- Former Herat governor Fazlullah Wahidi was freed by police in Khyber Paktunkhwa after roughly two weeks in captivity, and is now in the care of the Afghan embassy; he told the AFP he had no idea as to the identity of his captors. The Supreme Court of Pakistan overturned a special court ruling that had expanded treason investigations against former Pres. Musharraf to include other contemporaneous government officials, quashing a re-investigation of the 2007 emergency rule order. Musharraf, meanwhile, has again filed an appeal seeking to travel overseas on medical treatment grounds. The WSJ reports that as many as 36,000 Afghan police quit the force in 2015, roughly a quarter of the total. The Punjab provincial government has formed an investigation team to probe the Pathankot Airbase attack. Doctors Without Borders representatives criticized U.S. consolation payments to victims of last October’s airstrike on a Kunduz hospital as insufficient, and reiterated calls for the release of the U.S. military investigation into the incident. The federal and Khyber Paktunkhwa provincial government reached an agreement on payments to the provincial government for hydroelectric profits, and the allocation of additional gas to the province for power generation. Only 128 traders have taken advantage of a tax amnesty program initiated by the Pakistani government at the start of the month, and revenues so far have been lower than the cost of advertising the program. The JUI-F reunited with the JUI-Nazaryati faction in Balochistan on Thursday. Speaking before a senate committee on Thursday, Privatization Commission chairman Mohammad Zubair suggested that up to 26% of PIA’s assets would be transferred to the new Pakistan Airlines.
Pakistan — Security
- Punjab Forms Pathankot Investigation Team: On Thursday, the Punjab provincial government’s Counter Terrorism Department formed a joint investigation team, headed by Additional Inspector General of Police Muhammad Tahir Rai, to carry out investigations into the Pathankot Airbase attack. At least two members of the group, which was formed after the registration of a case by the police, also members of the federal special investigation team appointed by Prime Minister Sharif. Meanwhile, India’s ministry of external affairs spokesma said that India would seeking UN sanctions against Jaish-e-Mohammad leader Masood Azhar; JeM itself is already under sanction. [Dawn] [Dawn]
- F-16 Sale: Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain told reporters on Thursday that he wanted a special Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the planned sale of up to eight F-16s to Pakistan, adding that he would “rather have seen it kicked over into the next administration”. Separately the head of the U.S. Pacific Command, Admiral Harry Harris, told a House Armed Services Committee hearing on Thursday that he had “no professional opinion” on the sale of the planes but acknowledged concerns that it could “affect some aspect of our relationship with India”.
Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy
- Supreme Court Overturns Expansion of Musharraf Treason Case: On Friday, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of former chief justice Abdul Hameed Dogar’s plea against a special court’s ruling that he and other government officials could be included in a treason case against former Pres. Musharraf as part of Musharraf’s 2007 emergency rule declaration. The new ruling quashes the re-investigation of the role of Musharraf and others, which Musharraf’s lawyers had sought. Separately, Musharraf lawyers introduced a new plea that he be allowed to leave the country for medical treatment abroad.
- Elections and Other Political Activity: The PPP has moved to join the PML-N in support of legislation that will retroactively approve the expansion of the number of Islamabad deputy mayors from one to three, which was set in a presidential ordinance that expired just prior to the elections themselves. Four people were injured in fighting outside a polling station in Sanghar, where special elections were being held for two union councils and the wards of the municipal committee. On Thursday, the JUI-F and the JUI-Nazaryati factions announced their reconciliation and merger; the latter had split with the party in 2007 under the leadership of Maulana Asmatullah, in part over the latter’s demands for more explicit support for the Afghan Taliban. [ET] [Dawn]
Pakistan — Economics and Development
- Energy Crisis: Finance Minister Dar and Khyber Paktunkhwa Chief Minister Pervaiz Khattak signed an agreement on Thursday to settle disputes over payments on net hydroelectric power profits, gas allocations, and the approval of other power generation projects. The federal government has agreed to pay the province Rs 70 billion over the course of four years, and to allocate 100 million cubic feet per day of natural gas to the provincial government to use in power generation. [ET] [ET]
- Tax Amnesty Draws Limited Response: Only 128 traders have so far taken part in a tax amnesty program that is due to expire at the end of the month, contributing roughly Rs 20 million in taxes, which the Express Tribune reports is less than the amount the government has spent in advertising for the initiative.
- PIA Privatization: Privatization Commission chairman Mohammad Zubair told a senate committee on Thursday that up to 26% in Pakistan International Airlines shares would be transferred to the newly-formed “Pakistan Airways”; acting PIA chairman Irfan Elahi insisted that the new airline would have “nothing to do” with PIA. Neither was able to answer committee questioning about the value of PIA assets, and further hearings are planned. [Dawn]
Pakistan — Remainders
- Mohmand Tribes Warned of Collective Responsibility After Attacks [ET]
- Activists Praise New Punjab Women’s Rights Law [AFP] [Reuters]
- Prime Minister Launches Healthcare Program in Muzaffarabad [Dawn]
- Prime Minister Inaugurates Karachi Green Line Bus Service [Dawn]
- More Corruption Charges Filed Against Asim Hussain [ET]
- Shakil Afridi Appeal Delayed Until April [Dawn]
- Chief of Army Staff Observers Cholistan Wargames [ET] [ET]
- Census Commissioner Skips Sindh Assembly Briefing [Dawn]
- National Assembly Debates Rising Pharmaceutical Prices [Dawn]
- Health Officials Link New Quetta Polio Case to Karachi [Dawn] [ET]
- Pakistanis Invested $2.2 Billion in Dubai Properties in 2015 [Dawn]
Afghanistan — Security
- Former Herat Governor Freed: Reuters quotes police officials in the Swabi district of Pakistan’s Khyber Paktunkhwa province who said that they had rescued former Herat governor Fazlullah Wahidi and arrested three unidentified kidnappers on Friday. The AFP reports that the rescue took place in a shootout at a police checkpoint in the adjacent district of Mardan. The Afghan embassy in Islamabad confirmed Wahidi’s rescue and that the had been transferred to their caretaking; Wahidi told an AFP interviewer that the had no idea as to the identity of his captors. Afghanistan’s foreign ministry issued a statement welcoming Pakistan’s efforts to secure Wahidi’s release; Ambassador Omar Zakhilwal said that “this will also play enormously for strengthening trust and confidence between Afghanistan and Pakistan”. [TOLO] [Pajhwok]
- Police Attrition: The WSJ, citing interior ministry data, reports that more than 36,000 Afghan police quit the force in 2015, nearly a quarter of total membership. Interior ministry figures also incidate at least 200 police casualties in January. The U.S., meanwhile, reportedly plans to introduce a new payroll and personnel management system that officials say will make it easier to monitor attrition issues.
- Attacks and Operations: Speaking to reporters on Thursday in Jowzjan, where he is officially leading a renewed military operation, Vice President Dostum said that “war is not the solution” and that “the war that the Taliban is conducting, either with the support of foreigners or the circles from inside (government), will not be able to establish an Islamic emirate” as is their goal. Ministry of Defense officials claimed on Friday to have killed at least 31 militants in separate military operations in Kunduz and Baghlan. [TOLO] [TOLO]
- Compensation Criticized: U.S. military condolence payments to the victims of the October 2015 strike on a Doctors Without Borders / Medecins Sans Frontieres hospital in Kunduz are inadequate, the organization tells the AP; around $6000 has been offered to the families of those killed, and $3000 to the injured. The MSF reiterated calls for the release of a U.S. military investigation into the incident.
Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy
- Refugee Repatriation: Members of the group of 125 Afghan migrants who were repatriated from Germany earlier this week criticized the Afghan government and Germany for mistreatment and a failure to provide jobs and houses, TOLO reports.
Afghanistan — Economics and Development
- Tax Revenues: The Ministry of Finance reported Thursday that it has collected at least Afs 1.5 billion from the new 10% telecommunications tax over the past seven months, and projects revenues of up to Afs 4 billion over the next fiscal year.
Afghanistan — Remainders
- Anti-Corruption Body Warns of ‘Culture of Impunity’ [TOLO]
- Commentary: In Search of a Peace Process: A ‘New’ HPC and an Ultimatum for the Taliban – “If indeed the HPC remains a side-show in the peace process, its re-launching was probably mainly designed to serve as another symbol that a peace process is finally taking off, and also to tick a box on the list of benchmarks agreed upon between the Afghan government and the international community.” [Thomas Ruttig, AAN]