Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Military and Government Scramble to Respond to Lahore Attack; Minister of Mines Saba Resigns


  • Prime Minister Sharif addressed the nation on Monday in the wake of the suicide attack at Lahore’s Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park, vowing to bring those responsible to justice. There are contradictory reports as to whether or not Sharif has ordered the use of paramilitary Rangers to conduct arrests in Punjab, and whether this operation is being conducted jointly with police; the Express Tribune reports, without attributed sources, that Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif has ordered the military to conduct a crackdown on terrorist suspects without collaborating with the provincial police. Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah held a press conference on Tuesday, reporting as many as 5,000 suspects had initially been arrested since the attack, but that all but 216 were subsequently freed; he insisted that the response would be a “joint effort”. The army’s top spokesman and Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid are scheduled to hold a joint press conference later Tuesday evening. Pakistan’s team of investigators was given a limited tour of the Pathanakot Airbase facility on Tuesday, following briefings by India’s National Investigation Agency. Afghan Minister of Mines Daud Saba has reportedly submitted his resignation, but presidential spokesmen have not confirmed whether it has been accepted. As many as 700 protestors are reported to have been jailed following their participation in demonstrations in Islamabad led by supporters of Mumtaz Qadri; another 700 reportedly remain at a sit-in outside parliament as of Tuesday. A U.S. soldier is reported to have killed an Afghan boy approaching Bagram Airbase in an incident on Monday; details are limited, and investigations are said to be ongoing. A bombing in Kabul’s Khair Khana neighborhood on Tuesday killed at least two people; the Ministry of Interior has suspended the district police chief. Prime Minister Sharif has replaced Salman Aslam Butt as the Attorney General of Pakistan, naming his legal advisor, Ashtar Ausaf Ali, as his replacement. Former Law Minister Zahid Hamid has also been reappointed to that portfolio.

Pakistan — Security

  • Lahore Attack Aftermath: At least five bodies have yet to be identified from Sunday’s suicide bombing attack at Lahore’s Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park; funeral services for some victims began on Monday. The NYT and WSJ interview and profile multiple victims of the attack; at least 24 of the victims were members of the Christian minority. On Monday, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan Jamaat-ul Ahrar faction, which claimed responsibility for the attack, released a picture of the bomber, and warned of future attacks as part of the “Sound of Thunder campaign”. Prime Minister Sharif gave an address to the nation on Monday, vowing that “those who are fomenting terrorism, sectarian hatred and extremism will not be allowed to flee and will face justice”. Sharif did not offer specifics in his remarks, but is reported to have ordered law enforcement agencies to crack down on ‘Fourth Schedule’ terrorist groups. The Express Tribune reports that contrary to initial reports, the use of paramilitary Rangers within the province has not been approved. Reuters reports Sharif ordered a “joint operation of ‎the [police] counterterrorism department and Rangers in the border areas of Punjab against terrorists and their facilitators”; an unsourced Express Tribune report says that Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif has ordered that military and paramilitary forces conduct counter-terrorism raids in Punjab without collaborating with provincial police or security services. As many as 350 suspects have reportedly been arrested across Punjab by the military, the majority in Faisalabad; Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanullah claimed that as many as 5,000 suspects had been arrested by police since the attack, but that all but 216 had subsequently been freed. At a press conference on Tuesday he described the response as a “national operation” and insisted that it would be a “joint effort”. A joint press conference by the government and military’s top spokesmen is planned for Tuesday evening. The prime minister’s travel to Washington this week for the Nuclear Security Summit has been cancelled; the Pakistani delegation will be led by special assistant Tariq Fatemi. [AJE] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Pathankot Investigations: The Pakistani Joint Investigation Team will be granted a limited tour of the Pathankot Airbase on Tuesday, after receiving a detailed briefing from India’s National Investigation Agency on Monday. Indian National Congress Party activists demonstrated outside the base on Tuesday to protest the visit. Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar said earlier on Monday that the decision to grant access to the “crime scene” site at Pathankot was the NIA’s. [Dawn]
  • Qadri Protests: Islamabad officials estimate that damages from the protests led by supporters of Mumtaz Qadri total nearly Rs 150 million; cellular service remained blocked in the capital center as of mid-Monday. Police officials appear to have assumed protestors would remain calm, as was the case during Qadri’s funeral, and to have deployed half the number of personnel used at the funeral. Protestors continuing a sit-in outside parliament have refused negotiation with Islamabad city officials; around 700 protesters remain at the sit-in as of Tuesday. Over five hundred cases were registered by Rawalpindi police against the protestors, although the number actually arrested is unclear; Dawn reports as many as 700 were jailed on Monday. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Legal Appointments: On Monday, former law minister Zahid Hamid was reappointed to that position, retaining his portfolio as minister for climate change. Separately, Prime Minister Sharif appointed Ashtar Ausaf Ali, his former legal advisor, as Attorney General of Pakistan, replacing Salman Aslam Butt, who led the government’s case in the treason trial against former Pres. Musharraf.
  • Supreme Court Upholds ‘Justice of the Peace’ Powers: In a ruling on Monday, a Supreme Court bench upheld provisions in the Criminal Procedure Code that allowed for lower court judges acting as ‘Justices of the Peace’ to register criminal cases and file First Information Reports or transfer investigation responsibility to another police officer. [ET]
  • Elections and Other Political Activity: Consultations have reportedly yet to begin for nominations to succeed the incumbent provincial election commissioners, whose terms expire in mid-June. Azad Jammu and Kashmir Chief Election Commissioner Ghulam Mustafa Mughal vowed that elections would be held in the area by June 8. [ET] [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Developer Malik Riaz Plans New Media Investments [Reuters]
  • FATA Reforms Committee Visits Parachinar [ET]
  • Special Security Unit Commando Killed in Karachi [Dawn]
  • Suspect Arrested in 2007 Suicide Attack on Aftab Ahmed Sherpao [ET]
  • Sindh Police Form Committee to Audit Surveillance Camera System [ET]
  • Getting Stipends an Uphill Battle for BISP Recipients [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Civilian Casualties: The AP reports a U.S. soldier shot and killed an Afghan boy who approached Bagram airfield on Monday, “carrying what looked like an automatic rifle”. No further details have been reported, but an investigation is ongoing.
  • Attacks and Operations: A bombing in Kabul’s Khair Khana neighborhood on Tuesday killed at least two civilian bystanders and wounded ten; Khaama Press reports four dead and fifteen wounded. The target was reported to be former senator Gul Afghan; Ministry of Interior officials announced the suspension of the district police chief in response. Tajikistan border guard officials report that two road workers kidnapped last week by Afghan gunmen were released following negotiations; their kidnappers have not been identified. [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Minister of Mines Resigns: Minister of Mines and Petroleum Daud Shah Saba is reported to have submitted his resignation to Pres. Ghani on Monday; a ministry spokesmen confirmed that he had done so, but a presidential spokesman did not confirm whether the resignation had been accepted. [Khaama Press] [Pajhwok]
  • Tensions with Pakistan: During testimony before parliament on Monday, acting National Directorate of Security chief Massoud Andarabi said that the Pakistani ISI was continuing support for the Taliban. Speaking at a separate conference, deputy minister of foreign affairs Hekmat Khalil Karzai said that after the failure to generate direct talks between the Taliban and the government in early March, the government “will raise the issue with China and the U.S.”, saying that the impetus for the March date came from Pakistan. Arguments between Afghan and Pakistani border guards at the Torkham crossing led to its temporary closure on Monday.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Pres. Ghani Touts Kabul Clean-up Initiative [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • Sorting Out a New Life Back Home [WAPO]
  • Commentary: Afghanistan’s Returning Refugees: Why Are So Many Still Landless? – “The government plan for distributing land to refugees, and to IDPs, is now a decade old, but has been one of the most corrupt and ineffective government schemes.” [Jelena Bjelica, AAN]

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