Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Sindh Prepares to Extend Contested Rangers’ Mandate; Uruzgan Police Killed in Insider Attack

Topline

  • The Sindh home ministry is reportedly preparing to approve the further two-month extension of Rangers’ policing powers, retaining restrictions on the paramilitary force’s ability to conduct corruption investigations without the approval of the provincial government, a restriction which the federal government has not accepted. Ten Afghan police officers were killed by a colleague in Uruzgan on Monday evening, the second such insider attack in the province in the past week. Military clearing operations have begun around the Baghlan provincial capital, after charges from provincial council members that unspecified government officials were blocking operations. The MQM plans to hold its second protest in the past week against a September 2015 Lahore High Court order barring the broadcast of remarks by party leader Altaf Hussain. Schools in Punjab are closed amidst reports of a possible attack plot. Members of the special committee to nominate replacement members to the Afghan Independent Election Commission say they have stopped work and there is currently “no solution in sight” after parliament’s rejection of the executive decree on electoral reform; a spokesman for the presidency says that the government is undertaking “consultations” on the issue. The Supreme Court of Pakistan has ordered vote re-verification in the NA-125 Lahore constituency won by federal railways minister Saad Rafique. PIA office employees are striking today, and have threatened to disrupt flights beginning next week if the government does not reverse its privatization plans.

Pakistan — Security

  • Bacha Khan University Attack Aftermath: Administrators at the Bacha Khan University in Charsadda demanded the deployment of Frontier Corps soldiers in and around the campus and the provision of weapons to university faculty and staff, among other security measures, before the school will reopen. Schools in Punjab have been closed until the end of the month later this week; the provincial education minister attributed the decision to winter weather, but the AP reports intelligence warnings of a possible attack by “thirteen Taliban fighters from neighboring Afghanistan”. On Monday, Afghanistan’s ministry of defense said that allegations from Pakistani officials that the Bacha Khan University attack was plotted from Afghan territory were “laughable”.
  • Interior Minister Defends Counterterrorism Response: Speaking at the National Defense University in Islamabad on Monday, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan rebuffed opposition criticism of the government and insisted that “sporadic incidents, however tragic and horrific, should not be allowed to cloud our positive achievements” in the overall national security, charging that “those who spread despondency and pessimism after every incident play into the hands of our enemies.” [Dawn]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Rangers Mandate: The Sindh home department has reportedly forwarded a summary to Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah approving the two-month extension of policing powers for the paramilitary Rangers, which are due to expire on February 5. Dawn reports that the “current mandate” of the Rangers would not change, which restricts the Rangers’ ability to pursue corruption cases without the provincial government’s approval, a restriction that the federal government has not accepted. [Dawn]
  • MQM Protests: The MQM plans to hold further demonstrations across Karachi on Tuesday to protest a September 2015 gag order restricting media broadcasts of speeches and remarks by party leader-in-exile Altaf Hussain. [ET] [Dawn]
  • Supreme Court Orders Vote Re-Verification: On Tuesday, the Supreme Court ordered the National Database and Registration Authority to conduct a re-verification of voter thumb impressions and vote counterfoils in the NA-125 constituency, which was won by federal railways minister Saad Rafique during the 2013 general elections. Rafique had challenged an earlier election tribunal order calling for a re-election in constituency after his PTI opponent Hamid Khan had alleged vote-rigging. Separately, an election tribunal dismissed PTI rigging claims in the NA-122 special election held in October 2015. [ET]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • PIA Privatization: Pakistan International Airlines unions have announced plans to close their offices from today through February 2 in protest against the airline’s planned privatization, and have threatened to halt flight operations beginning on the 2nd if their demands are not met. [ET] [Dawn]
  • Tharparkar Crisis: Sindh provincial health minister Jam Mehtab Dahar told reporters on Monday that deaths in the Tharparkar district due to malnutrition and water-borne illness were being exaggerated by the media, and claimed that 32 children had died in the past month, not the more than a hundred that have been reported. Dawn reports a shortfall of healthcare providers and facilities, particularly in outlying rural areas.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • National Finance Commission Sub-Committees Meet; Khyber Paktunkhwa Seeks Additional Funds [Dawn]
  • French President Calls for Pakistani Investigation Into Mumbai, Pathankot Attacks [ET]
  • Jamshoro Police Arrest TTP Suspect [Dawn]
  • Four Killed in Lasbela District Operations [ET]
  • Rs 295 Billion Released for Public Sector Development Program [APP]
  • Pakistan Faces Cotton Production Drop of Up to 33% [ET]
  • Planning Minister Seeks National Logistics Cell Business Plan [ET]
  • Former Oil and Gas Development Company Director Arrested on Corruption Charges [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Insider Attack Kills Ten Police: The district police chief in Uruzgan’s Chinarto district reported that a rogue Afghan police officer poisoned and then killed ten colleagues at a checkpost late Monday night, fleeing afterwards with a cache of weapons. A search operation is underway; it is the second insider attack on Uruzgan police forces in the past week. [NYT] [Khaama Press] [AJE]
  • Other Attacks and Operations: In comments to TOLO, Baghlan provincial council member Zarif Zarif accused unspecified members of the provincial government of acquiescing to Taliban influence and stalling military operations around the provincial capital of Pul-e-Khumri; on Tuesday, TOLO reported that a large-scale military operation was underway to clear the area of militants. Officials in Badakhshan report that Taliban fighters have been completely driven out of the Tagab district. Three Kandahar border policemen were killed earlier on Monday in a suicide bombing attack on their headquarters in Spin Boldak. [TOLO]
  • Police Appointments: Pres. Ghani held a videoconference meeting with the governors of Bamiyan, Faryab, Khost, Laghman, Farah, Badakhshan and Nimroz provinces on Monday, during which he agreed to consult with the governors prior to appointing provincial police chiefs.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Taliban Talks: Speaking to reporters on Monday, deputy presidential spokesman Syed Zafar Hashemi said that quadrilateral talks would continue with the U.S., China, and Pakistan, but that peace talks would only be held with Taliban groups who renounce violence, rejecting Taliban preconditions for the talks. [TOLO]
  • Electoral Reforms: The selection committee to nominate new members for the Independent Election Commission and Electoral Complaints Commission has stopped work after its mandate was rejected by parliament, members tell TOLO, and there is currently “no solution in sight”; a spokesman for the presidency said that the government “is committed to bring reforms and consultations in this regard are under way. There are several options and one of the options will soon be chosen,” without elaborating.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • The U.S. Was Supposed to Leave Afghanistan by 2017; Now It Might Take Decades [WAPO]
  • Ghani Pledges Security After Meeting with Moby Group Officials [Khaama Press]
  • Report: The Other Side of Gender Inequality: Men and Masculinities in Afghanistan – “The overall purpose of the research is to achieve an in-depth understanding of different notions of being a man in Afghanistan and how they contribute to gender inequality.” [AREU]
  • Commentary: The Troubled History of E-Tazkera: Technical Stumbling Blocks – “Although donor interest in a modern and secure national identity card in Afghanistan remains (and is likely to grow) in the face of increasing refugee movements to Europe, it has waned in the face of the many problems surrounding the project.” [Jelena Bjelica and Martine van Bijlert, AAN]
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