Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Investigations Ongoing Into Charsadda University Attack; Taliban Claim Attack on TOLO TV Staff

Topline

  • Investigations are ongoing into Wednesday’s attack on the Bacha Khan University in Charsadda; the military’s chief spokesman said that cell phone call logs were being analyzed and that the attackers had communicated with an Afghanistan-based controller. Police discovered and defused a bomber near a Peshawar bus stop on Thursday, although it is unclear if it is directly connected to the university attack. In Kabul, a suicide car bomber struck a van carrying employees for a production company working for TOLO TV, Afghanistan’s largest network; the Taliban claimed responsibility, denouncing the news service as a “spy agency” and accusing it of distributing “propaganda” during the Taliban’s offensive in Kunduz last fall. Mujahadeen veteran Pir Syed Ahmed Gilani is being considered to head the Afghan High Peace Council, Pajhwok reports. Dawn reports that senior MQM leader Salim Danish is the party’s candidate for the Hyderabad mayoralty. Afghanistan’s lower house of parliament recessed for its winter break on Wednesday. Two retired military officials were arrested in Rawalpindi on Thursday in connection to a Defense Housing Authority land scam that has also implicated the brother of the former chief of army staff.

Pakistan — Security

  • Bacha Khan University Attack: Funerals were held and a national day of mourning declared on Thursday, following an attack on Bacha Khan University in Charasadda the day prior. Police officials put the death toll at 21 people, including two teachers. Prime Minister Sharif is in Switzerland to attend the World Economic Forum, but spoke by phone with Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif and ANP chief Asfandyar Wali Khan, vowing a “ruthless response by the state”. Speaking on Wednesday, chief military spokesman Asim Bajwa said that the attackers’ “call logs were analysed and an intelligence picture was established, with most data having been collected”, and that they “were in touch with a number from Afghanistan”. On Thursday, the foreign ministry’s chief spokesman said that it would be “premature to draw any conclusion as to who may be behind the Charsada university attack before investigations are complete”, but echoed the reports that the attackers “were in contact with their handlers reportedly operating from Afghanistan”. The attack has been claimed by Umar Mansour, a Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan commander who also claimed responsibility for the Peshawar Army Public School attack in December 2014. Police are searching the area around the university; on Thursday, Peshawar police discovered and defused a bomb planted near a Peshawar bus station, although it is unclear if the plot was linked to the university attack. On Wednesday, the senate passed a unanimous resolution condemning the attack, and also demanded the creation of a parliamentary oversight committee to monitor counterterrorism efforts by the national and provincial governments under the National Action Plan against terrorism. Dawn notes that the attack comes despite the expenditure of Rs 10 billion in security improvement spending at educational institutions across Khyber Paktunkhwa since the attack on the Peshawar APS, which education officials acknowledge is insufficient to stop a committed attacker. [AFP] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [AJE] [NYT] [WAPO] [BBC]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Local Elections: Salim Danish, a senior MQM leader previously based in London, is reportedly the party’s top nominee to serve as Hyderabad mayor; he filed nomination papers for an indirectly-elected reserved seat on Tuesday. Speaking at a press conference, Quetta mayor Kaleem Ullah Kakar complained that administrative powers had not been transferred to local bodies, and suggested that local councilors would petition the high court on the issue. On Wednesday, the Election Commission transferred the two top district election officials in Badin and Sanghar, where rescheduled local elections are due to be held Friday. [Dawn]
  • Corruption Investigations: Two retired military officers and one civilian official were arrested by the National Accountability Bureau in Rawalpindi on Thursday in connection to Defense Housing Authority land scam investigations that have also implicated Kamran Kayani, brother to the former chief of army staff. [ET] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Five Baloch Liberation Army Militants Killed in Barkhan District [ET]
  • Bajaur Police Complete Seminary Documentation [Dawn]
  • Police Remand of Imran Farooq Suspect Extended [ET]
  • Senate Finance Committee Reviews Census Preparations; Security Not Finalized [Dawn]
  • Senate Chairman Questions Security Priveleges for Former Chief Justice [Dawn]
  • Pakistan Borrowed $1.42 Billion During Past Three Months [ET]
  • World Bank Planning $180M in Funding for Polio Vaccination [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Taliban Target TOLO Production Affiliate: On Wednesday, a suicide car bomber targeted a bus in Kabul carrying employees of a television production company that works for TOLO TV, Afghanistan’s largest television network; at least seven people were killed and 25 wounded. The Taliban claimed responsibility, denouncing the network as a “spy agency” and warning of further attacks; the insurgent group had announced last October that it would target TOLO for its reporting on the attack on Kunduz, which it said made false charges of rape by Taliban fighters. Afghan and international officials and press freedom organizations condemned the attack; the ministry of interior said that it was investigating the incident. [WSJ] [LAT] [AJE] [BBC]
  • ISIS Targeting Authority: The NYT follows on the WSJ’s reporting earlier this week regarding new White House authorization for U.S. military forces in Afghanistan to carry out offensive operations targeting the Islamic State’s Khorasan regional affiliate; anonymous administration officials tell the NYT that the government “considers the underlying legal authority to be unchanged”.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • High Peace Council Leadership: Pajhwok reports that Pir Syed Ahmad Gilani, the head of the Mahaz-i-Milli party and a former mujahadeen veteran, has been proposed to lead the High Peace Council, whose chairmanship has sat vacant since the appointment of Salahuddin Rabbani as foreign minister last year.
  • Wolesi Jirga Completes Session: The Wolesi Jirga adjourned for its winter recess on Wednesday, and will reconvene in 45 days.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Government to Build Women’s University in Kabul [TOLO]
  • Commentary: Casting a Very Wide Net: Did Ghani Authorize Interning Afghans Without Trial? – “A recent decree by President Ghani on how to deal with terrorist crimes has introduced the prospect of detaining, without trial, Afghans (and foreigners in Afghanistan) suspected of planning acts of terrorism.” [Lenny Linke and Kate Clark, AAN]
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