Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Swedish Hospital Raided in Wardak; Pakistan Supreme Court Hears Sindh Appeal on Local Elections

Topline

  • The Swedish Committee for Afghanistan reported that a hospital facility in Wardak was raided by Afghan forces and at least three men undergoing treatment there were killed on Wednesday evening; a spokesman for the provincial police confirmed that police commandos had carried out the action, which the SCA denounced as a “gross violation” of the Geneva Accords. NATO officials say they were not involved in the incident, although some eyewitness accounts suggest foreigners were present. Efforts continue in Baghlan to secure and repair power pylons whose destruction has cut off regular power supplies to Kabul; Chief of Army Staff Qadim Shah Shahim suggest that the government would investigate a local ceasefire agreement made with the Taliban last year. The Supreme Court of Pakistan has postponed the indirect elections of mayors and council chairmen in Sindh to hear the provincial government’s appeal against a Sindh High Court order overturning rules that held for those elections to be conducted with a public show of hands. Nine members of the paramilitary Khassadar force were killed in two separate attacks in the Mohmand Agency that were claimed by the TTP Jamaat ul Ahrar. Civilian casualties caused by the Afghan Air Force rose last year, the Post notes. A special session of the Pakistani senate has been called as part of PML-N efforts to push through legislation converting Pakistan International Airlines’ status to allow for its privatization. Responding to Prime Minister Sharif’s criticisms, the National Accountability Bureau said that it “respects [his] opinion” and was “taking measures to resolve” problems that it “inherited”.

Pakistan — Security

  • FATA Attacks: Nine members of the paramilitary Khasadar force were killed in two separate attacks on checkposts in the Mohmand Agency on Thursday; the Tehreek-e-Taliban’s Jamaat-ul Ahrar faction claimed responsibility for both attacks. [AJE]
  • Lahore Police Killed: Two Lahore police officers were killed by unidentified gunmen after they were asked to stop a checkpoint on Wednesday evening; the incident followed an earlier shooting attack on a polio vaccination worker in Lahore, although there is no indication that the two attacks are linked. On Thursday, the Lahore Literary Festival announced that it was condensing its program from three to two days due to government security concerns; police sources suggest the event itself may be cancelled. [ET]
  • Movement Restrictions: All foreigners seeking to travel to Gwadar must receive a No-Objection Certificate from the Balochistan home and tribal affairs department, a spokesman for the Board of Investment tells Dawn, citing safety concerns.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • India Talks: During its weekly press briefing, Pakistan’s foreign ministry called for the finalization of a date for foreign secretary-level talks with India “as early as possible”. [Dawn]
  • Elections and Other Political Activity: The Supreme Court issued a stay order to again halt the elections for mayors, chairmen, and other indirectly-elected local government officials in Sindh, agreeing to hear the appeal of the PPP provincial government against a Sindh High Court order voiding amendments that switched the voting mechanism for those elections to a public show of hands. The Islamabad High Court has agreed to hear a PTI challenge against the results of the Islamabad mayoral elections. A coalition of Khyber Paktunkhwa local councilors agreed to temporarily drop their protests against the government after meeting with Minister for Local Government Inayatullah Khan on Wednesday, to pledged to resolve their complaints about a lack of funding for their offices. [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET]
  • Corruption Investigations: In a statement on Wednesday following public criticism by Prime Minister Sharif of the National Accountability Bureau’s “harassment” of government officials, the NAB’s spokesperson said that the organization “inherited some problems and it [is quickly] taking necessary measures to resolve them”, adding that “the non-interference policy of the government has helped NAB become an independent organisation and it respects the opinion of Prime Minister Mohammad Nawaz Sharif. [ET] [ET]
  • MQM Warns of ‘Something Big’: MQM leader-in-exile issued a statement on Wednesday warning supporters of “something big” within the next two weeks, calling on them to stock up on food and other necessary items; neither he nor party leaders have provided further clarity. Separately, Karachi Corps Commander Lt. Gen. Naveed Mukhtar met with Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah on Wednesday to discuss security issues and the implementation of the National Action Plan. [Dawn]
  • PM’s Travel Criticized: In a response to questioning in the national assembly, advisors to the prime minister acknowledged that he had made 65 trips abroad since taking office in June 2013, spending 187 days outside the country in total, or nearly a fifth of his total term; the total cost of travel was reported to be Rs 638.28 million. [ET]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Privatization Plans: Pres. Mamnoon Hussain called a special session of the senate on Thursday for consideration of a bill to convert Pakistan International Airlines into a limited company; the bill, which was previously passed by the PML-N-dominated lower house of parliament, is expected to be rejected by the opposition in the senate and then passed through a joint session. [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Preparations Underway for US Strategic Dialogue [Dawn] [ET]
  • Balochistan Chief Minister Chairs First Cabinet Meeting [Dawn] [ET]
  • Pakistan Bar Council Warns Against Supreme Court Expansion [Dawn]
  • Committee Formed to Resolve Dispute Over LNG Re-Gassification Plants [ET]
  • Islamabad Officials Seek to Curtail Embassy Presence in Residential Areas [Dawn]
  • PM Approves Construction of New Islamabad Hospital [ET]
  • Karachi Private School Refuses Polio Vaccinations [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Hospital Raided: The Swedish Committee for Afghanistan issued a statement on Thursday reporting that a hospital facility it runs in the Day Mirdad district in Wardak province had been raided by an Afghan force on Wednesday evening, who seized and killed at least three men undergoing treatment there. The BBC reports that the village in which the clinic is located is under the control of the Taliban. A spokesman for the provincial police confirmed that police commandos had carried out the raid and said that “those killed in the hospital were all terrorists”, adding that he was “happy that they were killed”. A NATO spokesman said that its forces were not involved in the operation, although eyewitness acounts suggested that some were foreigners; the SCA condemned the raid as a “gross violation of the Geneva Convention”.
  • Baghlan Operations: Chief of Army Staff Qadim Shah Shahim told reporters on Wednesday that Afghan security forces were pushing back Taliban forces in the Dand-e-Ghori district in Baghlan, and said that the government would investigate a local ceasefire agreement made with the Taliban in area last year. The NYT interviews Kabul residents who are struggling to maintain businesses and other activities after regular electricity supply to the city was cut off by Taliban attacks on power cables in Baghlan; efforts to secure the power pylons and restore power are ongoing.
  • Civilian Casualties: The Post notes a rise in the number of civilian casualties attributed to the Afghan Air Force in the recently-released UN report for 2015; five civilians were killed and 23 injured by the AAF during the first six months of the year, rising to 41 killed and 57 injured in the second half. The number of child casualties caused by coalition and AAF strikes increased 69% from the previous year, with the AAF causing more than half of all casualties despite flying fewer sorties than international forces.
  • Border Security: A delegation of Afghan army officers led by Corps Commander Lt. Gen. Muhammad Munin Faqir met with Pakistani military officials at Balochistan’s Southern Command on Wednesday to discuss border coordination and cooperation. Anonymous Pakistani officials speaking to Dawn highlight concerns over lax security at the Torkham border crossing in Khyber, which they say allowed the attackers at Bacha Khan University to infiltrate from Afghanistan.
  • Other Attacks and Operations: A spokesman for the Red Cross reported on Thursday that five employees had been kidnapped in Ghazni earlier this week; no further details have been released. Nangarhar officials claim to have retaken at least 28 villages in the Achin district from Daesh control; the provincial intelligence chief, Dad Mohammad Harifi, credited “a public uprising” for the group’s ouster. [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Taliban Talks: Pakistan’s foreign ministry spokesman said that the next round of talks between the Qaudrilateral Coordination Group on the Afghan peace process would be held February 23 in Kabul.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • No Leads in Kidnapping Afghan Governor’s Whereabouts [VOA]
  • SIGAR Warns Afghan Defense HQ at Risk of Quake Damage [WAPO]
  • Report: National Integrity System Assessment 2015 – ” One of the most critical problems facing Afghanistan is the fact that those in positons of both formal and informal power assert strong influence over law enforcement and judicial authorities, allowing them to act with impunity.” [Transparency International]
  • Commentary: Taliban Child Soldier Recruitment Surges – “Kunduz residents and analysts say that the increase in recruitment and deployment of child fighters coincided with the Taliban’s major offensive in northern Afghanistan that began in April 2015.” [HRW]
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