- Representatives of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group are meeting in Kabul again today for talks intended to set a date for direct negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government. Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif’s visit to Doha on Monday was intended to “bring everyone to the table” for talks, sources tell Dawn; the Express Tribune reports that the dissident Taliban faction led by Mullah Mohammad Rasool will be invited to take part in talks as well. Earlier in the day, Pres. Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah formally announced Pir Syed Ahmad Gilani’s appointment as the head of the Afghan High Peace Council. In an interview with the Indian press on Monday, Pakistani foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz said that a phone number provided by India in connection to the Pathankot Airbase attack had been traced to the Jaish-e-Mohammad headquarters in Bahawalpur, and that further legal action would be taken “the moment evidence became available”, adding that “the ball is in India’s court” to set a date for foreign secretary talks and a visit by a Pakistani investigation team. Pakistani Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan directed that international NGOs currently waiting for approval of their applications to operate in Pakistan should be allowed to continue operations in the interim. A spokesman for the NATO training mission in Afghanistan urged Afghan forces to take on more offensive operations and reduce reliance on static checkpost defenses. A joint investigation team reinvestigating the 2012 Baldia factory fire concluded that the fire was a case of planned sabotage and not accidental, criticizing initial investigations and recommending fresh charges. Power supply between Uzbekistan and Kabul was restored Monday evening after repairs were completed in Baghlan.
Pakistan — Security
- Pathankot Investigations: In an interview with Indian television on Monday, Pakistani foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz said that one of the phone numbers provided by India in connection with the Pathankot Airbase attack had been traced to Jaish-e-Mohammad’s headquarters in Bahawalpur, and said that action would be taken against the group’s leadership “the moment evidence became available”. Aziz added that “the ball is in India’s court” to set a date for foreign secretary level talks and for a visit by Pakistani investigators to India.
- NGO Restrictions: On Monday, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan directed ministry officials to expedite approvals for international non-governmental organizations seeking registration in Pakistan, and ordered that NGOs whose applications were waiting for approval be allowed to continue operations pending a decision.
- FATA Attacks and Operations: The Pakistani military reported that at least 15 militant suspects were killed in airstrikes along the border between the North Waziristan and Khurram agencies; the attacks followed cross-border mortar fire targeting a checkpost in Khurram. Separately, seven Frontier Corps personnel were wounded in a roadside bombing in South Waziristan’s Tayarza tehsil. [Dawn]
Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy
- Baldia Factory Fire Not Accidental: A joint investigation team tasked with re-investigating the causes of the 2012 Baldia factory fire in Karachi concluded that the fire was a “planned sabotage/terrorist activity and not an accidental fire” that was carried out as part of an extortion threat, Dawn reports. The re-investigation also criticized initial investigations and recommended fresh charges. The report identifies several suspects but does not specifically identify them as members of the MQM, which previous investigations suggested was responsible.
- Corruption Investigations: An accountability court hearing cases against PPP leader Asim Hussain gave the National Accountability Bureau until March 5 to file charges against him. Asim’s lawyers called on the head of NAB to resign and reiterated that he was a victim of a political investigation. On Monday, Rangers lawyers filed a complaint with a Karachi Anti-Terrorism Court, accusing a police investigating officer who previously cleared Hussain of wrongdoing in a terrorism case of misappropriating evidence and conducting an incomplete investigation. [Dawn]
- Elections and Other Political Activity: Azad Jammu and Kashmir Prime Minister Chaudhry Abdul Majeed stated on Monday that he would not “bow to external pressure” and would not call elections for the first week of June, as has been announced by the newly-appointed AJK Chief Election Commissioner Ghulam Mustafa Mughal, who is also chief justice of the AJK High Court. Majeed accused the PML-N of “conspiracies to hijack elections through pre-poll rigging”. [Dawn] [ET]
Pakistan — Remainders
- Prime Minister Pledges Action Against ‘Honor Killings’ [Dawn] [ET] [Guardian]
- Sindh Officials Discuss Witness Protection Program [Dawn]
- Karachi Police Kill 12 Militants in Separate Encounters [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn]
- 121 Police Officials Demoted in Rawalpindi [Dawn]
- Confusion Following Pakistan Airways Registration [ET] [ET]
- Lack of Vaccination Centers Stalls Balochistan Polio Drive [Dawn]
- National Highway Authority Approves Balochistan-Punjab Road Link [Dawn]
Afghanistan — Security
- Attacks and Operations: A spokesman for the NATO training mission in Afghanistan tells Reuters that Afghan forces must take more offensive action against the Taliban and reduce their reliance on static checkpoint security, saying that “the idea is to reduce checkpoints and to consolidate onto strong points, so that not only does that strong point have the strength to defend itself, but so it also has a maneuver capability”. Afghan forces abandoned three bases in the Helmand districts of Musa Qala and Naw Zad on Monday, a move officials justified as necessary to redistribute forces elsewhere in the province. On Monday, a suicide bomber targeting a local police commander detonated near a clinic and marketplace in Parwan province, killing at least 13 people, nine of them civilians. Nineteen people were wounded. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack; the police commander was among the wounded. One person was killed and three wounded in a bombing in Kunduz city on Tuesday. Nangarhar provincial officials claimed to have killed 15 Daesh-affiliated militants in air and ground operations in Nangarhar’s Achin district on Tuesday, where officials earlier claimed to have expelled all Daesh forces. [AJE] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press]
- Border Tensions with Pakistan: Members of the Helmand provincial council accused Pakistan of encroaching on Afghanistan’s territory by building military outposts in the Desho district of southern Helmand.
Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy
- Taliban Talks: Pakistani Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif sought the support of Qatari officials to “bring everyone to the table” in a negotiation process between the Taliban and the Afghan government during his visit to Doha on Monday, Dawn reports. The Express Tribune reports that a Taliban splinter group led by Mullah Muhammad Rasool Akhund will also be invited to participate in talks. The Quadrilateral Coordination Group is meeting in Kabul today to discuss talks and finalize a date for negotiations to be held. Speaking at the opening of the meeting, Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani reiterated warnings that “security forces will act with full force against those who reject peace”; a Taliban spokesman said that its representatives were not participating in the meeting. No read-out of the quadripartite discussions has been reported as of this writing. Separately, Pres. Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah formally announced the nomination of Pir Syed Ahmad Gilani as the new chairman of the High Peace Council; former vice president Karim Khalili, Mawlavi Ata-ur-Rehman, Mawlavi Khaibar and Habiba Surabi have been named deputies. [TOLO] [TOLO]
Afghanistan — Economics and Development
- Kabul-Baghlan Power Restored: Power pylons were repaired in Baghlan on Monday evening, reconnecting Kabul with electricity supply from Uzbekistan, which had been cut after Taliban attacks in late January. The chief commercial officer of the DABS utility company called on “all relevant sides not to damage our pylons and installations”.
- Ghost Schools: The chairman of the Herat provincial council tells TOLO that there are “scores” of ghost schools and teachers in the province, saying there were 48 ghost teachers in one district alone. The provincial education director attributes the problem to previous governors, and confirms that the province has lost “tens of millions” of Afghanis annually to ghost salary payments.
Afghanistan — Remainders
- Russia to Hand Over 10,000 AK-47s This Week [Khaama Press]
- Ministers Accused of Nepotism [TOLO]
- Kandahar Police Chief Marks New Police Graduates [Pajhwok]
- Kidnapping Ring Busted in Kabul, Child Freed [Khaama Press]
- Commentary: 2015 Performance of the Wolesi Jirga: Low Attendance, Nominal Oversight – “For the most part, there was no quorum of MPs, which meant that issues could not be voted on and the work of the house frequently ground to a halt.” [Salima Ahmadi, AAN]