Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Bus Bombing in Peshawar Kills 15; US Brigadier General to Command NATO Helmand Mission

Topline

  • At least fifteen people have been killed in the bombing of a bus carrying civil service workers in Peshawar on Wednesday. A U.S. army brigadier general will deploy to Helmand to command the NATO advisory mission there, NATO spokesmen report; the Afghan Ministry of Defense, meanwhile, rejected reports that the Taliban had taken control of the Kanshin district in Helmand. The Supreme Court of Pakistan rejected a government appeal seeking to retain travel restrictions on former Pres. Musharraf, potentially opening a means for him to leave the country. Pakistan reportedly does not wish to host direct talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government, citing concerns that it will be blamed a failure to reach a resolution. Indian home ministry officials have reportedly credited Pakistani national security advisor Naseer Khan Janjua with providing information regarding ten cross-border militant infiltrators, at least three of whom have reportedly been killed. UN Special Representative Nicholas Haysom briefed the UN Security Council on Tuesday, warning that “survival will be an achievement” for the national unity government this year. Pakistani Interior Ministry officials say they have registered 25 international NGOs, and set a new 15-day deadline for the submission of registration documents.

Pakistan — Security

  • Peshawar Bus Bombing: At least 15 people have reportedly been killed and and dozens injured on Wednesday when a bomb exploded after having been planted on a bus carrying government civil service employees in Peshawar. Police sources indicated the detonation was timed. No claim of responsibility has been reported as of this writing. [ET] [BBC] [AJE]
  • Cooperation with India: The Indian Express quotes an anonymous Indian home ministry official who credits Pakistani national security advisor Naseer Khan Janjua with providing information about ten militant infiltrators belonging to either Lashkar-e-Taiba or Jaish-e-Mohammad, at least three of whom have reportedly been killed by Indian forces. On Tuesday, India freed nine Pakistani fishermen, reciprocating Pakistan’s release of 87 Indian fishermen.
  • NGO Restrictions: Interior Ministry officials report that 25 international non-governmental organizations have received formal permission to operate in Pakistan following registration, and that a 15-day deadline has been set for those NGOs who have yet to submit required registration documents. Separately, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan ordered Islamabad police to seal as many as 300 houses in Islamabad occupied by foreigners who had reportedly refused to register with the police. [Dawn] [ET]
  • Executions: Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif issued execution orders for 13 terrorist suspects sentenced in the closed-door military court process on Tuesday; all but one were reported to have been affiliated with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Musharraf Permitted to Travel Abroad: On Wednesday, a Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali rejected a government appeal seeking to bar former Pres. Musharraf from traveling outside the country, upholding an earlier June 2014 Sindh High Court ruling removing Musharraf’s name from the Exit Control List. Musharraf’s lawyers maintain his health has deteriorated and that he needs medical treatment abroad; the Supreme Court ruling did not elaborate on the rationale of its verdict, but said that treason cases against Musharraf could continue in his absence. [AP] [Reuters] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Women’s Protection Protests: The Jamaat-e-Islami convened an “All Pakistan Ulema Conference” in Lahore on Tuesday to reiterate opposition against the Punjab Assembly’s passage of legislations providing for the protection of women against domestic violence, threatening nationwide protests if the law was not withdrawn by March 27. The meeting also denounced the execution of Mumtaz Qadri. [Reuters]
  • Elections and Other Political Activity: The parliamentary committee on electoral reforms approved a provision to add pictures of all voters to the electoral rolls in the 2018 general elections; the committee also reportedly approved a pilot project to allow for voting by expatriate Pakistani nationals.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Chief of Army Staff Inaugurates New Ammunition Production Plant [Dawn] [ET] [ET]
  • Sixty Tribesmen Detained in South Waziristan [Dawn]
  • Sindh Agrees to Water-Sharing with Islamabad-Rawalpindi [ET]
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Warned of Load-Shedding Spikes as Losses Hover at 90% [ET]
  • Senators Express Doubts Over CPEC Plans [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Sindh Chief Minister and Karachi Corps Commander Meet [Dawn] [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • U.S. General Deployed to Helmand: U.S. Army Brigadier General Andrew Rohling has deployed to Helmand to command the NATO advisory and support mission, a spokesman for the NATO Resolute Support mission reported on Wednesday.
  • Attacks and Operations: The Ministry of Defense denied reports on Tuesday that the Taliban had seized control of the Kanshin district center in Helmand, saying that “we made a tactical retreat once but the area is again under our control”. Elsewhere, members of parliament from Ghazni echoed warnings from the provincial police chief that several districts in the province were at risk of a Taliban takeover; a Ministry of Interior spokesman said that “the ministry is investigating the forces’ requirements and if needed more forces will be deployed to the province”. [WAPO] [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Special Representative Briefs UNSC: UN Special Representative Nicholas Haysom briefed the UN Security Council on Tuesday, warning that “for 2016, survival will be an achievement for the national unity government”, and noting that “survival cannot mean inaction, or merely ‘treading water.’ It means active engagement” in confronting the challenges of the economic downturn, intensifying insurgency, and “an increasingly fractious and divided political environment.” Haysom also indicated that he had met with Taliban representatives last week but that they had reiterated their opposition to direct talks with the government. Afghanistan’s representative to the UN highlighted concerns over Pakistani border violations, reporting 56 such instances in the past three months. Also at the meeting, UNSC officials voted to extend the special representative’s mandate for another year. [TOLO] [TOLO] [Quarterly Report to UNSC (pdf)]
  • Taliban Talks: The Express Tribune reports that Pakistan does not wish to host future meetings between the Afghan government and the Taliban, citing sources who say that it is “wary of the pressure that comes to it in the event of hosting the talks and the expectation from it to bring all Taliban factions to the negotiating table”.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Election Reform Committee Members Criticize Selection Committee Member Appointments [TOLO]
  • 68 Out of 368 Districts Run by Caretakers, IDLG Reports [TOLO]
  • Ministry of Defense Investigating Reports of Helicopter Parts Smuggling [Khaama Press]
  • Russia Pledges Continued Law Enforcement Training Support [Khaama Press]
  • Afghan Air Force Flew More Than 20,000 Missions in 2015 [Khaama Press]
  • Report: Non-State Security Providers and Political Formation in Afghanistan – “The support of international actors has allowed non-state security actors to operate without the consent of communities, a situation in stark contrast, for instance, to Afghan tribal leadership in the past, whose authority and survival was predicated on the support of community constituencies.” [Deedee Derksen, Center for Security Governance (pdf)]
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