, Badghis, and Nuristan provinces. [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Tensions with Pakistan: Speaking at Monday’s meeting of the Council of Ministers, Chief Executive Abdullah said that Afghanistan expects Pakistan to halt support for the Taliban, saying that “mutual trust will be built when funding to the Taliban ends”. [ET]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • ‘Global Consensus’ Needed to Confront Terrorism, Karzai Says [Khaama Press]
  • McCain Comments on Bergdahl Prompt Rebuke from Lawyer [NYT]
  • UK Ministry of Defense Identifies Two RAF Victims of Kabul Crash [Guardian]
  • Kandahar, Pakita Report Rise in Customs Revenues [Pajhwok] [Pajhwok]
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