Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Sufi Singer Killed in Karachi; Pentagon Seeks Russian Helicopter Parts for Afghan Air Force

Topline

  • Amjad Sabri, a prominent qawwali singer, was killed in a driveby shooting in Karachi on Wednesday; a Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan faction claimed responsibility, accusing him of blasphemy in his performances. The attack follows the kidnapping of the Sindh High Court Chief Justice’s son earlier this week, which police have no apparent leads on. The head of Pakistan’s Strategic Plans Division said it would be “apartheid” if Pakistan was barred from entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group while India was accepted; as NSG membership is debated, news reports allege that both India and Pakistan have separate ties to the North Korean nuclear program. Pentagon officials are reportedly seeking waivers on sanctions barring the purchase of Russian arms industry parts for Afghanistan’s aging fleet of Mi-17 transport helicopters. Pres. Ghani met with the families of soldiers killed in clashes with Pakistani border forces at Torkham earlier this month; he will reportedly discuss the border dispute with Pakistani officials while attending the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Uzbekistan, which opens tomorrow. The National Assembly and Khyber Paktunkhwa provincial assembly passed budgets for the coming fiscal year in votes on Wednesday.

Pakistan — Security

  • Singer Amjad Sabri Killed: Amjad Sabri, a prominent Sufi singer and qawwali performer, was killed in a driveby shooting near his home in Karachi on Wednesday; a relative traveled with him was wounded but survived. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan’s Hakimullah Mehsud group claimed responsibility for the attack, saying that Sabri’s performances had been blasphemous; Sabri had previously been charged with blasphemy in connection to a 2014 performance. Police are still investigating the incident; Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah suspended two senior police officials in response. The attack follows the murder of an Ahmadi doctor and kidnapping of the Sindh High Court Chief Justice’s son earlier this week; the Rangers issued a statement pledging “strict and indiscriminate action” against those responsible. MQM leaders suggested that Sabri had been threatened by “extremist elements” and had been under pressure to join the new Pakistan Sarzameen Party; Sabri’s brother told reporters on Thursday that there had been no previous threats on his life. Widely-attended funeral services were held on Thursday. [Dawn]
  • Nuclear Suppliers Group Membership: Speaking at a think tank conference on Wednesday, Strategic Plans Division director Zahir Kazmi reiterated that Pakistan sought “fair and simultaneous consideration of the two membership applications submitted by non-NPT states” seeking entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group, warning that “denial would be apartheid and would be seen as a message to the people of Pakistan from some in the international community that they do not want us to progress”. The Times of India, citing unnamed “U.S. sources”, alleges that Pakistan has been selling Chinese-supplier nuclear materials to North Korea; the piece follows an Al Jazeera report that alleges that North Korean scientists have been studying at an Indian research facility.
  • No Leads in Search for SHC Chief Justice’s Son: Karachi police have no leads in the case of Owais Ali Shah, the son of the Sindh High Court Chief Justice who was kidnapped at the start of the week. Lawyers boycotted court proceedings on Thursday. Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah met with the Karachi Corps commander on Wednesday and afterwards announced a Rs 10 million reward for information leading to Shah’s whereabouts. The Lahore High Court has also ordered tightened security for members of the judiciary and their families. [ET]
  • Special Police Extension: Khyber Paktunkhwa Chief Minister Pervez Khattak has reportedly extended the tenures of the Special Police Force composed of former army servicemen for a three-year period; it was to have expired and the end of this month.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • PPP Leaders Meet: PPP leaders will meet in Islamabad on Thursday to discuss the party’s strategy following the breakdown of talks with the government over investigations into the Panama Papers.

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Budget Passed: The National Assembly passed the government’s FY2016-17 budget in a majority vote on Wednesday, rejecting all opposition amendments. Some changes were made on the basis of the senate’s review of the budget, however. The house also approved Rs 261 billion in supplementary funding that was spent beyond the statutory limits of the outgoing fiscal year budget. Finance Minister Dar criticized provincial governments for failing to take charge of responsibilities devolved to them under the 18th Amendment, and failing to collect revenues, obliging the federal government to intervene despite the absence of an agreed National Finance Commission revenue-sharing formula. Also on Wednesday, the Khyber Paktunkwha assembly passed its budget on a majority vote. Provincial government officials defended the allocation of Rs 300 million for the Dar-ul Uloom Haqqania seminary, saying it was part of an effort to “streamline all sorts of education systems into one system”. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [WAPO]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Six Indicted in Sri Lanka Cricket Team Attack Case [Dawn]
  • New Development Projects Approved for Prime Minister’s Son-in-Law’s Constituency [Dawn]
  • Islamabad City Government to Hold First Meeting, Eight Months After Elections [ET]
  • National Bank of Pakistan Leads Sukkuk Loan Consortium for Rs 100 Billion for Neelum-Jhelum Dam [Dawn]
  • KPK Chief Minister Accepts Energy Development Organization’s Director’s Resignation [Dawn]
  • Health Workers Refuse to Conduct Polio Vaccination Campaign During Ramazan [ET]
  • Bank Credit to Private Sector Grows at Less Than Half Rate of Credit to Government [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • U.S. Assistance: The 2014 ban on U.S. cooperation with the Russian arms industry has left the U.S. military unable to procure replacement parts for the Afghan Air Force’s Mi-17 transport helicopters, the WSJ notes; Pentagon officials are reportedly seeking waivers. The helicopter fleet currently numbers 47 aircraft, down from 56 a year ago; only half of the current fleet is operational. Separately, the Department of Defense announced the award of a $1.7 billion multi-year foreign military sales contract for the provision of radios, parts, and services for the Afghan security forces.
  • Attacks and Operations: Helmand provincial police chief Aqa Noor Kentoz met with the families of individuals taken hostage in Gereshk earlier this week, acknowledging “lapses”; he claimed that the remaining five hostages had been freed in an operation. Ministry of Interior spokesmen warned that insurgents were using fake military uniforms and establishing checkposts to detain travelers; Kandahar police chief Gen. Abdul Raziq has warned foreigners against traveling on the highways. The ministry of defense claimed to have killed 12 Taliban fighters in an airstrike near the Marjah district on Thursday; Nangarhar provincial officials reported the death of four Daesh-affiliated fighters in a U.S. drone strike in the Kot district on Wednesday. [TOLO] [TOLO] [TOLO] [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Tensions with Pakistan: On Thursday, Pres. Ghani met with the families of soldiers who had been killed during clashes with Pakistani border forces at Torkham earlier this month. TOLO reports that Ghani will meet with Pakistani officials on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Uzbekistan on Friday to discuss the border dispute, but suggests the meeting will be with Prime Minister Sharif; the Pakistani press has indicated that President Mamnoon Hussain will attend instead. At a meeting in Islamabad on Wednesday, Pakistan’s Minister for States and Frontier Regions, Abdul Qadir Baloch, called for increased support for its hosting of Afghan refugees, warning that migration to Europe could increase if more resources were not provided. The Express Tribune reports that Khyber Paktunkhwa police expelled at least 700 unregistered Afghan nationals from the country so far this month. [Dawn] [ET]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Electoral Reforms Commission Head Warns Against Further Delays [TOLO]
  • India Pledges ‘Full Support’ for Afghanistan Defense Capabilities [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press]
  • Afghanistan’s Dwindling Sikh and Hindu Communities Flee New Abuses [Reuters]
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