Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Lyari Gang Leader’s Arrest Announced; NDS Denies Report of Meeting with ISI This Week

Topline

  • The Sindh Rangers announced the arrest of Lyari gang leader Uzair Baloch on Saturday, referring him to a 90-day detention period and interrogations; Baloch was earlier reported to have been detained in Dubai in December 2014, and his family said reports of his arrest in Karachi were fake. During a meeting on Friday, Prime Minister Sharif is reported to have advised for a de-escalation of the conflict with the PPP over corruption investigations against senior Sindh government officials. The NDS denied reports that Masoud Andarabi would meet with his ISI counterpart Rizwan Akhtar this week; the diplomatic Quadrilateral Coordination Group is due to meet for the next round of talks focused on peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban. Chief Executive Abdullah is in India for the week; he met with Prime Minister Modi on Monday. Some private schools remain closed in Punjab despite an agreement with the government for the reopening of most schools this week; education officials complain that the government has offered no funding to meet new security requirements, forcing them to charge fees to students. Four Afghan nationals were reportedly arrested in Charsadda on Sunday in connection to the Bacha Khan University Attack. A joint council formed last March to unite the TTP, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, and Lashkar-e-Islam has reportedly lapsed, and Umar Mansoor, the TTP commander who claimed responsibility for the Charsadda attack, is reportedly on the verge of splitting off from TTP commander Maulana Fazlullah’s leadership. A suicide bomber outside the Afghan Civil Order Police headquarters in Kabul killed at least ten people and wounded more than 20 on Monday; in Nangarhar, a local journalist was killed near his home on Friday, in an attack linked to the Islamic State. The NYT reports that U.S. forces have carried out at least a dozen operations against the Islamic State in Afghanistan since the expansion of targeting authority by Pres. Obama last month, including special operations forces raids and airstrikes. U.S. diplomats are seeking a continuation of current funding levels for the Afghan national security forces in conversations with their NATO partners. Pakistan’s investigations into the Pathankot airbase attack have stalled, and Pakistan will demand more evidence from India to continue, Dawn reports. Preaching activities have been banned on Punjab university campuses, and new content restrictions imposed on nearby mosques; JUI-F leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman denounced the move. The Afghan Independent Directorate of Local Governance announced on Sunday that district police and intelligence chiefs would be appointed in consultation with provincial governors. The MQM has restructured and formed a new supreme council in advance of party leader Altaf Hussain’s testimony in a UK money laundering case tomorrow. Pakistan International Airlines staff say they will go ahead with strike plans tomorrow, despite the announcement by the federal government on Friday that it would delay efforts to secure a strategic partner investment in the airline for six months, and the invocation on Monday of laws barring union activity in the state-run sector.

Pakistan — Security

  • School Security: A Khyber Paktunkhwa provincial government committee tasked with investigating the attack on the Bacha Khan University in Charsadda in mid-January has recommended the removal of the university’s vice chancellor and chief security officer, finding them responsible for “serious lapses in the security management”. The Express Tribune reports that four armed Afghan nationals were arrested near Charsadda on Sunday on suspicion of “working for a foreign agency” and linkages the university attack. After a week-long closure, the All-Pakistan Private Schools Federation agreed to reopen schools in Punjab from February 1, following meetings on Sunday with the provincial education minister. Dawn reports that cases brought by the provincial government against a number of schools over inadequate security measures — which the schools denounced as harassment — were withdrawn as part of the agreement. At least a dozen elite private school chains remain closed as of Monday, however. Some government-run schools in Khyber Paktunkhwa have begun charging students additional fees for security; anonymous school officials complain that the provincial government is “just shunning responsibility” and has not offered funding to match new security requirements. No comparable measures have been required of schools in the FATA, however. On Monday, Prime Minister Sharif chaired a security review meeting with top military and civilian officials, vowing that “those threatening our children from going to schools will be defeated”. [ET]
  • TTP Divisions: The Express Tribune reports that a joint council established last March to unite the main Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan faction led by Maulana Fazlullah, the Jamaat-ul Ahrar faction, and the Khyber-based Lashkar-e-Islam has been dissolved due to “lack of interest” by Fazlullah. Commander Umar Mansoor, who has claimed responsibility the attacks on the Army Public School in Peshawar and the Bacha Khan University in Charsadda, is also reportedly on the verge of officially splitting from Fazlullah’s leadership, after the main TTP’s spokesman disavowed involvement in the Charsadda attack.
  • Pathankot Investigations: Dawn reports that Pakistani investigations into five phone numbers provided by India in connection to the attack on the Pathankot airn January have stalled and that the Pakistani foreign ministry will “demand more evidence [from India] to move forward in investigation here”.
  • Supreme Court Dismisses Judicial Review Petition for Military Courts: In a ruling on Friday, the Supreme Court dismissed a petition brought by a lawyer representing military court system convicts that had sought judicial review of their sentences, ruling that he was “not an aggrieved party” and had failed to avail himself of the higher courts.
  • Balochistan Attacks and Operations: Balochistan home minister Sarfaraz Ahmed Bugti announced on Saturday that Abdul Manan Baloch, a senior leader of the separatist Balochistan Liberation Front, had been killed along with four other suspected militants in a raid in Mastung. Two other militants were reportedly killed in Mastung after they attacked a convoy earlier in the day. Dawn reports that the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan’s Masood group claimed responsibility for Friday’s suicide bombing attack on a military cantonment compoundi n the Zhob district; Chief Minister Sanaullah Zehri chaired a security meeting in the wake of the attack and pledged to carry out a “tit for tat policy” to respond to terrorist attacks. [AP] [ET] [ET]
  • Seminaries Under Scrutiny: On Friday, the Punjab government issued a ban on preaching activities on university campuses, and a ban on non-students living in school hostels, as well as content restrictions on mosques in surrounding areas. The government reports that it has sealed 182 seminaries across the country since the inauguration of the National Action Plan against terrorism; four were sealed in Quetta on Monday. Speaking at a press conference on Sunday, JUI-F leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman criticized the government’s use of the NAP, arguing that “force is not the solution to eliminate terrorism”, lambasting its restrictions on seminaries and charging that “both the federal and provincial governments know about the existence of armed organisations in the country but they are raiding only Madaris and mosques in search of one or two persons.”

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Lyari Gang Leader Uzair Baloch Arrested: On Saturday, the Sindh Rangers announced that they had arrested Uzair Baloch, the leader of the Lyari-based “People’s Amn Committee” gang, during a raid on the outskirts of Karachi late Friday evening; he faces at least 45 cases against him. Baloch was previously reported to have been arrested in Dubai in December 2014, and his family told reporters that they had not been in contact with him for the past thirteen months. On arraignment, Rangers officials later said that Baloch had been arrested in the Lyari area. Baloch had previously been aligned with the PPP, but split with the party in 2012; former Sindh home minister Zulfikar Mirza, a supporter and patron of Baloch during his tenure, has also since split with the PPP, and welcomed news that he was alive. Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah told reporters on Saturday that he had approved the arrest of Baloch; he had met with Karachi Corps Commander Lt. Gen. Naveed Mukhtar on Friday to discuss provincial security. A Karachi anti-terrorism court has ordered a joint investigation team to interrogate Baloch, who was placed under a three-month detention order by the Rangers. Earlier on Friday, Prime Minister Sharif chaired a security review meeting; the Express Tribune reports that Sharif advised Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and other officials to rein in their confrontation with the PPP over the Rangers’ investigating authority in Sindh, and that the “Federal Investigation Agency and National Accountability Bureau ought to go soft” on the PPP. In a Dawn analysis, anonymous sources attribute the announcement of Baloch’s arrest to Chaudhry Nisar or the Chief of Army Staff’s recent visit to Karchi. [Reuters] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • MQM Restructures: On Sunday, the MQM announced that senior leader Nadeem Nusrat would serve as the party’s “permanent convener” and that a new nine-member “supreme council” would be established to guide the party in any “extraordinary circumstances including the absence of” party chief Altaf Hussain, who is due to appear before a hearing in a UK money laundering case against him on February 2. The party’s London-based coordination committee will continue to operate in parallel to the new council. [Dawn] [ET]
  • Cases Against Lal Masjid Leader: Civil society activists filed new requests with Islamabad police for the arrest of Lal Masjid leader Maulana Abdul Aziz on Friday, citing recent messages from Aziz that the petitioners said were inciting sectarian hatred, and charges that Aziz was supporting the Islamic State. Dawn reports that paramilitary soldiers and police were briefly deployed around the adjoining Jamia Hafsa seminary on Saturday, but were later withdrawn after protests from students. [Dawn]
  • Other Political Activity: More than a dozen parties and opposition groups met on Saturday at the home of Pir Sadaruddin Shah Rashdi, the younger brother of PML-F leader Pir Pagara, to announce the formation of the “Grand Democatic Alliance” opposition coalition, calling for the PPP’s ouster on grounds of corruption and mismanagement. In Punjab, the PPP provincial chapter is reportedly divided on joining a PTI-led opposition alliance. On Monday, the Election Commission formally rejected a PTI petition challenging the results of the NA-122 by-election in October, affirming an election tribunal ruling last month, but agreed to share voting records. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • PIA Strike: On Friday, PML-N senator Mushahidullah Khan announced that the government was delaying plans to sell a stake of Pakistan International Airlines to a strategic partner for six months in order to resolve disputes with the PIA workers’ union, which had threatened to disrupt flight operations beginning February 2 if the government’s privatization plans were not withdrawn. Union leaders announced on Sunday that they would continue with their strike plans, saying the government had refused to commit to keeping the carrier as a government-run entity. On Monday, Prime Minister Sharif announced the enforcement of the Essential Services (Maintenance) Act of 1952 for a six-month period, which effectively bars participation in any union activity in state-run sectors; union spokesmen reiterated their commitment to proceed with the strike regardless. Separately, the Economic Coordination Committee of the cabinet has reportedly directed Pakistan Steel Mills to begin layoffs for daily wage workers, as the mill has dropped to just one percent of capacity following a gas supply cut-off. [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Polio Crisis: The federal government approved a three-year Emergency Plan for Polio Eradication on Friday, setting a goal of administering 698 million doses of polio vaccine to children throughout the country at a cost of Rs 31.8 billion, with the support of Unicef and the World Health Organization. [ET]
  • Tharparkar Crisis: Twelve more child deaths were reported in Tharparkar district on Friday, bringing the total to 139 since beginning of the year. Provincial government officials insist that only 42 deaths have occured.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Balochistan and Iran Sign Trade and Border Cooperation Agreement [Dawn] [ET]
  • PML-Q Leader Chaudhry Shujaat Claims Former Chief Justice Promoted in Deal with Former Pres. Musharraf [ET]
  • Bomber Identified in December Attack on NADRA Office in Mardan [ET]
  • Two SSP Members Sentenced to Death in 2010 Sectarian Killing [Dawn]
  • Prime Minister Sharif to Attend US Nuclear Summit [Dawn]
  • Supreme Court Seeks Report on Anti-Terrorism Court Cases Transferred to Regular Courts [ET]
  • Sindh Chief Minister Voices Concerns Over Federal-Provincial Revenue Sharing [Dawn]
  • Petroleum Prices Cut [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • European Union Urges ‘Urgent Address’ of Human Rights Issues in GSP Plus Compliance Report [Dawn] [Report (pdf)]
  • Fewer Jobs for Pakistanis in the Middle East [ET]
  • Census Preparations Reviewed [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Journalist Killed in Nangarhar: Mohammad Zubair Khaksar, a journalist with the network Radio Television of Afghanistan who also served as a cultural advisor to provincial governor Saleem Khan Kundozi, was killed near his home in the Surkhood district of Nangarhar on Friday evening; no claim of responsibility has been reported, although colleagues tell the press advocacy organization NAI that Khaksar had previously received threats from the local Islamic State affiliate. On Sunday, a spokesman for Pres. Ghani said that he had issued an executive decree to ensure security for the press. [Khaama Press] [TOLO]
  • U.S. Assistance: Speaking at a press conference on Friday, Defense Secretary Ash Carter reiterated American support for the Afghan government through what he said would be a tough fighting season. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Olson met with NATO’s North Atlantic Council on Friday, telling reporters afterwards that the U.S. was pushing for a continuation of current funding levels for the Afghan national security forces through the 2018-2020 period.
  • Attacks and Operations: A suicide bomber detonated in a queue outside the headquarters of teh Afghan Civil Order Police in Kabul on Monday, killing at least ten people and wounding more than 20; the Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. The NYT reports that U.S. forces have carried out at least a dozen operations targeting Islamic State-affiliated forces in Nangarhar, including both special operations forces raids and airstrikes, since the expansion of targeting authority by Pres. Obama last month. The district police and intelligence chief for the Sarkano district in Kunar were killed in a roadside bombing on Saturday, provincial police officials reported, along with one other officer. Deputy Chief of Army Staff Murad Ali Murad told reporters on Sunday that nearly 40 Taliban fighters had been killed in operations launched near the Baghlan provincial capital last week, saying that “foreign militants, particularly Pakistani rebels, are among those killed and injured”. Residents and provincial council officials in Baghlan’s Dand-e-Ghori district blame the Taliban for violating a local ceasefire agreement negotiated last year, calling for investigations. [Khaama Press] [TOLO] [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Pakistan Talks: An Afghan National Army delegation headed by Lt Gen Mohammad Sharif Yaftali met with Peshawar Corps Commander Lt Gen Hidayatur Rehman on Saturday to discuss border security cooperation, Pakistani military spokesmen announced. Dawn reports that National Directorate of Security chief Masoud Andarabi will meet his ISI counterpart Lt. Gen. Rizwan Akhtar in Islamabad on February 4, in a move facilitated by the United States and in which China will join as an observer; Pakistani sources say that the meeting is meant to be held in parallel to the diplomatic Quadrilateral Coordination Group focusing on Afghan-Taliban talks, which will meet February 6. NDS sources denied that such a meeting was taking place. [Dawn] [Khaama Press] [TOLO] [TOLO] [ET]
  • Abdullah Visits India: Chief Executive Abdullah traveled to India on Sunday to participate in a five-day visit that will include participation in a counterterrorism conference in Jaipur sponsored by the India Foundation. Abdullah met with Prime Minister Modi on Monday for discussions on peace talks, trilateral cooperation with India and Iran on the Chabahar port, and other issues; the two leaders announced an agreement on visa-free travel for diplomats. [Pajhwok] [TOLO]
  • Subnational Government: A spokesman for the Independent Directorate of Local Governance announced on Sunday that district police and intelligence chiefs would be appointed in consultation with provincial governors, and that security services should perform their duties “in coordination” with the governors. Pajhwok reports that Pres. Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah are divided over the appointment of the mayor for the Kapisa provincial capital of Mahmood Raqi.
  • Elections: Independent Election Commission member Aziz Bakhatyari tells Ariana News that the IEC is prepared to hold parliamentary elections “ahead of time”, even if the government fails to do so. Election planning remains deadlocked as the selection committee to appoint new members of the IEC has been rejected by parliament and the commission.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • British Troops Face Investigations Over 52 Afghan Deaths [The Telegraph]
  • Ghani Inagurates Fund for Women Victims of Violence [Khaama Press]
  • Power Disruptions Continue in Kabul After Baghlan Attack [Reuters]
  • 1,300 Criminal Cases Recorded in Balkh in 2015 [TOLO]
  • AISA Submits Economic Reform Recommendations [Ariana News]
  • Salang Highway Reopens After Snow Blockage [Khaama Press]
  • Report: January 2016 Quarterly Report to Congress – “ Intractable insurgents, cutbacks in foreign military personnel, persistent emigration of people and capital, and a slowing global economy are shifting Afghanistan’s economic prospects from troubling to bleak.” [SIGAR (pdf)]
  • Commentary: Beyond Kunduz City – Lessons (Not Taken) from the Taliban Takeover – “ The Taleban retain control of certain outlying areas of the municipality from where they continue to pose a serious challenge to government employees attempting to travel even just a few kilometres beyond the city’s fringes.” [Obaid Ali, AAN]
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