Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Shahbaz Taseer Freed After 5 Years in Captivity; Sentences Reduced in Farkhunda Lynching Case

Topline

  • The son of the late Punjab governor Salman Taseer, Shahbaz Taseer, was freed in Balochistan’s Kuchlak district on Tuesday, nearly five years after his capture. The circumstances of his release are unclear, but he does not appear to have been freed through force. The Supreme Court of Afghanistan has reduced the sentences for 13 suspects convicted in the lynching of an Afghan woman in Kabul last spring, the NYT confirms. Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan confirmed on Tuesday that Pakistan had provided intelligence to India regarding a recent terrorist threat alert in Gujrat, but gave no further details. Clashes between rival Taliban factions are reportedly continuing in Herat’s Shindand district. Taliban fighters attacked the Gereshk district center in Helmand on Wednesday; at least one police officer has reportedly been killed. Prime Minister Sharif and Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif departed for Saudi Arabia on Wednesday. The Sindh government has opposed a Rangers’ proposal to establish a parallel network of police stations in Karachi, and the extension of the Rangers’ policing powers for a full year.

Pakistan — Security

  • Son of Former Punjab Governor Freed From Captivity: Military spokesmen reported on Tuesday that Shahbaz Taseer, the son of former Punjab governor Salman Taseer, had been rescued in an operation in Balochistan’s Kuchlak district, nearly five years after his capture in August 2011. Officials said that Taseer was in good health, and had been transferred to Quetta for examination. He was reunited with his family on Wednesday in Lahore. The circumstances of his release are unclear; he is reported to have been found at a local hotel, and the owner of a nearby restaurant reports that Taseer arrived alone and had been able to make a phone call to security officials, who arrived shortly thereafter. The Pakistani Taliban had previously claimed to be holding Taseer hostage, but are not reported to have commented on his release. One anonymous Taliban source suggests that he may have been freed because army operations in the FATA “made it difficult” to hold him, although other analysts speculate that a ransom has been paid. [BBC] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Cooperation with India: Speaking in parliament on Tuesday, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan confirmed that Pakistan had shared intelligence with India about the infiltration of a group of militants across the border into Gujrat, where security officials instituted a high alert on Sunday. Chaudhry Nisar provided no additional details, however.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Gulf Diplomacy: A meeting of senior military and civilian officials on Tuesday discussed plans for Prime Minister Sharif and Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif’s visit to Saudi Arabia this week; both departed on Wednesday. Dawn reports that the government is “pushing for a more active engagement” in the Saudi-brokered counter-terrorism alliance. The Express Tribune reports that Pakistan is prepared to offer a “long term training program” for the Saudi military.
  • Sindh Opposes Rangers’ Police Stations: The Sindh government has rebuffed a proposal brought by the paramilitary Sindh Rangers during Supreme Court hearings on violence in Karachi that the Rangers be allowed to set up their own police stations, with powers to register and investigate criminal cases, saying that “the proposal almost suggests creation of a parallel system of criminal justice and hence requires commensurate evaluation and scrutiny.” The government also rejected a proposal to extend Rangers’ policing powers by a year, rather than in the current 90-day increments. [ET]
  • MQM Under Pressure: The Federal Investigation Agency has begun investigations into charges that the MQM has received funding from the Indian intelligence service RAW, and has summoned Sarfaraz Merchant, a former top party aide who has made those accusations, to give a statement. In a statement on Wednesday, the MQM dismissed rumors regarding Altaf Hussain’s health, saying he was “perfectly fine”. [ET] [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Marshall Islands Charge India, Pakistan and UK with ‘Violating International Obligations’ Through Nuclear Build-Up [AFP]
  • Musharraf Summoned in Treason Case [Dawn]
  • National Assembly Committee Seeks Media ‘Code of Conduct’ [Dawn]
  • 15 Lahore Police Charged in Guesthouse Worker’s Death [Dawn]
  • Candidates File for NA-245 Special Election [Dawn]
  • Two Security Personnel Killed in Sibi [Dawn]
  • LNG Supply Mechanism Beset with Procedural Lapses [ET]
  • Rs 7 Billion in Compensation Paid for Lahore Orange Line Land Acquisition [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Taliban Divisions: Khaama Press reports continued fighting between rival Taliban factions in Herat’s Shindand district; unspecified sources report that two senior leaders, Mullah Malik and Mullah Wakil, both reported to have led Taliban forces in Farah, have been killed in the fighting, and that as many as 67 Taliban fighters have been killed in total.
  • Other Attacks and Operations: A group of Taliban gunmen and suicide bombers attacked the police and intelligence headquarters in the Gereshk district center in Helmand on Wednesday morning. A spokesman for the provincial governor said that the attack had been repelled; at least one police officer was reportedly killed. A suicide bomber detonated near the Ministry of Finance building Kabul on Wednesday; no other casualties were reported. Taliban fighters reportedly abducted 11 civilians traveling in Sar-e-Pul on Wednesday. Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor claimed that military operations in the province had disrupted a Taliban base in the Kishindih district. [TOLO] [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Supreme Court Confirms Reduced Sentences in Farkhunda Lynching Case: The Attorney General’s office confirmed on Monday that the four central suspects in the lynching of an Afghan woman in Kabul last year have received reduced sentences for their role in her killing, as have at least nine other defendants. Most of the 19 police officers arrested in connection with the incident received token penalties, and 17 of the 30 other cases prosecuted were dismissed on appeal. The Supreme Court’s decision to reduce sentences in the remaining 13 cases was made last month but kept secret until Monday.
  • Taliban Talks: Speaking at Tuesday’s press conference with visiting UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, Pakistani foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz said that he “hope[d] in the coming days some progress” could be made in talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government “and once we start, we hope they will gather momentum”. Aziz also said that “many of the preconditions that [the Taliban] are looking for can come as a result of negotiations and not in advance of them”. Speaking on Tuesday at a ceremony to commemorate the second death anniversary of Marshal Qasim Fahim, former Afghan jihadi leader Abdul Rasool Sayyaf said that the Taliban were “mistaken and misguided” if they thought the conflict was a war for Islam, and also warned that “those who reject the call for peace are responsible for their lives themselves”. [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • China Offers Afghanistan Expanded Military Aid [WSJ]
  • These Are the 11,000 Soldiers Who Might Save Afghanistan [WAPO]
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