- Pakistani army soldiers are being deployed to assist in security for Saturday’s first phase of local elections in Sindh and Punjab; Sindh provincial officials say that the army will remain in reserve and that security will be provided by the police and Rangers. Jamaat-ud-Dawa is actively carrying out relief efforts in quake-affected regions of Pakistan, despite statements by the information minister earlier this week indicating that banned organizations would not be allowed to participate in relief operations. The total reported death toll from the quake stands at 272 in Pakistan; Pres. Hussain visited Bajaur and Bilalwal Bhutto Zardari visited Peshawar on Thursday. The Guardian interviews Afghan migrants seeking to escape the country for Europe; the total number of Afghan asylum seekers has more than doubled compared to the previous year in the first eight months of 2015. Multiple drone strikes hit militant targets in Kunar and Nangarhar near the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan on Thursday and Friday. The Post profiles a Kunduz militia commander.
Pakistan — Security
- Balochistan Conflict: Mir Gul Khan Marri, a local tribal elder, was killed along with six other people when his vehicle hit a landmine in Quetta’s Marwar suburb on Thursday; no claim of responsibility was reported. Separately, at least 23 members of the Baloch Liberation Army and Baloch United Army militant groups announced their surrender to authorities and renunciation of violence, including two commanders who are members of the Marri tribe. [Dawn]
- APS Suspect Released: A Pakistani national who was extradited from Italy on suspicion of supporting extremist groups, and who was described in earlier reports as a suspect in connection to the December attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar, was released without charge after a Federal Investigation Agency interview on Friday, Dawn reports.
Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy
- Elections and Other Political Activity: The Election Commission has formed a “control room” to oversee Saturday’s first phase of local government elections in Sindh and Punjab; the Pakistani military confirmed that its soldiers would be deployed to assist law enforcement agencies in providing security at polling stations. Dawn reports that around 65% of the polling stations in Sindh and nearly 95% of the polling stations in Punjab have received either a sensitive or highly sensitive classification. Formal notification has not been issued for sensitive polling stations in Sindh, however, and when speaking to the press on Thursday, Sindh Local Government Minister Syed Nasir Hussain Shah said that only police and Rangers would be providing polling security and that army forces would remain stationed on stand-by. Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, Imran Khan accused the PML-N of “hooliganism and bloodshed” in its election campaigns, condemning the killing of two PTI activists in Lahore. [ET] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [ET]
- Judicial Appointments: In a statement on Thursday, the parliamentary committee on judicial appointments resolved that it would not continue its meetings until it was given a “meaningful role” in the nomination process, which are largely controlled by the judiciary-run Judicial Commission.
Pakistan — Economics and Development
- Quake Aftermath: At a press conference on Thursday, Khyber Paktunkhwa officials reported that the death toll across the province from Monday’s earthquake was at least 225 people, out of 272 deaths reported nationwide. In Afghanistan, UN officials said that access to affected areas “varies from one insurgent commander to another” despite a pledge by the Taliban not to disrupt relief efforts. Khyber Paktunkhwa officials have formally cleared two NGOs, Islamic Relief and Muslim Hands, had been cleared to conduct quake relief efforts, and are in the process of clearing at least two more; Reuters reports that Jamaat ud Dawa is actively involved in earthquake relief, despite a statement from Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid earlier this week indicated that banned organizations would not be allowed to take part in the relief effort. At a press conference in Bajaur on Wednesday, local lawmakers rejected the government’s aid package for those affected by the quake as insufficient; Pres. Mamnoon Hussain visited Bajaur on Thursday to meet with local tribal leaders and pledge support for the relief effort. PPP chairman Bilalwal Bhutto Zardari and a delegation of senior PPP leaders visited Peshawar on Thursday to meet with quake survivors and pledge support. [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn]
Pakistan — Remainders
- Foreign Secretary Rebuffs ‘Pressure’ on Nuclear Program [Dawn]
- Chief Justice to Consider Drug Court Appointment Procedures [Dawn]
- Iran Calls for Expanded Trade, Currency Swap [Dawn]
- Meeting Reviews Preparations for March Census [Dawn]
- FBR Seeks Outside Forensic Audit on Cellular Company Tax Payments [Dawn]
- Lahore High Court Drops Freeze on Sahiwal Coal Power Plant [Dawn] [ET]
- OGRA Recommends Petroleum Price Hike [Dawn]
- Imran and Reham Khan Divorce [BBC] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
- Commentary: What Did Pakistan Premier Sharif Actually Accomplish on His US Visit? – ” In many ways, the visit was a minor success for both sides, as well as for Afghanistan and India. Yet the future of peace in the region remains uncertain.” [Touqir Hussain and David Silverman, The Diplomat]
Afghanistan — Security
- Attacks and Operations: Four Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan-affiliated militants were reportedly killed in a U.S. drone strike in Nangarhar’s Lal Pora area on Thursday, while another strike in the Nazyan district reportedly killed three ISIS-affiliated militants. No further details were reported. On Friday, Kunar provincial officials reported that an Arab national, identified as Bilal Al-Naiby, and two guards were killed in a drone strike on Thursday evening in Kunar’s Ghazi Abad district. One civilian was killed and nine injured when a bomb exploded at a market in Mazar-e-Sharif on Thursday; no claim of responsibility was reported. [TOLO]
- Militias: The Post profiles a militia commander in Kunduz, who U.S. and Afghan security officials credit with staving off the Taliban but who also operates as a parallel government, taxing residents and settling disputes. Acting provincial governor Hamdesh Danishi dismisses complaints that militia forces are extorting from local residents or exacerbating tensions with minority communities, saying that “these human rights people are destroying us… If it weren’t for their criticisms, we would finish off the Taliban.” Meanwhile, TOLO reports that “dozens” of residents of Kunduz’s Dasht-e-Archi district have taken up arms in support of the security services as they battle to retake control of the area from the Taliban.
Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy
- Refugee Displacement: The Guardian interviews Afghan migrants seeking to leave the country for Germany or other parts of Europe, many of whom voice concern about the country’s deteriorating security situation in the wake of the Taliban attack on Kunduz, and who have suffered years of unemployment or underemployment in Afghanistan’s cities. The UN reports that around 122,000 Afghans applied for asylum between January and August this year, more than double last year’s figures.
Afghanistan — Remainders
- New Afghan Envoy to UN Submits Credentials [TOLO]
- UN Special Representative Pledges Long-Term Support [TOLO]
- Commentary: Homeless and Unwanted: How Kabul’s Drug Users Are Driven Like a Flock – “The 2015 summer campaign to push drug users out from under the bridge and to close the ‘addict town’ in Pol-e Sokhta has turned into a public spectacle with groups of drug addicts being herded around by the police.” [Jelena Bjelica and Qayoom Suroush, AAN]