Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Afghan Officials Dispute Charsadda University Link; Taliban to Attend Pugwash Doha Meeting

Topline

  • Afghan officials denied allegations from the Pakistani military that the attack on the Bacha Khan University in Charsadda had been carried out under direction from Afghanistan; Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif is reported to have shared evidence in that regard with Pres. Ghani, Chief Executive Abdullah, and US forces commander Gen. John Campbell in phone conversations on Thursday. TTP commander Umar Mansoor, who claimed responsibility for the attack, released new video on Thursday threatening further attacks on Pakistani schools and colleges. Afghan Taliban representatives will attend a conference hosted by the international mediation group Pugwash in Doha; a spokesman for Chief Executive Abdullah said that the Afghan government was not participating. Vice Pres. Biden met with Pres. Ghani and Prime Minister Sharif in Davos on Thursday, voicing continued support for the Afghan peace process. TOLO and other news organizations mourned the victims of Wednesday’s attack on a production crew in Kabul. Cross-border rockets fired from Afghanistan hit a market in the South Waziristan border town of Angoor Adda on Thursday, killing as many as four people. The PML-N pushed through amendments over opposition objections that will allow for the partial privatization of Pakistan International Airlines and the introduction of a tax amnesty plan for the traders community. Deaths from malnutrition and water-borne diseases continue in Tharparkar, where the toll has reportedly reached 100 since the start of the year.

Pakistan — Security

  • Charsadda Attack Aftermath: Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif spoke by phone with Pres. Ghani, Chief Executive Abdullah, and US commander Gen. John Campbell to share evidence that the attack on the Bacha Khan University in Charsadda “was being controlled from a location in Afghanistan through Afghan cellphone by a TTP operative”, the Pakistani military’s chief spokesman stated on Thursday. Pres. Ghani’s office issued a statement on Friday saying that those remarks were “baseless” and that Afghanistan “Afghanistan has never supported a terrorist group and has never provided sanctuaries for the terror groups.” The WSJ notes that many Pakistani analysts have blamed India for sponsoring the attack, a charge India’s foreign ministry dismissed. Dawn reports that, unlike other raids of its kind, the attackers do not appear to have worn suicide vests or carried supplies for an extended operation, and apparently had intended to flee after carrying out the attack. Umar Mansoor, the Pakistani Taliban faction leader who has claimed responsibility for the attack, released a video on Friday threatening further attacks on Pakistani schools and colleges, describing them as “nurseries” for ” “Pakistan’s evil democratic system, its military and political leadership”. On Friday, Khyber Paktunkhwa police officials filed reports against 35 schools and offices around the province, charging them with maintaining inadequate security. [NYT] [WSJ] [Reuters] [ET]
  • Cross-Border Rockets Hit South Waziristan: Rockets fired from across the border in Afghanistan hit a recently reopened market in the town of Angoor Adda, South Waziristan, on Thursday, killing at least three people, the AFP reports. Dawn reports that four people were killed, and that the Pakistani military responded with artillery fire of its own. No claim of responsibility has been reported.
  • Other Attacks and Arrests: Two members of the Khyber Paktunkhwa police Elite Force Unit were killed in a driveby shooting in Peshawar on Friday; no claim of responsibility has been reported. Karachi police announced the arrest on Thursday of 11 suspects linked with Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, who were charged with planning to carry out an attack on an unspecified government building. [ET] [ET]
  • Russian Arms Talks: Pakistani military spokesmen reported Thursday that a Russian delegation led by Fomin Alexander Vasilyevich, director of the Russian Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation, met with Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif to discuss joint military ties. An agreement was reportedly signed for the sale of four Mi-35 helicopters, although no further information was shared.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Security Officials Criticized: After he failed to show up for a scheduled senate discussion on Thursday focusing on Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif’s visit to Afghanistan in December, Defense Minister Khawaja Asif was barred from attending the remainder of the current senate session by chairman Raza Rabbani; the session is due to end Friday. Opposition members charged Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan with misleading the house after the disclosure of evidence and arrest warrants against Lal Masjid leader Maulana Abdul Aziz, which Chaudhry Nisar had previously said was lacking. [ET]
  • Other Political Activity: The Balochistan cabinet announced three ministerial and two advisor appointments on Thursday, most going to the PML-N. Haleem Adil Sheikh, the former president of the PML-Q’s Sindh chapter, announced his intention to join the PTI on Friday.

Pakistan — Economics and Development

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Foreign Ministry Spokesman Says India Foreign Secretary Talks Will Be Held in ‘Near Future’ [Dawn]
  • Family Members of Imran Farooq Murder Suspect Allowed Access [Dawn]
  • Mass Transit System Approved for Quetta [Dawn]
  • Supreme Court Hears PTI Plea Over Access to ECP Data [Dawn]
  • New Sindh Textbook Board Chairman Faces Corruption Charges [ET]
  • 30 Held At Chaman Border Crossing [Dawn]
  • Power Outage Hits Large Portion of the Country [Dawn]
  • Report: Pakistan’s Nuclear Weapons – “Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is widely regarded as designed to dissuade India from taking military action against Pakistan, but Islamabad’s expansion of its nuclear arsenal, development of new types of nuclear weapons, and adoption of a doctrine called “full spectrum deterrence” have led some observers to express concern about an increased risk of nuclear conflict between Pakistan and India, which also continues to expand its nuclear arsenal.” [Congressional Research Service (pdf)]

Afghanistan — Security

  • TOLO TV Attack: The NYT and TOLO profile victims of Wednesday’s attack on a TOLO TV production affiliate in Kabul, which killed seven people and injured at least 25. The head of the Afghan media support group Nai, Sediqullah Tawhidi, vowed that “our journalists have repeatedly shown that they cannot be stopped.” Acting minister of defense Masoom Stanekzai visited with victims of the attack on Thursday, and the minister of interior pledged additional safety measures in the wake of the attack. The Taliban issued a statement on Thursday warning other media groups from aligning with TOLO, which it said had been targeted “for “promoting obscenity, irreligiousness, foreign culture and nudity”. [TOLO] [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Taliban to Attend Doha Conference: Representatives from the Taliban political office in Qatar confirmed that they would attend an upcoming conference organized by the international crisis mediation group Pugwash in order to “relay the legal demands of our nation and our just policy to the world directly”; a spokesman for Chief Executive Abdullah said that no Afghan government representative will be participating. On Thursday, Vice President Biden met with Prime Minister Sharif and Pres. Ghani at the World Economic Forum conference in Davos; the White House said afterwards that Biden had “encouraged both leaders to remain committed to a credible peace process reinforced by tangible steps to reduce violence, eliminate militant safe havens, and promote bilateral cooperation”. The AP notes efforts by Afghan womens’ activists to seek a greater role in the peace process; despite pledges by the Ghani administration, there has been no female participation in the quadrilateral dialogue process held earlier this month between Pakistan, Afghanistan, the United States and China. [AP] [Pajhwok] [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • NATO Defense Chiefs Reiterate Continued Support for Afghanistan [Khaama Press]
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