Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Lahore TV Station Offices Attacked; NATO Pledges Troops and Financial Support

Topline

  • Four people were wounded in a grenade attack on a television news channel office in Lahore on Tuesday evening; pamphlets on the scene claimed responsibility on behalf of the “Daulat-e-Khalifat-e-Islamia”. Four men were executed on Wednesday at the Kohat jail after being convicted through the military courts system on charges of providing support for the December 2014 attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar. Italian and German officials voiced pledges of continued support for the NATO mission in Afghanistan following Tuesday’s agreement by the alliance to keep roughly 12,000 troops in country through 2016, and to seek funding for the Afghan national security forces through 2020. The NYT also confirms reports that Mullah Mansoor Dadullah was killed in fighting with the Taliban in Zabul last month, although his spokesman has yet to confirm Dadullah’s death. Official results from the Islamabad local elections indicate that the PML-N won 19 union council chairmen seats and the PTI 17, with independents taking 13 seats; one contest was determined to be a tie. Pakistani interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan indicated Tuesday that the government would conduct its own prosecution of three suspects held in connection to the 2010 murder of former MQM leader Imran Farooq in London. The Daily Beast reports that one previously unreported American hostage is being held by the Haqqani network, in addition to a Canadian-American couple.

Pakistan — Security

  • Attack on Lahore TV Channel: As many as four people, including two police guards, were injured in a grenade attack on the offices of the DIN News tv channel in Lahore on Tuesday evening. Pamphlets thrown at the scene claimed responsibility on behalf of the “Daulat-e-Khalifat-e-Islamia” (Islamic State Group), which appears to have also claimed responsibility for last month’s attack on the Faisalabad bureau of Dunya News. [ET]
  • Executions: On Wednesday, four men convicted earlier through the military courts system were executed at a Kohat jail. All were identified as members of the “Toheedwal Jihad Group”, a Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan affiliate, and charged with supporting the December 2014 attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar, among other attacks. Their executions are the first death sentences to be carried out in connection to the attack. [WSJ] [BBC] [AP]
  • Imran Farooq Investigations: Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan indicated that the Federal Investigation Agency would investigate and register a case against three suspects held by Pakistan in connection to the 2010 murder of former MQM leader Imran Farooq in London; British authorities previously interviewed the suspects but have not sought their extradition for their own parallel investigations.
  • Karachi Crackdown: The Sindh Rangers announced a reward on Wednesday for information in connection to Tuesday’s attack on two military police in Karachi; two suspected militants were killed in a Rangers raid on Wednesday, although information on their identity has not been released. The Sindh provincial apex committee is meeting Wednesday to review the security situation in the province; officials have raised concerns over the possibility of election-related violence in South Karachi, particularly the Lyari neighborhood. [ET] [ET]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Elections and Other Political Activity: The official results of the Islamabad local elections as reported Tuesday saw the PML-N securing 19 union council chairmen seats, the PTI 17, and independent candidates 13; in Union Council 4, the vote ended in an apparent tie. The PTI announced its intention to file recount applications for at least eight seats, and to put forward a candidate for the mayoral election, which will be determined through a vote by the 50 union council chairmen. In Karachi, a coalition of opposition parties demanded the deployment of army and Rangers personnel inside and outside all polling stations during the upcoming local government elections. On Tuesday, the Lahore High Court suspended the results from local elections in two union councils in Sargodha, where women were reportedly blocked from voting. [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Tax Revenues: On Tuesday, the PPP, MQM, and PTI opposition announced their intentions to protest the government’s move to introduce Rs 40 billion in additional import duties and taxes at next week’s national assembly and senate sessions. Speaking to journalists on Tuesday, Finance Minister Dar defended the taxes and claimed they would be used to support families displaced by military operations in the FATA.
  • Energy Infrastructure: Speaking at USAID-sponsored seminar on the Pakistani clean energy sector in Washington on Tuesday, Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources Khaqan Abbasi said that the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline remained the “best option” for Pakistan, and expressed hopes that U.S. sanctions would be lifted soon. Anonymous Pakistani government sources tell the Express Tribune that a Russian delegation previously proposed a Pakistan-Russia gas pipeline during meetings last month; Russia has already offered to export liquefied natural gas and has signed an agreement for the construction of a LNG pipeline linking Karachi and Lahore.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Imran Khan Touts Plans for Peshawar Revitalization [Dawn]
  • PPP Opposition Leader Accuses Government of “Ignoring Sindh” [Dawn]
  • Quetta Clerics Urged to Support Inter-Faith Harmony [Dawn]
  • Petition Challenges Supreme Court Bench Division [Dawn]
  • Supreme Court Dismisses Punjab Appeal Against Bail for Afghan Immigrants [Dawn]
  • Pakistan Helps Cut India’s Cotton Glut [Reuters]
  • NEPRA Reduces Electricity Tariff [Dawn]
  • Pakistan-China ‘Technology Park’ Proposed for Islamabad [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • NATO Support: As reported yesterday, a two-conference of NATO foreign ministers agreed on Tuesday to retain roughly 12,000 troops in Afghanistan for the next year as part of the current “Resolute Support” training and support mission, and to hold further discussions with goal of reaching an agreement on funding the Afghan national security forces through 2020 by the next major NATO summit in July. Current funding for the ANSF totals around $4.1 billion annually. Afghan foreign minister Salahuddin Rabbani welcomed the commitment. Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi confirmed on Tuesday that Italy would keep forces in Afghanistan for another year; German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeir said that Germany would provide 350 million euros to support Afghan reconstruction in 2016, and would increase its troop deployment in the country to 980 soldiers. [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • U.S. Hostages: The Daily Beast reports that an American man, whose identity the report withholds, has been held hostage by the Haqqani network for more than a year. American national Caitlin Coleman and her Canadian husband Joshua Boyle were already reported to have been taken captive in 2012; they are also believed to be held by the Haqqanis.
  • Dadullah Death Rumors: The NYT, citing Zabul provincial security officials and Taliban commanders, confirms reports that Mullah Mansoor Dadullah was killed in fighting with the Taliban in November; they report that Dadullah was killed along with several Uzbek and Islamic State-affiliated fighters while sheltering at the home of commander Mullah Abdullah Haqmal after earlier clashes with the Taliban in the Khak-e-Afghan district. Dadullah’s spokesman maintains that he is still alive, however.
  • Attacks and Operations: Afghan army officials report that they have retaken control of at least 22 villages in Faryab’s Pashtun Kot district over the past three days of fighting. On Wednesday, the National Directorate of Security announced that it had arrested 11 militants affiliated with the Jundullah group in Kunduz’s Khan Abad district.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Kunduz Residents Attempt to Rebuild [AP]
  • Interview: “I Have to Hold Our Country Together” – “We are determined to defend our country, and the whole region and the entire world understands the justice of our cause and the principled way in which we have engaged in it.” [Ashraf Ghani, Der Spiegel]
  • Commentary: Finding Business Opportunity in Conflict: Shopkeepers, Taliban, and the Political Economy of Andar District – “While certain businessmen have been able to benefit from the presence of the Taleban, the majority of merchants and especially customers have had to bear an added burden.” [Fazal Muzhary, AAN]
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