Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Ali Gilani Returns Home After Paktika Rescue; Ghani Meets with Tajikistan Counterparts

Topline

  • Ali Haider Gilani was reunited with his family on Wednesday after his rescue in a joint US-Afghan special forces raid in Paktika (not Ghazni as initially reported); U.S. coalition spokesmen say they had targeted an “Al Qaeda camp” in the raid and were not initially aware that Gilani was being held there. Prime Minister Sharif met with Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif on Tuesday, for discussions that reportedly centered on the government’s response to the Panama Papers leaks. PM Sharif will speak before parliament on Friday; the opposition has formally requested the formation of a committee to resolve disputes over the terms of reference for a judicial commission to investigate the issue. Pres. Ghani met with the president and prime minister of Tajikistan, seeking regional counterterrorism cooperation and closer economic ties, as well as the reopening of Tajik consulates in northern Afghanistan; he departs today for an international anti-corruption conference in London. Italian police arrested two Afghan nationals, reportedly linked to the Islamic State, on charges of plotting attacks on European targets and facilitating illegal immigration. The head of the Sindh Rangers told interviewers on Tuesday that he had suspended at least five officers in connection to the death of MQM aide Aftab Ahmed while in custody last week; there are unconfirmed reports that at least four Rangers personnel have been arrested in connection to the incident. A suicide car bomber targeted a local militia commander in Nangarhar’s Nazian district, killing as many as ten people.

Pakistan — Security

  • Ali Haider Gilani Returns to Pakistan: Former Prime Minister Gilani and his family celebrated the return of his son Ali Haider Gilani to Pakistan on Wednesday, after Afghan defense officials transferred him to Pakistani officials in Kabul and he was flown home. Contradicting initial reports that he had found in Ghazni, the U.S. mission in Afghanistan said that Gilani’s rescue took place in the Giyan district in Paktika province, in a joint raid with Afghan special forces. A spokesman for the U.S. coalition said that the raid had targeted an Al Qaeda camp, and that the force was not aware that Gilani was present at the time. A spokesman for the Afghan Taliban tells the Express Tribune that the group “had no involvement in [Gilani’s abduction”; an unidentified “Pakistani militant commander” tells Dawn that seven FATA Development Authority officials were also present and that the group was being held by members of the Sajna faction of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, although this contradicts U.S. accounts describing Gilani as the sole non-combatant present. [WSJ] [ET] [ET]
  • Border Security: U.S. and NATO commander Gen. John Nicholson visited Rawalpindi on Tuesday, where he met with Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif to discuss border security coordination and the security situation in Afghanistan. Afghan border guards closed the Torkham border crossing on Tuesday after objecting to the Pakistani side’s construction of a barbed wire fence near the border on the Pakistani side; Pakistani officials insist they had provided advance notice.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Panama Papers Response: Prime Minister Sharif met with Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif on Tuesday; anonymously sourced accounts indicate that Gen. Sharif “believes that the issue is causing instability and insecurity” and that the government should “resolve the issue at the earliest”. Prime Minister Sharif will attend Friday’s national assembly session and “answer all allegations”, Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid told parliament on Tuesday. In a meeting on Tuesday, PPP parliamentary opposition leader Khurshid Shah formally requested that the government form a committee to resolve disputes over the terms of reference for a proposed judicial commission to investigate the Panama Papers reports. Speaking before the Senate finance committee on Wednesday, Federal Board of Revenue officials said they lacked the authority to audit most individuals named in the Panama Papers, as they were limited to auditing the past five or six years. Separately, the PML-N is reportedly planning joint rallies in Khyber Paktunkhwa with the JUI-F to challenge the PTI, although Dawn suggests divisions within the PML-N’s provincial chapter. Speaking at Tuesday’s rally in the Bagh district in Azad Jammu and Kashmir, PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari reiterated calls for investigations into the prime minister and his family’s reported overseas assets, and accused the PML-N government of “pro-India policies” and conducting “pre-poll rigging” ahead of the AJK legislative assembly elections scheduled to take place next month. [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Suspensions in MQM Aide’s Death: Speaking to GEO TV on Tuesday, Maj. Gen. Bilal Akbar, the head of the Sindh Rangers, said that he had suspended at least five Rangers officers in connection to the death of MQM aide Aftab Ahmed while in custody last week. The Express Tribune reports four Rangers personnel have been arrested, but also quotes a spokesman for the paramilitary force denying this. MQM supporters rallied in Hyderabad and Mirpurkhas on Tuesday. Separately, the Rangers transferred Minhaj Qazi, a suspect in the 1997 murder of a Karachi Electric Supply Company managing director, to police custody; he was remanded to custody by an anti-terrorism court for continuing interrogation. [ET]
  • Electoral Reforms: The parliamentary committee on electoral reforms approved new eligibility criteria for members of the Election Commission, allowing for the appointment of senior civil servants or technocrats in addition to former members of the judiciary as commissioners. Legislation amending the constitutional articles governing ECP appointments may be introduced next week. [ET] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • India Trade: Speaking at a meeting of the Pak-India Business Council on Tuesday, Commerce Minister Khurram Dastgir Khan estimated that India-Pakistan official trade would reach $1 billion within a year; he said that “trade concessions to India cannot be offered unilaterally” and that “India also needs to extend access to Pakistani products”. [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Supreme Court Stays Three More Military Court Execution Orders to Hear Appeals [Dawn] [ET]
  • Musharraf Declared Absconder in Treason Case [Dawn] [ET]
  • Four Fishermen Accused of Spying for RAW Released for Lack of Evidence [Dawn]
  • Prime Minister Sharif Departs for Tajikistan [ET]
  • Bomb Explodes Near Government Employees’ Colony in Jamshoro [ET]
  • Remittances Exceed $16 Billion in July-April Period, Up 5.25% [ET]
  • New Islamabad Airport Construction Planned to Finish by Year-End [Dawn]
  • President Approves Rs 1.5 Billion for Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation Bailout [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Two Afghan Men Held in Italy Over Attack Plot: On Tuesday Italian police announced the detention of two Afghan nationals in the southern Italian city of Bari, one of whom is accused of planning attacks on “sensitive targets” in Europe, and the other of facilitating illegal immigration. A spokesman for the Italian police said that “there’s a link between the terrorist organization circuits and illegal immigration,” but also said that there was “no direct evidence that the Afghans intended to smuggle terrorists into Europe.” The BBC reports the two men are suspected of links to the Islamic State.
  • Attacks and Operations: A suicide car bomber targeting the residence of a local militia commander in Nangarhar’s Nazian district killed as many as ten people and wounded nearly two dozen; no claim of responsibility has been reported for the attack. Ministry of Defense officials claim to have killed as many as 35 militants in ongoing airstrikes in Jawzjan province, and another 10 in strikes in Sar-e-Pul. In Helmand, Taliban fighters reportedly overran two checkposts in the Gereshk district, on the main highway north of the provincial capital; Ministry of Defense officials report killing a Taliban commander and eleven fighters in the Khanshin district. [TOLO] [AP] [TOLO] [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Ghani Visits Tajikistan: Pres. Ghani met with Tajikistan Prime Minister Kokhir Rasulzoda and President Emomali Rahmon during a visit to Dushanbe on Tuesday and Wednesday; in his meetings Ghani called for regional counterterrorism cooperation and the reopening of Tajik consulates in northern Afghanistan. Ghani departed on Wednesday to attend an international anti-corruption summit in London.
  • Defense Nominations: At a ceremony on Tuesday, Chief Executive Abdullah formally introduced Masoom Stanekzai as the government’s nominee to head the National Directorate of Security and Gen. Abdullah Khan as the defense minister-designate; in his remarks, Abdullah said that “anyone picking arms to fight the Afghan government and forces is the enemy of the Afghan people”. Both have yet to be confirmed in their positions by parliament. [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Abdullah Pledges Support for Women’s Empowerment [TOLO]
  • High Office of Oversight and Anti-Corruption Criticizes Government Efforts [TOLO]
  • Commentary: Afghanistan’s Latest Executions: Responding to Calls for Capital Punishment – “The recent executions may signal an end to the informal moratorium on capital punishment that has been in place for the past fifteen years, partially at the urging of the international community.” [Jelena Bjelica and Ehsan Qaane, AAN]
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