Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Rangers Raid MQM Offices Despite Lack of Policing Powers; US Troops Wounded in Nangarhar Ops

Topline

  • The Sindh Rangers carried out raids on MQM offices in two Karachi neighborhoods on Thursday, arresting at least a half a dozen activists despite the lack of an official extension for their policing powers, which expired earlier this month. The Election Commission has set the date for long-delayed mayoral elections in Karachi and district council chairmanships elsewhere in Sindh for August 24; the MQM’s nominee, Waseem Akhtar, remains under arrest. Speaking to reporters on Thursday, U.S. commander Gen. John Nicholson said that five U.S. special operations soldiers had been wounded in operations against Islamic State militants in eastern Afghanistan; he did not provide details, but said none of the injuries were life-threatening. Despite some success in holding off against multiple Taliban offensives, Afghan security forces continue to struggle to permanently retake territory from the insurgency, the NYT notes; estimates of the number of districts under Taliban control vary, but SIGAR reported that the government lost control over 5% of its territory during the January-May period. India and Pakistan concluded talks on border security cooperation, agreeing to allow local commanders to “resolve minor issues” when possible. A Russian delegation will visit Pakistan next week for talks on the construction of a liquefied natural gas pipeline linking Karachi and Lahore.

Pakistan – Security
Border Security Talks: The directors general of the Indian Border Security Force and Punjab Rangers concluded a biannual meeting on border security cooperation on Thursday, agreeing to continued information-sharing, to increase flag officer-level meetings, and to “encourage local commanders of their border security forces to resolve minor issues”. India’s home minister Rajnath Singh is expected to visit Islamabad next week to attend a SAARC ministerial summit, but no separate bilateral meetings with Pakistani officials have been announced. [ET] [Dawn]

Pakistan – Politics and Diplomacy
MQM Offices Raided: Despite the lack of a formal extension for the Rangers to continue policing operations in Karachi, on Thursday their forces carried out raids on at least two MQM offices in the Shah Faisal Colony and Surjani Town neighborhoods of the city, arresting at least six activists. The MQM condemned the action, saying it was being undertaken illegally. PTI leaders held a press conference in Karachi on Thursday to reiterate calls for the extension of the Rangers’ powers. [ET] [ET] [ET] [Dawn]
Elections and Other Political Activity: The PPP’s Murad Ali Shah filed nomination papers on Thursday for his election by the provincial assembly as the new Chief Minister of Sindh; voting will take place Friday. The PTI has also put forward a candidate, but the MQM said it would abstain from the voting. Separately, the Election Commission announced that the long-delayed election of the Karachi mayor and council chairmen would be held on August 24, with nominations due by August 6. The MQM’s nominee, Waseem Akhtar, remains in police custody. Meanwhile, the ECP adjourned hearings on the PTI’s challenge seeking the disqualification of Prime Minister Sharif’s son-in-law Muhammad Safdar until August 9. In parliament, the government agreed to expand membership in the Public Accounts Committee to include representatives from the senate. [ET] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [ET] [ET]
Challenge Against Wife of Chief Justice’s Appointment: A group of three lawyers filed a petition on Thursday challenging the appointment to the Federal Shariat Court last August of Ashraf Jahan Jamali, the wife of Supreme Court Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali. [ET] [ET]

Pakistan – Economics and Development

  • Energy Infrastructure: The Express Tribune reports that a Russian delegation will visit Pakistan next week to begin negotiations on a commercial contract for the construction of a $2 billion liquefied natural gas pipeline linking Karachi and Lahore, which has been approved despite U.S. sanctions on the Russian company, RT Global, that will implement the project. Russia will finance 85% of the project. Separately, Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal rejected a senate call for the publication of the agreement with China for the development of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project, saying the agreement “is sensitive and it cannot be disclosed”; Iqbal provided a sealed copy for senators to review in the chairman’s chambers, however. [Dawn] [ET]

Pakistan – Remainders

  • Punjab Police Ordered to ‘Keep An Eye’ on Jamaat ud Dawa Fundraising [Dawn]
  • At Least 1,210 Khyber Paktunkhwa Police Killed Since 2006 [ET]
  • Three Injured in Peshawar Bombing [Dawn]
  • Chief of Army Staff Pledges CPEC Support [ET]
  • PTV News Chief Faces Harassment Charges [Dawn]
  • Court Orders Confiscation of Musharraf Property [Dawn]
  • FBR and Realtors Deadlock Over Property Valuation in Lahore, Islamabad, and Karachi [Dawn]
  • Smuggling of Vehicles from Afghanistan Continues Unabated [Dawn]

Afghanistan – Security

  • U.S. Troops Wounded in Nangarhar Operations: Speaking to reporters on Thursday, U.S. commander Gen. John Nicholson said that five U.S. special operations troops had been wounded in a recent engagement alongside Afghan troops in Nangarhar; none of the injuries were described as life-threatening, although three were evacuated from the country for treatment. Nicholson did not specify when and where the operation took place. A spokesman for the Nangarhar provincial governor reported that 36 Daesh-affiliated fighters had been killed in ground operations in the Achin district on Friday. [AP] [Reuters] [TOLO]
  • Other Attacks and Operations: Taliban forces remain in control of several districts outside Kunduz despite efforts to retake them last fall, the NYT reports, noting more broadly that while Afghan security forces have largely managed to prevent the collapse of any other major population centers so far this year – in part thanks to additional U.S. air support – they have made little progress in permanently retaking control of Taliban-threatened territory. A new SIGAR report estimates that the Afghan government has lost control of nearly 5% of its territory during the January-May period, or 19 of the country’s approximately 400 districts. [TOLO] [TOLO]

Afghanistan – Politics and Diplomacy

  • Taliban Talks: In an interview with GEO News on Thursday, the United States’ ambassador to Pakistan, David Hale, reiterated the administration’s position that the strike on Mullah Akhtar Mansour was due to his obstruction of peace talks, saying that the Taliban had “chosen the path of continued violence”.

Afghanistan – Remainders

  • Afghan Vehicle Maintenance Costs Doubled Due to Pentagon Errors, SIGAR Reports [WAPO]
  • National Economic Council Reiterates Plan to Merge AISA With Ministry of Commerce [Khaama Press]
  • Pakistan Renames Torkham Border Crossing Gate [Dawn]
  • Uzbek President Stresses Need for Tighter Security Along Afghan Border [Pajhwok]
  • Commentary: Tired of the Estezah? Minister for Women’s Affairs Survives Vote of No Confidence – “This is the latest in a long series of such motions against ministers that have become a means of carrying out political confrontations by proxy in parliament.” [Thomas Ruttig, AAN]
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