Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Investigation Order Into Shahbaz Taseer Release; 14 Taliban Reportedly Arrested Outside Quetta

Topline

  • Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan has ordered an investigation into the freeing of Shahbaz Taseer from captivity. Two more senior MQM leaders joined Mustafa Kamal’s dissident group on Thursday. Pakistani security services are reported to have arrested 14 Afghan Taliban members on the outskirts of Quetta; they have not been identified. The Afghan Ministry of Interior says it is investigating a video showing Kandahar police abusing a suspected would-be suicide bomber and dragging him behind a truck; ministry officials later said that the video was two years old, and that the perpetrators had already been punished. Senator Foreign Relations Committee ranking member Ben Cardin suggested that a vote on a resolution by Senator Rand Paul to block weapons sales to Pakistan could come today, and that while he did not expect that to pass, there was no agreement yet on allowing the use of Foreign Military Financing for the sale of eight F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan. Imran Khan reiterated criticism of the Election Commission at a press conference on Wednesday, insisting that the PTI would not participate in general elections organized under the current ECP leadership. India’s ambassador to Afghanistan pledged an additional $20.4 million in aid in an agreement on Wednesday.

Pakistan — Security

  • Shahbaz Taseer Investigation: On Thursday, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan ordered an investigation into the circumstances of Shahbaz Taseer’s freedom from captivity, five years after being kidnapped shortly after the assassination of his father, the late Punjab governor Salman Taseer. The AP cites unspecified reports that a bribe of as much as $10 million may have been paid for Taseer’s release. [BBC] [AFP]
  • F-16 Sale: Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Ben Cardin (D-MD) told Reuters on Wednesday that he expected a vote on a resolution introduced by Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) that seeks to block the export of F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan as soon as Thursday. Cardin said that he expected the resolution to fail, but said there was “still discussion” of whether U.S. Foreign Military Financing funds would be used to facilitate the purchase. Pakistan’s ambassador, Jalil Abbas Jillani, wrote to Paul, insisting that “the heavy toll of blood and treasure” had not “faltered [Pakistan’s] resolve to fight and defeat terrorists”.
  • NGO Crackdown: Three Islamabad-based NGOs — Rozan, Sahil, and the Tameer-e-Millat Foundation — were barred from continued operations on Wednesday, Dawn reports; all were accused of failing to maintain mandatory records, and acquiring foreign funding without documentation.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • MQM Under Pressure: On Wednesday, MQM party leaders dismissed reports that Altaf Hussain was in ill health, saying that he was “fine and fresh”. The party launched a city cleanliness drive on Thursday. Former Karachi mayor Mustafa Kamal announced that he would hold a rally near the Jinnah Mausoleum in Karachi at the end of the month; on Thursday, Kamal told a press conference that his unnamed political party would not contest the next general elections. Two more senior MQM leaders, Waseem Aftab and Iftikhar Alam, a sitting provincial assembly member, have joined Kamal in denouncing Hussain’s leadership of the party. On Wednesday, a Karachi anti-terrorism court indicted 26 MQM party workers arrested during the raid on party headquarters last March on illegal weapons and explosives charges.
  • Rangers Authority: The Supreme Court is reported to have dismissed a Rangers request for additional investigation and prosecution powers in Karachi, with the court saying that it lacked the jurisdiction to approve the change. [ET] [Dawn]
  • Gulf Diplomacy: Prime Minister Sharif and Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif observed the ‘Thunder of the North’ joint military exercises in Saudi Arabia on Thursday, in which Pakistani forces are also participating.
  • Elections and Other Political Activity: Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, PTI chief Imran Khan said that his party would “resist any attempt” to hold the next general elections under the current Election Commission, accusing the commission of “pre-poll rigging” in Azad Jammu and Kashmir, where polls will be held July 24. The Express Tribune reports on previously unreported transfers of ECP staff in January, which the report suggests were all made to districts where the PML-N underperformed during the local government elections. [ET] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [ET]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Polio Crisis: The deputy CEO of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), Anuradha Gupta, visited Islamabad on Wednesday and told reporters that continued support for Pakistan’s polio vaccination efforts was dependent on the performance of its health agencies, urging a focus on urban areas and southern Punjab.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Prime Minister Sharif is Defying the Clerics – Very Carefully [WAPO]
  • Pakistan Ulema Council Chairman Calls for Removal of ‘Controversial’ Clauses in Punjab Women’s Protection Act [Dawn]
  • WAPDA Official Among Seven Killed in Peshawar Land Dispute [Dawn]
  • Two Security Officials and Six Militants Killed in Sibi [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn]
  • National Highway Authority Warns of Possible Rise in CPEC Project Construction Costs [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Taliban Arrested Near Quetta: In a rare report, unspecified Pakistani law enforcement agencies are reported to have arrested 14 members of the Afghan Taliban on the outskirts of Quetta on Thursday; an unnamed senior official tells Dawn that it is “premature to say something about the arrest of any high profile leader among them”.
  • Abuse Investigation: Ministry of Interior officials say they are investigating a video distributed over social media earlier this week that appears to show men in police uniforms dragging an accused would-be suicide bomber from the back of a police truck and beating him afterwards. The incident is reported to have taken place in Kandahar’s Panjwai district. A Ministry of Interior spokesman later said on Thursday that the video was two years old, and that the perpetrators, who it did not identify, had been detained and tried for the incident. [Reuters]
  • Attacks and Operations: Ministry of Defense officials claim that nine Taliban militants were killed in a raid on the outskirts of the Helmand provincial capital of Lashkar Gah on Thursday; the action follows a Taliban attack on the Gereshk district center the day prior.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Taliban Talks: Speaking on Wednesday, second deputy to the chief executive officer Mohammad Mohaqiq challenged the Taliban to win support through the election process, warning that they will face a “strict military crackdown” if they reject peace talks. Elsewhere, former Interior Minister Omar Daudzai voiced skepticism of Pakistan’s sincerity in supporting peace talks, saying that the issued “should be resolved internally”. Separately, visiting Iranian deputy foreign minister Hassan Qashqavi voiced support for “any kind of Afghan-led efforts that lead to security and stability in the country” in a press conference on Wednesday, following meetings with the Afghan foreign ministry. [Pajhwok]
  • Senate Leadership Elections: Following their return from winter recess, the senate elected members Farhad Sakhi as the first deputy speaker and Abdul Hasib Kalimzai as the second deputy speaker of the house. The Wolesi Jirga lower house of parliament has yet to elect its administrative board members.

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Ministry of Interior Warns Against Sayyaf Militia Call [TOLO]
  • Portrait of an Afghan Drone Victim [AJE]
  • Afghanistan Prepares Gas Development Master Plan [TOLO]
  • Commentary: Helmand: A Crisis a Long Time Coming – “The continuous fighting in Helmand has taken a significant toll on the ANSF. Hundreds of causalities, among them one high ranking ANSF commander and several international troops, have been reported, as well as significant losses also from soldiers deserting their posts or to the Taleban.” [Rahmatullah Amiri, AAN]
  • Report: The Afghan National Army After ISAF – “The withdrawal of the mentors/advisers from the ANA tactical units in 2014 exposed a range of weaknesses in logistical capabilities, planning, procurement, equipment maintenance and administration.” [Antonio Giustozzi and Ali Mohammad Ali, AREU (pdf)]
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