Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Suicide Attack Wounds Hundreds in Kabul; North Waziristan Operations Near ‘Completion’

Topline

  • A large car or truck bomb exploded in Kabul on Tuesday morning, wounding at least 327 people and killing at least twenty eight; the Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, which struck near the offices of a NDS branch responsible for providing security to senior government officials. Some reports indicate fighting is ongoing at the site of the attack, although others suggest that any Taliban gunmen have now been killed. Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif visited forward positions in North Waziristan on Monday, announcing the “successful completion” of operations in the Shawal Valley area; military sources indicate the army may announce the completion of Operation Zarb-e-Azb within the coming days. A suicide bomber struck a Mardan district tax office on Tuesday, killing at least one person and wounding eighteen; the TTP’s Jamaat-ul-Ahrar faction claimed responsibility. Prime Minister Sharif departed London on Tuesday to return to Pakistan; PTI sources tell Dawn that the party may postpone its planned protests at his residence, citing lacking of funds and division within the party over whether to pursue another sit-in. Afghanistan’s ministry of commerce suggests that a signing agreement on the Chabahar port transit trade agreement between India, Iran, and Afghanistan will take place within the next two months.

Pakistan — Security

  • Chief of Army Staff Says Shawal Offensive Completed: Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif visited forward positions in the North Waziristan agency on Monday, announcing the “successful completion” of operations begun in the Shawal Valley area in February. Military sources tell Dawn that the army will likely announce the completion of Operation Zarb-e-Azb, launched in North Waziristan in June 2014, in a few days. Separately, Khyber Paktunkhwa governor Iqbal Zafar Jhagra visited the Bajauar Agency on Monday, pledging support for the repatriation of two million internally displaced persons by May, and new development projects for the area. [ET] [ET]
  • Mardan Bombing: A suicide bomber detonated after attempting to enter the Mardan district Excise and Taxation office in Khyber Paktunkhwa on Tuesday, killing at least one person and wounding eighteen. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan’s Jamaat-ul-Ahrar faction claimed responsibility for the attack. [AP] [Dawn]
  • Rajanpur Operations: An Monday afternoon army deadline for members of the ‘Chotoo gang’ to surrender went without response, prompting the deployment of military helicopters for further airstrikes on the area. II Corps commander Maj. Gen. Ishfaq Nadeem visited the area to review operations, but departed afterwards. [ET]
  • Police Reforms: The Express Tribune reports that Khyber Paktunkhwa provincial cabinet officials are considering a range of amendment proposals to policing regulations, including restrictions on the provincial police chief’s powers to appoint officers above the assistant inspector general rank.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Panama Papers Fallout: Senior PML-N ministers met on Monday to discuss outreach to the PPP to seek its support for the creation of a government-appointed judicial commission to investigate offshore business accounts leaked as part of the Panama papers; the meeting debated, but is not reported to have reached an agreement on, the PPP’s proposal for a parallel parliamentary commission. Prime Minister Sharif departed London on Tuesday to return to Islamabad. Anonymous PTI sources tell Dawn that the party may postpone a planned protest rally at the Sharifs’ Raiwind residence, suggesting the party was short of funds and was internally divided over the plan; plans for a rally to commemorate the PTI’s founding anniversary on April 24 will proceed, however. [Dawn]
  • MQM Under Pressure: Sindh assembly member Ashfaq Mangi became the latest MQM member to quit the party and join former Karachi mayor Mustafa Kamal’s Pakistan Sarzameen Party on Monday. In an address to supporters afterwards, MQM leader Nadeem Nusrat denounced “baseless” allegations against the party’s senior leadership. [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Other Political Activity: The parliamentary committee on electoral reforms has asked the Election Commission to reinstate documents on the ECP website detailing assembly members’ income and asset filings, Finance Minister Dar told reporters on Monday. On Tuesday members of the Gilgit-Baltistan legislative assembly voted through open show of hands to elect members of the Gilgit-Baltistan Council, half of whose membership comes from the federal government and half from the Gilgit-Baltistan government; four of the six members elected were PML-N candidates. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Former Sindh Home Minister Zulfikar Mirza Calls for Investigation into Bahria Town Land Theft Charges [Dawn]
  • Pakistan ‘May Consider’ Indian Request for Reciprocal Investigation Trip on Pathankot Attack [ET]
  • Baloch Liberation Army Fighters Surrenders in Kalat [Dawn]
  • Two Life Sentences Issued in Kasur Child Sex Abuse Case [Dawn] [ET]
  • Musharraf Lawyers Put Onus on Government for His Travel [Dawn]
  • Religious Parties and Punjab Government Hold First Round of Talks on Women’s Protection Law [Dawn]
  • Retired Army Officer and Nephew Injured in Drive-By Shooting in Karachi [Dawn] [ET]
  • Pakistan Navy Inducts Two New Landing Craft [APP]
  • NAB Plans Three New Cases [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Hundreds Wounded in Kabul Bombing: At least 327 people have been wounded and 28 killed when a car or truck bomb detonated in a crowded area of downtown Kabul’s Pul-e-Mahmud neighborhood on Tuesday, outside the offices of the Directorate of Security for Dignitaries, an elite NDS force responsible for protecting senior government officials. At least one gunman reportedly entered the building after the blast, which was followed by reports of heavy gunfire; Ministry of Interior officials said he was killed by security forces after roughly half an hour, but the WSJ’s account suggest multiple gunmen may have been present and the Guardian reports that fighting is still ongoing as of this writing. Al Jazeera reports the attack took place at the same time as a graduation ceremony for new recruits. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. Chief Executive Abdullah condemned the attack, saying it “signals the losses, weaknesses and defeats of the terrorists in battlefields against our heroic security forces” and saying that “our political elites must give priority to the national interests and defy terror attacks against the Afghans. Afghanistan must come first.” Pres. Ghani also issued a statement condemning the attack, as did Pakistan’s foreign ministry. [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • Other Attacks and Operations: TOLO quotes unnamed officials in Kunduz who claim to have repelled a force of as many as a thousand Taliban fighters from attacks on checkposts in the Chardara district on Monday. Military officials credit the Afghan Air Force with carrying out airstrikes and resupply missions in and around Kunduz. Airstrikes in Kandahar are also reported to have destroyed a Taliban bomb-making factory. Separately, the ministry of defense reported the arrest of a Taliban commander in Kandahar’s Khakriz district in an overnight raid on Sunday. On Tuesday, Ministry of Interior officials announced the arrest in Bamiyan of a former police intelligence officer accused of killing two American advisors in an insider attack at the ministry of interior headquarters in Kabul in 2012.
  • International Assistance: The Czech Republic has pledged to maintain its support for the NATO Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan next year, deploying up to 290 soldiers.

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Chabahar Port Agreement: Afghanistan, India, and Iran plan to formally sign the agreement for a transit corridor between India and Afghanistan via Iran’s Chabahar port at a ceremony in Kabul within the next two months, a spokesman for the Afghan ministry of commerce and industries said Monday.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • ANA Inducts ScanEagle Surveillance Drones [Khaama Press]
  • Legal Experts Rally for Constitutional Loya Jirga [TOLO]
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