Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Pakistani Investigators Fail to Link Jaish to Pathankot; U.S. Forces to Redeploy to Helmand

Topline

  • Pakistani investigators have found “nothing dubious” linking Jaish-e-Mohammad leader Maulana Masood Azhar to the Pathankot airbase attack, they tell Reuters. David Headley testified remotely before an Indian court on Monday about his role in the 2008 Mumbai attacks, reiterating earlier reports that he had connected with two ISI handlers and disclosing two previously unreported abortive attempts to carry out the attack. A roughly battalion-sized force of U.S. troops will redeploy to Helmand by the end of this month, U.S. military spokesmen confirmed on Monday, although they say the force will remain focused on training and advising the Afghan National Army’s 215 Corps, not conducting combat operations. The PIA strike continue, with union leaders and management each accusing the other of harassing workers. Leaders of Islamabad’s Lal Masjid have split over Maulana Abdul Aziz’s public pardon of former Pres. Musharraf in connection to the 2007 operation at the mosque. Prime Minister Sharif will visit Qatar tomorrow, and reportedly intends to sign a liquefied natural gas sale agreement. Kabul remains without regular power as Afghan security forces struggle to secure the area of Baghlan were a power pylon was damaged two weeks ago. The Taliban announced that former Kandahar governor Mullah Mohammad Hassan Rahmani died of cancer on Monday evening.

Pakistan — Security

  • Pathankot Investigations Turn Up Empty: A special investigation team formed by Pakistan to investigate Jaish-e-Mohammad leaders linked by India to the attack on the Pathankot airbase “found nothing dubious” and no evidence linking Maulana Masood Azhar to the incident, anonymous security officials tell Reuters. Azhar remains in custody, but has not been charged.
  • Headley Testifies Remotely: David Headley, a Pakistani-American man currently serving a 35-year sentence in the U.S. in connection to the 2008 Mumbai attacks, testified remotely before an Indian court hearing charges against another Lashkar-e-Taiba operative. Headley identified two contacts in the Pakistani ISI as handlers during the lead-up to the attack, which he supported through surveillance collection; he also disclosed that the attackers had staged two previously undisclosed attempts that were aborted. [ET]
  • FATA Operations: Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif chaired a meeting of the Khyber Paktunkhwa and FATA provincial apex committee at the Peshawar Corps headquarters on Tuesday, joined by Chief Minister Pervaiz Khattak and outgoing governor Sardar Mehtab Ahmad Khan. The meeting pledged additional support for repatriating displaced FATA residents in a “timely and dignified” manner, but no details on those plans were disclosed. On Monday, a senate committee approved compensation packages for homeowners in the FATA. [Dawn]
  • Lal Masjid Splits Over Musharraf Pardon: Family members of students killed during the 2007 Lal Masjid operation denounced mosque leader Maulana Abdul Aziz’s public statement on Sunday in which he had pardoned former Pres. Musharraf; the head of the Lal Masjid Shuhada Foundation, Tariq Asad, said that Aziz’s statement was “against Sharia” and announced plans to renew charges against Musharraf. Separately, the attorney general of Pakistan argued before the Supreme Court that a 2007 investigation report into the incident should remain sealed; the Shuhada Foundation has petitioned for its release. [ET]
  • Military Courts: On Tuesday, the Supreme Court issued execution stays for three men sentenced under the military court system in connection to the attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar in December 2014, agreeing to hear appeals brought by their family that were rejected by the Peshawar High Court.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Karachi Crackdown: The wife of Lyari gang leader Uzair Baloch petitioned the Supreme Court on Monday for visitation access; he remains in Rangers’ custody for interrogation. During an interview on Monday, former Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Memon, who now resides outside the country and is facing corruption charges, acknowledged meetings with Baloch but denied receiving gifts from him, and disputed other charges against him. [ET]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • PIA Strike Continues: Striking PIA employees said Monday that they had allowed one flight to Saudi Arabia for stranded pilgrims in Karachi, and called off a planned protest march after four missing union leaders reappeared on Monday after a week in captivity. Union spokesmen said that their strike was continuing, however, until the government pledged to abandon privatization plans for the carrier; union and management spokesmen each accused the other of harassing workers to break or enforce the strike, respectively. Bans on public assembly were imposed in Islamabad and a protest camp near the airport was shifted further from the main building. Dawn reports that Prime Minister Sharif has ordered an investigation of top PIA management, and is apparently of the belief that management and union leaders colluded to bring PIA operations to a halt. Privatization Commission chair Mohammad Zubair has reportedly been tasked with exploring the creation of a new national airline.
  • Natural Gas Import: Prime Minister Sharif will lead a delegation on a two-day visit to Qatar from Wednesday, where he is expected to sign a long-term purchase agreement for liquefied natural gas imports. U.S. officials have warned Pakistan that some sanctions remain in place on Iran, and that the proposed Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline “is still to be judged”. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • World Bank President to Visit [Dawn]
  • Supreme Court Rules Against Compromise Pardons in Murder Cases [Dawn]
  • Traders’ Leader Killed in Peshawar [ET]
  • Two Killed in Zhob Clash [Dawn]
  • Islamabad Polio Vaccination Efforts Criticized [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • National Assembly Committee Approves Hindu Marriage Bill [ET]
  • Pakistan Leads South Asia in Use of ‘Mobile Money’ [ET]
  • Imran Khan Rules out Hospital Privatization [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • U.S. Redeploys Forces to Helmand: A battalion-sized force of several hundred U.S. soldiers will deploy to Helmand by the end of the month, U.S. officials confirmed on Monday, where they will officially be tasked with supporting the Afghan National Army’s 215 Corps, whose command was recently overhauled. No additional forces are being deployed for the mission, which instead involves redeployment from other parts of the country. Since the closure of major bases in Helmand last year, most advisors have been flown in as needed on an “expeditionary” basis.
  • Attacks and Operations: Nangarhar tribal leaders demonstrated in Kabul on Monday, demanding greater security and action against Daesh and Taliban militants. Officials claim that 17 Daesh- and Taliban-affiliated militants were killed in airstrikes on the Achin and Rodat districts on Monday, including a Taliban shadow district governor. Airstrikes in two Helmand districts killed 15 Taliban fighters, the 201 Maiwand Corps claimed on Monday. In Baghlan, Afghan National Army forces broke a Taliban siege around an army base in the Baghlan-e-Markazi district. Six people were killed and nine wounded in a suicide bombing in the Yahyakhil district center in Paktika on Monday that targeted the district governor, who was unhurt. [Pajhwok]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Taliban Leader Dies: Mullah Mohammad Hassan Rahmani, a former Kandahar governor under the Taliban regime and member of the insurgency’s leadership council, died of cancer on Monday night, the Taliban’s spokesman announced. Rahmani was reported to have been a participant in a Pakistan-brokered meeting in Urumqi last year. [TOLO] [ET]

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Power Outage Continues: Officials with the Da Breshna Sherkat electric utility say they have no timeline for repairing a power pylon in Baghlan whose destruction has cut off power to Kabul for nearly two weeks, laying the onus on security forces to secure the area.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Wounded Afghan Veterans Criticize Lack of Government Support [TOLO]
  • Garmser Ulema Pledge Support for Security Forces [TOLO]
  • Walid Tamim Appointed Head of Petroleum and Gas Enterprise [Khaama Press]
  • Lawmakers Concerned Over Illegal Mining in Badakhshan [TOLO]
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